In The Freedom Writers Diary, how was the importance of self-worth shown through the thoughts, words, and actions of the students in Ms. Gruwell's class?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The importance of self-worth to Ms. Gruwell's students can be seen in how they use her content to formulate emotionally strong positions about the world and their place in it.

Ms. Gruwell understands her students' profound deficit of self-worth.  She recognizes that years of being overlooked and maligned both educationally and socially have prevented them from recognizing meaning in themselves and their world.  This is clear when Erin notes how "it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you tell kids they're stupid--directly or indirectly--sooner or later they start to believe it.”  Ms. Gruwell recognizes that connecting content to the experiences of her students can increase their self-worth, evident in her students' thoughts, words, and actions.

Tommy Johnson's diary entry displays self-worth.  His opening sentence insists that he is better than the violence dominating his world. When Tommy writes, "They say America is the 'Land of the Free and Home of the Brave,' but what's so free about a land where people get killed," he shows an acquisition of self-worth. His opening question reflects how he believes that the world in which he lives is wrong and must be questioned.  The purpose of his diary entry is to make a connection with Zlata Filipovic, whose diary he has read as a part of Ms. Gruwell's class.  When he asks Zlata how to handle a situation where violence is so prevalent, his self-worth compels him to turn to someone else who can help. Writing a diary entry to Zlata is an action that shows Tommy's self-worth.  When he closes his diary entry with "Your Friend," self-worth is evident in his affirmation of friendship to share and learn from someone in a similar situation.

In Diary 36, we see another example of self-worth's importance to one of Ms. Gruwell's students.  This particular student did not expect to be emotionally impacted while reading Anne Frank's diary.  However, the book "came alive" for the student and a connection reflecting self-worth was made: "I cried when she cried, and just like her I wanted to know why the Germans were killing her people.  Just like her, I knew the feeling of discrimination and to be looked down upon based on the way you look.  Just like her 'I sometimes feel like a bird in a cage and just want to fly away."  Diary 36 shows Ms. Gruwell's content imparting self-worth in the thoughts, actions, and words of her student.  There is an empathy between the student and Anne Frank.   Like Tommy Jefferson, the student affirms self-worth in the insistence that what is happening in the world is wrong and must be repudiated. 

The words and thoughts of Diary 37 are also rooted in self-worth.  This particular entry connects the student's own experience with Zlata's and Anne's.  The diary entry is focused on an abusive and emotionally absent "sperm donor" of a father.  Self-worth is powerfully evident in the diary entry's conclusion of how "I won't die or get taken advantage of.  I'm going to be strong."  The student has appropriated the examples of Anne Frank and Zlata Filipovic as behavior models.  The diary entry reflects self-worth in the awareness that they deserve better and merit more than what is around them.  

The affirmation of strength and self-worth in the three diary entries reminds us of the power that education can have on a child. Content such as Ms. Gruwell's can transform their perception of the world and their place in it.  It enhances self-worth because students recognize that their experiences are mirrored in the realities of other people.  They realize they are not alone.  Ms. Gruwell's students realize this in their actions of composing diary entries.  They also display self-worth in words that communicate powerful thoughts of strength and refusal to accept injustice in their lives and the world around them.

Read the study guide:
The Freedom Writers Diary

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question