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Q & A : Can you modify your Web content so it's not offensive?

Can you modify your Web content so it's not offensive? whom?

By Chris Dunmire

Q: Our charter school has a color theory/web class that I think [an external resource listed in Creativity Portal's how-to design section] would be excellent material for the students. However, there is an image in [the external resource] that would be somewhat inappropriate for our students to view [due to its controversial nature].

I am writing to you just to see if there is any way for your webmaster to substitute another image in its place. Just let us know if this is possible — due to the excellent content of the site, we think this would be a great resource for students at our school. — Mike

A. Thank you for your feedback, Mike. We appreciate knowing that the external resources we choose to promote to our readers in our how-to directories are helpful and can help you better impart teaching ideas to your students.

The [external site] is one such resource the Creativity Portal links to in our "how to" design section. We agree that the site has a lot of excellent content, and are glad you found it of value too. However, because the site is not under our domain, we have no creative control over the content of that site or any other external site we link to.

Still, you may wish to contact the owners of that site to voice your praise and kind request. Undoubtedly, they will be thrilled to know how effective their content is to an educator like yourself and will appreciate your feedback, whether they act on it or not.

Bonus Tongue-in-Cheek Thoughts...

Now, if the content in question were part of the Creativity Portal Web site and we had exclusive control over it, we'd give you a different answer. For the most part, anything published under the domain will not be changed to accommodate such a request. As it is, we strive to make our site family-friendly and appealing to creative people of all ages, backgrounds, and common-sensitivities, and comb through every project and article before its published on our site. But we know someone somewhere will be offended by something on our site. Such is life. You can't please everyone all the time. You can't even please some people some of the time.

This doesn't make us completely inflexible, however. There was an occasion when we modified a piece of collage art — an example image from a how-to collage lesson — after being gently alerted to a faux pas. It was changed because it unintentionally made 'unholy' use of some religious symbols and had the potential of greatly offending a large population of people in the world. (The source material came from a kid's art magazine celebrating international diversity.)

Another time, we deleted a writing prompt from the Imagination Prompt Generator due to its mature subject matter that didn't align with the more child- and teen-friendly prompts teacher's were accustomed to. Originally, the prompts were geared towards an older audience. Which reminds me of the caution note we added to the Write the Story visual prompt exercise after an elementary school teacher was astonished to find a few of her colleagues uncomfortable with some images. See, we're not all that unreasonable.

Still, much of what is published to inspire others creatively on this Web site is intentional and as wholesome as whole-grain wheat bread. A publisher walks a fine line trying to balance purposeful expression with purposeful offension. Should free Web content and complementary materials like project lessons, prompts, and tools that increase value to a teacher's toolbox at no cost to them (distributed generously on this site, mind you) come with the string attached: MAKE YOUR OWN CHANGE, even if that change means shift perspective? Using discernment fits in here somewhere too.

That being spread (on the wheat bread), may this fact ring out forever through the historic hallways of conscientious Web publishers: It is never, ever, my intention as the publisher of the Creativity Portal Web site to offend its visitors. My corny humor and punny writing is even pretty harmless. Even so, there's nothing I can do about the few overly-sensitive people out there in the world looking for things to become upset about. I guess the pointy-eared one said it the best:

"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." — Captain Spock •

2005, 2009 Chris Dunmire. All rights reserved.

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Updated 12/14/09