Spring 2018 Course

A COPLAC Digital Distance Learning Course

Author: kinsey (page 1 of 2)

Blog Post 14

This post will be the defense of my contract as outlined earlier in the semester.


Mission Statement:

The purpose of this website is to provide a source of information for students and community members interested in book censorship in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. The research compiled on this website will include the historical context during the time Song of Solomon was removed from St. Mary’s County Public Schools. Our work will shed light on a book censorship when it is normally brushed over or kept quiet in the media. We intend to cover both sides of the argument for and against Toni Morrison’s book and provide primary source documents for visitors to infer their own opinions. Our website should open discussions that extend beyond book censorship. We will discuss how literature has impacts on development, culture, societal morality, and personal identity. We will achieve our goals by presenting information in accessible and diverse formats. We will integrate video interviews, TimelineJS, Prezi, photographs, and images of primary source documents. We will interview local professionals, professors, librarians, and community members to provide a diverse array of opinions.

While working on the website I kept the mission statement in mind, my partner and I needed to focus on presenting the information on book censorship with as little bias as possible. Song of Solomon in St. Mary’s County was removed from the pre-approved reading list in 1997, we presented all of the information we were able to discover on the topic, including hearing from those in favor of the censorship. The sources we collected came from local & national newspapers at that time, as well as interviews that were reflective of the events. The coverage of historical context and literature’s impact on: culture, societal morality, and personal identity were covered in depth with the historical context section, and can be seen through the primary source newspapers collected on the site. We integrated the digital tools we learned through the semester well, made the website easily accessible and readable, and utilized the images we gathered with success. Our interviews with professors, librarians and community members exceeded our original expectations. The interview section on our website has the teacher who assigned the reading, I never would have imagined being able to meet David and interview him. This was the most rewarding interview that I have ever participated in, and even after the interview was over we talked for almost an hour about the case and his life; giving me more insight to his life and personal experiences.


The rest of the contract consists of due dates, assignments, and webdesign instructions. The contract due dates were met and additional dates were kept in mind when we added additional interviews and changed formats on the website. The division of labor and assignments changed slightly when additional class workloads interfered, but we stuck true to the overall plan of summaries, interviews, and layouts. The webdesign instructions and tools used remained the same as our mission statement. I am proud that the website came together perfectly, the contract helped to organize everything as we collected sources and conducted interviews.

Blog Post 13

Progress on Silenced, censorship of Song of Solomon in St. Mary’s county, is in the final stages. Working through the motions of what my partner and I have already accomplished gives me a lot of pride in the website. We have come a long way from the begging of the semester not even knowing what WordPress is or how to use it; to not having created an entire website with different pages, interviews, and newspapers. The amount of time, energy, and willpower that we had at the begging of the semester will help get us through the end of the semester.

Progress on the website is going at a slow pace. Trying to balance my additional classes, studying for exams, and editing papers all within a two week period is extremely stressful. Last week I received suggestions of how to edit my website to be more user friendly, the peer to peer suggestions were a great start on how to edit the website for people who have not been in the class. The website acts as a source for primary sources, the newspapers from the different publishers like the Enterprise, Washington Post, and the school paper all help to give a primary source insight into the case at the time it was going on. My partner and I were fortunate enough to get a lot of newspapers and interviews for the project. I would say that we were one of the most fortunate groups in the class, we have so many newspaper articles that covered the case, we had a back and fourth dialogue between those who were for the book and then those who were against the book, the interviews with: David Flood, Robin Bates, and Amy Ford all help to put our case and general censorship into perspective, giving both a modern interpretation of the events that occurred and a reflection on the event when it was happening.

The Removal of Song of Solomon in St. Mary’s County

The thing about the website that I am most proud of is the interview with David Flood. It was sheer luck to find the teacher at the center of the controversy, without meeting with Professor Robin Bates (or even finding the article written by Robin Bates) there would have been no way possible for us to find David. Meeting him was such an experience, he was so knowledgeable about the case, having lived through it, and just the way he spoke about the case made me feel like I was going through it all with him. Currently putting the last edits of the transcript up, making sure that the software for his interview and the others turned out alright. So with that, I have one blog post left. For anyone out there reading along and following what I am saying I want to thank you for joining me through this semester. Make sure you checkout the website posted above!

