A Burning Idea - Spring 2019 Course

A COPLAC Digital Distance Learning Course

Page 2 of 14

In Summary

Progress Report 5

After receiving feedback on aspects of my project site, I worked over the course of the week to create and begin to implement solutions to several of the website’s problems.

To start with the cosmetic issues, I went in and worked on the sidebar widgets. I updated the names of the other course site links, switched the order of the widgets so that the Hypothesis widget comes before the widget with the other project links, and redid the Hypothesis widget so that there is more explanation on what it is and how to use it (for viewers who are not experienced with the tool). Going forward, I still need to look out for missing words in my paragraphs, which I am confident I can do as I continue revising each page.

The second (and more important area) I gave attention to was the section of the project that detailed the case. After receiving feedback, I wasn’t sure the original design of my website, with a different page per category of stakeholder, was working for communicating the case like I wanted to. I thought about changing the section to have one page of context on different stakeholders, one page on the actual events of the case, and one page for analysis. However, after thinking about the section for a week, I decided that I want to stay true to my contract and keep the original design.

However, with that said, I’ve brainstormed several ways I can fix the weaknesses of the pages, and the case section (along with developing the analysis on it) will be my main focus for this last week of revisions.

Case Section Changes

At the End of the Semester (Turner, 2019)

First, I am going to revise the timeline of the main section page but also expand it to include a description of all the events of the case, so that the page is really dedicated jus

t to narrating what happened and clarifying details.

Second, I am going to change the structure of each of the stakeholder sub-pages to talk less about the actions of each individual and more about the opinion of and reasons behind the actions of each individual. In addition, I am going to move the introduction that talks generally about the role of each kind of stakeholder to the bottom of the page and refocus it as an analysis that looks at explaining why the individuals took the actions that they did and how their actions were significant within the case. I think that restructuring the pages in this way will help me to add more analysis and really pull the narrative together more cohesively.

Third, as suggested in my peer review, I have decided to incorporate the primary sources into the website by adding a separate sub-tab under the case section. I originally wanted to integrate them into the site by featuring different articles at the end of the each of the complainant pages, but the structure didnt’t do justice to the sources or the pages they were on. I also don’t want the clutter the main menu with a separate page for each primary source. Therefore, creating a new section should allow me to present the sources without complicating the menu or running the risk of having them over looked. I also believe that this format will allow me to incorporate more information from the primary sources into my analysis instead of abundant quotations from secondary sources.

However, choosing this structure does mean that the side index widget will contain a separate link to each primary source (because it will have to be its own page hyper linked in the primary source section) that will not be present in the main menu. Also, on the subject of primary sources, I am going to make sure to offer a brief and clear description of what each source is so that why its included makes sense, which is something I worked on in creating the drafts of the pages last week. I have set the goal of having them all up of the site by this evening.

Context Section Changes

In working on the presentation of the novel’s pages and the pages on Appalachian literature, I thought about how to bring the context of Appalachian literature back into my analysis, which is something that I did not do very well in the website draft. I have worked on drafting an expansion of the analysis that talks about the significance of Appalachian culture in the censorship case that I can include in the conclusions sub-page of the case section. In addition, I am going to expand my explanation of the novel by discussing how it relates to Appalachian culture, so that there is a clear link between the novel itself and the context I provide on my website. Lastly, I also looked at creating a family tree for the summary of the novel that should make that page a bit more visually appealing and I have decided to move the page on the challenged sections of the novel to the primary source tab so that it is not featured out of logical order for the site or contextual order for the case.

In summary, I have a lot of work left to do, but with a the planning and work I completed last week and a week’s worth of time ahead of me, I am confident I can finish everything by the deadline.

Photo Credits

Turner, T (2019, April 22). At the End of the Semester. [Personal Photograph taken in Wise, VA)


Responding to Chris Crutcher

Chris Crutcher in 2007 (Wikimedia Commons)

After working hard to get our website draft up and running, then annotating Telena’s site, I went back to explore some of our readings from earlier in the semester with newer, wiser eyes. I landed on Chris Crutcher’s short piece, “How They Do It,” and found many spots of relevance for our Ellen Hopkins case. Crutcher does a great job articulating many of the same themes I wanted to point out in the “significance” section of our site. Because he, like Hopkins, writes mostly for teenagers, the case where his novel Whale Talk was challenged in Fowlerville, Michigan shares some common attributes with the censorship of Glass.

