A Burning Idea - Spring 2019 Course

A COPLAC Digital Distance Learning Course

Author: bozarth (page 1 of 2)

Defense of Contract

At the beginning of this project Genevieve and I wrote a contract that guided us in the creation of our website. You can read it here

Our Mission Statement

Genevieve and I worked incredibly hard to fulfill the goals we set for ourselves in the first part of our contract. Our website is the most comprehensive account of information available and would be a great resource for any students interested in researching the case.

Our website is also very easy to navigate, which I take a lot of pride in. We direct people to the most central parts of the website on the homepage while also having a navigation bar at the top. People can either go through the pages one by one or choose the ones most applicable to their research.

We did change one of the sections of the website once we started organizing all of our information. We decided we did not have enough for the “key players” page, and chose to make a “public responses” one instead. This was the right decision for our website. It helped us meet our overall goal.

Tools

We built our website using Parabola, and we did choose a purple and grey color scheme. The look of our website is both true to the book and professional. As far as the visual aspect of our project, we did exactly what we stated with the overall look.

We interviewed Karin Perry by emailing her questions. Therefore we had no audio clips to include in the site. However, we did state that we might discover different tools as we went. I used GoogleSheets to create the graphs on the page “Norman and Whittier Middle School.” We simply used embed to keep the interactive function. We did use TimelineJS, Coggle, and Newspapers.com.

Division of Labor and Structure

We stated that we would divide our labor evenly by each worked on four main sections of the website. It actually ended up that each of us worked on three main pages and collaborated on four, instead of only two. After we chose to not include the key players page, Genevieve took on creating the public responses page. We both worked on the Primary Sources and Home pages.

The division of labor did not go exactly how we had it planned, but we mostly followed the guide we had set for ourselves. We also worked to keep the labor even as we finished the website. We collaborated as we went to make sure that our pages looked well together.

I remained in charge of communication with Karin Perry, while Genevieve received official documents from the school. We worked together on the timeline, visuals, and interview.

In Conclusion

The last section of our contract indicated the specific milestones we tried to keep to as we worked on our project.

Overall, despite changing one page from the structure we had originally planned, Genevieve and I created plan for our website that we followed through to create something we are very proud of. Part of creating it was learning as we went, but we chose to leave room for development in our contract. The structure, design, and intellectual content of the site are on par with what we set out to do with this project.

Amending the Website

So far, we have received feedback from three different people on our website. One thing that everyone seems to agree on is the need for information on the pages that we left blank for navigation. I think this is a good point. The “About” page is the one I am in charge of, and I think it needs some sort of context for why we chose to make pages about those specific topics. I liked Professor Hajo’s (I think) suggestion to explain how the author, book, and school district come together to be important to the case.

I also tend to use too many commas in almost everything that I write. I am very aware of this fault and plan on fixing it throughout the website as I go along. The pages with more grammar issues are more than likely the ones that I had most of the power in creating.

Another thing that all three of the people reviewing our site pointed out is the need for more explanation concerning the files that we included. This means on the About Glass page, explaining the part of the parent complaint better, since it was unclear where it came from. I also plan on going through our documents page to add explanations about each particular document. Telena said she had trouble loading the PDF files that we embedded, so we might also consider converting them to JPEG for convenience purposes.

For convenience purposes, I also need to go through the entire site, and make sure the links we used all open in a new tab. We were not very consistent about that originally.

On the about Norman and Whittier page, I know that I have a lot of work to do before it is perfect. I put the graphs in, but I did not include any sort of conclusions based off of the data that I collected. Telena also pointed out that she thought the page needed a visual of the actual town or school to give the audience an idea of what it is like. Over the weekend, I will go and take my own pictures to possibly add one.

I tried to conclude that the northwest part of Norman was a wealthy part of the city with my chart alone; however I was having trouble finding any evidence about that on the internet. I could talk about person experience, and possibly add a quote from someone I know who lives in Norman and worked at Whittier to back up the assumptions that I made. I asked her about it, and she was willing to help. However, she asked if I wanted her to be frank that she remain unnamed on the website.

The section on the website where we talk about ourselves and the project needs only slight amending. I think we will create a parent page with a new name, so that we do not have “about” and “about us” on our navigation bar. I would also like to add an acknowledgements section so that we can thank all of the people who have so graciously helped us throughout this entire process.

