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- A young teacher inspires her class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves and pursue education beyond high school.
- It's 1994 in Long Beach, California. Idealistic Erin Gruwell is just starting her first teaching job, that as freshman and sophomore English teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School, which, two years earlier, implemented a voluntary integration program. For many of the existing teachers, the integration has ruined the school, whose previously stellar academic standing has been replaced with many students who will be lucky to graduate or even be literate. Despite choosing the school on purpose because of its integration program, Erin is unprepared for the nature of her classroom, whose students live by generations of strict moral codes of protecting their own at all cost. Many are in gangs and almost all know somebody that has been killed by gang violence. The Latinos hate the Cambodians who hate the blacks and so on. The only person the students hate more is Ms. Gruwell. It isn't until Erin holds an unsanctioned discussion about a recent drive-by shooting death that she fully begins to understand what she's up against. And it isn't until she provides an assignment of writing a daily journal - which will be not graded, and will remain unread by her unless they so choose - that the students begin to open up to her. As Erin tries harder and harder to have resources provided to teach properly (which often results in her needing to pay for them herself through working second and third jobs), she seems to face greater resistance, especially from her colleagues, such as Margaret Campbell, her section head, who lives by regulations and sees such resources as a waste, and Brian Gelford, who will protect his "priviledged" position of teaching the senior honors classes at all cost. Erin also finds that her teaching job is placing a strain on her marriage to Scott Casey, a man who seems to have lost his own idealistic way in life. — Huggo
- A young teacher inspires her class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves and pursue education beyond high school. Woodrow Wilson High School is located in Long Beach, California. The school is voluntarily integrated, and it isn't working. The Asians, the blacks, the Latinos, and a very few whites not only don't get along but also stay within their cultural cliques and are part of protective and violent gangs. There isn't much teaching or learning going on at the school. It is a warehouse for young teenagers until they can drop out or are kicked out. — yusufpiskin
- The storyline of the movie takes place between 19921995, beginning with scenes from the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Hilary Swank plays the role of Erin Gruwell, a new, excited schoolteacher who leaves the safety of her hometown, Newport Beach, to teach at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, a formerly high achieving school which has recently had an integration program put in place. Her enthusiasm is quickly challenged when she realizes that her class are all "at-risk" students, also known as "unteachables", and not the eager students she was expecting. The students segregate themselves into racial groups in the classroom, fights break out, and eventually most of the students stop turning up to class. Not only does Gruwell meet opposition from her students, but she also has a hard time with her department head, who refuses to let her teach her students with books in case they get damaged and lost, and instead tells her to focus on teaching them discipline and obedience. One night, two students, Eva (April Lee Hernández), a Hispanic girl and narrator for much of the film, and a Cambodian refugee, Sindy (Jaclyn Ngan), find themselves in the same convenience store. Another student, Grant Rice (Armand Jones) is frustrated at losing an arcade game and demands a refund from the owner. When he storms out, Eva's boyfriend attempts a drive-by shooting, wanting to kill Grant but misses, accidentally killing Sindy's boyfriend. As Eva is a witness, she must testify at court; she intends to protect her own kind in her testimony. At school, Gruwell intercepts a racist drawing of one of her students and uses it to teach them about the Holocaust. She gradually begins to earn their trust and buys them composition books to record their diaries, in which they talk about their experiences of being abused, seeing their friends die, and being evicted. Determined to reform her students, she takes two part-time jobs to pay for more books and spends more time at school, to the disappointment of her husband (Patrick Dempsey). Her students start to behave with respect and learn more. A transformation is especially visible in one of her students, Marcus (Jason Finn). She invites several Holocaust survivors to talk with her class about their experiences and takes them on a field trip to the Museum of Tolerance. Meanwhile, her unorthodox teaching methods are scorned by her colleagues and department chair Margaret Campbell (Imelda Staunton). The next year comes, and Gruwell teaches her class again for sophomore (second) year. In class, when reading The Diary of Anne Frank, they invite Miep Gies (Pat Carroll), the woman who sheltered Anne Frank from the German soldiers to talk to them. After they raise the money to bring her over, she tells them her experiences hiding Anne Frank. When Marcus tells her that she is his hero, she denies it, claiming she was merely doing the right thing. Her denial causes Eva to rethink lying during her testimony. When she testifies, she finally breaks down and tells the truth, much to some of her family members' dismay. Meanwhile, Gruwell asks her students to write their diaries in book form. She compiles the entries and names it The Freedom Writers Diary. Her husband divorces her and Margaret tells her she cannot teach her kids for their junior year. She fights this decision, eventually convincing the superintendent to allow her to teach her kids' junior and senior year. The film ends with a note that Gruwell successfully brought many of her students to graduation and college.
