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Review/Meta of the Wire - S4 Episode 8 - Corner Boys

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Just finished watching Corner Boys - the eighth episode of S4 The Wire. This episode is rather hilarious in places, sly dark humor, and painful in others. Again the school stuff is at times the most difficult to watch. Been having this argument with folks my entire life - the focus on standardized testing to determine aptitude of students and whether they are understanding the material is killing our educational system. It completely ignores people whose aptitude can't be tested by a computerized test. The tests are slanted and inaccurately assess a child's ability to process or apply information. Whoever came up with those tests - I truly hope spends eternity taking them. Watching the bit on the schools re-emphasizes how slanted our educational system is towards the privileged - those who come from "money" or "upper class" or have financial resources and their parents can afford to send them to preparatory or private schools, provide tutoring at home, and other advantages. Some may find this preachy - I don't think the Wire is, it is doing the whole "show" vs "tell" thing and unlike Whedon, Sorkin, and Kelley - it can back its message up with hard cold facts. Ed Burns knows first hand what is going on inside those schools. If you at all interested in this subject matter - check out Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools by Jonathon Kozol published in 1991.

Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools is a book written by Jonathan Kozol in 1991 that discusses the disparities in education between schools of different classes and races. It is based on his observations of various classrooms in the public school systems of East St. Louis, Chicago, New York City, Camden, Cincinnati, and Washington D.C.. His observations take place in both schools with the lowest per capita spending on students and the highest, ranging from just over $3,000 in Camden, New Jersey to a maximum expenditure of up to $15,000 in Great Neck, Long Island.

In the Wire - we have a sociological study that reminds me a great deal of the sorts of studies that Kozol may have conducted back in 1991, where an ex-cop, a couple of teachers, and a sociologist select ten kids from the school, ten trouble-makers, and discuss with them their issues and what they want to be when they grow up. All of these kids are making money as junior drug dealers on corners. They are corner kids, working the corner. They are in some cases the bread winners. All have dreams of a better life, but many don't see themselves living past the age of 18 if that. The Wire casts real inner city kids in these roles and to a degree just lets them rip. The effect is a type of scripted social realism that borders on documentary but isn't. (Documentaries tend to bore me, although I loved Basketball Diaries, and am considering renting the oscar nominated film - Waiting for Superman.)

Waiting for "Superman" is a 2010 documentary film from director Davis Guggenheim and producer Lesley Chilcott. The film analyzes the failures of American public education by following several students through the educational system, hoping to be selected in a lottery for acceptance into charter schools. The film's title is based on an interview with Geoffrey Canada wherein he recounts being told (as a child) by his mother that Superman was not real, and was frightened because there was nobody to save him.

In the Wire - the politicians circumvent the issue of education.

Norman (Tommy C's campaign chief) states: We don't want to get involved with the schools, that's one mess we want to stay away from. Stick to crime.

The Superintendent of the School District tells Bunny Colvin - as long as you don't make it a political issue, we don't want the schools to get in the middle of the political campaign.

It's ironic, because as Bunny states in this episode - the kids are learning in the schools how to run their corners, how to become drug dealers, how to circumvent the system, play the game and once they figure it out - they leave school. The Wire gets across that you can't ignore any of these elements - schools, drugs, crime, cops, shipping, business, smuggling, politics, media - they all
interact with each other. Each one builds on the next. The drug-addicted parents or drug dealer parents create drug dealer kids, the schools - their one haven from home - creates yet another platform. Any attempt to teach the kids outside of the planned curriculum or "the test", you get smacked.

Pryz: My kids don't understand simple math, half get it, half don't.
Other teachers: You don't teach the subject, you teach the test. The first year - just teach the test.
Get them to pass the test. It's all about the test. And hey, my kids can't read. Or mine can't even remember the periodic tables. (Yet, as Bunny discovers they learn all these things for their drug trade and they even have rules for their drug trade which they follow. Their bosses even protect them to a degree and they are little soliders.)

One of my favorite things about the Wire, in episode 8 and episode 6 is the nuts and bolts solving of a case. Most cop shows do the whole gun fight/chase bit or talk a lot of meaningless gibberish about DNA or forensic science that any one who has studied this crap knows is well bs. Here we have Greggs who works the case (soft eyes), and then Bunk who pulls Vernon along with him and works the case at the convenience store - demonstrating that it does not make any sense that Omar did it. Omar couldn't have done it. "A guy who robs a store with a 50 gauge rifle, and knows there's five to six inch thick glass around the booth, doesn't come back a week later and rob it with a nine gauge gun. Nor does he leave a witness alive to tell us about it. This job isn't about picking the stories we like best." Landsman blasts both. "You're not supposed to unsolve your cases! We have too many for that."

*Rawls attempting to take over Burrell's position. (Easier said than done - affirmative action won't let them. Affirmative Action is a double-edged sword, something I've seen first hand. It's necessary but it is often too often abused and misused. In my line of work, people will get around it by putting the business in their mother's name (Women Owned Business) or hire a bunch of minorities and find a minority figure-head. Sad but true. Also, it can result in SOB's like Burrell getting ahead.
Although Burrell, in my opinion, is really not that much worse than Rawls. Daniels or Colvin should have been Commissioner. But as Rawls puts it - I may not agree with Burrell, and most often don't, but I'm a good solider and I follow orders. And the pressure from the Mayor's office was about the numbers.)

*Funny scenes

-Prop Joe admonishes, rather politely, Marlo, to not hide the bodies of the New York guys. Sort of foils our purpose states Prop Joe. We're trying to send a message - don't fuck with us. Not that we don't admire your methodology - however you are doing it - of hiding all these bodies. But if you hide the New York toughs that we are trying to get rid of - people will think they just left. That it had zip to do with us. And more will come. We need people to know we did it - so they'll stop coming.
No offense or anything. And thanks.

-Snoop and Paltrow are stopped by Herc, which Prop Joe through a series of humorous phone calls pretending to be various people, learns is in Major Crimes, not the Mayor's detail. Herc is trying to get his camera back - so he can placate Marimow, the Lt. from hell. (Rawls Trojan Horse.) So Herc keeps arresting and bullying Marlo's people. This round they search Snoop and Paltrow's van and play with the nail gun.

-As a result, Paltrow throws out Snoop's prize possession the nail gun. Snoop is annoyed. "You owe me 800 bitch. You owe me." And they bury the New Yorkers in Leakin field.

[That whole bit is hilarious. Creepy but hilarious.)

- So is Tommy C wandering around the police depts and annoying folks. Homicide wishes he would go away. Their work tends to be boring until the catch a case. Tommy C: "I'm not a hall monitor, do what you'd normally do." Greggs, Landsman, and Lester glance at each other, sigh, and do just that. She snoozes, Lester works on his toys, and Landsman wanders off to his office. Tommy C: "This is what you do??" Lester:"Until we catch a case? Yes." It's hard not to like Tommy C...he actually appears to want to help.

-Norman regarding Rawls - "Did you hear that guy? All this stuff about affirmative action...makes me want to kick the entitled priveleged pale guy's ass."
Tommy C: "Weren't you listening? He's no more racist than I am."
Norman: "I may have to kick your ass too."
[Norman's not wrong, unfortunately.]

-Rhonda and Daniels getting unexpected promotions - she's now head prosecutor for the Homicide Unit and all murder cases, and Daniels is the Col. in charge of CID and Homicide under Rawls. (In effect, he has Rawls old job.)

The non-kid storylines aren't depressing. The kid or little drug dealer story lines are incredibly depressing. As is the whole school bit. Albeit realistic.