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  • Norm Scott
    Read this all the way through as he exposes the ny times ed coverage. I was going to write the same thing about Motoko Rich s piece on Ravitch. Rich spent 3
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 11, 2013
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      the daily howler Read this all the way through as he exposes the ny times ed coverage.
      I was going to write the same thing about Motoko Rich's piece on Ravitch. Rich spent 3 hours with her and this is what she has to write about?
      How about delving into just a few of the crucial points Diane makes instead of seeking out quotes from arne duncan slugs?
      Norm Scott

      Twitter: normscott1

      Education Notes

      Grassroots Education Movement

      Education columnist, The Wave

      nycfirst robotics

      Sent from my BlackBerry

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      Date: Wed, 11 Sep 2013 20:12:57 +0000
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      the daily howler

      ADULT ABUSE: Two different worlds!

      Posted: 11 Sep 2013 07:11 AM PDT


      Interlude—Times profiles Ravitch: Readers of Sunday’s New York Times were exposed to a Familiar Old Story—an easily memorized, often-told tale about “the poor quality of our schools.”

      The messaging was conveyed by the headline on the piece—and by a gloomy visual.

      In the visual, a bright yellow school bus has broken down. Smoke is pouring from under the hood. Gloomily, the headline says this:

      “The Great Stagnation of American Education.”

      The writer, Professor Robert J. Gordon, rattles a list of familiar complaints about our public schools, the kinds of complaints a typical pundit could recite in his or her sleep.

      Some of Gordon’s complaints and claims make sense. Some of them pretty much don’t. But is the general situation as bad as Gordon seems to suggest? His gloomy piece starts like this:
      GORDON (9/8/13): For most of American history, parents could expect that their children would, on average, be much better educated than they were. But that is no longer true. This development has serious consequences for the economy.

      The epochal achievements of American economic growth have gone hand in hand with rising educational attainment, as the economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz have shown. From 1891 to 2007, real economic output per person grew at an average rate of 2 percent per year—enough to double every 35 years. The average American was twice as well off in 2007 as in 1972, four times as well off as in 1937, and eight times as well off as in 1902. It’s no coincidence that for eight decades, from 1890 to 1970, educational attainment grew swiftly. But since 1990, that improvement has slowed to a crawl.
      There’s a lot of air in that opening paragraph, partly thanks to the helpful word “much.” At this point, it isn’t clear what Gordon means by “educational attainment.”

      That said, Gordon’s claims sound very gloomy—especially perched beneath that bus. That said, is it true?

      Has “improvement” slowed to a crawl since 1990? In part, it depends on what the professor means—and sometimes, that isn’t real clear.

      Tomorrow, we’ll look at Professor Gordon’s various claims, which are rather selective and often unclear. For today, we thought we’d give you a look at a different world.

      We start with today’s New York Times. On the first page of the National section, Motoko Rich profiles Diane Ravitch, who has a new book about public schools.

      Kirkus has already penned its review. This is the way it starts:
      KIRKUS: A noted education authority launches a stout defense of the public school system and a sharp attack on the so-called reformers out to wreck them.

      We’ve been misinformed, writes Ravitch, about the state of our public schools. Test scores are higher than ever, the dropout rate is lower, and achievement gaps among races are narrowing. The only “crisis” is the one ginned up by government bureaucrats, major foundations, an odd coalition of elitists and commercial hustlers intent on privatizing education...When it comes to education, notoriously plagued by fads, it’s always difficult to determine truth. Ravitch, however, earns the benefit of the doubt by the supporting facts, figures, and graphs she brings to her argument...
      Say what? If “test scores are higher than ever,” why did the New York Times show that school bus broken down?

      Kirkus can be wrong, of course. David Kirp, a Berkeley professor, is smart and very experienced as an education specialist.

      Last week, we cited his treatment of Ravitch’s book. Here’s part of what Kirp wrote:
      KIRP (9/4/13): In her new book, Reign of Error, Ravitch documents how public education’s antagonists have manufactured a crisis in order to advance their agenda. They deploy doom-and-gloom language to characterize the threat...