“The damage had been done”

Like the case at Whittier Middle School, Whale Talk was not successfully banned from the high school in Fowlerville, but it was taken out of the school-wide curriculum whereby it was being taught. The incident even inspired some students to reach out to Crutcher and tell him how meaningful his novel was for them. Regardless, however, Crutcher maintains that censorship still occurred, despite its undramatic outcome:

The damage had been done. The flow of the project was interrupted, various teachers and administrators intimidated, and what had been a successful, innovative project, crashed. I was informed through back-channels that many teachers simply told their students to finish the book with no further discussion.

Chris Crutcher, “How they do it”

As was the case with Glass, poor administrative handling of the situation cause disruption that in itself should qualify as censorship. This case has shown me that it is important to remember that even unsuccessful censorship still limits the intellectual and creative freedom of an entire community and creates an environment that is skeptical of educators and “controversial” material of all kinds.

Philosophy over Humanity

Crutcher moves on the highlight a key, contradictory element of those who censor and challenge literature for teens: they usually don’t at all care how kids feel about it. “These people embrace their philosophy over their humanity,” he says, stressing that the massive number of young gay teens who have found meaning and comfort through his books means nothing to these parents who somehow claim they want “the best” for their children. “These folks cling to some obscure holy pronouncement that allows them the illusion of control,” writes Crutcher; these parents are so convinced that the public education system is an indoctrinating, malevolent force that they are willing to entirely disregard the wishes and intellectual needs of their own children in order to feel like they hold the power.

Ellen Hopkins expressed a similarly frustrated sentiment in one of her blog posts about the Whittier challenge. By writing about drug addiction, she asserts, she is “allowing them to live vicariously through my characters, so they don’t actually have to experience those things; literally saving their lives.” The substantial crowd Hopkins drew when she finally spoke at a church in Moore is a testament to her popularity and impact with young readers.

The key to resolving these tenuous censorship interactions between controlling parents and the institution of education, according to Crutcher, is for administrators to “stand up for their teachers before they stand up for non-educators with squeaky wheels.” I couldn’t have expressed so succinctly my main takeaway from the Ellen Hopkins case any better than this. This is what must happen to stop the ability of one parent to dictate the intellectual experiences of an entire student body.

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.

Responding to Chris Crutcher’s “How They Do It”

This is an article by author Chris Crutcher, written in the Huffington Post. Crutcher’s novel, Whale Talk, was being used in a new and innovative way as an all-school read in the rural Michigan town of Fowlerville, near Detroit. This book was being taught in every classroom, not just in English classes, but also science, mathematics, physical education, and so on. Crutcher speaks on all the praise he received when the school was teaching the book, with statements along the lines of getting students who never read to read from teachers. Crutcher’s novel was then challenged by a parent due to racist language repeated by a five year-old mixed race girl that was directed at her by her racist stepfather. After a storm of media coverage, the district chose to retain the book in the curriculum but essentially ended teaching it, directing students to finish the book on their own and then not discussing said book, instead quickly moving on to avoid controversy.

Crutcher is very clearly bitter about this. The way he rages against the parent who challenged his novel in the first place, who had formerly home-schooled her child, is particularly strong. Crutcher explicitly claims that said parent was home-schooling her daughter in order to control what information entered her mind, and thus was shocked and horrified by the loss of control that her daughter may end up reading something she had not carefully screened. While Crutcher is not wrong, this attack feels more like the actions of a petulant child than a full-grown adult. What, precisely, did he think he would get out of making such assumptions? Had Crutcher stuck to his intellectual argument, it would have certainly been strong, but personal attacks are doubtful to have gotten him anywhere.

I agree with Crutcher’s complaints about the ability of a singular parent to change the learning of an entire community of students. Crutcher is absolutely correct about the dangers of as much, and I tend to agree that there should be minimal censorship in general. Shielding children from reality simply delays their knowledge and creates a potentially damaging naivete. But, again, Crutcher’s hostile tone undercuts his argument. Crutcher makes a similar point to the one I just made, claiming that seeing what he believes to be a heart wrenching scene is unlikely to make one’s children racist. But, then, Crutcher ends his article expressing a facetious fear about And Tango Makes Three, pretending to be afraid of said book making children wish to grow up to become penguins. Crutcher is being a jerk here, to censor myself instead of having a school district do it for me.

