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January 22, 2007



wow, interesting (but not too surprising). but who was responsible for the exaggeration -- gruwell or the movie people?


Not sure, I didn't read her book, but it seems that the co-workers problems are from the book and the all out riot is from the movie. She was involved with the movie, too.


I had no doubt watching the movie that some aspects were exagerated. However, teaching in LA, I know for a fact that in a school with mixed financial situations there are very different experiences to be had. We have many schools that are like two worlds under one roof. Also, to say a house is multi- million $ is not saying much in So. Cal. I work in a gang infestesd slum and a two bedroom (4 rooms total) house with no driveway, garage, laundry hookup and no yard just sold for 1/2 million.

Thomas Schwartz

Acually some of that maybe true, but I actually know one if the freedom writers. The guy Jamol(the guy that they were making fun of, by drawing the pass me picture) his actual name is Sharaud, but he likes to be called Shawn. Anyway my dad works with his mom. Also he played the huy that broke up the fight in the movie. Ok, so anyway that was very off topic. he said that he actually did alot of the stuff(gang violence and stuff) but for the movie they broke up his character into different people.


Ive read a few other things about how Erin Gruwell is pretty much reaping the benefits of her so-called "life changing" program from dollars gained from her book and movie. Check this one post out:

Donald Wood

you all need Jesus. It is is movie based on a true story not a documentary. I think it is was great and more power to her for her willingness to make a difference in someone's life. Get a life

Kenneth Davis

I had the opportunity to teach an "Adult Ed"/"Continuing Education" class for several years. It was explained to me by one of the instructors with thirty years experience that this was the last chance for these students and don't bend over backwards for these people.

My thought is maybe in this crazy world we live in today it takes a little "back bending" by leaders to make a difference in these people's lives.

We either leave a problem or seize a chance to find a solution.

Solon Rosenblatt, MD

I never attended Woodrow Wilson High School. However I did live in a very affluent part of Long Beach during the Rodney King Riots. If you were living in my neighborhood during those times and several years later when Eren Gruwell started teaching, and you weren't afraid you were going to be killed during those riots, then you were not living in reality. One of my colleagues was murdered on his way to pick up another colleague who was too afraid to leave her home to go to work. We were all residents training at USC/LA County Medical Center. The Army National Guard came every morning to escort us to the hospital for months. One night the National Guard killed a Long Beach State student because they were walking home from school after curfew and didn't hear the command to stop because of they were listening to their Walkman. I remember stopping to get gas one morning, and the gentle, old Asian gentleman who owned the gas station was crying because they burned his house down to the ground the night before. The comments that I read on these pages are obscene and untrue.

Lurelia Freeman

I had heard about this book and film and figured it was just another Dangerous Minds-however I am completing my teaching license at Hamline University in Saint Paul and those depictions of Long Beach aren't far from what's happening here.While people are talking about Gruwell proceeds from the book and the film are putting freedom writer's thru college and funds it's foundation.Besides shouldn't she get paid for her efforts like other professionals?I was teaching summer school with some of those so-called "at risk Kids", this movie made my kids pick up a book,then ask for another one and READ!!!That can't be a bad thing.It made students think about who their teachers are as people and what their responsibilites are as students.God bless Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers, Swank should have gotten the Oscar for this!!Do your homework before you talk about folks.Check out the Freedom Writer's Foundation website for yourself, read the book, see the movie, volunteer in a classroom_THEN TALK!!!

Joanna J. Sicat

It baffles me how we can just sit here and debate Ms. Gruwell's credibility, the events that took place and question if she's "reaping in the benefits" of her work. Here is one of the many people who are striving to make a difference in this world and in peoples lives AND are actually ACTING ON IT and we have the nerve to question them and criticize them for what they do? That's just crazy. The truth of the matter is, whether or not the events portrayed in the film were depicted in its entirety (which I believe they were), the message is real. The people are real. The riots happened, school integration is real, gang rivalry, gang shootings, the struggles of inner city life is real. People dying everyday from shootings, people losing hope in furthering their education or getting an education in the first place because they are constantly neglected by the mainstream world are real. I watched this movie with some of my friends who are from the inner cities, who grew up their whole life in environments very similar to that depicted in the film. Even before our conversations discussing the film, the expressions on their faces and in their eyes told the truth. And in our discussions, their stories came out. Their truths came out. Different locations, different people, but similar stories ALL REAL. The mentors, teachers, professors, counselors, that helped them out to become that first in their family, first in their generation to go to college and think about their future and opportunities are ALL REAL. THANK GOD FOR THEM. So who are we to sit back and critize those that are making a difference? I applaud Ms. Gruwell for what she does, heck let her reap in her benefits!! She and many others who do such good works in their communities deserves the reward. We should all learn to appreciate those that do good, instead of criticize because those are the ones that are actually changing the world!!! The question is, What are YOU doing?

