Thursday, July 03, 2008

No Freedom for Writer's Diary

Just when I thought this society couldn't get any dumber, any less compassionate... along comes news of a teacher who actually cares to educate in a meaningful way being railroaded by a system designed to strip us all of our voice.
says author Ivan Sanchez.

How many times, over how many centuries, do Americans like Connie Heermann have to fight for freedom of expression and thought in their own country?
asks Richard LaGravenese at The Huffington Post .

Let's take a break from getting angry about restrictions on freedom of expression in Malaysia and look at a jaw-droppingly ridiculous case from the US of A where Indiana teacher Connie Heermann has been suspended from her job without pay for 18 months for using the book The Freedom Writers Diary in her classroom to motivate her students.

She says in today's Guardian :
If you read the whole book you will see how these inner-city students grow and change and become articulate, compassionate, educated young people who want to do something good in their lives despite the environment in which they were raised I thought my students would very much relate to those kids.
I blogged some time ago about this inspirational book (based on the experiences of idealistic novice English teacher Erin Gruwell and her students) about how creative writing has the power to transform lives when it first came out, and bought it soon after. My copy's still waiting to be read, but I have dipped into it and found the entries by the students alive and vital. And of course being an English teacher myself, I'm fascinated by any account from the chalkface about how kids can be turned around.

The book was also made into a film starring Hilary Swank.

Heerman chose the text after attending a Freedom Writers workshop and got permission from her head teacher and from parents to teach the book.

So why all the fuss? Apparently one member of the school board objected to swearing and racial slurs in the book and persuaded the other six officials to ban Heermann from teaching the book.

But Heerman was charged with "insubordination" when she decided to ignore the ban for the sake of her students, and was initially threatened with dismissal. Her union now has to decide whether to take the case to court.

It's certainly a cock-eyed world when a teacher is penalised for doing the best for her students ...

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