I roll my eyes every time I hear the phrase “Teenagers these days are useless”. It’s been said for many generations and like all stereotypes is the product of someones underactive imagination. Anyone who thinks that should read “The Freedom Writers Diary” by Erin Gruwell. It is a collection of journal entries by High School students in the late 90’s attending school in Long Beach, CA.
The students in her class were “unteachable”. Mostly it seems because they were living in neighborhoods with gang wars and violence keeping them from studying or aspiring for very little and struggling for a lot. Yet their thinking began to change when they learned about the Holocaust in Germany and the atrocities of the genocide in Sarajevo. Every kid in that class kept a journal and they did not sugar coat their entries. They wrote about death, sexual assault, being homeless, overcoming peer pressure and other hardships. They became friends despite racial prejudices, cliques, and upbringing. Thanks to their teacher Erin, these students were shown a different world via field trips, meeting new people, and books. They met Miep Gies, the courageous women who sheltered Ann Frank. They became friends with Zlata Filopivic, who was the same age as them and survived a war. Some parts are sad and scary to read, but overall this book is amazing. It shows you that YES, real change is possible if you try, if you have support, and if you reach out to others.
It doesn’t stop there. The Freedom Writers lives on as an organization that empowers educators and students to reach for their full potential and not let violence, drugs, prejudice, or apathy decide their future. Please read this book, buy it for a friend and check out www.FreedomwritersFoundation.org for more information.
How has changing your thinking changed your life?