 

Blog Post 12

The website is beginning to come together nicely. This week we are reviewing all of the websites completed by the class and giving feedback on what works and what could use some improvement. The course began very reading intensive on varying ideas on censorship, and as I reviewed a peer’s website i noticed a trend among general book censorship. In many of the cases, especially in the case of To Save A Mocking Bird, those who came out against the book did so for the use of the N-word and graphic scenes that would be too inappropriate for children. In Accomack County, this was the case. A parent made an initial complaint about the reading of To Kill A Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The parent, much like others who attempt to censor books, used the depictions of race and language by the characters as the reason for the ban. In this case it is tricky to declare that the book is not offensive to the reader, the complainant was the mother of a mixed African American child. She felt that the school reading materials should be reviewed and offer a more inclusive setting for the students, as her son hears it often enough outside of school, he should not hear it in the classroom. “She claimed that by letting students read these materials they were normalizing the use of the n-word in schools and her child shouldn’t have to hear it in their place of education, that her son already hears it enough on the street.”


After the initial complaint filed by his mother at the school board meeting, there was a petition started to bring the book from the county schools. Students at the high school wanted to bring the book back to the shelf. Then after the petition circulated, more and more parents, students, and residents to the county began to take notice. On December 2nd, 2016, there was a protest organized by Charles Knitter  in protest of the banning of To Kill A Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He advertised the event on Facebook while word spread throughout the community.  There were about 50 protesters there all to speak their mind and try to bring the book back to the shelves, all the while stating that the books are condemning racism and not actually condoning or encouraging racism. There efforts would prove to be successful. On December 6th, 2016, the Accomack County School Board voted to permanently reinstate both To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn back to school library shelves.


As I explored their website further, I noticed that they put in a map of other places in the United States and Canada. This case of To Kill A Mockingbird seems to be one of many, all in which targeting the use of the N-word to denounce the book as racist. I found it interesting that it has been challenged so many times, all along the same reasoning, in several parts of the country. It can really make you think about book censorship and the rights to free speech.

Blog Post 11

This past week has been really busy in terms of putting finishing touches onto the website. Drexel and I went to the third floor of the St. Mary’s library, the media center, and set up our little work space to edit the video and go over additional materials for the website. Our case of Song of Solomon is progressing well, I feel that everyday as we approach our deadline we discover more information about the book, author, and the controversy. The first thing I showed my partner was the photo of David Flood with Toni Morrison. He. Was. Shocked. In our research we discovered that Toni Morrison visited St. Mary’s College, but we were unsure of the specific time and needed to do more research. As it turns out, the controversy in St. Mary’s County affected everybody and the College decided to award Toni Morrison the Margaret Brent award.


With this new information under our belt, I took out the rest of the paperwork that David turned over to me after our interview. His bag was old, it was falling apart at the seams, and smelled of old newspapers. I took out all of the folders of old newspapers from the Enterprise, Washington Post, New York Times, and the school newspaper. Sprawled it all out over the table and started to show my partner how much David kept over these 25 years since the controversy. As I was sifting through the papers and explaining the papers, Drexel asked me about the white binder that was in the bag. He was onto my little surprise. I reached into the bag and pulled out David’s white binder, this binder contained a major piece to our puzzle. Earlier in the semester it was made clear by my Professors that we need to find the original complaint against the book. This task has proved more than difficult because St. Mary’s County Public Schools did not have the paperwork digitized, because it was over 25 years ago. Drexel and I went to the offices of St.Mary’s County Public Schools and sought to go through files and additional paperwork at their offices, we were denied entry because we did not have an appointment and the County Schools were off that week. Our attempts were blocked by forces out of our control, but we persisted and continued to reach out and seek for the letter and complaint against Song of Solomon.


I pulled the binder from David’s bag and set it on the table. Opening to the first few pages I handed it to Drexel and said its what we have been missing all along. The binder held a copy of the original letter that would start months of controversy and debate. This letter from one parent, started the entire debate. No formal complaint was filed.

Blog Post 10

As I come to the end of the semester, I look back on the case and what I originally thought. The initial research into this case was marred with uncertainty and hesitation. Will I be able to find everything I need? How will the website come together, what is WordPress? What was the public opinion about this book and it’s author? These questions and more clouded my original thoughts of the case, and made me very hesitant to even continue through the course. Fear of failure is a motivator, but it is also a terrible feeling to have before starting a new online course.


