An Invitation to Change

Mary Pipher believes that writing always changes the world in some way, big or small. She discusses “change writers,” or composers who seek to change the world by inviting people to join a “struggle” (83, 84). I appreciate that Pipher’s premiere example was not a text written by a powerful politician, established activist, or rebel leader. Instead it was an essay written by a young Jewish girl living in the danger of Nazi Germany. When Anne Frank wrote her essay “Give,” she had no power other than the willingness to write about what she believed was unfair, unfortunate, and changeable. To me, the best part of this example is Frank’s call to action: “Give whatever you have to give, you can always give something, even if it is a simple act of kindness” (83). It is not about being rich, powerful, or famous. It is giving, it is action, and it might be writing.

My teaching of writing has been profoundly changed by book titled <em>Freedom Writers Diary.</em> It is a collection of journal writings produced by real high school students and a teacher that encouraged them to tell stories about their poverty, crime-ridden neighborhoods, and low expectations for educational success. As students wrote, they became more active in addressing problems and suggesting change. By writing, they took action in their own education and communities. As a result, other more powerful people noticed and took action by contributing money, time, and opportunities. The story has become famous and has motivated many teachers and students to write for change by telling their stories. I am one of them.

We can do the same. I believe that when we write for change, we indeed give something. It is that bit of us that cares, listens to, and empathizes with others. Writing can be an active resounding of experiences in which you may cast your light on problems that might otherwise fester in the shadows. When we write about literacy and speech communities, let’s be active in writing for change. Let’s write about what we see as unfair, wrong, and changeable. Writing is action. Writing is change!

Bert Wray


33 thoughts on “An Invitation to Change

  1. I really liked enjoyed reading this blog. I have always been a good writer but have never used my skills and abilities to benefit anything but my English grade. I think writing to change the world is very important. You could write a newspaper article, a magazine article, a blog or even a blog response and whoever reads it is effected by your words. What stood out to me the most was the part about the book “The Freedom Writers” because I really enjoyed reading that book and watching that movie. I love how the book was incorporated with the Anne Frank story. Both of those examples are so different, yet so similar. They both describe how writing freed the hearts of those who were troubled and invoked change in the communities they lived in.

    1. I like that you remembered that the Freedom Writer’s Diary was very involved in the legacy of Anne Frank. The freedom Writer’s story is so inspiring because they are “little” and “on their own” just like Frank was. Writing can be the act that gives the supposedly powerless people a powerful voice.

  2. I thought the references to the passage were excellent, and played perfectly into the message of “change through writing” being conveyed in this blog. A lot of people can relate to times of hardship, so writing about its possible change can be very easy to do and express. Also, by using the passage in your teaching, I think many students will be able to write about what they’ve endured and relate to the piece. It may not be something they want to think about, but it will spark their interest and give them a great place to start writing.

    1. I like you comment that writing may not be what people want to think about but that it can be inspiring. Maybe we owe it to the world to write about those hidden and ignored problems.

  3. I agree with the things that Mary Pipher wrote as well. The quote on page 83 really hit home when she said, “Give whatever you have to give, you can always give something, even if it is a simple act of kindness”. This is a dramatic call to action to give often and whatever you can to help others. I really enjoy this type of teaching style. Writing journals and short essays makes writing much easier since it makes it personal. My English teacher during my junior year of high school taught my classmates and me with this style. It drastically improved my writing skills and made writing much more entertaining and not as boring.

  4. I agree that choosing someone not as famous and is young makes the reading more relatable. I remember watching the movie “The Diary of Anne Frank” and crying because I can’t even imagine what that experience would have been like. When I am reading I always choose a novel or selection that has a significant meaning because I feel those have more impact. Anne Frank was so right that you don’t have to be rich and famous to help someone out because even the small things can change the world. It’s like passing a homeless person on the side of the road and buying them a meal. Even though it isn’t a huge amount of money it Ida simple act of kindness that is greatly appreciated. I think everyone should try to do random acts of kindness and then right about it because it could be a huge impact on someone else. Give what you are able to because no matter how small it still could change the world and eventually reward you in the future.