Finishing Up the First Draft

Our goal for turning in the first draft was to have all of our pages finished. We did not want to leave anything out, that way the rest of the semester can be spent perfecting anything our peers point out.

Technical Difficulties

As I have said before, I am not the most technologically advanced person in the world. Genevieve and I originally really liked how user friendly a website called Venngage was for that exact purpose. Neither of us had ever created an info graphic before, preferring generally to stick to the writing part of technical writing. Sadly, venngage turned out to be anything but user friendly.

I emailed Leah last week, frantic, because no matter what I tried, I could not get either of our graphics to show up on the site. She installed a plug in for us that still didn’t work. She tried something else that appeared to work from her end, but when I tried to do, it only showed up about half the time.

We were really sad to scrap our graphics, but we had no choice but to start over.

Learning to Use Google Sheets

Since I was working on the page of our site about Norman, Oklahoma and the schools, I knew that I wanted to include relevant information about the people who lived there. I had all of the data, but no knowledge of how to put it in a spreadsheet in the correct form. Eventually, I figured it out, and made three graphs that match our theme. I’m really proud of myself for them.

During this process, I actually feel like I became relatively fluent at embedding things into word press. Besides the actual writing, I was able to play around with the site and make it look exactly the way I wanted it.

Learning by Being Stubborn

There were some little problems with the layout of the website that honestly made me want to throw my computer against a wall. One really dumb one was the fact that WordPress does not automatically register an empty text box on the actual website. I finally figured out (after immense internet searching) that all you have to do is press control+enter.

I love buttons. There are probably 20 buttons on our website because they are exactly what I was looking for. I was so happy when Leah showed us how to use them in class, because I genuinely would never have figured it out.

Overall I am just really proud of the website Genevieve and I have been able to create together. It was not intuitive to me, considering how long I struggled every time we needed to use Google Sheets. However, I think this experience so far has been invaluable, and I can’t to see what everyone else thinks of our website.

Post-Interview Update

After I initially sent the email to Karin Perry, I was surprised that she did not reply quickly. Every other time I contacted her, she was incredibly fast and helpful. I waited two weeks, and emailed her again. This time, she responded with in the hour.

I simply asked if she had gotten my previous email, and asked her to please answer the questions she felt comfortable answering. She was very apologetic that she had not seen my last email. All was okay though, because she had gone above and beyond to answer our question.

Helpful Answers

She answered all our interview questions in this Google Doc.

Her opinions and the information she gave us is going to be incredible helpful to our website. She really felt that Glass did not deserve to be challenged the way that it was. The content of the novel provides so many lessons for young kids. As the librarian, she seemed aware that the kids checking it out were the ones mature enough to deal with the content. Also, I agree that there needs to be books in their school’s library that interest and challenge kids.

Something that I did not know about was the frequency of book challenges in Norman and the surrounding area. Some places it is very common. However, Karin stated that it was the only time a parent challenged a book in the five years that she worked there. This suggests that it was a fairly isolated indecent, brought on by the author visit. The parent probably would not have complained, if the visit had not been made known to them.

Speaking of the visit that never happened, we were interested in how Karin felt about the way that the administration handled the situation. This was my favorite part of her answers, when asked if she felt they handled it correctly:

I absolutely DO NOT. I was disappointed and felt completely let down by the entire situation. It was a knee jerk reaction to cancel Ellen’s speaking engagement. The student should have been asked to skip the speaking engagement instead of canceling it for everyone.

I am really impressed by her outspokenness here. She did say that the school followed all of the written policy very well. However, since this was such an unexpected circumstance, they could have came up with a more effective way to make sure that the student did not attend, without taking the opportunity away from everyone else.

Use for the Website

Karin Perry gave us so much to work with here. She really expressed that book challenging is not an effective response to not liking the content of a book.

Overall, I think most of what she shared will be going in the “About The Case” section of the website. However, we will probably include quotes about her personal opinion on the key players page. We also have a page about the significance of the case, where we will include her answer to our last question about that topic.

Karin has been so much help to us, and I can’t wait to add more information to our website!