Progress on my case and website has been tremendous. I can see my shy and timidness shedding away as I call up the Superintendent’s office, schedule interviews with professors, librarians, and the teacher who sparked the controversy. These interviews and phone calls have become so much easier to do, I know I have the support of my professors, classmates, and partner to complete these tasks.


Last week was an incredible week for progress on the case, I had set up an interview with the teacher who assigned Song of Solomon as the summer reading list, and the interview was incredible. He called me to see where I would be at in the library, I reserved a quiet, semi-secluded, study room at the East end of the Library and set up the recording equipment, ran a few tests, checked the battery levels and set lined up the perfect angle for the interview. I went to the lobby and waited for David Flood, after a brief period I saw a very tall man with long gray hair and sunglasses. I went over to speak with him and take him to the interview room, it wasn’t him. Embarrassment has never killed anyone, yet, I sure felt close to death. A few more moments pass by and then I see another tall man following a student who had resembled me, it appears that I am not the only one who mistook an identity today. We proceeded to go upstairs to the East end of the library, and already it felt like David was about to jump out of his skin with his excitement.


The interview. WOW. It was amazing. We get into the room and he begins to open a giant old briefcase with a ton of newspapers, clippings, photos, and files. I briefly look back down at my notes and questions that I had for him, and thought for a second that I should just let him go. As soon as I started recording David started talking about what happened. I heard every detail from the man who lived it all, from over 20 years ago his memory and expression of detail were exact. More time passed and I sat there listening, just in awe, from what was being said. The passion that came from the interview will be shown on the website, the next step is to edit and publish.

Blog Post 9

As I dive further into research into the banning of Song of Solomon in St. Mary’s county, my understanding of censorship begins to shift and expand. I find my mind racing through all these different ideas of what is censorship, how censorship impacts everyone in different ways, and just how far people would be willing to go to censor different opinions.

1933 German book burning

In my studies from High school to college, I have always believed that censorship was a political tool used to silence  and oppress those who do not align with the majority party. As time has progressed, I have begun to notice that it is more than a political tool to silence others. Censorship is taking away other voices. Censorship is eliminating different opinions.


Censorship impacts everyone differently, no matter your stance on censorship, its mere existence sparks debate and dissent among those involved. The censorship of Toni Morrison in St. Mary’s country impacts everyone: students, teachers, parents, administrators, members of the community, special interest groups, minority groups, and the author.

Students are possibly impacted the most by books being banned, in this particular case, the book by Toni Morrison was to be used in conjunction with a lesson plan about self identity and self trials. It was supposed to be used with the Adventure of HuckleBerry Fin, to see through the different gaze of the characters. As well as see the differences of the main character.

Teachers are forced to change what they are trying to teach to their class, shifting the focuses or even dropping lesson plans on the topic. I have yet to interview the teacher in St. Mary’s County about what they were forced to do after the ban. Even little alterations to the lesson or just to completely replace it with another book.

Parents are put into a position of having to decide if the book is appropriate for their students. As in a former interview with Professor Bates, students are well aware of curse words, foul language, and sexual topics; but parents still have control over what their children read. In the case of Song of Solomon, the complaint is believed to have come from a parent highlighting the foul language, sexually explicit content, and the theme of suicide. All of these things can be concerning to a parent, but if there is a setting for these discussions to be had, would it be school?


We have seen throughout history that books have been the target of those in power. The picture I found from Germany in 1933 is the example that comes to my mind when someone says banned books. But books can be banned and censored in more than just eliminating the book, editors telling the author how to phrase sentences, readers coming out against a book, and so on. Censorship of the Song of Solomon came in the form of removing the book from the curriculum, meanwhile it was still available at the library and book stores. In the interview with Professor Bates, he informed me that the book sold out in bookstores after the newspaper articles. Just goes to show you, people will only want to read it more.

Blog Post 8

This post will be used to reflect my current feelings on doing primary source research and trying to get in contact with others for interviews.