I agree with Crutcher’s fears of censorship almost completely. But, his blind condemnation and explicitly hostile tone completely undercuts his argument, and ultimately makes me imagine this read would further reinforce the views of pro-censorship advocates, as opposed to actually changing minds. Ultimately, Chris Crutcher wanted an echo chamber too rage into, and he succeeded in finding one. But, I know full well that were I a school librarian or administrator, this would offer an excellent reason to not want to work with him.

Image result for whale talk
At least the whales on the cover of Crutcher’s book are cute. You can find this image here.

What It Does: A Reflection on Crutcher’s ‘How They Do It’

Reading Reflection 4

Growing up, I always loved school and learning (Yes, I am, proudly, a self-described nerd!). For that reason, I don’t think that it comes as a surprise if I write that I think the classroom is one of the most unique places on earth, at least symbolically. Simply put, a classroom is a place where learning happens – a focused, mediated environment for students to discuss, engage, apply, and reflect on the information they are learning. Classrooms are ideally secure places for students with all different opinions and levels of knowledge to come together to test their knowledge and learn.

In his article, “How They Do It,” author Chris Crutcher (2011) discusses the censorship of his book, Whale Talk, in a Michigan city and concludes with this statement: “This is the trick, folks: within ignorance lies safety. So they attack the educational community – the enemy for the time being – with disruption” (para. 9). While this quotation is composed of many strong and discussion-worthy ideals, I was drawn to the idea that censorship (and consequently, the actions of censors) works through causing disorder and disunity in the education system.

Classroom Chaos (darkday, 2014)

Through class discussions and readings, I latched on to the idea that censorship commonly works through limiting material and people – through stopping the flow of information.  While that is completely true, I have also come to realize through researching my case and hearing about the research of my peers that it also causes the rise of other practices and opinions, especially of fear and disorder.

In discussing the Carroll County case, for example,  Goldwasser (1997) writes that “[d]isappointingly, some teachers and administrators in the country seemed to have learned nothing from all of this. One ninth-grade teacher the following the year was afraid to teach Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet” (p. 41). Relatedly, to describe the impact of the Michigan case, Crutcher (2011) states that “[t]he damage had been done. The flow of the project was interrupted, various teachers and administrators intimidated, and what had been a successful, innovative project, crashed” (para. 5). Far beyond just influencing individual students and groups of students, these quotations speak to how censorship can disrupt the idea of the classroom and the educational process as a whole.

I tried to ponder: What is so dangerous about challenge publicity and parent complaints for public school systems? As a result, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not the negativity of the words that circulate or even the potential of the complaints to end the books that are being taught (though, that is certainly a danger). I think that the biggest danger of censorship lies in what it starts – chaos and uncertainty in the classroom.

Ultimately, this idea exposes one difficult and paradoxical aspect of censorship. Many parents and community members challenge novels to protect students but they sacrifice the stability the classroom – the place where students learn how to engage with different ideas and perspectives – to do so, which has negative consequences that reach far beyond a few choice words or scenes in a book.


Crutcher, C. (2011, August 02). How They Do It. Retrieved April 15, 2019, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-they-do-it_b_915605

Darkday. (2014, April 16). Classroom Chaos. Retrieved April 15, 2019, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/drainrat/13899503535/in/photolist-8MSVb8-nbfA9F-Kzbc9-7zaw9N-bQhtjx-DohZ3x-7z6KwT

Goldwasser, M. M. (1997). Censorship: It Happened to Me in Southwest Virginia–It Could Happen to You. The English Journal, 86(2), 34. doi:10.2307/819671



Progress Update: Peer Review and some Loose Ends

Having now annotated the SUNY Geneseo site, I am more optimistic about our own product, and about opportunities for improvement during this last stretch. Writing feedback for the Golden Compass project helped to place our overall progress, the scope of our original analysis, and the level of interactivity on display on our site into context. In that sense, while I still feel that we are lacking slightly in interactivity in relation to our contract, I would argue that given what we were able to obtain from actors involved in our cases, too much additional interactivity would only serve to detract from the site’s accessibility, sequencing, and content. Thankfully, the Geneseo site has left me with some valuable ideas for our site’s homepage and “about” section, two of our more maligned sections after our peer-review session.

