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Education for Public Life

For discussion and debate about anything. (Not a roleplay related forum; out-of-character commentary only.)

What is the most fundamental subject a voter should understand?

Civics
19
33%
Economics
5
9%
Maths (incl. probability)
4
7%
Statistics (also incl. probability)
0
No votes
Engineering (incl. for poll limit purposes Computer Science)
1
2%
History
15
26%
English (the relevant first language)
4
7%
Science
5
9%
A Social Science (not incl. economics)
1
2%
Other
3
5%
 
Total votes : 57

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Forsher
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Liberal Democratic Socialists

Education for Public Life

Postby Forsher » Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:01 pm

Here are some questions you might find interesting:

  • What should a voter in a democracy know about? What should they learn in school?
  • Would your ideal voter know the same things you'd want an enlightened despot to know?
  • How about the technocrat? Would educating a technocratic class involve the same syllabus?

I guess, I'm asking what is the ideal curriculum for public life? And by public life I don't mean the business of making money, that's a private concern. By public life I use it to mean "interactions motivated by other inter-personal interactions". Public life as the "meta" to the game of life (with its excellent graphics) or the "bet on a bet". This may not be a definition you're familiar with, in which case, (a) laugh at me and (b) dispute it if (c) doing so is relevant because (d) what you're really here for is your curriculum.

Forsher's Views

I think the voter, despot and technocrat all need to know the same things; the latter two just need to have better technical skills as they directly make the decisions (the voter's decisions are filtered through politicians and public servants, this last category theoretically having technical skills). I also think that the standard basic skills we're probably all familiar with up until quite late on at school are appropriate to this redefinition of education's purpose. That is, knowing how to read and write to a reasonably complex level (I assume complex and large, >10000 people, societies), fundamental mathematical skills, understanding of the systematic aspects of science, an awareness of the political map of the world (even if this is just knowing what countries are nearby), physical co-ordination and practice with symbolic representation. After this, I think some changes are needed.

People often talk about how fundamental it is know about science as a voter. I disagree with this. If you understand that you should be sceptical and systematic, you've got most of democracy relevant parts. Add in a fairly cursory understanding of biology, chemistry and mechanics so that no-one believes, for instance, in aeroplanes flying based on magic or scars being inherited or the equivalence of oil and water, then I think voters have got it all. You see, maths and statistics are much more important. It is knowledge of the latter which actually decides what scientists will write about, and it is knowledge of both put together which allows a voter to understand the kinds of evidence they are confronted with more generally. Understanding maths is also critical to avoiding an over-reliance on trial and error and formalising instructions. The history of science as a tool of teaching scepticism does matter, of course (see: dinosaurs).

Similarly, I think a lot of people would imagine that English is vital for the voter. Once again the important things are actually done better elsewhere. Understanding how people can be convincing is well taught in a variety of subjects, and you get the actual mechanics more in drama than English. Interpreting texts is either a reasonably straightforward matter or more usefully accomplished by seeing a text as a byproduct (a salt) of some broader social process... Dickens, Nabokov, Tolstoy, Lewis, Pullman, Golding, Rowling, Pratchett etc. etc. have nothing more interesting to say about the human condition than Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Darwin, Berger, Thaler, Kahnemann etc. etc. do. What these former kinds of authors do better than the latter, however, is reflect broader concerns, which is better seen by looking at their output historically than, um, literarilly. So, there are humanities and arts to learn, but they are drama and history. And history isn't learn to avoid "repeating the past's mistakes" but for the actual skills of historical analysis and thinking, which necessarily involve... understanding perspectives and empathy.

The final core subject that the student of public life should know is economics. Hopefully it is obvious why choice, allocation and their motivation (i.e. scarcity) are important,


I leave the remaining subjects to the discretion of the individual, but what say ye NSG? What should voters learn about?
Last edited by Forsher on Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:06 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Trumptonium1
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Postby Trumptonium1 » Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:12 pm

There shouldn't be any academic requirements other than graduating high school and fluently speaking the official language. Most of these subjects are pointless to the life of an average person, and certainly not a necessity to understand what you're voting for.

