A Burning Idea - Spring 2019 Course

A COPLAC Digital Distance Learning Course

Author: youngblood (page 1 of 2)

Defense of Contract

As my last blog post, I will be explaining how Maelyn and I accomplished the goals of our contract and what led us to the finished product of our website.

Our contract listed out specific jobs Maelyn and I had to complete, and throughout this class we found that most of the “structured” jobs we created molded together and became interchanged between the two of us. We both not only successfully accomplished what we laid out in our contract, but exceeded those goals in research, design, and working together effectively to create our final project. Read on to see how we did that!

One of the first obstacles we ran into was tracking down and interviewing faculty and staff of the school where our book was censored. Although Maelyn was assigned this task, we found that this had to be reworked later as we could not find anyone to interview. However, we successfully accomplished this by interviewing other important people who, I believe, contributed to our project more so than anyone who worked at the school. We found this issue happened a bit where tasks and dates were not strictly followed and had to be edited, but we made it work.

Progresso Finito

Our homepage!

It has been a great semester and it’s hard to believe this is my last progress update! Maelyn and I have come a long way from where we began and we are proud of our website, even if it needs a few tweaks here and there. After countless hours spent researching, designing, interviewing, discussing, changing, and doing it all over again, we successfully completed our first website draft and are excited to show it off.

Of course, we realize edits will need to be made, and we hope to utilize Hypothesis and the feedback we received from our fellow classmates to improve our website even more. Some kinks that need to be ironed out are all-around simple, including broken links, text color, and some grammar issues. Maelyn and I are still working to get our homepage buttons working because we can’t seem to get those clickable, but with a little help from Leah Tams, we should be good to go very soon! Elsewhere, some text colors I’m sure are out of whack and some spacing is wrong, but we’ll correct those as soon as we can.

As the deadline for the draft approached, we found that we were scrambling to complete our work on time, but overall, we are happy to see it in its semi-finished form. We did, however, change our website title to “Banning Anne,” which is better than what we had before – “The Diary of Anne Frank” – but we might expand upon it. I would have to say besides the great header image and title we picked, the homepage is my favorite tab! We used a cutout of the statue of Anne Frank in Amsterdam, included a short but sweet intro to the website, and added some photo-navigation buttons (needs edits).

In the coming days, after we have received our classmates’ Hypothesis edits, Maelyn and I will work diligently to correct any mistake we might have left around. Photos, text, and interactivity will be combined to create an educational yet fun website which helps tell the story of Anne Frank and her diary’s censorship in our area. We are looking forward to presenting our final websites in the coming weeks!

The Progression of Progress

Warp speed activated!

Since my last progress update, Maelyn and I have completed a number of assignments on our website. We are moving ahead at warp speed and we are scheduled to complete our website by next week’s class meeting!

First things first, we are chugging along on our homepage. We have a great opening text written out and we have put in buttons for website visitors to click on to navigate them to pages of interest such as Anne’s bio, the challenged passages, Culpeper’s demographics, etc. We have completed Anne’s Story and National Opposition pages too. Her life has been turned into a StoryMap JS, with special focus on the diary in her life. In National Opposition, we discussed the history of censoring Anne’s diary in the United States, with the earliest push for its removal from textbooks in 1982. In this page, I found a fantastic quote about the diary by Anne’s cousin, Buddy Elias:

“It’s really her. It shows her in a truer light, not as a saint, but as a girl like every other girl. She was nothing, actually; people try to make a saint out of her and glorify her. That she was not. She was an ordinary, normal girl with a talent for writing.”

Other completed pages include Passages in Question. This part of the site explicitly states and explains the passages in the Definitive Edition of the text that has caused the most uproar over the years. One passage, dated March 1944, has Anne describing her genitals in detail. The second passage, dated January 1944, shows Anne in a different light, one concerning her sexual orientation. She “had a terrible desire to kiss [Jacque], which I did. Every time I see a female nude … I go into ecstasy.” As far back as the 1980s, these parts of the diary have repeatedly been challenged and censored. In fact, Otto himself censored this and other sections of the diary before publishing.

We have also recently added an acknowledgements page to list everyone who has helped us along this process (including our great professors!).

Some pages which are still in progress include the home page, our interview pages, revamping Key Players, and writing about our experiences in its designated tab. The home tab is nearly complete! We just have to arrange the navigation buttons the way we want them. We are running into some issues as far as the design of the website itself on the Key Players page. We have very little information concerning who was involved in the censorship and how, making our page seem a bit bare. But we will work a bit more to get the right design going! UPDATE: We combined tabs together and got the design issue figured out!

