Revolution Lullabye

July 29, 2013

Mullen, Students’ Rights and the Ethics of Celebration

Mullen, Mark. “Students’ Rights and the Ethics of Celebration.” Writing Program Administration 36.2 (Spring 2013): 95-116.

Mullen questions the ethics of “student celebrations of writing,” culminative activities for many first-year writing programs which are used for a variety of purposes, including programmatic assessment and as a way to argue for the “authenticity” of first-year writing.  Mullen connects student celebrations of writing to the 1974 Students’ RIght to Their Own Language statement, arguing that students’ rights are violated when their participation in student celebrations of writing is mandated and when their written assignments and course work are co-opted and used by faculty and administrators.  Mullen suggests that student celebrations of writing move from generic promotions of writing, which he describes as having a “whiff of desparation” about them, towards more pedagogically-oriented events that target specific aspects of writing (i.e. research and writing or public writing) and that engage students in the planning of the activities instead of using them as the subject of the celebrations. He also argues that CCCC and NCTE need to engage in the conversation about the ethics of student celebrations of writing and SRTOL in general.

Notable Notes

uses Eastern Michigan University’s Celebration of Student Writing as an example

also criticizes required student-writing anthologies (like the one at UMass Amherst): “I hope I’m not the only one to see something a little problematic in the repackaging of uncompensated work that students were, after all, required to produce in order to create a product that other students are required to buy” (97).

student celebrations of writing emerge from a move toward student-centered pedagogies and valuing of “public” or “authentic” writing assignments (97)

students and student writing become “exhibits” that we use as faculty and administrators to promote the teaching of writing – for our own purposes (102). Who owns the student work produced in our courses? Who benefits from it?

2 central questions: who is responsible for the work produced in our writing classroom (students or teachers)? Who gets to speak for the writing? (104)

the myth of “authentic” writing (104-105)

the desire of teachers to negate their own influence over their students (104)

Quotable Quotes

“The problem with the current emphasis on celebration – evident in the examples I have sketched above – is that in our enthusiasm to celebrate the writing (or the student, or the research…) we seem to check our critical faculties at the door. I cannot emphasize too strongly that I am not charging celebration organizers with some kind of malign agenda. It is, in fact, precisely due to celebration’s appearance as an unadulterated good – what harm could possibly be done by a celebration? – that the celebration of student writing is an ethical minefield” (97).

“Our celebratory practices deserve scrutiny not least for the fact that what we as teachers of writing seem to end up celebrating most often is actually not the student or their writing but, as I will show, our teaching and ourselves – even, paradoxically, in the act of denying the influence of our teaching” (97)

“Moreover, if we really believe that the students’ right to their own language includes the full spectrum of languages they invent, nuture, protect, hide, manipulate, fake, mangle, and abandon in our classes, then one of the most problematic areas of our practice becomes the celebration of student writing” (103).

“To what degree are our celebrations implicated in the various educational movements that insist that learning can be reduced to externalized, immediately measurable demonstrations of outcomes? In a troubling irony, our fixation on an unreflective celebration of authenticity may reinforce the same reductive, systemic, consumption-driven view of writing that so many of our celebrations are attempting to overcome” (111).

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January 4, 2013

The Visual and Beyond: A Symposium on Rereading, Revising, or Perhaps ‘Hacking the Source Code’ of the CWPA Outcomes Statement

“The Visual and Beyond: A Symposium on Rereading, Revising, or Perhaps ‘Hacking the Source Code’ of the CWPA Outcomes Statement.” WPA 36.1 (Fall/Winter 2012): 179-208.

This symposium in the Fall/Winter 2012 issue of WPA includes six short essays written in response to the editors’ question, “Shouldn’t the Outcomes Statement include [other work]?”  The editors offer the symposium in light of Ed White’s WPA-L comment, “The Outcomes Statement must remain a living document to stay relevant” (179).

CWPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition

Beaufort, Anne. “The Matters of Key Knowledge Domains and the Transfer of Learning in the Outcomes Statement.” 180-187.