I would be pro-technocratic class a la grandes ecoles, however, "the elites" tend to be completely detached from reality and have warped political views particularly on foreign policy and on social issues, so they can do one.
Last edited by Trumptonium1 on Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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The South Falls
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Postby The South Falls » Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:17 pm

Voters should know basic history, civics, economics, and a little math. It's just so all can be informed. Same with the despot and technocrat.
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Trumptonium1
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Postby Trumptonium1 » Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:21 pm

The South Falls wrote:Voters should know basic history,


From whose perspective?

The South Falls wrote:civics,


Based on what philosophies?

The South Falls wrote: economics,


Of which school?
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Forsher
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Postby Forsher » Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:29 pm

Trumptonium1 wrote:
The South Falls wrote:Voters should know basic history,


From whose perspective?


Basic history should not involve any learning of facts; the question is irrelevant.

The South Falls wrote:civics,


Based on what philosophies?


Possibly they just mean "here is how our government works".

The South Falls wrote: economics,


Of which school?


There are no schools in economics classrooms, only on internet forums.

Trumptonium1 wrote:There shouldn't be any academic requirements other than graduating high school and fluently speaking the official language.


I don't see the relevance? We're designing a curriculum framework, not a qualifications one... unless you're also suggesting some sort of licence to vote?

Most of these subjects are pointless to the life of an average person,


Whilst I disagree, this is not the purpose of the thought experiment. Rather we're interested in designing an education for someone only considering the end goal of producing the ideal voter (or despot or technocrat or related). It's not a thread, although such threads are interesting, about curriculum designing a real world sense (unless, of course, someone wanted to use this as a guiding framework).

and certainly not a necessity to understand what you're voting for.


Then what is?

I would be pro-technocratic class a la grandes ecoles, however, "the elites" tend to be completely detached from reality and have warped political views particularly on foreign policy and on social issues, so they can do one.


I am not familiar with the French system, can you please explain?
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Ethel mermania
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Postby Ethel mermania » Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:42 pm

In my perfect world, history of western civilization, and introduction to American government would be required courses for both high school and college graduation.
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Internationalist Bastard
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Postby Internationalist Bastard » Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:43 pm

Ideally the average voter has the best education available, period
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The Earth Systems Alliance
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Postby The Earth Systems Alliance » Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:46 pm

Forsher wrote:
Trumptonium1 wrote:
From whose perspective?


Basic history should not involve any learning of facts; the question is irrelevant.


Based on what philosophies?


Possibly they just mean "here is how our government works".


Of which school?


There are no schools in economics classrooms, only on internet forums.

Trumptonium1 wrote:There shouldn't be any academic requirements other than graduating high school and fluently speaking the official language.


I don't see the relevance? We're designing a curriculum framework, not a qualifications one... unless you're also suggesting some sort of licence to vote?

Most of these subjects are pointless to the life of an average person,


Whilst I disagree, this is not the purpose of the thought experiment. Rather we're interested in designing an education for someone only considering the end goal of producing the ideal voter (or despot or technocrat or related). It's not a thread, although such threads are interesting, about curriculum designing a real world sense (unless, of course, someone wanted to use this as a guiding framework).

and certainly not a necessity to understand what you're voting for.


Then what is?

I would be pro-technocratic class a la grandes ecoles, however, "the elites" tend to be completely detached from reality and have warped political views particularly on foreign policy and on social issues, so they can do one.


I am not familiar with the French system, can you please explain?

By schools he meant the Classical School (Smith), Marxist School(well Marx) and Keynesian School (daddy Keynes). He probably meant schools of economic thought
Last edited by The Earth Systems Alliance on Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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An Alan Smithee Nation
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Postby An Alan Smithee Nation » Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:59 pm

Critical thinking would be good.

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Trumptonium1
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Postby Trumptonium1 » Thu Jul 12, 2018 1:02 pm

Forsher wrote:
Trumptonium1 wrote:
From whose perspective?


