Urban Education On TV: The Wire, Boys of Baraka

There are at least two TV shows this fall that focus at least in part on urban education -- specifically the plight of children in Baltimore's public schools. One, season four of the HBO show "The Wire," focuses in part on the lives of four middle school boys who may or may not become part of the drug life that is the main focus of the show. The other, on PBS, called "The Boys of Baraka," shows the path of several troubled Baltimore boys who go to Kenya for an intensive residential academic and life experience. All boys, all Baltimore.

Bu what will viewers see about urban schools from these shows -- and will it be accurate? According to a LA Times review of the show (Hard lessons for life), The Wire presents "a largely dysfunctional school system often incapable of protecting its charges." There's in-school violence, and open recruiting for drug gangs. And -- perhaps most realistic of all -- their teacher is a rookie without much training (an inept and possibly racist former police officer from previous seasons). They got that part right. Boys of Baraka airs in many places tonight, but this NYT review (Trading in Baltimore Stoops for a Schoolhouse in Kenya) says that the show is part urban drama, part nature special, and completely heartbreaking -- not because of what happens to the kids who participate, but rather because of what happens to the program.

Seen or going to see either, I'd love to hear your thoughts or reactions. You can post them here as comments (anonymously if you want) or send them to me at AlexanderRusso@gmail.com.


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