Trey McCloud, 14, once refused to bring a pen to class but now has a passion for writing. ... (he) says he gets upset a lot and "breaks down". But when he reads aloud to his fellow classmates, he feels respect. Writing helps him release anger that he has been "storing up". And it has turned him around academically, his teacher Mr Galbraith says: "Trey showed the most rapid development of any student I've had, and that's after 13 years in the business."It's inspiring stuff. So inspiring that Hollywood apparently wants in on it! Yet the BBC article barely scratches the surface of what is a truly wondrous story about the power of writing to reclaim and transform lives.
The Freedom Writing Project was born when an idealistic new teacher called Erin Gruwell decided to do something different with her class of alienated and so-called "unteachable" students who:
...mocked Erin's efforts and bet on how long she would last. Then, one day, Erin intercepted a student's racial caricature. Furious, she invoked the racism that led to the Holocaust. Receiving only blank stares, she realized the students had never heard of the Holocaust. But when she asked how many of them had been shot at, almost every student raised his or her hand.And change they did. Every single one of her 150 students made it to college. Some of them became journalists, teachers and writers.
Erin dispensed with the textbooks and brought in books by teens who had lived through racism and warfare, such as Anne Frank and Zlata Filipovic. This time, the students made a powerful emotional connection. With Erin, they began to document their own lives in individual, anonymous diaries. They called themselves the "Freedom Writers," to honor the Civil Rights activists known as the Freedom Riders. As they wrote, the class made a firm and lasting commitment to change.
The project has a website which is well worth exploring. And a book about the project is due for release in 2007.