      Exhibit A in the sky-is-falling argument is the claim that test scores are plummeting. Ravitch shows that, quite the contrary, scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the nation’s report card, have never been higher. (The biggest gains in NAEP scores were recorded before the No Child Left Behind Act, with its fixation on teacher accountability and high-stakes testing, was implemented.) Nor do American students perform as badly as advertised on international exams—in 2011 tests of math and science, only a handful of countries did better.
      Say what? Kirp makes the same observation as Kirkus, except with more detail. NAEP scores have never been higher!

      Depending on what Professor Gordon is trying to say, it’s like we’re living in two different worlds! The gloom and the doom are very familiar—but Kirp says the gloom isn’t true.

      Why the heck did the New York Times show us that broken-down school bus? That visual told a familiar old tale. But is that familiar tale true?

      As usual, you won’t find out by reading Rich’s profile of Ravitch. In fairness, it isn’t the world’s longest profile. And it isn’t a formal review.

      But Rich is an education reporter, and the profile is a featured news report in the National section. It just doesn’t make any real attempt to evaluate, or even state, the claims in Ravitch’s book.

      Are test scores higher than ever? No such claim is mentioned. Instead, we get a type of soft profile, focused on Ravitch’s personality and life style. We get to learn about her pet Labrador-German shepherd mix, but not about what she has said.

      Rich’s observations today aren’t wrong. But people, where’s the beef?

      Tomorrow, we’ll return to the claims of Professor Gordon, who isn’t an education specialist. Does Gordon know what he’s talking about? Or did the Times let him blow a string of familiar old claims right straight out of his ascot?

      Tomorrow: Professor Gordon’s various claims

      Friday: What the Times should report

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    • Norm Scott
      On Frank Bruni no nothing ed piece in today s Times. Every Times columnists takes their shot. Thank goodness for The Daily Howler to knock them down. They
      Message 2 of 2 , Oct 29, 2013
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        the daily howler On Frank Bruni no nothing "ed" piece in today's Times. Every Times columnists takes their shot. Thank goodness for The Daily Howler to knock them down.
        They have Mike Winerip, the only one over there who actually understands what's going on covering style. Idiots.
        Howler also takes about his 10th shot at Amanda Ripley's book.
        Norm Scott

        Twitter: normscott1

        Education Notes

        Grassroots Education Movement

        Education columnist, The Wave

        nycfirst robotics

        Sent from my BlackBerry

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        Date: Tue, 29 Oct 2013 20:20:03 +0000
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        the daily howler

        On first looking into Boston’s Fenway Park!

        Posted: 29 Oct 2013 01:18 PM PDT

        TUESDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2013

        Momma raised us kids right: Here’s the box score of the first Red Sox game we ever attended.

        It was Opening Day 1956; we were barely eight. For some reason, our sainted mother decided to take our sister and us to the Fens.

        One day later, we flawlessly described the action to an enthralled third grade class.

        The Red Sox started the season with three straight wins that year. We recall coming home from school on this, the afternoon of their first loss, to find our mother out in the yard.

        When you root for a team, they don’t always win, the sainted woman explained.

        People, that is so true! Momma raised us kids right!

        It was windy and cold in the famous old yard as a pair of young children complained. Luckily, the play was just as brisk as the breeze.

        Length of game: 2:19! When we got home, we had time to prepare a thought-provoking yet concise show-and-tell.

        Richly schooled: Bruni speaks!

        Posted: 29 Oct 2013 12:48 PM PDT

        TUESDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2013

        Everyone knows about schools: Frank Bruni doesn’t seem to know a whole lot about public schools.

        In fairness, Bruni has never covered schools. There’s no reason why he should know much about that important topic.

        Bruni doesn’t seem to know much about schools, but when has that ever stopped anyone? In today’s New York Times, he evaluates, or pretends to evaluate, a ballot measure in Colorado which would increase the state’s education funding while raising the state income tax.

