In the English department, watching the film or best BBC television adaptation, instead of reading the novel, is a cardinal sin against culture.
Therefore, when I heard about Sociology students being able to take a module on hit-US TV show ‘The Wire’, I suspected that there might be some backlash. And I wasn’t disappointed. Criticism came from all angles; students and national newspapers alike.
Before everyone makes hysterical snap judgements, let’s get the facts straight. The Sociology department is not basing the entirety of its degree content on US crime shows, just one ten week module offered in final year, entitled ‘The Wire As Social Science Fiction?’ Professor Roger Burrows has been fighting hard to justify his choice of introducing the module, which is unfair. I’ve heard of crazier happenings in other departments; in Biology recently they were harvesting their tears using methods such as rubbing Vicks Vapour Rub and onions under their eyes. Strange? Maybe. But we can’t always agree on everything. That would be boring.
isn’t the point that we are being challenged at university?
Professor Burrows believes that the module is not only innovative and interesting, but alongside an extensive list of other materials the show really does raise questions for social scientists.
The introduction of ‘The Wire’ for study has not undermined the degree; it is not based on sitting in front of the television. This is just another point of interest.
As students, regardless of discipline, isn’t the point that we are being challenged here at university? That we are being asked to question the simple yes-and-no answers of GCSE and A Level? It’s ridiculous for anyone to think that dismissing popular culture from education.
And yes, there are some valid concerns surrounding the introduction of the new module primarily that ‘The Wire’ is, of course, fictional; everything is constructed for a specific purpose. However as long as the material is considered in the appropriate context, then I don’t see a problem. Surely ‘The Wire’ is as valid a depiction of modern crime in Baltimore as ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is a commentary on 19th century society?
It is that something special which makes you choose one university course over another. We should be applauding originality, not dismissing it.