The following is in response to the film Freedom Writers, based on a book called “The Freedom Writers Diary” that was written by Erin Gruwell and her students.
This empowering film is about how an English teacher, Erin Gruwell, turned a class of “unteachable, at risk” students into writers.
Besides the central message in the film—that writing can change your life and community (A promise on the cover of the book that the film is based on)—I would like to point out a wonderful thing that Gruwell was able to accomplish with her students. By giving her students a journal to write in every day, she taught them that they were not just recipients of knowledge, but creators of knowledge.
In the Georgia school system that I went through, there is not much of a stress on the importance of community. “In the traditional classroom, students compete over who knows the most and whose knowledge is more akin to the teacher’s. In critical pedagogy, however, students are creators of knowledge, peers become collaborators, and the classroom is transformed into a significant space where voices emerge, are tested, and are legitimated (Jung-Ah Choi. Clearing House. p. 246-247).” A lot of what Gruwall’s character in the film, Swank, speaks to this: meeting her students outside of the classroom, becoming privy to their family and street lives, coordinating field trips and fundraising events, and serving as an excellent opportunities.