Monday, September 2, 2013

The Wire and Education

Yes, I’m finally getting around to watching The Wire. Yes, I’m a little behind on that. And I’ve only watched the first three seasons, so what I’m about to say may be less relevant after I watch season four, which is about education. With all the caveats done now…

I was struck by the backwardness of the higher-ups in the police department and mayor’s office and Boston. I know that this portrayal was intentional, but it was interesting to me nonetheless. What the higher-ups want - consistently, across the three seasons I watched - was arrests. Drugs seized. Low level players taken off the street.

All of these desires went against the work that McNulty and everyone else was doing. Busting these low-level criminals always put the ‘on the street’ police in a bad spot: wires would be revealed, larger cases against bigger offenders would be comprised, etc. Essentially, the desires of the higher-ups would ruin weeks of work against bigger drug targets that McNulty was working on.

And this sounds so much like education. I got an email from my superintendent this past week congratulating the district on our API score going up. No mention of anything else - just an ‘atta boy, scores up’ email. We’ve got the higher-ups in education pushing test scores while classroom teachers know better: teaching to the test dumbs down school and is bad for students.

But no one asked us. At least in The Wire, McNulty and Daniels can go in and talk to the powers that be - Burrell and Rawls - and explain why it’s a bad idea to make arrests. I’m not sure I have that power.

But I do have an advantage that McNulty and Daniels don’t have: I can do what is best for my students in my classroom, standardized test scores be damned.