Censorship is…

In Censorship Is, Nichole Moore discusses the implementations, effectiveness, and history of censorship throughout the world. As discussed in class, the written world, particularly in schools, is a hotly contested issue that, for many, defines children’s exposure to historical and current cultures, prejudices, and beliefs. The content of school textbooks is often the issue of debate, since their target audience is young people, and the term “whitewashing” is the one commonly used to refer to removal of critical or conflicting events. The reporting of military atrocities in history is extremely controversial, as in the case of The Holocaust (or Holocaust denial), Bombing of Dresden, the Nanking Massacre as found with Japanese history textbook controversies, the Armenian Genocide, the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, and the Winter Soldier Investigation of the Vietnam War.

In the context of secondary school education, the way facts and history are presented greatly influences the interpretation of contemporary thought, opinion and socialization. One argument for censoring the type of information disseminated is based on the inappropriate quality of such material for the young. The use of the “inappropriate” distinction is in itself controversial, as it changed heavily. A Ballantine Books version of the book Fahrenheit 451 which is the version used by most school classes contained approximately 75 separate edits, omissions, and changes from the original Bradbury manuscript.

As stated by Moore, strict censorship existed in the Eastern Bloc of Soviet Russia. Throughout the bloc, the various ministries of culture held a tight rein on their writers. Cultural products there reflected the propaganda needs of the state. Party-approved censors exercised strict control in the early years. Independent journalism did not exist in the Soviet Union until Mikhail Gorbachev became its leader; all reporting was directed by the Communist Party or related organizations. Pravda, the predominant newspaper in the Soviet Union, had a monopoly. Foreign newspapers were available only if they were published by Communist Parties sympathetic to the Soviet Union.

The censoring of Joseph Stalin’s inner circle over time as each member fell out of favor.

Moore further discusses the use of creative censorship to secretly change the written work. In this form of censorship, censors rewrite texts, giving these texts incognito co-authors. This had been used in the book 1984, for example, to rework George Orwell’s work into a more passive representation of the protagonist’s motives. This trend continues with modern day publishers who, when under pressure to suppress a book that has already entered into a contract with the author, will sometimes effectively censor the book by deliberately ordering a small print run and making minimal, if any, attempts to publicize it. This practice became known in the early 2000s as privishing.

Post-Interview

On Friday, March 22nd at 3:30 pm, Maelyn and I met with our first interviewee, Dr. Rebecca Erbelding. The two of us actually arrived at the meeting location, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, early and walked through some of the special exhibitions the museum offered without tickets. Much to our surprise, an exhibition titled Remember the Children: Daniel’s Story used immersive displays to tell the story of the children of the Holocaust through Daniel’s diary. We entered realistic environments where visitors can touch, listen to, and engage in Daniel’s world as it changes during the Holocaust. The exhibition design is based on historical imagery gathered from family photo albums, documentary sources, and pictorial diaries of the period. Daniel’s diary entries, which serve as the exhibition’s primary text, are based on the wartime writings of young people and on the memories of some of those who survived.

In the library and archives reading room, we met Dr. Erbelding and began our interview with questions focused on Anne Frank’s role as a representative of the Holocaust today and why her story helps expose students to the thoughts of one of the six million Jews who were murdered. As an archivist, Dr. Erbelding has indeed been exposed to countless diaries and written sources from the Holocaust, and she provided wonderful insight into Frank’s legacy. “The diary itself is a way to think about Holocaust victims as individuals, and it is incredibly important and powerful for that,” said Erbelding. She continued by emphasizing the importance of studying the Holocaust with the individual in mind: “We think about this idea that six million people were murdered, each one of them was as important, had an internal life and thoughts, as rich and complicated, as funny, as Anne did.”

Despite widespread acclaim, Dr. Erbelding did have some words of caution for using Anne’s diary as one’s only source of the great Nazi rise. “It is kind of the Holocaust with the edges shaved off,” said Erbelding, warning against a tunneled or “cushy” view as the diary stopped before the Frank family was captured and sent to a camp. She guessed that Definitive Edition is at times fought against because it challenges the way parents remember young Anne. The warm, innocent girl’s image is believed to have become “tainted” by her descriptions of her own genitalia, and Erbelding feels this could be a possibility for the book’s censoring.

In conclusion, this interview was extremely helpful in our project to expand our knowledge of Anne Frank and her diary. It helped to take us a step back and look at the Holocaust around and outside the context of the diary.

Censorship for Children

Children reading, 1940.

Belinda Louie’s Politics in Children’s Literature details the true intentions behind the stakeholders of a book. Authors, children, parents, teachers, administrators, the public, and publishers all play important yet diverse roles in deciding the fate of books. Each party involved in a child’s exposure to books believes they are the principal “guardians” of what is read in schools and how students should be taught. As discussed below, Louie’s analysis of each “colliding force” accurately discusses the cutthroat and political world of children’s literature.

