The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell and The Freedom Writers This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

May 18, 2010
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Margaret Mead, an American anthropologist, once stated, “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I’m sure the Freedom Writers have definitely proved Margaret Mead’s theory correct. The Freedom Writers were very troubled students; they identified with gang membership, drug abuse, sexual harassment and many other unavoidable issues on the streets of Long Beach, California. With only one-hundred-fifty students aboard, Erin Gruwell, the teacher of these students, steered her “writers” and those along for the ride on the correct road.

Erin Gruwell’s teaching strategy makes a major turning point when one student, Sharaud, an African-American, is humiliated in front of the entire class. A note was passed around through the class depicting a caricature of Sharaud with exaggerated lips. Seeing Sharaud’s pain plastered on his face, Erin drops her planned lessons for one that will touch the students in a way other teachers may never attain. Erin then livens history by assigning books, fieldtrips, and inviting visitors. To pay for the expenses of her new lesson, she begins taking positions of multiple jobs. Slowly, but surely, her plan enhances multiple lives in and out of the classroom.

Erin knew reading about history wouldn’t reach out to her students, but she finds a parallel between the troubles within the classroom and the tragedies of the Holocaust. During class, Erin asks the students if they knew what the Holocaust was; none of the students raised their hands. She then proceeds to ask if they were ever shot at; nearly every student’s hand rose. She explains to them that the Jewish during the Holocaust were murdered for their label rather than who they were as people, something that the students could definitely relate to: many students were shot at for being African-American, Hispanic, or Asian rather than for something deserved. Noticing that the students were intrigued about the Holocaust, Erin assigns The Diary of Anne Frank in hopes that the students would intake some new information. Who would have guessed that she would have changed their lives?

Seeing Erin Gruwell’s success, many teachers start getting jealous, resorting to backstabbing and insults as if they were school children. They snickered that Erin’s students weren’t headed anywhere soon. Her students were just as hopeless as they were before, but Erin proves them wrong once again when she tracks down Miep Gies, the woman who housed Anne Frank during the Holocaust, and brings her to the school for an interview. Many news reporters show up and the event makes headlines. Erin’s actions make those who thought she couldn’t make a name for herself in her first year of teaching think again.

The students go on many different fieldtrips and continue their success throughout their entire high school year. They even receive a chance to visit Washington D.C., where they initiate a peace march. When they return, news reporters and cameras surround the school. The Freedom Writers enter their school proudly, knowing that the media was going crazy for what they’ve done. History, however, repeats itself. In reality, the media is here to find answers, not to report on the Freedom Writers’ success. Two students of the school killed and raped a young girl. The Freedom Writers grew upset, wondering if things would ever change. One of the Freedom Writers, in their diary, question “Why are they shining a light on the two students rather than the little girl?” The Freedom Writers take another stand and initiate their own peace march for the child.

When we picture a “cool” teacher, we always expect games as lessons, fieldtrips every week, and no homework. But what if this “cool teacher” couldn’t instill much in your life? Sure, Erin gave them everything they wanted and more, but she taught them something through it all. None of the Freedom Writers planned to go to college, but Ms. Gruwell changed that for them. She pushed them further and further to success. That, to me, is a “cool” teacher.

The Freedom Writers Diary has something for every single one of us out there. With one-hundred-forty-two diaries, it’s impossible not to relate to at least one. We all have tragedies, but one thing is for sure: what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger; you will survive. The depth of the book had me rooting for The Freedom Writers at times and sympathetic during others. The Freedom Writers Diary book is an indispensable source of inspiration for all who read it.





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