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The Freedom Writers Diary
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In 1994, Erin Gruwell begins her journey as an English teacher at Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. During this period, racial tensions are at an all-time high. In 1992, officers from the Los Angeles Police Department were acquitted after brutally beating Rodney King, an unarmed black man, and the court’s decision was soon followed by six days of violent rioting, as members of the African-American community expressed their long-standing frustration with the discrimination and abuse they suffer at the hands of the police. These riots shook the entire region, heightening racial tensions in the area and convincing a young woman, Erin Gruwell, to devote herself to teaching. She hopes to help young people deal with their pent-up anger in non-violent ways and thus chooses to teach at a school known for its ethnic and socio-economic diversity. While the school itself is not in a dangerous neighborhood, many of the students who attend it come from environments marked by gang violence and drug trafficking.
During her first year as a student teacher, Erin attempts to create a color- and ethnicity-blind environment in the classroom. However, she is soon confronted to the reality of racial tensions when one of her students produces a racist caricature of Sharaud , an African-American student, depicting him with large, protruding lips. When Ms. Gruwell intercepts this drawing, she loses her temper, telling her students that such stereotyping leads to horrific events such as the Holocaust. However, she soon discovers that most of her students do not know what the Holocaust is. As a result, she decides to use this incident as a teaching opportunity inspiring her to focus her curriculum on the issue of tolerance.
The next year, she is assigned a new group of students: freshmen who have been labeled “at risk,” “unteachable,” and whom no one else wants. She becomes aware that her primary objective will be to instill self-confidence in these so-called “rejects” who have been abandoned by most of the adults around them, including, often, their very own parents. She also is forced to address the stark ethnic rivalries that divides the classroom, as students form groups according to their appearance, separating into Latinos, Asians, African-Americans, and whites. These divisions reflect the gangs’ separation according to ethnicity and reveal the fact that, for many of these students, the choice to remain within the confines of their own ethnic group is an issue of life and death, aimed at ensuring their survival in the “hood” where racially based violence is a constant threat.
In order to make her students more attuned to the similarities they share as a class and to feel engaged with schoolwork, Ms. Gruwell chooses literary works that reflect the students’ realities. When she begins to teach her class about the history of ethnic violence around the world, focusing on the stories of Anne Frank in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands and Zlata Filipović in contemporary war-torn Bosnia and Herzegovina, her students find themselves identifying with these young girls’ experiences as expressed in their diaries. They become aware that ethnic division can lead to horrible wars and genocides. At the same time, when Ms. Gruwell makes them write their own diaries, they become personally acquainted with the powerful effect that diary-writing can have, as it often allows them to cope with the difficult situations of everyday life.
In their diaries, many students describe lives that are strikingly similar to the violent worlds of Anne Frank and Zlata Filipović. Some students believe that they are more likely to be shot before the age of sixteen than to graduate, as gang violence is ubiquitous in their neighborhoods. Others share harrowing stories of domestic abuse, homelessness, and growing up in environments where one parent (or both) has completely abandoned them. These complex realities leave deep marks on the students’ psyches, often convincing them that they are destined to fail academically and to live the rest of their lives in a world characterized by poverty, violence, and death.
Over the course of the months, however, thanks to Ms. Gruwell’s guidance, they become more academically involved, as they immerse themselves in the study of the Holocaust. Through interactive activities such as collaborative assignments, field trips to museums, and even meeting Holocaust survivors, the students become committed to promoting Anne Frank’s message of ethnic tolerance and peace. Inspired by other people’s stories of struggle, they become convinced violence is not always the solution, and that words can have powerful, life-changing effects both on themselves and on other people. The class atmosphere begins to change, as students realize that, despite their ethnic and racial differences, they share a lot of similar experiences. Slowly, they become a more united group, increasingly trusting in the passion and wisdom that their devoted teacher communicates.
Despite her visible success at improving her students’ social behavior and academic performance, Erin Gruwell still faces the hostility of some professors, who disapprove of her innovative teaching methods. Throughout her four years at Wilson High School, she is forced to fight members of the school staff to prove to them that she should remain with her group of students, as these adolescents desperately need the stability and comfort that her classroom provides in order to flourish as confident students and human beings. Ultimately, she and her allies succeed in ensuring that she can bring her teaching project to fruition with these previously “unteachable” adolescents, and she succeeds in staying with her class To finance the students’ various field trips and new books, she takes on two additional jobs at Nordstrom and the Marriott Hotel.
