We're kind of settling into the semester now -- for better and for worse -- in my Integrated Liberal Studies (ILS) 275 course at UW-Madison, "Narratives of Justice and Equality in Multicultural America."
The good news: students clearly are engaged in viewing The Wire. The syllabus indicates that we're up to Episode Five, but several students have told me that they have shot forward and viewed the entire first season. I've also discussed with several the wisdom of buying the entire five-season series. (A great idea, in my book.)
The challenge involves getting them to do more than just marvel over how real and engaging the show is. We're reading Jason DeParle's great book American Dream, and I'm hoping for them to see the links between public policy, poverty, and crime. I've also assigned the game "Spent," which puts players in the position of trying to survive a month in poverty.
And then there are group projects: a class presentation and a research project. That's where the rubber will meet the road: they'll have to be creative and critical with less direct guidance from me. The opportunities for learning are much greater in that context, but so are the perils -- students can flake out, not meet expectations, etc.