Beaufort argues that the CWPA Outcomes Statement could be improved with the inclusion of two key issues in writing studies. First, she argues that the field’s research on the nature of writing expertise (what separates novice from expert writers) could help make more distinct, measurable outcomes.  She also argues that the Outcomes Statement should articulate the goal of writing transfer – how students transfer the skills and knowledge they learn in first-year composition to other writing situations.  She offers five new knowledge domains around which to organize the outcomes: subject matter knowledge; genre knowledge; writing process knowledge; discourse community knowledge; rhetorical knowledge.  Casting the categories as sets of knowledge, Beaufort argues, would make it easier for teachers and administrators to identify gaps in student writing performance (182). She contends that some parts of the Outcomes Statement are too far-reaching and inappropriate for all first-year writers; she states, “Imagine the Outcomes Statement as a lean, elegant (as in precise, concise, clear) document that both notice and expert writing teachers could readily translate into five or six learning outcomes tailored to some degree for any given writing course” (185).

Barbara Little Liu, “Genre Knowledge, Reading, and Faculty Development.” 187-191.

Liu argues that the current CWPA Outcomes Statement assumes a level of disciplinary training and commitment to teaching writing that is not shared by all first-year composition teachers. She suggests that the CWPA offer more professional development for first-year writing instructors, including publishing professional anthologies, promoting professional development, and supporting the publication of more FYC textbooks that focus on rhetorical/genre-based reading, the kind of reading students must do in first-year composition in order to transfer writing skills and knowledge to other rhetorical situations. The Outcomes Statement, Liu argues, should emphasize this kind of reading as much as writing.

“Rhetorical/genre-based reading helps students understand that texts are written by actual people and that rhetorical situations (including genre conventions) affect how readl writers construct their texts. As students learn to parse a text in ways that reconstruct the rhetorical situation and the writer’s rhetorical strategies, they begin to see how they can learn from the strategic choices of other writers to more effectively address the various and new rhetorical situations they will encounter after leaving FYC” (189).

Deborah Mutnick, “Reading to Write and the Economy of Attention.” 191-194.

Mutnick argues that the CWPA Outcomes Statement should be revised to place more attention on the need to teach reading.  Using the results of a reading assessment test performed at her institution (which stated that first-year students were reading on a 9th-grade reading level), Mutnick questions the universal writing requirement at American universities, asking why reading, which is so fundamental to successful writing, is not similarily mandated. Mutnick also argues that the reading practices students develop on the Web work against the kind of close, critical reading they need to do with academic texts (she uses an example of the decoding kind of reading students do in archival research.) Mutnick suggests that the Outcomes Statement specifically address teaching students how to read, select, and evaluate information from the Web.

“Archival research is vertical, slow, deliberate, puzzling, deep, and focused – think preservation, slow cooking, Internet Sabbaths. Reading on the Web is horizontal, fast, accidental, immediate, and shallow. While these characteristics are not exclusive to either domain, the multi-channeled environment of the Web marks the shift from a scarcity of information to a scarcity of attention, requiring us to develop new strategies for sorting out and valuing massive, often contradictory amounts of knowledge that close, deep, slow reading epitomized by archival research helps balance” (194).

Cynthia R. Haller, “Reading Matters: Thoughts on Revising the CWPA Outcomes Statement.” 195-200.

Haller argues that the CWPA privileges writing over reading, and points out that more balanced understanding of reading and writing (that reading does not happen always before writing, that they are ‘a complementary process’ (195) would help first-year composition courses refocus their attention to both rhetorical reception and rhetorical production. Both reading and writing, Haller contends, lead to rhetorical meaning-making. Haller suggests that composition teachers adopt the sense that is implied in the verb “grappling” when teaching students to work with and read texts: by grappling, there is a sense of two-way communication, not a one-way direction of meaning from the text to the student.  She also calls for more research on how students read to help shape writing curriculum (she specifically cites the Citation Project.)

“As Norgaard points out, an appreciation for how human knowledge is organized, stored, disseminated, and accessed can prevent students from viewing their own rhetorical production as isolated from other texts” (199).

“‘Grappling’ captures the recalcitrance of texts. Texts are not simply effete collections of symbols, but have consequences, especially as they are taken up in various contexts of use” (198).

“The popular catchprhase ‘critical reading, writing, and thinking’ suggest that meaning-making is a one-way, cognitive action performed on an object; by contrast, the word ‘grappling’ captures the two-way, absorbed engagement we (and we hope our students) experience when reading texts” (198).