Sophomore year marks a turning point in the students’ lives. When Ms. Gruwell organizes a “Toast for Change” activity, in which each student gives a toast celebrating their commitment to changing and becoming a better person, the class feels deeply motivated by the thought that they are given a clean slate and can take control of their lives. Most of them actively seize this opportunity to modify their behavior and, most importantly, summon the courage necessary to believe in their own selves—proving wrong, in the process, all the people who ever told them they were bound to fail.
When Ms. Gruwell gives her students the assignment to write letters to Zlata Filipović, her class becomes so excited about the prospect of contacting this young girl that Ms. Gruwell soon finds herself actually sending Zlata these letters and inviting her to come to California. When Zlata accepts, the students are finally able to meet this young writer whom they have read and admire so much. They discover that she is a young girl just like them, who has transformed her difficult circumstances into an opportunity for self-growth and education.
After learning from Zlata about the dangers of ethnic hatred, they are later able to meet Miep Gies, another one of their heroes. Miep was Anne Frank’s father’s secretary and played an important role in hiding them during the war, as well as ultimately publishing the young girl’s diary. When one of Ms. Gruwell’s students tells her that she is his hero, Miep replies that they are all heroes, capable of changing the world in their own way and responsible for promoting Anne Frank’s legacy of peace and tolerance. This message impacts Ms. Gruwell’s students. They begin to believe that they, too, can change the world.
The next year, Ms. Gruwell’s class studies the history of racial injustice and civil rights in the United States. They learn about the Freedom Riders, an interracial group of activists—seven black, six white—who rode buses in the American South in the 1960s to protest the segregation of public buses. While the group was attacked by violent Ku Klux Klan mobs on various occasions, they did not hesitate to put their own lives at risk to fight for what they believed in. Inspired by this courageous example of interracial cooperation, Ms. Gruwell’s students decide to call themselves the “Freedom Writers.” They commit to devoting their lives to fighting intolerance and discrimination.
After this decisive moment, Ms. Gruwell’s group of 150 students becomes even more committed to their academic lives and to the nurturing of a positive group atmosphere. They decide to compile their diary entries into a book, in order to share their stories with the world. The millionaire John Tu gives the class thirty-five computers so that they can achieve this goal and regroup their entries in an anonymous manner. This project gains increased significance when the Freedom Writers successfully organize a trip to Washington, D.C., to share their stories with United States Secretary of Education Richard Riley.
During the Freedom Writers’ last year of high school, Ms. Gruwell decides to devote her energy to the group’s future. Her goal is for all of her students to go to college. As a result, she organizes college tours and invites specialists to share information about SAT preparation and financial aid, in order to make the application process seem accessible to her students, many of whom are the first of their family to graduate from high school and attend college. The atmosphere during this year is one of hard work and celebration, as these young adults realize with amazement that their dreams might finally be within reach.
At the same time, during this period, the Freedom Writers become a media phenomenon. The students receive the Spirit of Anne Frank award, which rewards people fighting against discrimination and prejudice in their communities, and are invited to travel to New York to receive this prize. In parallel, a local article about the Freedom Writers is republished in the L.A. Times , and the students suddenly find themselves overwhelmed with personal responses to the article, as well as with offers from corporate firms who offer to sponsor their projects in various ways.
After the students successfully graduate, Erin Gruwell decides to teach educators about her experience with the Freedom Writers at National University, Long Beach. She remains present in the Freedom Writers’ lives as many of them struggle with their new lives, finding the transition to college difficult, or have to deal with new family responsibilities. After these moments of transition, one year after their graduation, the entire group gathers to go on a trip to Europe. There, they visit symbolic, historical sites, and reaffirm their commitment to the promotion of tolerance and peace.
Demonstrating her lifelong commitment with this project, Erin Gruwell creates the Freedom Writers Foundation, a non-profit organization aimed at helping young people benefit from the Freedom Writers teaching methodologies. This new space provides an alternative to the safe space the Freedom Writers created in their classroom and allows educators to learn about the Freedom Writers teaching strategies so that they can apply them in their own schools. As many Freedom Writers themselves become educators and role models for young people, they confirm their deeply rooted desire to give back to their own community. Through their actions, they hope to inspire young people in difficult circumstances to find the strength and self-confidence necessary to fight for their own success and, more generally, for the collective improvement of their communities.
Freedom Writers: Promoting Good Moral Values Essay
Introduction, brief synopsis of the plot, synopsis of the moral issue, works cited.
“Freedom writers” is a Christian movie that presents strong moral teachings to young people. The movie portrays a strong and civilized view of the world; it encourages development and use of positive moral values by people in making the world a better place. The main values encouraged in the movie include doing right, being kind, polite, respecting other people, seeking the truth and applying it in life. Precisely, its main theme is centered on promoting good moral values.