I’ve looked over our peer-review in full, and I’m pleased with the feedback we received. While at times not as in-depth as I’d hoped, it mostly concentrated on sections I had not expected, which is enlightening. From this, I feel that I have a greater sense of how the site is explored organically, and I feel that we will have a clearer idea of which sections we should concentrate on as we are nearing the end of our revision process. I’m delighted that Olivia’s pictures of J.C. Magill Elementary School seem to have the intended response, and that the mood of the site seems to be in line with our overarching themes. Hopefully, we can secure the rights to an image of Mallory, as very few exist, and of those few, the majority have been watermarked by photographers who are seemingly inactive. I’m unsure about our reviewers’ recommendation to eliminate the “Case Outcome” page entirely, as we are already drafting a section on the case’s significance. Perhaps we will rename the section something along the lines of “Significance,” and use it as a space to explain how Mallory’s case related to censorship in general, something I feel that we have shifted slightly away from in favor of social context. I’m hoping that some additional scrutiny by way of our instructors’ feedback on the 17th will enable us to clear up any potential problems we may still have with some of the more dense sections of the site, like my context subsections.

On that same note, considering that we have been unable to reach an agreement with the Pagan Federation on a potential interview, I will be supplementing my section on Wiccan autonomy and self-identification with a short section in a 2004 broadcast of NPR’s All Things Considered involving teenagers and Wicca specifically, which I hope will allow me to incorporate American voices, as well as voices outside of any religious organization. If possible, it would be nice if I could embed this material on the page to break up its monotony, but I imagine it would be difficult to secure hosting rights. I’ve also come across an older page of essays from young Wiccans which would fill the same role.

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!

Progress Update

We’re almost done! Our website is mostly done. There are cosmetic fixes we need to make, and a couple of things that need edits and reworking. Of course there will be new things to fix after we go over the Hypothesis feedback. I just finished doing the website I was assigned to read over, and about half the time I was thinking about how others will see our website. I definitely think we have a lot of cosmetic work to do on some of the pages. I think the page that needs the most work is probably our reflection page, since we both completely forgot about it. It is a bit rushed, and there is some stuff missing. We also need to add in the picture that we took at the Holocaust museum. Then we need to go through and make sure all the font is black, since it automatically posts in gray. We also need to make our hyperlinks more obvious, probably by changing the font color to blue and underlining it, so it looks like a typical hyperlink does.

We tried to add buttons to the front page, and then we tried to make photos the buttons, but it didn’t work like we wanted it to. We’ll play around with it in our free time. What we hope will happen is if you click the photo it should bring you to the page we hyperlinked it to, but it didn’t work. I think we have both done this on our personal blogs and it worked fine, but it just doesn’t want to work on our website. If it doesn’t work it is okay, the pictures still look nice at the bottom of the homepage.  We also changed the title! But we don’t know if we like how short it is now.

I’m excited to put the finishing touches on our site, and I’m glad we’re getting feedback now. It has been kind of hard trying to figure out what is readable and what isn’t, and what needs edits on our own. I hope that we have enough time between now and the due date for us to finish the edits people suggest and all the cosmetic things we need to do. I know we will get it done, but it can be stressful trying to get the little things done without forgetting something (for example, our reflections page). I have been stealing time in between other homework assignments, work, and packing/unpacking my room to work on the website. Leah Tams suggested we submit our digital project to a competition we have at Mary Washington, but Cody and I felt as if we still had a lot of work to do on it, and it would be another thing to worry about during this busy month. It was very nice of her to suggest that our website was good enough to compete! It was a much needed confidence boost.

Reading and Reviewing

For my final blog post concerning the course readings, I have chosen to discuss two shorter articles. I hope these can help me identify the minuscule touches that will complete my website. Additionally, I want to recognize the importance of digital history, including the websites my classmates and I have created in this course.

In the article titled “Why don’t archivists digitize everything?,” Samantha Thompson gives some reasons why all collections are not available on the internet. For the most part, it seems that many texts are not digitized due to a lack of resources: time, money, large size scanners, digital file maintenance, etc. Thompson is clearly bias, being an archivist defending her position. The majority of the reasons she mentions are funding related, and are not necessarily adequate excuses of why we should not make a piece of information available.