 

 

 

 



In the course of this research project, creating a website with a plethora of different sources, and setting up interviews, things are bound to go wrong and you will have setbacks. The never ending Ocean of Life will bring wave upon wave till it swallows you whole. The wind will fan the flames as you feel overwhelmed with all of your school work pile up. The earth will shake and you will feel powerless as the world around you crumbles down. But, there is a silver lining. If you are able to embrace the chaos going on around you, you will be able to emerge wiser, stronger, and prepared for the next storm or fire or earthquake. At this point of the semester, the flames are a roaring, and now is the time to focus on the research, the website, and the interviews.


The amount of research that my partner and me have compiled is staggering, but that is all through newspapers and opinion pieces of the book censorship. Song of Solomon has faced the fire in St. Mary’s county, and it appears to have emerged unscathed from the censorship. One thing I was interested in was if anytime since the first conflict of the novel in the County if it has been tired to be used again. Or if it is on any school suggested reading lists. But much like everything in life, your questions and exploration sometimes come up with nothing but more questions than answers. Looking into the ban and any additional bans has come up with no yield, it would have added to our website to see if the book were to be banned again. Possibly have a comparison of the complaints against Toni Morrison’s book.


The most recent progress I have made on editing the website is our “about the author” tab. I started off much like any other biography about an author and started to look at her education, where she grew up, when she graduated high school and college, and seeing if they went onto any major accomplishments. Toni Morrison is one of the most successful African American writers in the United States, her books and novels, all in some way similar to the Song of Solomon, such as the Bluest Eye, have helped her to earn several awards and lifetime achievements. The research of her life helped me to put more of the novel into perspective, from what is known about the Song of Solomon and why it was banned, I never would have imagined her other books facing similar charges. But I also believe that the book was banned for additional reasons than what I initially learned, race also played a large roll in its censorship. Toni Morrison’s book was censored in some other school districts, but it will take additional research in order to find out those causes, and connect them back to our County in a specific case.

Blog Post 7

In my previous blog post, I talked about my preparation for an interview I would be conducting with a local St. Mary’s county librarian. Since having the interview and taking the time to reflect on the responses of the interviewee, I believe that my questions were too spread out and had little focus as to the kind of censorship’s that the library has faced.


The interview itself I felt went excellent, we met at the desired location on time and had excellent, clear footage for the interview. The equipment functioned perfectly, no technical difficulties or problems operating the DSLR camera or the audio recorder. The next step will be to transcribe the interview so I will be able to refer to what was discussed without going through the entire video.

With the equipment in place the rest of the interview went as I had expected it to, the questions about censorship were responded to in a broad way that will allow the references to our novel to be used on our website. The interviewee seemed to be ready for the questions asked, she was not caught off guard about the topic and was well spoken in her opposition to censorship. They believed that the role of a librarian, and to a greater extent an educator, is to foster a place of learning where multiple and diverse opinions can be heard.

I think it is important for multiple opinions to be heard on issues concerning politics, race, and class; but often times people shut out differing opinions because they disagree or they offend others. It has come out that social media outlets, like Facebook, personalize and tailor your news feeds to match your personality and interests. But one unintended consequence of this has become a selection of political coverage that only shows you things you believe or have a tendency to lean towards. This kind of exclusion of opinions can lead to radicalization, improper facts, and closed mindedness. For more information on the topic refer to the  article hyperlink below:

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/30/facebook-news-feed-filters-emotion-study


This interview has helped me to craft the questions for my next interview. In the next coming weeks, I will be meeting with a College professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Professor Robin Bates was around at the time Song of Solomon and even wrote newspaper articles about the censorship. When I have my interview with Professor Bates, I plan to uncover what residents in St. Mary’s county thought about the book becoming banned, and if he knows anything more about the book itself. When we scheduled the meeting with Professor Bates, he informed my partner and I that he actually taught the High school that put Toni Morrison’s book on the reading list, which would later become the center of controversy.

Overall I was happy with the interview with the local librarian, and I look forward to the next interviews to uncover more of the secrets around the book becoming banned.

Blog Post 6

While in the course of researching the case of Toni Morrison’s book, The Song of Solomon, I knew one voice that could not be excluded when discussing book censorship, librarians. Many librarians are against banning books, banning a book is silencing a voice in a world discussion. Nobody would think to cover someone’s mouth when they are talking at a school board meeting or pleading their case in a courtroom, but this is what book censorship does, it stops the conversation that is being held, and sometimes it stops the conversation from happening.