  5. I really enjoyed reading this blog about Mary Pipher’s “Writing to Change The World.” I do agree that writing is a good way to express yourself. Anne Frank expressed herself in her writings by telling us what she felt about what was happening to her. I also liked the idea of “Freedom Writers Diary.” I though this was a very good way for these high school students to express there feelings about their poverty, neighborhoods, and low education expectations. When I write, i also tell my opinions and ideas. Writing is sometimes a lot easier to express yourself then talking is.

  6. I feel that Pipher’s use of pathos of rhetoric really causes the reactions of the individuals who read these passages. Just as in the Freedom Writers Diary, the students and teachers were using the emotional but truthful experiences of their school and community of how the funds were lacking, and the community was not the safest. By using this type of writing it affected readers and exposed individuals to see what they may not experience in their communities.

  7. This blog post and Mary Pipher’s writing both appeal to the sense that writing can change the world. I think this is great as I am an activist in helping change the world for good in whatever way possible. I found it interesting that out of all the attributes writing has that Mary Pipher chose its power to change people’s perspective. I love the example used in Bert Wray’s blog, “Give”, I believe that is a very impactful quote about giving back.

    An experience in my life that I feel relates to this topic were my trips to Uganda, Africa. I truly learned what it meant to give back. I sometimes feel as if the poorest of the people in Uganda gave more than my service group did. They showed compassion and kindness in its rarest form. People with absolutely nothing were able to be happy with the life they live and still gave away anything they could to show thanks.

    I truly feel that writing can bring about change to the world. It has been doing so ever since history could be recorded. If there wasn’t any form of recordings of history than where would our word be today. So I support the cause to write about what is fair and unfair, wrong and right. Write for change!

    1. I understand where you’re coming from when you talk about how the people showed kindness in its rarest form. I went to Honduras a few years ago and saw this for myself. The people there were so happy and joyful even though they didn’t have much of anything.

  8. The ability to change the things around you through writing is an amazing thing. Even if that is not your intent, writing about your experiences and your feelings towards them can change the point of view of the readers. Anne Frank may have been young, but she had a great view of the world. Imagine the changes we would see if we just showed kindness to people and helped each other when we could. Even though she was only alive for a few short years, Anne’s writings have made tons of people think about their actions, even till this day.

  9. To me, writing to change can really motivate an individual or group of people to right a wrong or just change something that doesn’t sit well with them. Writing also offers a means of release when you have problems in your life that sometimes you aren’t able to divulge to another person. I agree with Mary Pipher in that writing can change the world in both big and small ways and sometimes affects people in the future more than the present. In my experience most isn’t analyzed and really understood until looked at by a different generation of people in the future.

    1. I like that you say writing is a “release.” sometimes change involves articulating a problem or frustration. Maybe one of the bigggest changes are the ones we experience ourselves.

  10. I commend the way you took from Mary Pipher’s writing that writing is a “call to action” sort of process. You acknowledge the power of change writing can have on people. How simple words put together can impact the change in a students life, for example, you said they “became more active in addressing problems and suggesting change”, therefore; they took action in their own education and communities resulting in others action by their contributions of money, time, and opportunities. This way of viewing writing enables action and as a result change, an empowering feeling.

  11. Transforming from highly informative to very personal, I believe this blog captures what Mary Pipher’s work was intended to capture; emotion in her readers as well as an ability to relate. You took her method of using down-to-earth examples and proved that even such unknown and unpopular texts can create a difference in various areas of life for various types of people. She detailed the effects that differing pieces of work have made in her life. You took that and used it in your own response by mentioning the effects that occurred in your life due to a book that isn’t even written by a powerful politician, established activist, etc. Towards the end of this blog there is a strong sense of reflection of not only Piper’s words, but your own as well. Such a device allows other readers to find a connection in her words too; a very beneficial technique to use in writing.

