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Monday, May 19, 2008

Freedom Writers 1

the pic was taken from here 

On Saturday 17 May 2008 I invited my class to watch FREEDOM WRITERS. The class consisted of 15 students, 4 guys and 11 girls, and all of them are college students. Before watching the movie, I gave three questions to be discussed afterwards:

  • Which character attracts you most? Why?
  • Which scene in the movie attracts you most? Why?
  • What do you think of the moral lesson conveyed by the movie?

For the first question, since Erin Gruwell has always been chosen by my students (when I invited some other classes to watch this movie), I asked the students in this class to pay more attention to the students in Gruwell’s class.

In short, Freedom Writers portrays the struggle of the new teacher, Erin Gruwell, to make her students—that mostly have been involved in gang life, violence, killing, drugs, etc—realize that education is the most important aspect in their life if they want to make a change to their lives.

Erin and Marcus
the pic was taken from here

For the first question, 8 students chose Marcus to be the most attractive character. They had a similar reason for that: they considered Marcus the most successful to make a change in his life. He left his family to get involved in street life as gang member because he thought it was the only way to show ‘tolerance’ to other African American people who had always been marginalized. In one long discussion/debate between Erin and the class (spurred by one student’s cartoon to ridicule Black people), one can find out how Marcus viewed his life: he felt like a hero when he showed tolerance to the sufferings of other African American people who happened to live on the street. He opined that if he got killed in a racial discrimination, he would get respect from his ‘community’. “We live in a war everyday,” he said to Erin. However, after he got enlightened by Erin, he realized that living on the street by joining gang life to survive was not right. Therefore he decided to come home and show his family that he changed. He proved that by studying seriously and graduating from high school.

Eva Benita
the pic was taken from here
Meanwhile 6 students chose Eva Benita as someone who made a great change in her life. Eva was raised by a father who believed that the white always marginalized the other ethnic groups. No wonder if Eva hated Erin who happened to be white. However, eventually Eva realized that not all white people were like what her father described. Erin who introduced the students to the Holocaust disaster—as an analogy to the kind of life her students had—successfully made Eva break what her father always taught her, “Don’t go against your own people!” In the court, Eva told the judge the truth about one accident where she was the crime witness. Although Eva had to risk being hated by her own father and Latino community, Eva daringly did what she thought it was the right thing to do. She must have been inspired by what Mip Gies did, the woman who help hide Anne Frank during the Holocaust.

Ben Samuel
the pic was taken from here

One student chose Ben Samuel, the only white student in Erin’s class. Outside the classroom, the white were the majority while inside the class, Ben was the minority. If at the very beginning Ben showed his restlessness to be in that class, felt very insecure among the Cambodian, Latino and Black students, eventually Ben stayed put in the class and behaved like one member of a big family consisting of various ethnic groups comfortably.

To discuss the three questions, I divided the class into four groups. For the second question, the first groups chose a scene when Erin did ‘line game’. She put a red line in the middle of the classroom. Afterwards, she asked some questions to her students. If the question applied to the students’ interest (or if the students answered ‘Yes’ to her Erin’s questions), the students were to stand close to the red line. The essence of the ‘game’ was that Erin wanted to make her students realize that they were all undergoing similar lives. When they had similar experiences in life, they were supposed to have one strong emotional tie among themselves and not to hate the other ethnic groups. Erin was successful to make her students aware that they did not need to show hostility to the others because in fact they faced the same problem. While for Ben, the only white in the class, Erin wanted to make him view life from other ethnic groups’ perspective—who happened to be the minority groups in America.

the pic was taken from here 

The second group chose a long debate—spurred by Tito’s cartoon on Black people, especially to ridicule Jamal—between Erin and her students. This debate made Erin know more what kind of problems her students faced. This also inspired her to broaden her students’ horizon that happened to know nothing about anything else but their own life. This resulted in Erin’s bigger dedication to her job. She did two other part time jobs to get more money to buy books for her students, also to take them on trips: to visit museums, to have dinner with ex Holocaust victims, etc. This “impractical” way of teaching of Erin’s proved to work well.

the journals
the pic was taken from here

The third group chose the scene when Erin read her students’ journals. This made Erin realize how difficult her students’ lives were. That’s why they had bad behavior and didn’t pay serious attention to their studies. Writing to let go off their restlessness and anxiety seemed to help them release tensions in their daily life. Moreover at the same time their writings let the world know their sufferings. To know this would make people give sympathy.

The last group chose the scene when Erin started the first day in the sophomore year by having ‘a toast for change’ session. After making it till the end of their freshman year, the students were expected to have a new perspective in viewing their study. Erin was also successful to make her students feel like they were in one big family in a ‘warm home’ in their classroom, Room 203.
For the third question, the four groups agreed that the movie conveyed “No more racial discrimination, please!” It will be very lovely if, despite difference in ethnic groups, languages, customs (plus religions), people live together hand in hand peacefully as well as respect one another.

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