Publication Date


DOI (Digital Object Identifier)



Leadership and Higher Education


Doctor of Education (Ed.D)

Dissertation Chair

Philip S. Mirci, Ph.D.

Committee Members

Alayne Sullivan, Ph.D.

Linda Jungwirth, Ed.D.


Renee Firestone, Erin Gruwell, Freedom Writers Institute, Human rights education, Holocaust, Social reconstruction


Educational Leadership


Using a social justice lens of critical theory, social reconstructionism and human rights education, this research reports the perceptions, in respect to human rights and education, of individuals who have been involved with the Freedom Writers Institute.

A life history case study portion focuses on the work of Holocaust survivor Renée Firestone, who has worked as a human rights advocate for over 30 years, as well as the career of Erin Gruwell, including her creation of the Freedom Writers Foundation. Findings suggest that leaders can benefit from the mentoring they receive from other people, and that the context of supportive mentoring occurs within the context of friendships.

A phenomenological case study portion focuses on educator participants in the Freedom Writers Institute. Findings suggest four major results: (1) power is misused in educational hierarchies; (2) human rights education is excluded from the curriculum; (3) the inclusion of Holocaust survivor testimony in the curriculum is beneficial and serves as a gateway to the inclusion of human rights education; and (4) the Freedom Writers Institute strengthens teachers’ relationship with their students, provides a variety of pedagogical approaches as well as a sense of encouragement and rejuvenation for the participants, and incorporates a strong familial network of support from other Freedom Writer Institute participants.

Further research is recommended to study the perceptions of individuals in regards to the impact of having survivors of genocides other than the Holocaust speak to students; to study what components of the Freedom Writer Institute (FWI) are actually being incorporated into classrooms by the Freedom Writer Teachers (FWTs); to study the perceptions, regarding the effectiveness of the techniques learned at the FWI, of non-FWTs who work at school sites with FWTs; to examine and compare the grades, standardized test scores, and/or graduation rates of students of non-FWTs and FWTs; to study the perceptions of students whose teachers have been trained at the FWI; to study the perceptions of administrators and/or Board Members who have FWTs on their staffs; and to study the perceptions of parents whose children are enrolled in an FWT’s classroom.


© 2010 Peter Anthony Lock

All Rights Reserved

ISBN: 9781124209326