Inner-city schools are suffered by multilayered structural and institutional problems. Although urban problems mainly stem from socio-political power relations rather than individuals, classroom teachers must shoulder the responsibility for making education caring for urban youth. Freedom Writers (2007), a film released in 2007, addresses the complex challenges that inner-city teachers face by acting the special pedagogy of one teacher, Erin Gruwell. Throughout the film, the main character Ms. Erin Gruwell is an exemplary teacher regardless of the complexities that surrounds the learning environment. The story discusses how students managed to survive in school with the aid of an exceptional teacher who influenced them to change and aim for success. This essay aim to define how two issues of cultural difference and racism impact upon the educational experiences, then the connection with the ideas based on Gruwell’s pedagogical practice, followed by the suggestions about how teachers can do in order to improve current education for achieving just schooling.
In the film of Freedom Writers, majority of the students suffers from social justice issues regarding racism and cultural diversity, which sets them apart and made them involved in serious gang wars. One of the characteristic Eva, her father was in prison because of loyalty to the gang, and she had to testify in court on a case similar to the one that sent her dad away. Marcus was kicked out of his house when he joined a gang. One boy tells the class that he has no other family, just them. The students’ resulted in low classroom performances and in fact that most they were not given properly support and attention by their families. Students are motivated from what surrounds them. When the learning environment is full of negative elements, students will lose their focus and will stop them from achieving the academic success. Ms. Gruwell in the movie was able to find ways to counter the rising educational problem.
Gruwell’s revolutionary pedagogy begins when she refuses to mechanically follow the prescribed curriculum. She transforms the content of the required English readings and incorporates history into her curriculum. Based on the students’ needs and interests, she selects new readings (e.g., The Diary of Anne Frank), organizes a field trip (a visit to the Museum of Tolerance), and develops an assignment (writing a letter to Miep Gies, the Dutch woman who risked her life to hide the Frank family). Gruwell ties each activity to a coherent unit shaped around the Holocaust; such strategies allow students to build one piece of knowledge on top of another (Beane, 1997), which lead them involved high order thinking. Surprisingly, this method sparks a turnaround in her students’ attitudes. They are so inspired by the museum field trip that they become self-motivated to read the story of Anne Frank.
Gruwell’s pedagogical was shift to accommodate students’ interest. Her decision to teach The Diary of Anne Frank goes against the institutional norm of a prescribed curriculum. According to Haberman (1995) states that teachers should be knowledgeable and creative enough to teach around the textbook and accommodate emerging issues generated by students. It is better to set the same high expectations for all students and to provide differentiated levels of support to ensure that all students have a fair chance to achieve them. That is a view put by many leaders in the indigenous community on behalf of their young people (National Curriculum Board, 2010). Supporting this notion, Brooks and Brooks (1999) argue that constructive teachers should have a broader concept of lesson direction that guides day-to-day instructional activities.
In addition, teachers need to involve the community in the development of the curriculum, which ideally should be responsive to local also the global cultural and economic contexts, and encourage and assist...