Basic history should not involve any learning of facts; the question is irrelevant.


What?

Forsher wrote:

Based on what philosophies?


Possibly they just mean "here is how our government works".


Rather irrelevant if changing how government works is your aim.

Forsher wrote:

Of which school?


There are no schools in economics classrooms, only on internet forums.


No .. not at all.

Forsher wrote:
Trumptonium1 wrote:There shouldn't be any academic requirements other than graduating high school and fluently speaking the official language.


I don't see the relevance? We're designing a curriculum framework, not a qualifications one... unless you're also suggesting some sort of licence to vote?


The two go hand in hand, except you're merely incorporating it into the existing education system... rather than overtly separating it from education as I.

Forsher wrote:
and certainly not a necessity to understand what you're voting for.


Then what is?


It's not a question of what is, it's a question of what isn't. One would not remotely benefit from any knowledge of social sciences or engineering while placing a vote on a candidate on the basis of their policy on agriculture & migration or tax & labour laws. And yes, the ideal voter is one with strict interests. Helps to divide & please quicker rather than working out how to get elected otherwise and get by as a society with a string of middle-of-the-road candidates liked by none, disliked by all.

Forsher wrote:
I would be pro-technocratic class a la grandes ecoles, however, "the elites" tend to be completely detached from reality and have warped political views particularly on foreign policy and on social issues, so they can do one.


I am not familiar with the French system, can you please explain?


France has a dual public university system, one of which is dubbed the "Grandes ecoles." They are highly exacting - taking only the top few students in the country (via free admission test), although in the past few decades the vast majority of their students come from specialised preparatory schools designed to put them in those positions. I'm no expert on grandes ecoles, but I am aware there's disagreements as to what constitutes one. Regardless most people refer to colleges such as ENS Paris (https://www.ens.fr/?lang=en) with a generous budget of 50k euros per student, Ecole Polytechnique and ENS Lyon. They generally produce the bulk of France's business elite and particularly the civil service, and composed the bulk of politicians in the past.

They were of noble backgrounds, originally I believe designed by Napoleon to take those of high skill but poor background into specialised universities aimed at putting them into the civil service so administration can be ran effectively. But as they began to dominate public life, they themselves became the new Ancien. They've had a diminishing importance since around Mitterand, as their graduates are naturally unpopular with the voting public. Identical to graduates of Eton, where in the UK "anti-Eton" voter criticisms have basically resulted in anyone with an Eton background having to take a permanent back seat in the shadow as there's no point coming out. Such feelings have not (yet?) reached Oxbridge and LSE, primarily (I assume) because they are still open to the public at large.
Last edited by Trumptonium1 on Thu Jul 12, 2018 1:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Forsher
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Postby Forsher » Thu Jul 12, 2018 1:44 pm

Internationalist Bastard wrote:Ideally the average voter has the best education available, period


What would this look like?

The Earth Systems Alliance wrote:By schools he meant the Classical School (Smith), Marxist School(well Marx) and Keynesian School (daddy Keynes). He probably meant schools of economic thought


I know exactly what he means. The problem is that they are nonsense, a fantasy of the armchair economist and only relevant if you're studying the history of economic thought... which isn't at all like studying the insights of the discipline as it stands now (being, as with everything else, a synthesis).
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Cetacea
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Postby Cetacea » Thu Jul 12, 2018 1:57 pm

I'm going to run with History but thats because it provides a broad context over which a wide range of skills and knwoeldge can be explored, especially if it is linked to the local and topical issues. Within that I do think however that modern 'connected' learning requires a deemphaisis of context learning in favour of soft skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, interpersonal communication, productivity, creativity and innovation.