  12. I love that this blog is a call to action. It gives you a way to respond, to be an active part of the story that Mary Pipher told. What was said about the quote of Anne Frank’s, that It’s not about money or power, it’s about giving, and we can all give something; helps shift your perspective to that of someone who is satisfied with and can make a difference with what they have, no matter the amount. It reminds you that as long as you have a voice, you have the ability to make a difference. This blog brings out those thoughts and emotions causing the reader to look at the original article with a different perspective; that they can make a change, and that makes all the difference.

  13. An invitation to write freely and express one’s self in depth is surely an invitation to change. Whether its to address problems in a community, neighborhood, or household writing seems to somewhat bring life to thoughts and ideas in a way thought can relate to others in times of need. A piece of paper should almost be like a second home to some, that friend they needed to talk to, that sibling they never had, the parent that was never there, the teacher who didn’t care, or the counterpart to those who say you’ll never be good enough. A piece of paper should be a cage in which you feel free. Therefore, I agree to the extent that writing changes the world in some way, big or small; for, merely one comment or shred of sympathy can make a difference or even give voice to a thousand who seem speechless. The willingness to write is the willingness to be the change in the world that you wish you’d see.

  14. My understanding of Mary Piphers “Writing to Change the World” is very similar to your thoughts. Writers can influence many people even if you don’t mean it to. It is often that we see a piece of literature that was written to mean something other than it actually was there to mean. But I have to disagree with your first statement of how you like that Pipher didn’t start off with a powerful politician, established activist, or rebel leader. Almost everyone knows Anne Franks diary and the impact she had on understanding the war and it struck me as a typical way to start an essay. I would have much rather had Pipher start off with the Freedom Writers because I believe this example is not on such a big stage as Anne Frank and more people could relate to this in our modern day society.

    1. You make a good point about the famous narrative being harder to relate to. You seem to suggest that the less well-known the example is that it seems more “real.”

  15. I believe that what Mary Pipher wrote was very insightful and presented an idea that I hadn’t heard of before. Writing is powerful, no matter how insignificant or silly the story may seem. She began with the example that Anne Frank, a twelve year old girl, had written in her diary not to change anyone’s opinion but simple to share her experience and what she was going through. And in doing that, she gave us insight into her life and it did change the world. Also, while I was reading I found it interesting that writers who set out to teach a lesson, end up teaching a lesson that they didn’t realize they would teach. I believe, we, as writers should always set out to learn something about what we write, and therefore allow others who read our stories to learn the lessons we have learned as well.

  16. As you said, Mary Pipher uses a young girls essay as her main emphasis on how writing changes the world. To me, it is much easier to comprehend how Pipher gets her claim across because it is through something that interests me. What I mean by that is it is not a boring piece that I would struggle through reading and rereading in order to understand what the authors claim is. During 9th grade we had an English unit on The Holocaust so I am very familiar with Anne Frank and how her writing affected the people around her, and in this case, the whole world. Although I feel that Anne Frank was not purposely trying to change the world through her essay, it can come across as that to the audience and readers of her work with her statement and thoughtfulness when she expresses and encourages people around her to “Give whatever you have to give, you can always give something, even if it is a simple act of kindness” (83). When Anne Frank acknowledges this statement in her essay it makes everyone think, whether they want to admit it or not. When I personally read that statement I stopped reading and thought about what things I could give. I went down the list and said to myself, even if I had nothing, there IS always that thought and action of kindness. While Anne Frank struggled through the Holocaust she thought of others, even though she knew she was in harms way there was someone else that was in more harm than she was and wanted to be the one to give something. That statement brought to my mind the world “selflessness”, which is exactly the characteristic Anne Frank portrays. When one becomes selfless it changes the world around you. People become more helpful, more kind, and more caring about their surroundings. In the end, that is what Pipher emphasizes to get across in this “Writing to Change the World”.