Authors are unique cogs in the literary machine as they physically writing the very things parents, the public, and administrators either support or work to censor. Authors pull upon their life and backgrounds to write books, making a truly “neutral” book a small possibility. As examined by Louie, “[authors] draw upon their unique imaginations, which rest ‘on the private, unrepeatable configurations writers make at a subconscious level from the common stock of their experience. Children rely on these experiences so books may be put in their hand. I believe that this outside experience is key to a strong literary exposure which challenges one’s school of thought at any age. Although books may be deemed “political” for this reason, this should by no means bar it from being read by school children; simply censoring a book for its analysis of gay youth culture or social racism merely passes the buck on when a child is exposed to very real discussions in the world.

Throughout the debates of book appropriateness for children, teachers seem to get the brunt of this fight. Tasked with educating today’s youth, teachers are forced to choose books restricted to an “approved reading list,” which in of itself prevents a child’s access and exposure to a broad range of books before the teacher opens their mouth. Educators are forced to stay within the boundaries of what school administrators build, with administrators in turn forced to stay behind the line parents draw for them. As Louie discussed, however, at times these boundaries are built by the teachers themselves. “Many teachers’ desire to increase students’ access to books is hampered by their own beliefs, values, and culture.” This self-segregation between educators and “tough” topics such as gender, sexuality, and racism is therefore relayed to the student body; without exposure to such themes, students lose out on the opportunity to grow with an understanding of subjects outside of their comfort zones.

With parents dictating administrators, administrators guiding teachers, teachers educating students, and authors trying to get published, books create a vast network of political, monetary, and ethical discrepancy. The censoring of books is just a step in a long discussion of what to do with books and who should be allowed to read them.

Interview Prep

Dr. Rebecca Erbelding of the USHMM.

Despite Maelyn and I not being able to track down someone directly involved in this case, we have found a great resource through our own Leah Tams. Dr. Rebecca Erbelding, the Historian for Education Initiatives at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) is one of the museum’s principal archivists. Not only is Dr. Erbelding a Mary Washington aluma, but she has worked with Holocaust survivors, archived their possessions, and told the stories of hundreds of Jewish victims since coming to the museum in 2004. She even appears on the USHMM’s website in their “Curator’s Corner” and discusses many subject revolving around their collections in video blogs. Maelyn and I both believe that Dr. Erbelding’s interview will produce valuable research of equal if not greater value to us than someone at the censoring school.

To prepare for this interview, Maelyn has worked diligently to research Dr. Erbelding’s experience in her field to answer how we can use that to formulate in-depth questions for her. I have been creating questions which detail her feelings regarding the censorship of The Diary of Anne Frank, how she believes this could affect Frank’s legacy and the history of the Holocaust, and much more. In addition, I hope to learn of the differences in the Diary’s editions and how they may have influenced this particular censoring. I’ve attached some example interview questions below:

  1. Why do you think Frank’s diary is still being challenged today despite having widespread support and historical acclaim?
  2. Anne Frank been frequently identified as a single representative of the millions of people who suffered and died, why do you think that is?
  3. How has Anne Frank’s diary helped tell the story of the Holocaust in schools and to new generations who did not live through the historic events?
  4. What effects would the censorship of Frank’s diary have on the legacy of Anne Frank and history of the Holocaust as a whole?

Through this interview, we hope to gain valuable knowledge and opinions regarding the Diary, Anne Frank herself, and the effects of censorship in both schools and the world. Despite Dr. Erbelding not being directly linked to this case, she is a valuable resource nonetheless. As such, the questions written for her reflect her position has a Holocaust archivist and third-party resource who may have a different perspective on our case than we, or someone close to the case, might have. Our interview, scheduled for Friday, March 22, is to take place in the USHMM’s library and research room.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

These past weeks have been marked by challenges and successes. Maelyn and I have been trying to reach a staff member, teacher, librarian, administrator, anyone who was at Floyd T. Binns Middle School when the censoring of The Diary of Anne Frank occurred. This proved to be a dead end; according to the school’s current principle, Nathan Bopp, there has been 100% turnover in the English department between the time of the case (2010) and today. His suggestion to contact the school’s information officer, whom we already attempted to speak to, lead us to a dead end.

Luckily, there is hope for us! Maelyn and I have gotten in contact with our old English teacher, Mrs. Kristan, in hopes she can give us some insight into the thoughts and feelings of an English teacher towards the censoring of this book. Mrs. Kristan is an impassioned professional in her field and I am sure she can provide us with a great interview. Another great resource we’ve found and would like to interview is Dr. Rebecca Erbelding. A Mary Washington alum, Dr. Erbelding majored in history and currently works at the United Stated Holocaust Memorial Museum. A frequent cohort of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam as well, we have contacted Dr. Erbelding for her expertise in the Holocaust and to provide an important insight into the effects of censoring Jewish or Holocaust-related books.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Photo courtesy of USHMM.

