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The story of Freedom Writers and Overcoming Adversity through Education

Freedom Writers is among the very few movies I find myself revisiting every now and then. It’s based o

n the true story of a young teacher Erin Gruwell, who teaches at-risk students in a region where gang violence and racial tension is highly prevalent. Her students are impacted by and involved in these gangs, which has impacted their education negatively.

These students are rowdy and ill-mannered towards other students and faculty members. At first, Gruwell struggles with adjusting in a different environment with uncooperative students who keep getting in trouble with authorities. However, she introduces them to the power of writing by urging them to share their personal experiences in writing journals. As the students start opening up and connecting through their heartfelt writing, they bond and forge connections that transcends beyond their history with gang violence.


What I loved about this movie was that Gruwell introduced her students to literature that taught them the power of tolerance and kindness, including The Diary of Anne Frank. I really admired her persistence in instilling in her students a sense of hope and teach them empathy along with the importance of education despite all the hurdles and skepticism from the school administration and detrimental external influences.



The most valuable lesson that we can learn from Freedom Writers is the power and ability of education to transform lives of young people regardless of their backgrounds and rough upbringings. In a society that gave up on hope for the students and wrote them off as hopeless and incompetent, Gruwell was able to help them achieve amazing things through education which transformed their lives. This film moves me to tears every time I watch it and I urge everyone to watch it at least once.





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This was such an amazing post as I have been looking for films that delve deeper into the role of teachers in the lives of the students and how successful teachers are those that not only help shape the student's goals but help bring out the best parts of you as a student by promoting one's interests and helping you overcome your fears to achieving your full potential . This is definitely going to my must-watch list for the winters, seeing how it does not just deal with the complexities of a teacher student dynamic but of racial differences and of a student surviving through an area vulnerable to gang-violence. Even reading reminded me of the un-intended intertextuality with "Matilda"…

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Mariam
Mariam
Dec 01, 2023
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Beautiful insight! I definitely drew the same parallel with Miss Honey, and also Jack Black's character in School of Rock. I think you should definitely watch this movie because it's a refreshing take on female teachers in movies that deviates from the degrading trope of female teachers being young and sexualized.

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Annum Shehryar
Annum Shehryar
Dec 01, 2023

This was such an interesting read! I shall add it to my list of films to watch. I have read a couple of reviews though on how this film was criticized for not exploring the depths of the student's lives and how they have struggled growing up in an environment that led to them being labelled as "rowdy" and "ill-mannered". Moreover, I appreciate how this film encapsulates the beauty of the nature of writing and how it takes a knowledgeable, passionate and empathetic teacher to impact the lives of many students, equipping them with skills to help them in exploring themselves and their stories. According to your review it seems that the female teacher was done justice by shedding ligh…

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Mariam
Mariam
Dec 01, 2023
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I totally agree! While I do agree that this film did lack in some aspects of portraying the young students, I think for its time it did a great job at capturing the importance of education and its ability to transform lives. I especially love how it was such a good example of how female teachers should be portrayed in movies without the aspect of sexualization and fetishization of female teachers who are "young" , "attractive" and pining for male students' attention"

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This is without doubt an amazing movie to watch, and its almost sad that so many people don't know about it. As much as I loved this movie, and agree with everything you said regarding the positive impact made by this movie, I still feel like this movie had its fair share of shortcomings. Even though it illustrates the transformative nature of education effectively, I feel like that it ended up simplifying a lot of complex issues. The movie focused too much on Gruwell's heroism, that it ended up overshadowing the individual experiences of all the students. The movie had a lot of potential to explore the individualistic experiences of all those who were facing the issues of gang violence,…

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Mariam
Mariam
Dec 01, 2023
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That's absolutely true! I did think there was an element of the white saviour complex at play here, since Gruwell taught people of colour who were painted as deviants throughout the movies. I definitely think that showcasing the students' individual experiences could've made the movie a hundred times better than it is.

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Sara Masood
Sara Masood
Nov 30, 2023

Being involved in gangs may impact students’ education but for some young children, gangs become a space where they can exist safely and feel at home. Bullying is done outside of these gangs. Therefore, the portrayal of these gangs as purely ill-mannered and detrimental to others is a one-dimensional view. In the book Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys by Victor M. Rios, Rios explains the hyper criminalization of the marginalized youth. The behavioral changes which you have mentioned as “rowdy and ill-mannered towards other students and faculty members” may be reactions due to being marginalized and alienated because they are a part of a certain group, these biases may have triggered their rebellion. Don’t you think the…

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Mariam
Mariam
Nov 30, 2023
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That's a great perspective! I honestly didn't question what you brought up much when I saw this movie because I took it at face value considering it was based on a true story but alas, even movies based on true movies should be taken with a grain of salt. I do believe this is a harsh portrayal of gangs, especially because at times a lot of these kids have grown up around them or forced into them, so I do agree that this portrayal paints a harmful picture about regions where gangs are prominent.

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Gotta say, I'm now intrigued enough to watch this! Though I haven't seen many movies that focus on the theme of mentoring of the roles of teachers in literal classrooms, the few I have do resonate with me immensely. There is something about the way that teachers (like Gruwell) who present this sort of fantasy of a type of teacher that I feel like we so greatly feel deprived of in school. So much of our education is this standardized, systematized procedure (even literature, in my experience), and there is no room left for not just connect with each other, but for some sort of connection with what we learn, a connection that a teacher cannot only create, but nurture…

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Mariam
Mariam
Dec 01, 2023
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I completely resonate with your thoughts on the portrayal of teachers like Gruwell who bring a sense of connection and mentorship into the classroom. It's fascinating how these depictions often present a fantasy of teaching that feels lacking in the standardized education systems we've experienced. I find it thought-provoking to consider why, even in a place like LUMS where we've been fortunate to have caring teachers, these portrayals still strike a chord.


While our educational backgrounds in Pakistan may have provided a minimum amount of care, the idea of teachers who not only impart knowledge but also create meaningful connections with students seems to be a universal desire. Perhaps it's because, despite our privileges, we've all felt the constraints of…

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