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write numerous articles about the disastrous effects of government
policy, and how they fail the people they’re supposed to help. Such
articles don’t necessarily find their way out to the wider world,
or aren’t easily grasped by "regular" folk.

Season four
of The Wire (HBO) offers the uninitiated a fictional portrayal
of government policy in action. Fictional yes, but realistic too.
Nothing else I’ve read or seen has shown me the impact of education
policy on…

  • The people
    it’s supposed to help
  • The bureaucrats
    tasked with overseeing it
  • The teachers
    forced to carry it out in the classroom.

The Wire
is not libertarian in intent. Neither does it offer middle-class
sensibilities and easy ride through the world it portrays. Despite
this, season four brilliantly illustrates how government policy
fails, where it breaks down, and why.

I’ve read plenty
of articles that talk about the same thing. Season four takes 13
hours to examine the nature and cause of the breakdown in a way
that is accessible, complex, and makes for very compelling viewing.

The Wire
is an excellent example of how to explain a counter-intuitive message:
A change in government policy won’t fix any given problem because
government policy is the problem.

A word of warning.
The Wire is set in a violent and horrific world, and no punches
are pulled for the sake of the viewer. This program is not for tender
sensibilities. It’s also unlike any television program I’ve ever
seen. It doesn’t spoon-feed the viewer, includes a bewildering array
of accented Baltimore street-slang without explanation, and can
make for very demanding viewing at times.

With the above
warning in mind, I encourage you to seek out season four of The
Wire on DVD and watch it right through.

9, 2008

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