23 Jan 2007 |
Posted by Lama Surya Das | 1 Comment.
I want to recommend the current movie “Freedom Writers,” which follows in the venerable inspirational tradition of “To Sir with Love,” “Stand and Deliver,” “Music of the Heart” and the more recent “The Ron Clarke Story.” Freedom Writers, based on a true story, is a wonderful look into the dynamics of the lives of children in our inner city schools and an idealistic, neophyte teacher named Erin Gruwell. She came among them, helping them make sense of their lives and affecting positive change within her own classroom and then far beyond.
As a teacher myself, I know that if a bear can learn to ride a bicycle–as I’ve seen at circuses–a human being can learn pretty much anything, given the appropriate support and encouragement.
We all know and have heard that education is the silver bullet, and that our American public schools systems are in a woeful state today. We read that we have fallen well behind many other developed countries in higher education, science and math. Who among us is aware of the significant rate of illiteracy in the world, and even in our great, rich and well-developed country?
The Freedom Writers Diary is the amazing true story of strength, courage, and achievement in the face of adversity. In the fall of 1994, in Room 203 at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California, Ms. Gruwell faced her first group of students, dubbed by the administration as “un-teachable, at-risk” ninth-graders: a diverse mix of African-American, Latino, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Caucasian students, many of whom had grown up in rough, gang-ridden neighborhoods. In the first few weeks of class, the intransigent students made it clear that they were not interested in what their teacher had to say, and made bets about how long she would last in their classroom. The students vastly raised their reading and writing scores, and the diary is based on the journal writings of these children, elicited by their intrepid teacher, whom they chose to stay with throughout their entire high school careers.
We all have heard that education is the silver bullet and at the same time that our American public school systems are in a woeful state these days. Let us not overlook the fact that this silver bullet is not simply a panacean answer but is also reflects of our own societal woes and limitations today. And so in looking into the state of our schools, we may quickly see both educators and students swimming in an artificially superimposed structural grid of haves and have-nots, culturally-biased standardized tests, and divisive labels of success and failure.
This past fall, I heard His Holiness the Dalai Lama reminding us again and again that we must now rely on our secular educational systems to cultivate human values, ethics, altruism, love and compassion. We can no longer simply assume that happens in the family or in the churches—two venerable institutions much in decline in modern times.
Which schools teach wisdom and self-knowledge today, and not just marketable vocational skills?