The Question of Obscenity in Censorship History

Response to Government Censorship Since 1945

Who Controls Morality in Literature

Censorship has been around for a very long time. One of the main themes that people try to censor is sexual content. In this article, Downs talks about “the paradox of eroticism” very early on. This is the idea that humans will both seek out sexual content, while simultaneously seeking to control and censor it. We deem it as bad, allowing the government to control it based on religious ideology. Early on, the laws about censorship were very vague, encouraging artists of all kinds to steer away from anything controversial. Anything sexual was controversial.

The complainant in the case we are researching cites extensively in her complaint form about the sexual content in Glass. Included in the list of themes she dislikes is “Sex- multiple-partner (even in the same bed).” She does complain about the drug abuse in the book, but I think the distinction she makes with this is very interesting. In the scene that she is talking about, Kristina was living with, and sleeping with, her boyfriend’s cousin. When Trey comes home, he and Kristina have (consensual?) sex while his cousin is asleep. The point Ellen Hopkins is trying to make, is the degree at which drug addiction can lead your life off track. She is critical of this behavior, and it is not meant to be erotic in the novel.

We’re Still Having the Same Conversations

In 1957, the U.S. government was faced with officially making a decision involving the first amendment and the censorship of obscenity. In the case Roth v. The United States, The Supreme Court ruled that:

Justice Brennan held that the First Amendment protects all literature about sex possessing literary or intellectual merit but not obscenity, which is “prurient according to contemporary community standards”—appealing to sex for sex’s sake.

Downs, page 140

While this is no longer the standard for how literature is censored, this type of language is still used today. The committee in Norman decided that Glass had enough literary merit to overcome the parent’s issues with the sexual content. While they were able to state that they thought content about drug abuse was positive for the students reading the book, they phrased the issue of the sexual content as:

The powerful message on teen drug addiction far outweighs the concern about the sexual content.

Carla Kimberling

This really interests me. We still consider sexual content to be widely inappropriate, but the committee allowed it to slide because of the intellectual merit of the book itself. In a way, they are avoiding addressing the issue of obscenity at all. Despite the fact that on the committee’s report, they state that as the main complaint of the book.

In her original complaint form, the parent outlined many areas of concern with Glass that were not about the sexual content. This is just an interesting section, and there are multiple distinctions made about it throughout the case that I was reminded of as I read the article again.

Preparing for the Interview

Choosing a Canidate

Choosing the person we wanted to interview was really easy for us. We had Karin Perry, the librarian at the time of the case, in mind from the second we started our research. She is the closest person to the case besides Ellen Hopkins herself. We sent Ellen Hopkins an email asking for an interview, but we knew that was a long shot. We also tried to reach out to a teacher at Whittier who was there during the case, but she did not get back to us in time due to personal reasons. We might still choose to talk to her later on, but this week our focus has been on curating interview questions for Karin Perry.

Reaching Out

A few weeks ago, I emailed Karin Perry to tell her about our project and assess how interested she would be in helping us work on it. She replied very quickly, and was willing to answer any questions we had. I asked about an electronic interview, and she replied with, “Send me questions and I will answer them for you.” I told her we would plan on compiling a list of questions to send to her soon! This week for us has been about getting started our website, making adjustments to our project contract, and decided on the questions we think will be the most useful to our project.

Writing the Interview Questions

We wanted a couple different results from the questions we ask. First, we would like to get exact information that has not been made available else where. Second, we wanted to her opinion on the issues that she did not post on her blog, or in the chapter from the book on censorship, True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries . We worked together to ask questions that will get a good response, without giving away too much of our own opinions on the matter.

We chose the following questions:

  • What are your feelings about the suitability of Glass and the rest of the Crank series for middle school audiences?
  • Were you surprised by the complaint? How often did books get challenged while you worked there?
  • Were students and parents at Whittier Middle School aware that Ellen Hopkin’s books and visit were being challenged? If so, how did they seem to feel about it?
  • To what extent do you think the complainant’s issues with the book reflected concerns of the Whittier or Norman communities? Do you feel as though it was an isolated incident, or indicative of larger trends?
  • Do you feel like the administration of Norman Public Schools and Whittier Middle School handled the Ellen Hopkins case effectively and fairly?
  • How did Ellen Hopkins handle the situation once her talk was moved?
  • What effect has this case had on the overall discussion about book censorship? Do you think censorship issues are important and still worth talking about?

