Breaking Bad, Manufacturing and Meth

It probably won’t be a surprise that I have a Google news alert setup at work on “NC manufacturing.” Usually it gives me relevant news on manufacturing in the state, which I will then disseminate through the organization and possibly put on our website. Sometimes, though, the alerts include items on meth labs found and arrests made because the articles use the terminology of “manufacturing meth.” I giggle when I see the meth items because it seems so silly for them to show up in my news alert on manufacturing, but it’s technically accurate.

Meth is a manufactured drug. All drugs – legal or illegal – are the result of manufacturing because they fit the definition of taking a raw material and turning into a finished product that has value. The pharmaceutical industry is part of the manufacturing sector. If producing meth were legal, it would be categorized under NAICS code 325 (pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing). Heck, if meth production were legal, my organization would be chomping at the bit to help them make their processes more efficient, study their supply chain and even help them enter new markets because meth is a growth industry in NC. Then we could survey those companies to identify the economic impact of our work and make our federal funders happy.

This post has taken a strange turn.

Jimmy and I share slightly obsessive tendencies. When something interests us, we immerse ourselves in it, especially when it comes to entertainment (No, we are not cooking or taking meth. Promise). Last summer, we bought the entire series of The Office, a show we never watch in prime time, and watched every episode in order every night after Daniel was in bed and during nap times (we’re ignoring the post-Michael Scott era). Then it was Downton Abbey season 1 and season 2. Again, every night and nap time. Our new obsession is Breaking Bad (every night and nap time). THAT is why meth is on my mind.

I’m so fascinated by the premise of Breaking Bad and the process of making meth. I did not enjoy chemistry in high school and was frustrated by the math involved. I didn’t understand chapter 2 on mole/mole and mole/mass ratios and thought that would be ok. Little did I know those concepts formed the foundation for the rest of the class. Oops. I also told my chemistry teacher that I did not believe in atoms. I do, truly, but I still marvel how scientists could predict their existence and calculate them hundreds of years before they had the technology to see them. Chemistry might as well be magic as far as I’m concerned. My brain doesn’t work that way.

But I’m fascinated by Breaking Bad. While the chemistry Walter White teaches to his high school classes is boring and inaccessible, watching him make incredibly pure meth because he understands and can wield the chemistry behind it is sexy. He is sexy. His brain is sexy.

When I trained to teach high school English, I focused on trying to make literature and its lessons and meanings as relevant as possible for my students. I made note of Shakespeare film adaptations like Lurhmann’s Romeo and Juliet, O, and 10 Things I Hate About You and Jane Austen adaptations like Bridget Jones’ Diary and Clueless (dating myself here). I used a clip from Legends of the Fall to bring alive the horrors of WW1 and trench warfare depicted in All Quiet on the Western Front. I played “Imagine” during my unit on existentialism. And honestly, maybe that’s just how my brain works. Always trying to make connections. A wealth of useless knowledge you know.

Science struggles with the same issues of relevancy. So does manufacturing. At work we constantly try to find ways to illustrate the importance of manufacturing and its coolness through plant tours, blog posts and pictures. I’ve even created a Pinterest board. I wish that that high school students could watch Breaking Bad in their chemistry classes. Obviously making an illegal drug is not the message to impart to them, but watching the seductive, beautiful process of taking raw ingredients and making them into flawless meth could bring home the lesson that science and chemistry are relevant and important. Necessary. Required.

In high school I had friends who turned a princess telephone into a bong. That was an impressive feat of innovation and engineering, and I wished they had applied that same focus and ingenuity to their school work. They are willing to do that work to create a tool for an illegal drug; why can’t they see the connection to what they learn in school?

This post is clearly rambling. Breaking Bad is a good show. I’m not cooking , dealing or taking meth. I guess I wish that our educational system was a little more real. We have serious, serious issues in this country, and we’re going to need students to be engaged and connected to what they are learning in order to create the next generation of problem solvers. To understand that science is cool and is not abstract. That manufacturing is amazing and the bedrock of our economy and society. That books aren’t boring and dusty but contain truths as meaningful today as hundreds of years ago.

Have I worried you?

What TV show or movie do you find yourself oddly obsessed with?



  1. Game of Thrones is the one I’m obsessed with. Is the next season out of Downton Abbey on Netflix, I wonder. I had a huge setback when our DVR erased our season 2 recording of the series after we’d only seen 2 episodes. Boo.

    Darcy loves “Breaking Bad.” The wife really got on my nerves and I had to abandon ship, I’m afraid…

  2. Not at all.
    We love Breaking Bad, Raising Hope, Treme and The Wire. But the show that produces the most and strangest conversations is The Walking Dead. I began watching it because, well, it had an interesting premise and took place in my beloved Georgia. (We even watched that stupid Nicholas Sparks/Miley Cirus movie because it was filmed on Tybee.)
    In addition to being engaging and entertaining, during the season Adam and I find ourselves engaging in discussions such as: What is the best car to have in a zombie apocolypse? Why do they let Carl roam in a world of zombies when we don’t even let Paige roam in a world of teenage boys? What weapon would be best against zombies in what situation? Where would you flee to in a world overrun with zombies?

  3. Husband and I are currently in season 4 of Breaking Bad. LOVE IT! The storytelling is amazing, and I’m always fascinated by the odd camera angles. Like Dexter (I need to get season 5!), it’s so weird to be rooting for the law-breakers.

    We also watch Game of Thrones together, having seen only season 1. Alone, I watch Downton Abbey.

    Sounds like you were a gifted teacher. And I’ll never look at a princess phone the same way again.

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