Thompson did offer one valid reason why some documents are not worth digitizing; holding an object or paper document in your hands is an experience in itself, and cannot be replaced by a digital copy. While this is a good point, most average people will not travel to seek out an artifact, so I would contest experiencing only part of a record is better than nothing. One thing I have learned throughout this course, is that viewers are usually willing to read what is in front of them. By creating our project websites about one specific case of censorship, people have access to organized information without having to leave their couch. For most, convenience is key.

In the article titled “Best Practices for Writing History on the Web,” Sean Kheraj offers some valuable tips on web design. While reading this article, I simultaneously reviewed my own website to make sure I took advantage of all the advice he has to offer.

First, Kheraj recommends writing in an accessible manner. In order to accomplish this, I tried to keep my pages short and sweet, and provide answers to questions before the reader has the chance to ask them. For example, I included a paragraph on the definition of dust on the book summary page. Hyperlinks were also suggested, which I incorporate throughout the website, but especially on “The Media” page. This way readers have the option to read more about censorship of The Golden Compass, but are not overwhelmed while scrolling. Third, Kheraj places emphasis on visual history. Although we had a limited set of pictures from the movie, Jacob and I tried to incorporate various interactive diagrams such as the TimelineJS and StorymapJS. Lastly, he mentions adding audio and visual elements into the website. This is one area where I feel my website is a little lacking. Since both interviews occurred via email, there were no clips to upload. However, I did put the movie music on the homepage, just to add another interactive element. Perhaps I will consider adding a short movie clip to the summary page.


Overall, I think my website would live up to Kheraj’s standards. Most importantly, I hope my website answers the viewer’s questions censorship. As the course wraps up, I am eager to hear feedback from my professors and classmates.

Sources Cited:

Thompson, Samantha. “Why don’t archivists digitize everything?” Peel Art Gallery Museum and Archives, 31 May 2017. Web. 14 April. 2019.

Kheraj, Sean. “Best Practices for Writing History on the Web.” Active History, 16 October 2014. Web. 14 April. 2019.

Progress Report: Drafting & Some Concerns

While we have run into some formatting roadblocks, an early draft of the Gwinnett County case site is now available. Regarding the contextual portions I have been working on, my feelings are mixed. I am generally pleased with the amount of content on display, and feel that I’ve been able to relate it to our main subject, Laura Mallory, consistently. Moreover, in the process of writing context, it has not been difficult to connect these Harry Potter challenges to Wicca and the Religious Right, it’s clear based on surrounding materials that these issues were related in very conspicuous ways. That said, the prospect of lowering the reading level of the material makes me anxious, and I am worried about how it will affect the text’s flow, readability, and information density. The landscape theme, while initially meeting our expectations, has proved frustrating to work with in the long term, due to its lack of customizability and strange formatting rules. I expect that we will need to find a way to more clearly telegraph our use of hyperlinks, and that we will unfortunately have to contend with titles being presented in bold by default, as I do not believe that this problem can be solved with any kind of plugin. It may be to our benefit to fall back on other methods of linking to different webpages, like buttons, widgets, or extended options in our navigation menu.

Wikimedia Commons has proved to be a very useful source of images related to the context of this case, and I have yet to run into any problems with attribution. I am having difficulty determining how images should be arranged on each page, however, and even where I do have a clear layout in mind, it is difficult to work with the editor. I expect that this problem will be resolved after peer review. In anticipation of that review process, I feel that we are currently lacking in interactivity and diversity of content, given the emphasis on each in our contract. Much of this has to do with the fact that we were unable to work with certain materials, like Matrisciana’s documentary, in ways we had initially planned. This is by no means an insurmountable issue, we will simply need to focus on our existing content, presenting it in a more interactive format instead of supplementing it with additional content. I would like to see what issues our peers hone-in on specifically, but in any case, I am currently intent on compressing our contextual information. Finally, while I can offer very little specific feedback on this issue, several of our pages, namely our section on the significance of the material, simply require more content. I expect that neither of us have focused heavily on background information and presentation (about pages, the site’s title page, the title itself, etc) because we have been working exclusively with our peers, but considering that we are nearing the end of the course, we will need to prioritize these to ready the site to stand as an independent, fully realized product.

I am also concerned about a problem which I had not anticipated: the issue of considerate language in respect to practicing Wiccans. My abrupt encounter with the Pagan Federation has left me concerned that they may have been offended by the content of the site, and while our ultimate obligation is to a broad audience of non-pagans, I do intend to review the content with respect to the organization’s information on neo-paganism and Wicca.

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