Rachel Whiddon

recently i watched this movie and people remeber it is based on a true story. Not everything would be exactly to the book. unless its a documentary. May i also point out that when the truth is told in a story, there will be people who will not believe the truth. its like people want to hide away from what is actually happening. or they believe that the truth should not be told because they know that in part they were in the wrong. let us not always look for the bad in everything. there is to much of that in this world. why dont why focus on the possibilities of encouraging one another to be or that they can be, to contribute in a way that will save someone from drowning.


I had the good luck to meet Erin at one of her speaking engagements recently. I must say that this was one of the most inspirational sessions I have ever attended.

You cannot deny that her students were significantly below "normal" when she started and cannot negate the impact that she has had on their lives and the lives of many others that have read or heard their story.

Personally I found her message as representing a life-altering call to action. To step up and quit watching from the sidelines and instead do something to help society.

I also found the approach that she used fit perfectly with my frustration in traditional education. I didn't come from a gang or grow up poor. I did however feel that teaching to a test was not effective for me. I found that this is also one of my most significant frustrations in managing people in the real world. People want to know the rules, how they will be measured, what tasks to do and how. Erin found a way to make reading relevent to the kids and through this they read and learned. Learning is the key in this and she made that happen.

Kudos to her for taking on the system that focuses on dry delivery of textbooks and Kudos to every other exceptional teacher that recognizes that learning only occurs when you have a mind that is receptive to the message and the mechanism that is used to deliver that message.


wow it is a quite sad day in society when people are personally out there to just attack one another. what is no one good enough to be a society hero anymore? grow up people you are no longer in high school.

LD Robinson

It's funny how some people LOVE to put others down just to build themselves up. It is also funny how certain people ALWAYS try to find something negative to say about someone like this Jen person in the rotten tomatoes link above. How pathetic! Obviously Jen is extremely jealous of Erin's accomplishments and probably only wishes she could accomplish one tenth of what Erin has. I can tell right now Jen will not do anything of significance with her current attitude. So enjoy being a 3 percenter the rest of your life, Jen!
For those that came here to find out more about Erin please continue to do so and just filter out the pathetic posts above. I am not saying I feel everything is 100% accurate, but overall the movie has a really good message. Try to find the good in the movie and also see what you can do today to help someone.

My one and only post.



Phyllis Johnson

I had the pleasure of seeing Erin Gruwell at a teacher's convocation. It was the best speech for motivation I'd ever heard. I enjoyed the movie as well and bought the book. I felt a kinship with her and talked personally with her about the fact that I'd written a poetic interpretation book based on Anne Frank's diary titled BEING FRANK WITH ANNE. I've been trying to contact Erin to endorse it as it is coming out in November at Community Press. She seemed interested in seeing it but her agent told me that Erin is too busy to read it. Erin- if you read this post and care to see it, I'll be happy to send it to you. The advance review copy been requested by four Holocaust museums already. Meeting Erin definitely struck a nerve with me since I'd written this book about ten years ago and finally am getting it published. I admire Erin's determination to succeed in spite of the odds. I have the same philosophy myself. I try to instill that in the young people I work around. Anne's diary always touched my heart and so did Erin and her story.
Phyllis Johnson, author of BEING FRANK WITH ANNE

Natalie - Brisbane - Australia

I have just finished watching the film. I think that anyone who has that much heart and is that brave to help those kids should be applauded. Whatever and however Erin Gruwell worked, she still had everyone one of those 150 kids graduate and go on to further education or other rewarding work. Some of the authors of the posts on this site clearly think that they could have done a better job and focus on the points within the film that are called poetic licence. We have a saying in Australia that people love to chop down tall poppies. The people that do this usually find fault in people that have achieved greatness and that is usually because they don't have in themselves, what it takes to pick themselves up and get themselves out of the normality of their own lives. Good on her and especially good on those kids and the kids that came after them. They are stars


Weither it's the movie or true story, the education system is still not flawless; and there are times the system will just give up and label a bunch of kids as "unteachable", push them out of the high school soon as their old enough. It seems that the bureaucratic work is much more important than the kids sometimes.

And what's with this food fight? I don't think that's funny at all.


I am astonished by the cynicism and shameful criticism shown towards Erin Gruwell by some of the posters. Her dedication to her job and the determined efforts and sacrifices should be applauded, she is a fine role model for all teachers and those small minded and grubby enough to forage for anything negative about such an admirable woman should be ashamed.