  17. The idea of writing for change and the overall concept that there is power in writing has branched from the basic pen and paper to a plethora of resources in today’s society. With social networking and the Internet, opinions, thoughts can be shared by everyone in the virtual world. Resulting to a possibility of worldwide communication and eventually a shared feeling between people all over the world. Thus change is inevitable, the power in one paragraph or article can be shared by whoever and possibly causing a chain reaction of feelings and thoughts.

  18. When you write, you always give something. Wether it is your time, effort, thoughts, or ideas, your giving what you can to help shed light on a topic from different perspectives. Many people have not gone through the same struggles as you, like in the freedom writers. Many of the wealthy did not know how bad the struggle was, how many had extremely low expectations for success. Sharing personal things may be hard for you but you never know how many people your single experience could help.

  19. Mary Pipher and the blogger share similar ideas in the power and significance that writing can have on people or society as a whole. I completely agree with how much of an impact writing can have even in the most serious of situations. Pipher and this blog help me to better understand that writing can really open people’s eyes to things that they would otherwise be blind to through the simple act of writing about ideas that stand out to people in dramatic times that are in less than ideal circumstances. I like how the blogger adds the second paragraph to demonstrate their understanding of what Pipher’s message that writing is a key component in seeing things that they normally would not see. I believe that Pipher and the blogger are very right in that writing is very important in being able to change the world and I agree with both.

  20. Great minds think alike! As I read Mary Pipher’s essay about “change writers” I too immediately thought about the movie Freedom Writers. Although I have yet to read the book, I believe the movie captured the significance of writing to connect with others that Pipher describes. The way I see it, writing is basically transferring one’s spoken words into physical written words that one can easily look back and reflect on. Often times in a verbal conversation, we as humans, struggle with miscommunication because we can’t find the words to express our feelings. Writing is beautiful, because we can use different aspects of it to share a different perspective that our verbal words wouldn’t be able to convey as well. For example, using imagery in one’s writing flows much smoother on paper than ones mouth and can make a more powerful impact. I’m thankful for that because I find I can fully express my thoughts through writing easier than verbal words. Verbal words are often times fleeting. Some may stay with us and resonate with us, but written records last much longer. Piphers example of Anne Frank’s diary was excellent. Written words are also the gateway for ideas to be passed down from generation to generation. This is why, I believe, writing can really be the perfect stimulus for change.

  21. I enjoyed reading about your thoughts on this topic. One of the key points that sticks out to me is when you say “It is not about being rich, powerful, or famous. It is giving, it is action, and it might be writing.” That statement jumped out at me because a lot of people believe that you have to have a certain status in the world to get your opinion across and that is not true at all. Before my senior english class I didn’t think that writing was powerful. I viewed writing as a boring task that I needed to master to pass my class. But my twelfth grade english teacher taught us to write about anything that incorporated the struggles that we were going through at that time in our lives. Writing became powerful and meaningful to me once I could relate to what was being said. This is when I realized that writing can and does cause change.

  22. I have never really looked at writing in that aspect. Always just research, research, research to try to impress my teachers to get a good grade. This style of writing seems stress free and actually lets me express myself. Great way to put things.

  23. I really appreciate that this blog chose to appreciate writing to change the world by elaborating on Anne Frank as an example because she is very well-known as a hero. After reading this blog, I completely agree that writing is change. No matter what the author’s original intent for writing is, ANYONE can be affected by his or her writing–neighbors, friends, children, and adults. Something that really stood out to me in Mary Pipher’s article was her allusion to a quote by Anne Frank: “Give whatever you have to give, you can always give something, even if it s a simple act of kindness.” This quote is an excellent representation of how something so small can cause such an outstanding change. It’s all tied together; whether you are writing for enjoyment or for a simple grade in English class, by giving the gift of writing, your writing and how it affects others may be responsible for a change in the world.

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