Anger Management

I’ve just watched the fourth series of The Wire, yes I know, I’m a little behind the times, but after a marathon summer I’m catching up. I was warned that it would be depressing and hey, yeah they weren’t wrong. Thus far there is no sign of a redemption narrative, Hollywood sentiment or the controlling ideology dominating the concept of the American family. Instead just a set of realistic characters living day-to-day life in Baltimore and, whilst there are some obvious differences between their life and mine, we do have a lot in common. Let me put it in a little Wire vernacular (censored of course) “How it be that those who don’t do the business get to tell those that do how it done?” Through the fourth series characters like Colvin (in the third series he played a “police” who tried to legalise drugs) and Presbo (a little trigger happy earlier, now a teacher) battling with the dead hand of buraucrats and policy-makers (those who don’t do the job) in an attempt to provide an education for disenfranchised kids. Presbo abandons the curriculum to teach maths through stsreet calcualtions, odds on the dice, buying and selling even using the odd computer and he cares for them and where “they from”. Colvin and an academic try to separate the truly awkward ones and get to the bottom of their anger by providing attention, argument and socialisation – but then they won’t pass the tests (I refer you to my first blog Testing Testing Testing). In America their slogan “No Child Left Behind” has become a code for “Every Child Should Pass the Tests”. In this country our same slogan with the same effect is “Every Child Matters”. In America they fear what they call “tracking” (streaming)The fear is thattaking a child out of the normal classroom for “special” education means they don’t take the tests and are therefore left behind. No matter that they may learn how to behave, no matter that they may gain self confidence, no matter that they may receive respect and thereby offer it -none of that (after all) can be measured – so dump education and spoon feed them the tests – then the bureaucrats and the policy-makers can go home by 5pm leaving the streets to the corner boys and the kids whose parents have long since opted out of life. Meanwhile back at The Wire the large homicide sargent grows desperate at the idea of the good policeman Freaman, uncovering dozens of bodies, thereby raising the unsolved murder rate and making the Department look bad. No matter again that two, soon to be three, gangster assassins stalk the streets offing any they are ordered to,in the name of protection. Again no matter the relatives, no matter the harm – hide the statistics – don’t do the job or you will piss off the statisticians and they write the cheques. As the series closes McNulty, well known for his desperation to do the job right and thereby annoy everyone around him, thinks that in the new Baltimore, run by a new mayor things may be different and he may be able to deal with the anger he suffers, the same anger that gnaws at the heart of every competent public servant. An anger born of a frustration of having to educate to exams and tests, to work to politics and statistics rather than doing something truly useeful. McNultry thinks he can handle it, good luck to him – I’m not sure I can!

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