        Is the ballot measure a good plan? We don’t know, and there’s little sign that Bruni knows either:
        BRUNI (10/29/13): The state is on the precipice of something big. On Election Day next Tuesday, Coloradans will decide whether to ratify an ambitious statewide education overhaul that the Legislature already passed and that Gov. John Hickenlooper signed but that voters must now approve, because Colorado law gives them that right in regard to tax increases, which the overhaul entails. Arne Duncan, the nation’s education secretary, has said that the success of Amendment 66, which is what voters will weigh in on, would make Colorado “the educational model for every other state to follow.”

        It’s significant in many regards, especially in its creation of utterly surprising political bedfellows. Amendment 66 has the support of many fervent advocates of charter schools, which the overhaul would fund at nearly the same level as other schools for the first time...

        [The proposal involves an] infusion of an extra $950 million annually into public education through the 12th grade, a portion of which could go to rehiring teachers who lost jobs during the recession and to hiring new ones for broadly expanded preschool and kindergarten programs. That’s an increase of more than 15 percent over current funding levels, which put Colorado well behind most other states in per-pupil spending...
        The proposed “overhaul” would increase the state’s funding of charter schools. It would permit some teachers to be rehired. It would expand preschool and kindergarten programs in unspecified ways and to an unspecified degree.

        According to Bruni, Colorado spends much less money per pupil than most other states. This overhaul would raise per-pupil spending by 15 percent.

        Would that create parity with other states? Bruni doesn’t say. Later, Bruni says the overhaul would “direct more money proportionally to poor schools and at-risk students.”

        Is this proposal some sort of big deal? We have no idea. Almost surely, neither does Bruni, who wrote an extremely vague column.

        Can we talk? There’s no sign that Bruni has any idea what he’s talking about in this column. That said, it’s fairly clear that he knows a few talking points:

        At one point, Bruni says there’s “no magic bullet for student improvement;” Wendy Kopp recites that bromide in her sleep. As the column proceeds, Bruni shows facility with another mandated pundit point. We refer to the places where he discusses the role of those infernal teachers union.

        Bruni plays this familiar card throughout his column. Snarking nicely, he mentions the unions in five successive paragraphs.

        It never seems to occur to Bruni that many teachers in Colorado may know more about these proposals than he does. Judging from the column itself, we will venture a guess: it’s possible that everyone in Colorado knows more about this proposed overhaul than Bruni.

        Bruni doesn’t seem to know much about this “overhaul,” but he managed to kill a column this way. Last Wednesday, Tom Friedman did a similar paint-by-the-numbers column about the Shanghai public schools.

        Friedman didn’t say there’s no magic bullet. He said there’s no “secret.”

        Can we talk? In our post-journalistic culture, everyone is an expert on schools! Everyone except the people who get assigned to be education reporters.

        Last week, Motoko Rich did a news report in the Times about a somewhat recent set of international test scores. In the early 1990s, Rich graduated summa cum laude from Yale. That fact seems a bit surprising to us, because 1) she seems to know little about public schools, and 2) she seems to have a hard time composing coherent reports about even the most basic topics.

        Her editor is part of this too! For our previous post on the topic, click here.

        Last week’s news report struck us as especially incompetent. That said, you live in a post-journalistic world. In the next few days, we’ll look at the way this New York Times education reporter covered a very basic topic, the kind of topic which is being discussed pretty much all the time.

        Columnists sometimes like to pretend that they know about public schools, though it rarely seems that they do. More horribly, education reporters often seem caught in the grip of the same affliction.

        We thought Rich’s report was especially weak. Tomorrow: Back to the future!

        Limning Minnesota: Reviewing Ripley's portrait!

        Posted: 29 Oct 2013 07:50 AM PDT

        TUESDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2013

        How much of her portrait is false: For starters, let’s undertake a bit of review:

        In her widely-praised book, The Smartest Kids in the World, Amanda Ripley paints a flattering portrait of Minnesota’s public schools.