The movie focuses on a young teacher (Hillary Swank) who teaches in a high school made up of students from different racial backgrounds (IMDb 2012). She promotes cohesion and peaceful existence among students by teaching them about the genocide against the Jews that took place during World War II (IMDb 2012).
She successfully transforms the rogue students into good people by instilling good moral values in them. In addition, she encourages them to do the right thing all the time, be kind to others and use the moral values learnt in class to improve their lives.
Doing right all the time is the main moral issue highlighted in the movie. Doing the right thing presupposes being polite, kind, respectful, seeking the truth and using it to transform lives. The students, who come from different racial backgrounds, form ethnic gangs that they use to perpetuate violence, racism and hatred among themselves.
The students carry their street gang activities and racism sentiments into class, giving the teacher a rough time in dealing with them. However, she teaches them of the importance of doing the right thing always. Gradually, the students change and become better people with positive and strong moral values.
According to the natural law theory, good moral behavior is part of human nature which is realized by observing the nature of humanity (Finnis 53).
The students were able to critically evaluate the evils of racism and violence in the society, and thus change. Learning about the Jews holocaust, they realize the dangers of racism and violence motivating them to change their morals. According to Kantianism, an act is more important than the outcome, thus everyone should be more concerned with the moral value of actions (Ward 47).
Doing right is more important than the outcome of doing right. It is expected that practicing good moral values generates positive outcomes. Therefore, it is more important to be kind, polite and respectful because by exercising these moral values, good outcomes are guaranteed. Utilitarianism teaches that the outcome of an action determines its moral value as evident from the students changed behavior.
The social contract theory holds that individuals willingly give up a portion of their freedom in exchange for protection of their rights (Rousseau and Cole 72). The students in the movie give up a portion of their freedom that allows them to perpetuate violence, racism and other evil deeds.
The best theory to operate under the given moral issue in the movie would be the natural law theory. The students would learn best by observing the actions and the consequences of humanity in the society they live. For example, by learning the consequences of racism and gang violence, the students would be highly motivated to change their behavior for their good and the good of the society.
If presented with the same moral issue, most students would fight back and thus perpetuate violence and racism. According to utilitarianism, the moral value of an action is determined by its outcome. Most students would argue that by fighting back, they protect themselves and discourage other students from bullying them into silence and submission.
The movie ‘freedom writers’ encourages people to develop and use positive values to make the world a better place. The main values encouraged in the movie include doing right, being kind, polite, respecting other people, seeking truth and applying it in life. Precisely, its theme is centered on promoting good moral values. It can be viewed from different philosophical perspectives based on the moral issue presented in the movie.
Finnis, John. Natural Law and Natural Rights . London: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.
IMDb: Freedom Writers . n.d. Web.
Rousseau, Jean and Cole, G. The Social Contract. New York: Cosimo Inc, 2008. Print.
Ward, Ian. Kantianism, Postmodernism, and Critical Legal Thought . New York: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1997. Print.
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IvyPanda. (2023, October 30). Freedom Writers: Promoting Good Moral Values. https://ivypanda.com/essays/freedom-writers-movie-review/
"Freedom Writers: Promoting Good Moral Values." IvyPanda , 30 Oct. 2023, ivypanda.com/essays/freedom-writers-movie-review/.
IvyPanda . (2023) 'Freedom Writers: Promoting Good Moral Values'. 30 October.
IvyPanda . 2023. "Freedom Writers: Promoting Good Moral Values." October 30, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/freedom-writers-movie-review/.
1. IvyPanda . "Freedom Writers: Promoting Good Moral Values." October 30, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/freedom-writers-movie-review/.
IvyPanda . "Freedom Writers: Promoting Good Moral Values." October 30, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/freedom-writers-movie-review/.
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The Freedom Writers Diary
77 pages • 2 hours read
The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them
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Racial Identity and Tolerance
In and outside of school, the students’ lives are organized according to their racial identity. As one student writes, “ Schools are just like the city and the city is just like prison. All of them are divided into separate sections, depending on race” (9-10). Because students regularly encounter race-based violence on the streets, they self-segregate by race at school. Even if they avoid joining a gang, they might be attacked on the street simply for the color of their skin.
