St. Olaf News


Star Tribune features class that uses ‘The Wire’ to explore race and politics

A photo of Joshua Anderson teaching his class based on the TV drama, 'The Wire.'

St. Olaf political science professor Joshua Anderson teaches a class that uses the HBO series ‘The Wire’ to explore race and politics in America. Photo by Star Tribune photographer Elizabeth Flores.

The HBO drama The Wire is “a fictional television show that, despite going off the air eight years ago, is proving its relevance today in classrooms around the country, including at St. Olaf College,” notes a Star Tribune story that profiles a class taught by political science professor Joshua Anderson.

The class uses The Wire — a critically acclaimed series that dives deep into issues of urban life, focusing on drugs and gangs, education and media, and, most centrally, law enforcement — to explore race and politics in America.

“The ever-presence of police brutality in The Wire gives some very timely and very realistic material for thinking about problems of policing in the United States,” Anderson tells the Star Tribune. “But what I like about The Wire is that it is fictional, and I think that takes some of the emotional stakes out of the conversation about race.”

The paper notes that since the series wrapped in 2008, “it has become a companion piece to courses on everything from poverty to ethics, in classrooms from Harvard to the University of California, Berkeley.”

The St. Olaf class, which meets daily for four weeks in January, requires students to watch the first three seasons of the series — about two episodes per night for homework, plus accompanying readings.

St. Olaf student Emnet Shibre ’16 says the show has helped her realize how complex issues like officer-involved shootings can be.

“Something that watching The Wire has done for me is give me more sympathy for the situations that officers find themselves in,” she says.