        “Eric” is one of three exchange students Ripley followed to foreign lands. In this passage, she suggests that Eric was lucky to come from Minnesota, given the state’s success with the teaching of math, the result of a great improvement:
        RIPLEY (page 72): Of the three American students I followed, Eric was the only one who did not loathe math. Coincidence or not, Eric’s home state of Minnesota was one of only two states that came close to achieving world-class math performance. Roughly speaking, Minnesota ranked below just a dozen other countries (including Canada, Korea and Finland) in math proficiency; only Massachusetts did better in the United States.

        When Eric arrived in Korea, he had a solid math background. There were lots of reasons for this: One might have been that his timing was good. Had he been born earlier, things might have turned out different.

        In 1995, Minnesota fourth graders placed below average for the United States on an international math test. Despite being a mostly white, middle-class state, Minnesota was not doing well in math. When Eric started kindergarten two years later, however, the state had smarter and more focused math standards. When he was eleven, Minnesota updated those standards again, with an eye toward international benchmarks. By the time he went to high school, his peers were scoring well above average for the United States and much of the world. In 2007, Minnesota elementary students rocked a major international test, performing at about the same level as kids in Japan.

        What was Minnesota doing that other states were not? The answer was not mystical. Minnesota had started with a relatively strong education system. Then they’d made a few pragmatic changes, the kind of common sense repairs you would make if you believed math was really, truly important—and that all kids were capable of learning it.
        Nothing we will say this week is meant to be a criticism of Minnesota’s schools.

        That said, Ripley paints a very flattering portrait of The Land of Lakes. (Insert pun here. Recommended: “Butters it up.”) The state comes close to achieving world-class status in math, she says. Only Massachusetts does better—and Minnesota’s improvement has been quite impressive:

        In 1995, Minnesota’s fourth-graders were below average for the U.S., we are (foolishly) told. But only twelve years later, “Minnesota elementary students rocked a major international test, performing at about the same level as kids in Japan.”

        As we will see in the next few days, that passage is larded with embellishments and misunderstandings. We don’t mean that as a criticism of Minnesota’s schools. But Ripley’s book is full of embellished tales, and this is just one more.

        In that passage, Ripley is describing Minnesota’s performance on the “major international test” known as the TIMSS, although she never names the TIMSS and ignores it almost everywhere else in the book. (Full name: The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.) In this earlier passage, she is referring to the state’s performance on a different international test, the PISA (The Program for International Student Assessment):
        RIPLEY (page 47): Before he’d even left the United States Eric was, in some ways, living in a different country than Kim in Oklahoma. Minnesota was one of the very few states that ranked among the top twenty nations in the world in education outcomes. Minnesota did not make it into the top tier with Finland or Korea, but in math, the state’s teenagers performed about as well as teenagers in Australia and Germany.

        Even by those standards, Eric had attended a particularly high-powered high school. Newsweek regularly ranked Minnetonka High School among the top high schools in America. The place had four gymnasiums and a hockey rink and looked more like a small college than a high school.

        Eric had opted to join the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, an intense track within the school that was benchmarked to international standards. He had several teachers who were legendary in Minnetonka...On paper, anyway, Eric was going from one of the smartest states in the United States to one of the smartest countries in the world.
        Again, Ripley paints a flattering portrait of Minnesota. Or does she? Let’s fill in some of the background:

        On the 2011 TIMSS, the United States outscored both Australia and Germany by statistically significant margins in Grade 4 math. The U.S. outscored Australia in Grade 8 math, though only by a small margin; Germany didn’t take part in the Grade 8 testing.

        What about Minnesota? On the Grade 8 level, Minnesota took part in the 2011 TIMSS as an independent entity. Result?

        Minnesota outscored Australia by a wide margin on both the math and science tests. But so what? On page 47, Ripley is restricting herself to PISA results, although her readers don’t know that. On that basis, she only says that Minnesota teens perform “about as well as teenagers in Australia and Germany.”

        You can’t exactly call that false. But basic information is being withheld, as is the case all through this scattershot book.

