Monday, June 11, 2007

Freedom Writers


I saw a great movie yesterday. Freedom Writers goes on my list for being one of those movies that empowers and inspires. It is based on the true story of Erin Gruwell, a teacher who reaches out to kids who everyone else has given up on and helps them find their voice. Here is a description of the book on which the movie is based:
"The Freedom Writers Diary is the amazing true story of strength, courage, and achievement in the face of adversity. In the fall of 1994, in Room 203 at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California, an idealistic teacher named Erin Gruwell faced her first group of students, dubbed by the administration as "unteachable, at-risk" teenagers. The class was a diverse mix of African-American, Latino, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Caucasian students, many of whom had grown up in rough neighborhoods in Long Beach. In the first few weeks of class, the students made it clear that they were not interested in what their teacher had to say, and made bets about how long she would last in their classroom.

Then a pivotal moment changed their lives forever. When a racial caricature of one of the African-American students circulated the classroom, Erin Gruwell angrily intercepted the drawing and compared it to the Nazi caricatures of Jews during the Holocaust. To her amazement, the students responded with puzzled looks. Erin Gruwell was appalled to discover that many of her students had never heard of the Holocaust. When she asked how many in her class had been shot at, however, almost all of them raised their hands, and began lifting their shirts to show their scars. This initiated a battle-scar show-and-tell that left Erin Gruwell shocked and inspired to take advantage of the powerful energy she had sparked.

By fostering an educational philosophy that valued and promoted diversity, she transformed her students' lives. She encouraged them to rethink rigid beliefs about themselves and others, to reconsider daily decisions, and to rechart their futures. With Erin's steadfast support, her students shattered stereotypes to become critical thinkers, aspiring college students, and citizens for change. They even dubbed themselves the "Freedom Writers" - in homage to the Civil Rights activists the "Freedom Riders" - and published a book."

Erin Gruwell faced a lot of obstacles, not only did people not support her but many tried to thwart her every step of the way. It was a good reminder for me that when you have a cause worth fighting for you can persevere even if you don't get the support that you would desire. In fact, sometimes you will be abandoned in your cause, that doesn't make it any less worthy.

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