Say you're paying $50,000 a year for the privilege of sending your child to Harvard University, considered one of the best schools in all the world. And then let's say your kid comes home, and says he or she is taking a class that's all about a TV show. Will you feel like you're getting your money's worth? In this case, the answer may be yes.
Following the lead of Duke University and Middlebury College, Harvard will offer a course on "The Wire." The HBO show followed drug dealers and cops on the gritty streets of Baltimore for five seasons. It is considered a groundbreaking show for its depiction of urban life. In fact, legendary Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson calls it the best TV show ever.
"I do not hesitate to say that it has done more to enhance our understanding of the challenges urban life, and the problems of urban inequality, than any other media event or scholarly publication, including studies by social scientists," Wilson said last week in announcing the class, which of course he himself will teach.
But this won't be a television production course. The actual filming is not important to WIson -- it's the message the show sent. Evelyn Brooks Higgenbottom, chair of Harvard's Department of African and African-American Studies, said the class will focus on relating the show "to real-life experience in the black community. And when I say real I don't mean R-E-E-L. We won't be talking about 'The Wire' as an artistic production, but [Wilson] will be talking about 'The Wire' as a lesson, as a window into understanding the very serious problem of poverty in our country today, and the social and cultural implications of it."
Not only is Wilson a fan of "The Wire," he was also an inspiration. Creator David Simon says he based a plotline on the show partly on Wilson's book "When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor." Wilson says when Simon told him that last year "It made my week."