It is really sad the lengths that some people will go to aleviate their insecurities. Why is it so difficult to believe that someone would act in such a selfless manner? This cynicism is the product of self-absorbed, individualistic culture that where people can't fathom someone putting the interests of others before their own.

Thomas McMahan

I know nothing directly about the person this movie was based upon, so I'm not going to comment on her personally. As a teacher, I do have a beef with this "messianic" model that everyone assumes is the answer to all the problems of education in America. I applaud any teacher that can inspire previously uninspired students, because that's a difficult task. Its also a task that tends not to be repeated, because the dynamic of teacher and students changes from class to class, semester to semester, and what works one time may not work again. If a teacher does have some kind of spectacular success and it gets promoted in the media, suddenly they're the latest "answer" and here comes the book tour to capitalize on what was, after all, their student's success.

Improving education takes a team effort...parents, teachers, administrators, businesses, we all have to develop the habits of mind that start children down the road to academic success, and keep those minds focused on those habits when there's so many forces in our culture bent on diverting the attention of those minds. The occasional education "messiah" isn't going to fix that, warm fuzzy feelings besides.

T. Welch

I'm an education major in college, and yes, "messiah" teachers don't fix the problem. But a little idealism and inspiration never hurt, especially for students going into the field. I realize that reality and our college image of school are two different things, but a little dreaming gets us by while we're in school, Erin Gruwell's Freedom Writers is great inspiration.


Thomas McMahan, you do have to credit the movie though. When she is in the office of the head of board of education, the principal asks if she can transfer this learning to other students and other classrooms, and she says, "I don't Know" which is true. I would agree with you in the fact to say that people are being misled that this style of teaching is the answer, but I would disagree that the source of that misleading is Erin Gruwell by telling her story. All it is is her experience. The story and what happened is inspiring, and nothing more.

Thomas McMahan

Don't take my statement as a criticism of the movie or Ms. Gruwell. I don't think any one of these stories or teachers are "to blame" but when you add up all of these movies and books and appearances on Oprah, what you get is the perception of "success" equaling "charismatic" or "melodramatic." This has become such a cliche that oftentimes, people in education buy into it as well.

I was asked once what we were doing at my school to help disadvantaged students. (I work at a progressive alternative school designed for credit recovery.) I explained what we had been building for 3 delivery style for curriculum, improving the county's graduation rate, providing mentoring, college preparation and advisement, etc etc. And the response was essentially, "Yeah, but what kinds of emotional, uplifting stories do you have?" If it doesn't jerk a tear, it doesn't count, apparently, and that's what bugs me about these kinds of stories. You shouldn't have to have a soundtrack rising into an emotional swell in the background to get people moved and excited about education, but apparently that's all a lot of people respond to.

Michelle Loeffler

My name is Michelle Loeffler and I am interested in knowing where Erin is now. When does she speak next and where? If anybody can send me this information it would be appreciated very much. I work in a high school and we deal with gang members here as well.
Thank you,
Ms. Michelle Loeffler

v. swamp

I'm a teacher in Long Beach Unified, the district where this story took place. I also live in Long Beach. A parent of a student in my class this year was one of the original "freedom writers." I never saw this movie. Once I knew it was about a class at Wilson High School, I was put off. Even though I don't work there, as a teacher and resident of Long Beach, I was offended by what seemed to be (from the trailors) an inaccurate portrayal of a very fine school. Yes, Wilson is diverse, all Long Beach schools are as a result of a desegregation decision going back decades. Wilson is a very attractive school both for its athletic and academic programs, arguably the most respected high school in Long Beach, and while most students who attend aren't from the immediate and affluent neighborhood, the rest who attend on special transfer are most likely there because of special interest (ie they applied) and not just there on overflow. So to think of this school as one suffering from gang influence is just annoyingly misled. The sucesses of the students at that school are a result of a community of caring people, students, families, administration and teachers (plural). As for the teacher in this movie, her methods of motivating her students to read, write and publish are commendable, inspiring, etc.. But let's not overdramatize a situation in order to validate it. Don't make other people look bad in order to shine brighter.

The teacher was ambitious; she published a book and went on to University level instruction after just a few years of high school teaching. I should take notes. Did she profit from the movie? I don't know, probably. Did the school district or Wilson High School and its population of at-risk and underpriviliged students profit? I don't know, but the cynic in me thinks probably not.

Teachers do inspiring things every day, and sometimes they do extraordinary things. It just irks me that Hollywood takes this concept and exaggerates it to the point where it's no longer realistic in order get attention. Positive teacher attention is good, but when it comes hand in hand with racial stereotyping it's not worth it, and when you know they're fibbing about how it really was, and it could easily be one of your students they're not painting a fair picture of, it's easily taken to heart. Hence the rant.

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