Martha Marinara, “Engaging Queerness and Contact Zones, Reimagining Writing Difference.” 200-204.

Marinara argues that the CWPA statement, with its list of outcomes, falls short of a full, true notion of literacy practices and diversity of teaching and learning.  She uses queer theory to reject the notion that rhetorical concepts or writing conventions are neutral – she points out that queerness rejects stability and questions how power, community, and language intersect and give privileges.  Marinara also critiques the idea of the writing classroom as a “contact zone;” she contends that Pratt’s theory has been appropriated and has turned the writing classroom into a space of tolerance, but not one of diversity.

“Contact zones were appropriated by an uncritical, liberal multiculturalist movement and became apolitical, a safe kind of melting pot, a chicken soup for the classroom” (203).

“What the list [the outcomes] does not do and needs to do is quesiton how the process of teaching and learning – the wicked problem of our teaching practices – supports and maintains the role of difference as a definition, rather than a critical process that promotes a fuller notion of literacy” (204).

William P. Banks, “Queering Outcomes: Hacking the Source Code of the WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition.” 205-208.

Banks suggests that truly “queering” the Outcomes Statement would involve not just adding new outcomes or tweaking the outcomes to specifically address how rhetorics are cultural, situated practices but instead, “queering” the outcomes would mean complicating and enriching the theoretical principles from which the outcomes emerge. Banks contends that the Outcomes Statement, as printed, is based on a set of disciplinary values that are static, or that are not universally held by writing teachers, or that are incomplete. He suggests remixing the Outcomes Statement in some interactive (digital?) form so that it can be a dynamic, living document, one that shows the links from the outcomes to emerging research in the many subfields and subspecialities of the discipline.

“So where does this change belong? I think it’s in the foundations, the idological and theoretical underpinnings of the OS document, what’s hidden in the framing paragraphs, and by how what’s hidden becomes visible” (206).

Matsuda, Let’s Face It

Matsuda, Paul. “Let’s Face It: Language Issues and the Writing Program Administrator.” WPA 36.1 (Fall/Winter 2012): 141-163. Print.

Matsuda argues that writing program administrators need to establish clear policy statements for grammar teaching and grading in light of reseach that shows the complexity of second language acquisition.  Matsuda contends that it is unfair to assume language homogenity in the writing classroom – the idea that all students come to the writing classroom with the same linguistic resources – especially in light of the increasing international student population in American universities. Futhermore, Matsuda uses scholarship from second language writing and linguistics to show that even with written grammar feedback on student writing, improvement in a student’s grammatical correctness or metalinguistic awarenss may not take place or may take place very slowly.  Therefore, using the principle of instructional alignment (where outcomes, instructional methods, and assessment strategies align), Matsuda argues that second language writers should not be marked down for their grammatical errors, since it is often impossible for teachers to teach students grammatical correctness or metalinguistic awareness in just a single semester.

Matsuda points to the field’s turn away from language issues as one of the reasons why writing teachers are so confounded with second language writing issues.  He also suggests the adoption of pedagogical grammar, and encourages WPAs and writing teachers to learn methods of pedagogical grammar (which is grounded in applied linguistics) in order to help raise students’ metalinguistic awareness.

Notable Notes

nice overview of scholarship in comp/rhet that argues for and against attention to grammar and language issues (147-154)

uses the WPA Outcomes Statement to show that although attention to style and grammar is part of first-year writing outcomes, the extent to which students master style or grammar or the weight placed on style and grammar is not specificied in the outcomes. (145)

writing teachers need to provide grammar feedback – it will not guarantee learning, but it will faciliate it (not giving feedback won’t.)

Quotable Quotes

“The key is to focus on the development of linguistic resources rather than to focus on deficits” (156). Punishing students for errors can backfire when students avoid complex constructions on purpose.

“As a rule of thumb, the proportion of grammar grades should not exceed the proportion of grammar instruction provided that can guarantee student learning. If, for some reason, the program or the institution deems it important and necessary to assess students based on the myth of linguistic homogeneity – that is, to demand that all students meet the standards that can be expected only of life-long users of the dominant variety of English – then reasonable provisions need to be made to accomodate those who do not fit the profile, including second language writers and users of non-dominant varieties of English” (157).

