In The Freedom Writers, why do you think Erin refers to the Nazis as the most famous gang in history?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In linking the Nazis to a "gang," Erin reaches her students in both a thematic and culturally relevant manner.  Consider how she is able to bring the subject up to her students:

One day, Gruwell intercepted a note being passed between students; the paper revealed a racist caricature full of hate. Gruwell told her class that it was this sort of hate and misunderstanding that led to the Holocaust. Gruwell was shocked to learn that her students had never heard of the Holocaust.

In being able to link the Nazis to a gang, Gruwell is able to forge the link between content and student life.  Her students understood the realities and corresponding fears of gang life.  Gruwell was able to link this knowledge to content, in articulating that the same socially destructive behaviors in gang life could be found in the practices and beliefs of the Nazis.  It serves as a rallying cry for teacher to students because Gruwell was able to argue that the antisocial and destructive behavior of gang life could be in the same realm as the Nazis with regards to the Holocaust.  In doing so, she is able to empower her students through expansion of moral imagination to envision their own world as it should be as opposed to what is via curriculum and content.

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