In this way then we can include Statistics (in particular Data Analysis and Finance), History, Literacy and Language Skills (not necessarily English), Scientific Method (Research Skills), Geography (know the difference between a continent and a country and quickly locate Canada on a map), Engineering, IT & Communications, EoTC

In Engineering I beleive there is a need to emphasise practical handiman skills (how to change a tyre, how to put up a shelf) and of I include EoTC because I honestly beleive that getting outside into the Environment and hiking, fishing, swimming, digging a garden, picking wild apples or building a shelter in the bush is hugely important (as a resident of a small town I also acknowledge the need to teach small town kids how to navigate big cities, use traffic lights and ride city rail.)

NB I've included Productivity in my list of sof skills as a short hand for saying people need to know how to be productive in pursuit of their goals and happiness, which fits in to my beleif that in the 21srt century everyone needs to consider themselves a 'self employed contractor using their skill/labour to generate wealth'.
Last edited by Cetacea on Thu Jul 12, 2018 2:30 pm, edited 8 times in total.

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Kohr
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Postby Kohr » Thu Jul 12, 2018 2:36 pm

If you're going to vote (and I strongly encourage that you do), I think you have a personal responsibility to understand the major issues and relevant candidates' positions on them. Don't just watch debates, view ads, or vote along party lines- do a little objective research of your own before you make up your mind. Basically what I'm trying to say is that beyond a couple basic government and civics courses here and there, it's one's personal responsibility to be educated for each and every vote.

If we're talking about public life in general, I support the idea of having a basic background in a variety of fields like one would find in most American schools. A lot, again, is up to you personally to learn.
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Postby Beylik of Tunis » Thu Jul 12, 2018 2:59 pm

They should understand what the state is and how it works (Carl Schmitt and Foucault provide some interesting insights), they should have some basic understanding of what the economy is and why it’s important and they should know how the media works (can’t go wrong with Chomsky and Herman here).

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Postby Pope Joan » Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:04 pm

Civics used to be a required course in my high school but long ago it was cut from the curriculum. It is hard to find it taught anywhere these days, and that is a shame.

Another and more advanced course had some of the flavor of Nation States debate! It was called Problems of Democracy. We were talking about civil rights and street gangs in 1963. How about that?
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Trumptonium1
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Postby Trumptonium1 » Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:05 pm

Forsher wrote:
Internationalist Bastard wrote:Ideally the average voter has the best education available, period


What would this look like?

The Earth Systems Alliance wrote:By schools he meant the Classical School (Smith), Marxist School(well Marx) and Keynesian School (daddy Keynes). He probably meant schools of economic thought


I know exactly what he means. The problem is that they are nonsense, a fantasy of the armchair economist and only relevant if you're studying the history of economic thought... which isn't at all like studying the insights of the discipline as it stands now (being, as with everything else, a synthesis).


Are you implying (which would be completely retarded) that courses in Economics teach the same thing (theory wise) in the PRC as it does in the US? Or even that courses in LSE/Bocconi are identical to the content you would experience in Sorbonne and Bonn?
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Forsher
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Postby Forsher » Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:33 pm

Trumptonium1 wrote:
Forsher wrote:
What would this look like?



I know exactly what he means. The problem is that they are nonsense, a fantasy of the armchair economist and only relevant if you're studying the history of economic thought... which isn't at all like studying the insights of the discipline as it stands now (being, as with everything else, a synthesis).


Are you implying (which would be completely retarded) that courses in Economics teach the same thing (theory wise) in the PRC as it does in the US? Or even that courses in LSE/Bocconi are identical to the content you would experience in Sorbonne and Bonn?


Are you suggesting that they teach radically different material in physics, history or sociology in different universities? No. They do not. Academic subjects develop out of a series of exchanges between thinkers and other disciplines. Ultimately ideas generated within these exchanges either take and become part of the "canon" of the subject, or they do not. Once this happens they are, from time to time, replaced with newer ideas. Sometimes different countries have different traditions or even call different subjects the same thing.

No doubt in France, China and New Zealand perfect competition and all the various assumptions get mocked in different ways and no doubt these larger countries do not spend quite so much time on the small open economy, but economics has a canon and, as a result, in an English speaking university or school you will, as I say, only find "schools of economics" as an historical curiosity.
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Xerographica
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Postby Xerographica » Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:45 pm

The most fundamental thing that a voter should understand is the difference between voting and spending. So I voted for economics. Only two other people have done so (14%).