“If grammar feedback does not guarantee learning, is it fair to hold students accountable? If we take the principle of instructional alignment seriously, the answer would have to be negative, and we need to stop punishing students for what they do not bring with them” (155).

December 20, 2012

Middleton, Recognizing Acts of Reading

Middleton, Holly. “Recognizing Acts of Reading: Creating Reading Outcomes and Assessments for Writing.” WPA 36.1 (Fall/Winter 2012): 11-31. Print.

Middleton argues for clearer outcome statements for reading comprehension in writing programs, pointing out that good college writing practices are inextricably linked to successful college reading practices. Together with the instructors of her institution’s basic writing program, she wrote specific, measurable reading outcomes for the basic reading course and designed a pre- and post-course assessment to determine whether or not those students’ reading comprehension (tested by true/false reading guide statements and a summary of the problem presented in three related texts) improved over the course of the semester.  Middleton kept data for four semesters (two academic years), and found a positive, statistically significant improvement in students’ reading abilities. She argues for WPAs to develop and align reading outcomes and assessments for their writing programs that fit the needs of their institutions, and calls for further research in the field on the relationship between reading and writing.

Notable Notes

the program was designed for students at New Mexico Highlands University, a university that enrolls a large number of Hispanic, low-income, and first-generation college students.  The English 100 (basic writing) course is one that is an important part of the university’s mission and the subject of administrative interest and oversight.

Middleton instituted a common text (Integrations), a common reading assessment (pre- and post- text), and asked instructors to privilege open-ended, inquiry, problme-solving questions and responses instead of one-answer-is-right reading assessments.  Reading is assessed through writing.

Tehaha O’Reilly and Kathleen Sheehan: framework for reading assessment – “model-building” and “applied comprehension” (15) – assessment not easily accomplished in multiple choice.

consistency in this assessment was key – in course text, assessments, grading practices, teaching strategies

rely on Adler-Kassner/Estrem’s “Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing: A View from the Field” (The Outcomes Book) and “Reading Practices in the Writing Classroom” (WPA 31 (2007))

increase in word count between pre- and post- test (more fluency, if not better summary/content)

Quotable Quotes

“If we do not recognize the role of reading, the other act of composition, in our writing programs and our field, we aren’t recognizing the complexity of our textual world” (27).

Long-range assessment: the US Air Force Academy mathematics study (instructor/student pairing, Carrell and West): “The study is a compelling one, because it points to the limits of each assessment in the context of a learner’s intellectual life and within a sequenced curriculum. We assess what we value, but that does not mean that everything we value is or can be captured.” (25)

“We would do well to remember that learning to write for a new discourse community requires learning to read for it” (12).

“Rather than an elementary activity, reading comprehension is itself a complex set of practices implied, but not usually elaborated, in our writing programs” (15)…connection to summary writing/using sources

“It is the activity of rereading and returning to the text, of referring to the text in class discussions, that we wanted to prioritize.” (16)

“Students tended to experience each reading as compartmentalized and discrete, rather than as the sequenced intellectual journey we imagined for them” (18).

 

September 7, 2012

Gallagher, The Trouble with Outcomes

Gallagher, Chris W. “The Trouble with Outcomes: Pragmatic Inquiry and Educational Aims.” College English 75.1 (September 2012): 42-60.

Gallagher uses Pragmatism philosophy to argue against outcome-based assessment, which he contends focuses on the ends of the educational experience, not the means, and argues for articulated assessment, which is an ongoing inquiry process that involves all stakeholders (teachers, students, program administrators) in determining what the hoped-for and actual consequences of an educational experience are, and evaluating and refining programs based on those.

Gallagher uses the CWPA’s “Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition” and the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing to distinguish between outcomes and consequences. Outcomes, he argues, are fixed and rigid, explain what the conclusion of the educational experience should be, and are often handed down from administrators and professional groups to teachers and students.  Consequences, on the other hand, are more open to what happens, are emergent and developmental, emphasize potentiality, and can be surprising. Gallagher doesn’t demonize outcomes: he argues that the outcomes created by our field were constructed to prevent those not in the discipline from imposing their own outcomes, and he does explain how outcomes give programs a shared sense of common values and goals. However, Gallagher argues that when we read student texts through the lens of outcomes, we lose the student and the text: we search for what we want to find as evidence to meeting an outcome instead of reading what is there (and potentially there.)