Our website is chugging along too! We have finalized our tabs and are almost finished working on our StoryMap JS detailing Anne Frank’s life. We believe this Is an important part of our website in that it can put the Diary into context and make the author feel more real, rather than just a long-gone historical figure. In addition, Maelyn is working with a UMW geography professor to begin work on the demographics of Culpeper County and relate them to a possible reason (social or culture) for the censoring of Frank’s book.

In the coming week, we will have completed the historical context tab and move onto the case study tab! Maelyn and I have had trouble gathering hard facts for this case, but we are well on our way to gathering the context surrounding the censorship which I believe will still aid in our ability to tell the story. Despite having no assistance from the school or county of this case’s origin, we will take the words of George Washington and “ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring [truth] to light.”

Technological Survey

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The Hurley Convergence Center at UMW.

The University of Mary Washington provides a vast network of technological assistance and provisions that allow students limitless possibilities. The University’s Hurley Convergence Center (HCC), is the go-to location for everything technology. Built in 2016, the HCC is constantly being updated with state-of-the-art computers, tablets, databases, video cameras, recording equipment, and much more. In addition, the HCC provides technological services such as the Digital Knowledge Center (DKC) in which staff and fellow students answer questions and train those needing help with anything technology related. The DKC is also in charge of the University-wide “A Doman of One’s Own,” an account where students can create their own websites for personal, professional, or class use. Maelyn and I both utilized this last year for our English class, “Writing about Liberty.”

Students have the ability to check out equipment including DSLR cameras, laptops, microphones, and much more! In addition, the HCC houses a production studio, complete with green screens and audio equipment. There, students create professional-quality films and videos for their classes. This production studio is accessible to any UMW student, professional or not! Finally, the Speaking and Writing Centers are the most often-used resources in the HCC. This is where students can go for help on their essays and presentations.

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Simpson Library (left) and the rear of the HCC (right).

Simpson Library, our University’s main campus library, contains humanities-based technologies including a scanning lab for books and paper and a Special Collections Librarian who aides in archival research. The library works with the HCC to provide both written and digital materials when necessary to ensure access to all possible resources for the student. Simpson provides readily-available printers, scanners, and copiers which have the ability to send scans right to students’ emails. In addition, the library can provide scanning of historic and original documents whose archival information can be obtained online or in-person.

For our WordPress site, we are interested in a visual yet simplistic look, similar to the Lincoln Digitization Project site which I annotated as part of our Hypothesis assignment. We would like to utilize plugins to create sliding header images and menus which make the website simple to navigate. Accent colors, block quotes, and short, informative paragraphs will also be utilized on our site to keep the reader constantly engaged and not lost in a sea of text. For some parts of the site, such as historical context, we will use StoryMap JS to chronicle the life of Anne Frank, the history of the censorship of The Diary of Anne Frank, or something similar since we have yet to pin down exactly what we’d use it for. We are excited to move forward with our theme, Landscape, and make the site the best it can be!

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A T-rex was spotted at the HCC! He is the unofficial mascot.

Bumps Along the Road

Technology

Our website, burn.coplacdigital.org/umw-2019/!

Over the past couple of weeks, my partner and I have accomplished a lot! Our WordPress site is up and running with a beautiful header and intro photo that welcomes the viewer to our website. Pages from Anne Frank’s diary, one of them with a photo of her, introduce the visitor to our website and while memorializing Frank in the opening photo. In addition, we have a few menu pages drafted in hopes of filling those over the next few weeks with historical and global context, case information, etc. We hope to include multimedia outlets including Timeline JS to tell stories such as a brief history of Frank’s life and her diary. Maelyn and I are slowly getting used to WordPress, which is a fairly new piece of technology for us. Although we built a website last semester for our English class, we are still learning the ropes!

The Case

Logo of CCPS. Courtesy of culpeperschools.org

Our case, on the other hand, has been a bit more difficult to move forward with. After having gotten in contact with Culpeper County Schools’ Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction, we requested the patron complaint, the school’s book challenge policy and any more information they could provide. Unfortunately, they have been less than helpful. According to the school, the Superintendent, Director of Instruction, English curriculum specialist, and principal have all since retired. The county’s challenge policy and regulation has been revisited and revised since the case occurred in 2010. Finally, although the patron complaint is a matter of public record, no official complaint was filed; according to the school’s representative, the concern from a parent began with a phone call.

I have since returned the representative’s email to ask for the contact information of the parent who argued against the diary, or if they could contact the parent themselves. I have also asked for the names/contact information of the teachers involved or affected as well as the information for the school librarians at the time. I am hoping that someone who was involved in the case still works for the school or is readily available to sit down with Maelyn and me. As we progress, I hope to utilize Professor Hajo’s advice by finding the rationale for this particular restriction; why was it censored in the first place? More to come!

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