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The South Falls
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Postby The South Falls » Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:47 pm

Xerographica wrote:The most fundamental thing that a voter should understand is the difference between voting and spending. So I voted for economics. Only two other people have done so (14%).

No. Fuck that, Xero. We don't need spoiled rich kids running around.
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Forsher
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Postby Forsher » Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:52 pm

The South Falls wrote:
Xerographica wrote:The most fundamental thing that a voter should understand is the difference between voting and spending. So I voted for economics. Only two other people have done so (14%).

No. Fuck that, Xero. We don't need spoiled rich kids running around.


Economics is only taken by spoilt rich kids? Seems... wrong.

Only spoilt rich kids understand the difference between voting and spending? Surely they'd have the hardest time telling the difference?

I don't understand your post, sorry.
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Nanatsu no Tsuki
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Postby Nanatsu no Tsuki » Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:55 pm

That doesn't seem like a terrible idea. A voter should at least have some basic knowledge of the politics and systems they're voting for. Educating them on these sounds like a fair thing to do.
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The South Falls
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Postby The South Falls » Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:59 pm

Forsher wrote:
The South Falls wrote:No. Fuck that, Xero. We don't need spoiled rich kids running around.


Economics is only taken by spoilt rich kids? Seems... wrong.

Only spoilt rich kids understand the difference between voting and spending? Surely they'd have the hardest time telling the difference?

I don't understand your post, sorry.

It's alright. I meant that we don't need rich dictators who spend money on everything they "value" because they think money means more than votes. Or they try to depose the sitting leader because he doesn't have very much money, and they think their money is more important than his votes.
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Political Compass Results:

Economic: -6.88
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.28

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NERVUN
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Postby NERVUN » Thu Jul 12, 2018 4:03 pm

History (Where we come from)
Civics (How this government thing works and is supposed to work)
Math (This is easy)
Lit and Rhetoric (Both to see what has been said, and how to spot the traps involved)
Mass media (Probably as a subsection of the above)
Science and tech (Because otherwise we end up with a Holy Tech class, also that's where our critical thinking skills really come into play if done right)

That'd be my core classes. I'd also add in art, music, philosophy/morals, and one foreign language (Which ideally should not be closely related to your native tongue) as also being required.

And, honestly, I see no reason to differentiate the three.
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Bombadil
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Postby Bombadil » Thu Jul 12, 2018 4:06 pm

Given what I see here, which can either be people asking simple questions repeatedly that could be answered by a simple search.. or citing articles that say the exact opposite of their point because they took the first link.. I would say a course in proper searching for evidence to support a point would be ideal.

1. Foster a sense that you can find things out for yourself - encourage curiosity
2. How to correctly assess and interpret a source - encourage understanding
3. How to build a constructive argument - encouraging logical progression
4. Cat videos - encouraging an understanding that all is futile anyway under our feline overlords

I mean if you based education around that then a teacher could ask simple questions such as 'What is Euclidean Theory' and the students have to come up with the best answer with any guidance as required by the teacher.

Solves everything.
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Nanatsu no Tsuki
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Posts: 179639
Founded: Feb 10, 2008
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Nanatsu no Tsuki » Thu Jul 12, 2018 4:25 pm

Bombadil wrote:Given what I see here, which can either be people asking simple questions repeatedly that could be answered by a simple search.. or citing articles that say the exact opposite of their point because they took the first link.. I would say a course in proper searching for evidence to support a point would be ideal.

1. Foster a sense that you can find things out for yourself - encourage curiosity
2. How to correctly assess and interpret a source - encourage understanding
3. How to build a constructive argument - encouraging logical progression
4. Cat videos - encouraging an understanding that all is futile anyway under our feline overlords

I mean if you based education around that then a teacher could ask simple questions such as 'What is Euclidean Theory' and the students have to come up with the best answer with any guidance as required by the teacher.

Solves everything.


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