Gallagher explains in the final section of his essay how he employed the Pragmatistic concept of atriculation to move the teachers, students, and administrators in his wriitng program away from setting pre-conceived outcomes and towards developing ways individual, internal goals for writing classess can be related to larger outcomes statements. The articulation processes he describes engage multiple people in the process, emphasize conversation that relate the program and classroom work to larger department/institutional/professionalal goals, happen in an ongoing, inquisitive process, and find ways to assess and track progress within the goals and also beyond, to the unintended consequences.

Notable Notes

teachers mapped their hopes/goals for writing classes, and those maps were used to discover areas of overlap or tension

John Dewey – pragmatism, inquiry-based learning and assessment.

need to find the spot between coherence and openness to opportunity, potentiality

Quotable Quotes

“Under these conditions, teachers and students merely receive the outcomes; they experience them as imposed, whether they were formulated by a distant regulatory body, a professional group, or some earlier incarnation of the local faculty” (45).

“If close attention to outcomes tends to narrow our view to what we wish to find, close attention to consequences broadens our view to include what we never thought to look for, opening us up (potentially!) to surprise and wonder” (48).

“Regardles of whether we find ourselves working (or choose to work) within the OA model, the challenge before us is to frame and use educational aims in ways that avoid the pernicious separation of means and ends, the rigidity of fixed ends, the narrow focus on predetermined results, and the imposition of external ends on faculty and students – while addressing institutional demands for assessment of student learning and maintaining program coherence.” (49).

August 23, 2012

Cambridge, Research and Policy: Antithetical or Complementary?

Cambridge, Barbara. “Research and Policy: Antithetical or Complementary?” WPA 35.1 (Fall/Winter 2011): 135-147.

Cambridge uses her experience meeting with the Secretary of Education Duncan with other NCTE representatives to reflect on the relationship between research and policy-making in the US and to call on compositionists and writing program administrators to use their expertise in writing teaching and learning to impact educational policy.

Cambridge resists the notion that legislators don’t listen or don’t care about writing research; she cites examples from studies done on the impact of research on policy to show that legislators and policy-makers are working in a complex political situation, so that their decisions do not always mesh with what we in the field think should happen. The research Cambridge cites does show that legislators do relies on “intermediaries”: trusted sources of research-based information on public policy issues.  Cambridge argues that writing program administrators and compositionists can become these intermediaries and impact public policy decisions if 1. we craft long-term, trusted relationships with policy makers; 2. become knowledgable about policy issues and build those into our research agenda so that we can give pertinent information in a timely manner so we become “go-to” experts; 3. teach public writing in our composition classroom so that our students have “rhetorical agency in the current political climate” (143); 4. argue for changes in tenure guidelines that count policy research and public policy work as research, not service; and 5. understand and communicate to others how important research is to policy work.

Notable Notes

Bogenschneider and Corbett study: how sound research affects policy: “allocations – altering how resources are distributed; tactics – altering how policies and programs are designed; solutions – altering how policies and programs are pursued; framework – altering how we basically think about certain social issues; salience – altering how much importance we give an issue; awareness – altering even how we think about doing policy” (qtd. 293) (146)

importance of narration in public writing and rhetoric. The Common Core has de-emphasized narration in favor of argumentation. Does that really prepare our students for being effective citizens in a democracy? What is lost? (144)

know your legislator = knowing your audience. It’s basic rhetorical strategy.

timeliness is key – research isn’t valuable unless it’s available as (or before) decisions are being made.

Quotable Quotes

“Unless colleges and universities wake up to the crisis in our political system; acknowledge their responsibility to address it in multiple ways, including figuring out how to generate and communicate research that applies to the system; and value those of its faculty members and administrators who develop expertise in that responsibility, colleges and universities are failing the society in which they operate.” (146).

 

May 1, 2009

Carter, A Process for Establishing Outcomes-Based Assessment Plans for Writing and Speaking in the Disciplines

Carter, Michael. “A Process for Establishing Outcomes-Based Assessment Plans for Writing and Speaking in the Disciplines.” Language and Learning Across the Disciplines 6.1. (2003): 4-29. In Assessing Writing. Eds. Huot and O’Neill. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 268-286.