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Freedom Writers Summary
The movie Freedom Writers is about a young teacher named Erin Gruwell who takes on a challenging teaching position at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. Her class is made up of diverse students, including gang members and juveniles. At first, Mrs. Gruwell struggled to connect with her students, who were focused on their gang warfare and hatred towards each other. However, after witnessing a racially motivated gang shooting, Mrs. Gruwell decided to teach her students about the Holocaust and gave them black and white composition notebooks to write in. She encouraged them to share their experiences and listen to each other, sparking a transformation in the classroom. Mrs. Gruwell brought in music and literature from different communities to open her students’ eyes to the experiences of those suffering intolerance. Her students raised money to bring in their hero, Miep Gies, and for their final project, they typed up their journals and bound them. In the end, most of her students graduated and went on to post-secondary education, leaving behind a legacy.
The movie “Freedom Writers” was about Erin Gruwell, a young teacher who accepted a position teaching freshman and sophomore English at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. Mrs. Gruwell dramatically transformed a chaotic class of hardened inner city youths. This class was consisted of African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Juvenile Delinquents, gang members, one Caucasian, and underprivileged students from poor neighborhoods. At first, it was difficult for Mrs. Gruwell to relate to her class.
The students brought their gang warfare from the streets into the classroom, the only thing they shared were their hatred for one another and the understanding that they were simply being warehoused in the educational system until they were old enough to disappear. Despite Mrs. Gruwell’s students’ refusal to participate in class, she attempted to engage them on a daily basis. Until, a racially motivated gang shooting witnessed by a Latino gang member Eva occurred, following an ugly racial cartoon; becoming the most unwittingly dynamic teaching aids.
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Mrs. Gruwell angrily started telling them about the Holocaust. However, only one student knew about the Holocaust. The teacher decided to take on two jobs, one as a lingerie salesperson and the other as a concierge at the local Marriot, in order to purchase supplies to reach the students in a different way. Her husband began to worry; she told him it was only temporary. She moved the students around, out of their racial divisions. She attempted to show the students that they were united by playing the “Line Game” with them.
Her most effective form of teaching aid came in the form of a black and white composition notebook. She gave each student a notebook and asked them to write in it every day. They could write in any form they wish, as long as it was continuous. She told them that it was completely private and she would not read their journals unless they put them into the locked cabinet in the back of the classroom. She decided to rebuke their hatred of one another by having them read The Diary of Anne Frank and wrote about their own experiences in a daily journal.
This sparked a transformation in the classroom, compelling them to listen to each other and force her to take off her idealistic blinders and take in the kids’ survival stories of their undeclared war on the streets. Mrs. Gruwell began to connect with them. She brought in music from the ‘Hood, literature from another kind of ghetto, and The Diary of Anne Frank. With these simple tools, she opened her students’ eyes to the experiences of those suffering intolerance throughout the world and the struggles of those outside their own communities.
The students raised money to have their hero Miep Gies, the lady that helped Ann Frank, flew in to speak to them. Miep Gies told them she is not a hero; she just did the right thing. Lastly, Mrs. Gruwell told her students that for their final project, they will be typing up their journals and binding them. She told them to give their book a title. In the end, most of her students graduated and went on to post-secondary education, leaving behind s legacy.
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The Freedom Writers Movie: Main Idea
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Freedom Writers , Movie Review , My Future
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- Freedom Writers. Directed by Richard LaGravenese, performances by Hilary Swank, Patrick Dempsey, and Imelda Staunton, Paramount Pictures, 2007.
- Gruwell, Erin. "The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them." Broadway Books, 1999.
- Freedom Writers (2007): Film Review." RogerEbert.com, www.rogerebert.com/reviews/freedom-writers-2007
- Gruwell, Erin. "Teaching Hope: Stories from the Freedom Writer Teachers and Erin Gruwell." Broadway Books, 2013.
- From Margin to Center: The Diary of Maria Reyes." In "The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them," edited by Erin Gruwell and Freedom Writers, Broadway Books, 1999, pp. 70-72.
- Gloria Munez: Toast for Change." In "The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them," edited by Erin Gruwell and Freedom Writers, Broadway Books, 1999, pp. 88-90.
- Kozol, Jonathan. "Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools." Broadway Books, 1991.
- Heinemann, Carolyn, and Carolyn Brooks. "Teaching Literature to Adolescents." Routledge, 2013.
- Poppleton, Sarah. "Learning Through Writing: Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in Writing Assignments." Journal of Criminal Justice Education, vol. 20, no. 2, 2009, pp. 191-206.
- Noddings, Nel. "Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education." University of California Press, 2003.
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Home / Essay Samples / Entertainment / Freedom Writers / “Freedom Writers”: Summary of the Movie
"Freedom Writers": Summary of the Movie
- Category: Entertainment , Literature
- Topic: Freedom Writers , Mary Shelley , Movie Review
Pages: 2 (792 words)
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