I plan on emailing her back with a GoogleDoc of our questions, so that she can answer them easily at her convenience. We will send them out after class on Monday. I will encourage that she send us a response within two weeks, as well as sign the form and email it to us, so that we can use her answers on our website. We are on track to have our interview completed very soon, and we are excited to see how she responds to us!

Preparing for the Interview

Choosing a Canidate

Choosing the person we wanted to interview was really easy for us. We had Karin Perry, the librarian at the time of the case, in mind from the second we started our research. She is the closest person to the case besides Ellen Hopkins herself. We sent Ellen Hopkins an email asking for an interview, but we knew that was a long shot. We also tried to reach out to a teacher at Whittier who was there during the case, but she did not get back to us in time due to personal reasons. We might still choose to talk to her later on, but this week our focus has been on curating interview questions for Karin Perry.

Reaching Out

A few weeks ago, I emailed Karin Perry to tell her about our project and assess how interested she would be in helping us work on it. She replied very quickly, and was willing to answer any questions we had. I asked about an electronic interview, and she replied with, “Send me questions and I will answer them for you.” I told her we would plan on compiling a list of questions to send to her soon! This week for us has been about getting started our website, making adjustments to our project contract, and decided on the questions we think will be the most useful to our project.

Writing the Interview Questions

We wanted a couple different results from the questions we ask. First, we would like to get exact information that has not been made available else where. Second, we wanted to her opinion on the issues that she did not post on her blog, or in the chapter from the book on censorship, True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries . We worked together to ask questions that will get a good response, without giving away too much of our own opinions on the matter.

We chose the following questions:

  • What are your feelings about the suitability of Glass and the rest of the Crank series for middle school audiences?
  • Were you surprised by the complaint? How often did books get challenged while you worked there?
  • Were students and parents at Whittier Middle School aware that Ellen Hopkin’s books and visit were being challenged? If so, how did they seem to feel about it?
  • To what extent do you think the complainant’s issues with the book reflected concerns of the Whittier or Norman communities? Do you feel as though it was an isolated incident, or indicative of larger trends?
  • Do you feel like the administration of Norman Public Schools and Whittier Middle School handled the Ellen Hopkins case effectively and fairly?
  • How did Ellen Hopkins handle the situation once her talk was moved?
  • What effect has this case had on the overall discussion about book censorship? Do you think censorship issues are important and still worth talking about?

I plan on emailing her back with a GoogleDoc of our questions, so that she can answer them easily at her convenience. We will send them out after class on Monday. I will encourage that she send us a response within two weeks, as well as sign the form and email it to us, so that we can use her answers on our website. We are on track to have our interview completed very soon, and we are excited to see how she responds to us!

Survey of Technology

Genevieve and I are really excited to start working on our website covering the censorship debate we chose! Neither of us have done anything like this using technology, and we are interested in learning how to use all of our resources as we go. As English majors, we have a handle on the type of content we want to put in our website, however the visual and technological nature of this project is going to be a fun challenge.

How the Site Will Look

In WordPress, we chose the parabola theme. We want our website to have multiple tools for navigation, and the theme allows us to choose where we want them. We can link to our social media accounts if we choose to do that, which gives anyone on the site a quick way to contact us. I am interested in the idea of having a scrolling header on our home screen, which is what the theme example had. It would be an easy way to display some our major pages, such as our page detailing the case, and our page giving context about young adult literature and it’s history of censorship. There are a lot of really cool ways to organize the site that we will explore.

I’m really excited about the idea of a “Key Players” page. Almost all of the pages on the site will connect to it. It will be a really good place for us to share blog posts and primary sources that we have. I would really like to use one of the sidebars in our theme to have all of the people listed, so that they can be found at anytime.

Outside of WordPress

We both strongly agree that a TimelineJS is going to be a great tool for us in creating our site. Since the case is so influential, we will have, not only the events of the case, but also dates where people have talked about it on the news, or wrote about it in books. Karin Perry and Ellen Hopkins both blogged about the events, and we could link those there.