Carter outlines how the Campus Writing and Speaking Program, a WAC-like program at NC State (where Chris Anson is), helped departments establish speaking and writing outcomes for their undergraduate majors. Outcome-based assessment asks programs what skills and knowledge graduates should have, how the program helps students achieve these outcomes, and how the program could assess their outcomes and use their assessment for program development. The essay contains a list of questions departments can use to develop both objectives and outcomes (which, unlike objectives, are teachable and measurable), and gives an extended example of the outcomes from the anthropology department. Carter argues that such a discipline-specific assessment broadens both the responsibility of teaching writing and speaking skills to all departments and the timeline in which a student will be able to achieve these communication outcomes.

Notable Notes

outcomes need to be student-centered, faculty-driven, and meaningful (271)

outcome-based assessment does not assume that students will achieve something based on one course; it looks holistically at a whole program to assess its effectiveness in helping students achieve outcomes

compare to the continual improvement assessment in industry (ISO certification) and accountability movement in K-12 schools

the departments can state the disciplinary goals for their majors

what about students not in a traditional major? at schools with more blending capabilities?

articulate an assessment procedure with each department – including things like tests, exit interviews

the function of a speaking/writing professional (a WPA?) changes with outcome-based assessment

February 13, 2009

Hansen, Consuming Composition

Hansen, Kristine. “Consuming Composition: Understanding and Changing the Marketplace of College Writing.” In Market Matters: Applied Rhetoric Studies and Free Market Competition. Ed. Locke Carter. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2005. 243-269.

The public school system and higher education need to establish K-U partnerships and state curriculum boards that will allow them a space in which to develop and share goals, values, and curricula, enabling them to together reframe education in terms of outcomes rather than as a commodity. Hansen shows the need for such collaboration by illustrating how the lack of communication between secondary schools and colleges (highlighting writing curricula and expectations) leads to the rise of for-profit corporations offering college credit for courses that aren’t equivalent, intellectually and developmentally, to college courses. She targets AP classes and dual enrollment classes, arguing that their popularity stems from a new consumer perspective on education: students and parents see them as economical and efficient, the chance to get three college credits for under $80. The belief that it is possible to buy an education, that courses offered at an online-only institution like University of Phoenix or by under-trained AP high school teachers offer the same educational value to students as a college course, is false and disadvantages students. Compositionists need to work to establish these K-U partnerships if they hope to compete against the attractive, if low-quality, opportunities being endorsed at the high school level.

Quotable Quotes

“With more diverse offerings and better articulated purposes and outcomes for writing instruction, it would be easy to persuade (or require) students to get more education in writing at college regardless of the kind of instruction they had in high school or how good it was” (267).

“[Parents and students] take the credit hours the student has earned as a token of preparation, rather than asking for other evidence of the students’ readiness to write successfully in college” (259).

“When the private good of selective higher education bumps up against the quasi-public good of nearly universal secondary education, the latter is seen as outdated, inefficient, and weak” (255).

“Universities are construed as sites of production, professors as laborers, courses as products, and students as consumers of those products” (246).

“Education is increasingly viewed as tantamount to a product to be purchased, rather than as a long-term process that promotes the development of individuals’ intellectual, social, and personal abilities, preparing them for the demands of participation in a democratic society” (243).

Consumer culture: it is possible to buy an education – not go through a “laborious process of maturing and developing under the guidance of mentors” (248).

Notable Notes

public good v. private good

the actual economic value (not even counting educational value) of selective higher education institutions is much, much higher than less selective higher education institutions (more scholarships, resources, etc.) High school merit is crucial for success in higher education in this way

capitalist economic marketplace goals and pressures have been folded into education

commodification, consumer culture

the junior year of high school is the last one that counts for college entrance; the senior year is largely wasted – final stage of secondary school is mismanaged and allows for AP and dual enrollment programs to enter the high schools, offering credit hours to be used to exchange.

issues with AP and dual enrollment: teacher training, inconsistent curriculum, supervision, no screening of students, some students taking it for high school credit and some for college, the money made in the system

need to understand developmental needs of students K-U – create appropriate outcomes for writing at all levels. Expand writing courses at the higher education level.

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