I knew that an interview with a St. Mary’s  librarian from Lexington Park would be a huge benefit to the study of banned books. The preparation for the interview was straight forward. I knew where to go and request to have the interview, but then other things started to pop up. Who would be willing to speak about this controversial topic? My partner and I reached out to the library via email and organized a date to meet with a research librarian. Now that the interview day and time was lined up,  look for the equipment to record the interview, I had to think of questions, and present the case we are studying so the research librarian would be able to fully understand what my partner and I intended to do with this information.

The first step of interview prep was to see what equipment was available to me. In a previous post, I surveyed the media center at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and reviewed the available materials. With this as my first step, I knew exactly who to reach out to and arranged a time for us to meet up and discuss the needs for the interview. The equipment that was available at the time was exactly what I needed, they had an excellent DSLR camera that would display a fine image and high quality video. There is an attachment for the camera to have an audio recorder which would be removed. There is also software that would align the video taken with the audio recorded from this secondary device. We also needed a tripod to set the camera on so we wouldnt have to hold it the entire time.

Next came the questions. That process was completed by me and my partner, we got together and focused on questions about our book, general censorship, and how the librarian feels about the censorship. Questions like: How do you feel about censorship? Who’s voice is excluded from the conversation with book censorship? Are you aware of Toni Morrison’s book was censored in the county in the 90’s? These questions were enough for us to get started, and continue with the interview from there.

Lastly, we had the interview prep of our research. I readied the discussion by asking her if she knows any particular instances of book censorship from the county, and respond that there actually was a book banned in the 90’s. Briefly explaining cultural significance, and the reason the book was banned.

http://cbldf.org/2017/10/library-displays-cause-controversy/

Blog Post 5

For this particular blog post, I will be covering the readings of week 4 in my Burning Idea course. Grace Enriquez’s “The Reader Speaks Out” is an excellent read about Adolescent reflection about controversial young adult literature. When studying censorship, especially censorship around young adult literary works, one must consider the youth interpretation of these serious topics. Topics like sexual assault, suicide, family abuse, and depression are all able to trigger a traumatic event for the reader. It is for this reason, among others, that certain books become banned or taken off of the assigned reading lists.

“Since adult opinions can
prevent students from
reading worthwhile texts,
studying what students
themselves say about
reading controversial YA

literature in the class-
rooms presents an oppor-
tunity to better assess the

significance of teaching it.”

When there is a challenge against a book for young adult literature, the complaint is usually made by a parent or group of parents who feel that their children should not be subject to the topics discussed in the book. In this reading by Enriquez, we see the other side of the censorship debate, the students’ perspective. She aims to look at information that has been collected in four public middle school literature classes, as often these adolescents are the ones most affected by the texts they read. The student’s responses were collected over the course of two weeks, the sessions were of mixed races, upper middle or middle class students, and all aged between 11-13.

When examining these classes over this time frame, I am curious of a few things: 1. Why this particular school? Public schools have attendance from students who live in the surrounding area, this would limit the amount of class diversity available, for they would all be around the same class identity. 2. In considering the types of responses from the students, how would the questions guide the students? By this I mean her four questions that she would ask the students: “Four questions—“What makes a book controversial?”, “Why are books censored?”, “How do adolescents perceive inappropriate topics?”, and “What makes a book worth reading?”.

I believe these questions that are being asked to these two separate groups of students, the advanced section and the regular class, would be completely different responses if they were asked to a more diverse school district or even a more homogeneous district.  Yet, some of the responses from the students interested me. Grace noted one classroom discussion in which most students agreed that racism is a topic of contention.

“Elon: You can’t say anything that’s like racial remarks
’cause you’ll offend people.
Lara: Yeah, you definitely can’t be racist at school.
Drew: That’s an easy one.”

These kinds of topics are why books are banned, and these students were able to see why these topics would cause tension. The students’ voice was able to come out from this article, I could see them thinking critically about why books are banned. This kind of adolescent feedback could help school administrators and teachers plan the curriculum. Students are hungry for knowledge, they should be allowed to pursue it without censorship.

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