We also found newspapers.com to be a really helpful tool that we would like to use in our website. Copyright might be more of an issue with this, but I think we could upload small sections of the articles to be both informative, and show the relevance of the case. I have thought about doing a StoryMapJS over an article to add another interactive feature, but we would have to workshop the idea.

There are a lot of infograph makers available on the internet that we might chose to use in our website. LucidPress seems like it would be easy to use to help build our own graphics for the site.

Charging Ahead

After doing this survey, Genevieve and I both discovered that we have more of a grasp on this technology thing than we thought we did! There are a lot of resources out there that are user friendly, and will help us to present all of the facts about our case that are available in a user friendly and visually appealing way.

We Took a Vacation

Since Genevieve and I were in Albuquerque almost all of last week, I can’t say that we did a lot of research. However, this might be a good opportunity to catch up on somethings I did not blog about.

Emailing Karin Perry

A couple weeks ago, I reached out to Karin Perry, the previous librarian of Whittier in Norman. She replied very quickly, directing me to her blog of the events, including a timeline. She also corrected something that Ellen Hopkins likes to tell people about the case: Norman did not take her books out of the library. During Censorship disputes, they always keeps the book(s) available until after the decision is made. Karin seemed willing to answer any further questions we had, but I thought that was a really interesting piece of information.

Receiving Information from the School

In that same week, we set up a phone interview with Kathryn Lewis, the Director of Media Services and Instructional Technology of Norman Public Schools. She read us the protocol for challenging and removing a book, and also sent us the parent complaint and the board meeting results. She also happens to know my sister, and they talked about our phone call. Kathryn mentioned that she actually went and listened to Ellen Hopkins talk a few years after the case, where she reported the same false information that Karin Perry corrected me on. I got the information from Ellen Hopkins blog post.

I think this could be a really interesting avenue to explore for our website. The reality of censorship vs. the rhetoric that is propagated from it. Hopefully, we can find more interesting tidbits like that as we continue working.

Women and Censorship

Response to “Gilded-Age Consensus, Repressive Campaigns, and Gradual Liberalization:The Shifting Rhythms of Book Censorship”

In this chapter by Boyer, he is discussing the sort of cultural censorship that occurs without the need for laws. The morals and beliefs of the people often affects the literature we get more than people think about. What really stood out to me, is when discussing the changes that happened in the 1870’s and 80’s, a lot of the censorship was a result of women becoming increasingly literate. This had a significant affect on what was published:

“Racy books and bawdy tales once savored by gentlemen in their libraries were now deemed inappropriate for pious middle-class men and women, not to mention their children.”

pg. 277

Obscenity and Why it Mattered

The legal definition of obscenity was determined in the 1868 case of Queen v. Hicklen, and is as follows:

“The test of obscenity is this, whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall.”

pg. 282

This covered a wide variety of topics, such as crime and sexual content. In 1885, Massachusetts made it illegal to sell any obscene literature to minors. Many news stands in the area were prosecuted. It is interesting that this issues comes back to parents (mostly mothers) wanting to censor their children. The culture of feminine values at the time really pressured women to put virtue and protecting their children above anything else. Hence why their interest into the world of literature sparked such a significant change. The genteel code was in place for fifty plus years, quietly controlling the type of print mostly minors had access to.

Women since then have constantly tried to break this stereotype, but it often times still exists. This type of female fragility that suggests we are too pure, and must be protected from obscene literature like children is something feminist activists like Charlotte Perkins Gilman fought against at the time and now.

How This Applies to Our Research

While we do not know that name of the complainant in our censorship case against Ellen Hopkins, we do know that she was the mother of a student. This happened in 2009, not the 1800’s, so it is interesting how the role of mothers has not changed in that regard.

In her Request for Reconsideration, the complainant includes three and a half pages of quotes she deems inappropriate (which relates to obscenity) and ends her list by saying “This is not a complete list of age inappropriate content in this book. . . just a small portion.” The type of time and energy it takes to research this material, shows an intense amount of care into the type of content her child is consuming. She did not only want her child not to read the books, she wanted to restrict access from all kids at the school.

Overall, I think the things discussed in this chapter are just an interesting parallel to the possible motives the mother in our case might have had.

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