        In Grade 8 math, Minnesota outscored Australia by a wide margin on the 2011 TIMSS! The United States outscored Australia and Germany, in the manner described, on that same “major test.” But alas! These are the types of facts which keep disappearing from Ripley’s book, due to her general avoidance of TIMSS scores.

        In truth, Ripley’s book is a chaotic mess in its use of international test scores. She’s very good at human interest writing, appallingly weak when it comes to the most basic uses of test scores.

        At any rate, Ripley consistently portrays Minnesota as one of “the smartest states.” (Forgive the childish language. It’s meant to draw you in, slow learner that you are.) Only Massachusetts ranks with Minnesota in math, she says on page 72.

        That’s a very shaky claim. In truth, we’d have to say it’s just false. In the next few days, we’ll flesh out the fuller picture.

        Simply put, Massachusetts isn’t the only state which ranks with Minnesota in the teaching of math. But Ripley doesn’t seem to know squat about the ways to analyze test scores.

        What else is new? Because we live in a post-journalistic culture, a highly amateurish book is being lavishly praised. This is very much the way our “journalistic” world works.

        MALALA, MATTHEWS AND MADDOW: When the Great Souls present!

        Posted: 29 Oct 2013 06:31 AM PDT

        TUESDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2013

        Part 1—Not against anyone: This one time, we’ll let you ask us about our travels!

        We went to the Hudson Valley this weekend, as we periodically do, to visit our older friend who is in nursing home care. He happens to be the late Ed Lauter’s brother-in-law.

        We knew that one of Ed’s sisters would be drawn to the person, and to the story, of Malala Yousafzai, the “education activist” who was shot by the Taliban last year when she was barely 15.

        For that reason, we took along Parade magazine’s cover story about Malala. By happenstance, the New York Times ran en op-ed column this Saturday which helped trace this young person’s spiritual lineage.

        Historian William Dalrymple’s piece recounted a surprising fact. Despite stereotypes which now obtain, Malala’s Pashtun society includes strong traditions of Gandhian nonviolent resistance and of strong female leadership.

        According to Dalrymple, this heritage encompasses the 19th century teenager for whom Malala was named:
        DALRYMPLE (10/26/13): Malala’s extraordinary bravery and commitment to peace and the education of women is indeed inspiring. But there is something disturbing about the outpouring of praise: the implication that Malala is a lone voice, almost a freak event in Pashtun society, which spans the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan and is usually perceived as ultraconservative and super-patriarchal.

        Few understand the degree to which the stereotypes that bedevil the region—images of terrorist hide-outs and tribal blood feuds, religious fanatics and the oppression of women—are, if not wholly misleading, then at least only one side of a complex society that was, for many years, a center of Gandhian nonviolent resistance against British rule, and remains home to ancient traditions of mystic poetry, Sufi music and strong female leaders.

        While writing a history of the first Western colonial intrusion into the region, I heard many stories about the woman Malala Yousafzai is named after: Malalai of Maiwand. For most Pashtuns, the name conjures up not a brave teenage supporter of education, but an equally brave teenage heroine who turned the tide of a crucial battle during the second Anglo-Afghan war.
        We strongly recommend Dalrymple’s column. World culture is varied and powerful!

        We thought Dalrymple’s column was thrilling. Then, on YouTube, with our friend, we played the tape of Malala’s speech at the United Nations, this past July, on the day she turned sixteen.

        We had never watched the full tape, although we were struck by the excerpts we saw in real time. Thanks goodness for the inspiration of friends! That may be the most unusual tape we have ever watched, the most unusual public performance.

        On the day she turned 16, this very unusual person began her address to a UN Youth Assembly like this:
        MALALA (7/12/13): In the name of God, the most beneficent, the most merciful.

        Honorable UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon; respected president, General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic; honorable UN envoy for global education Mr. Gordon Brown;

        Respected elders, and my dear brothers and sisters:

        Assalamu alaikum.

        SOME IN AUDIENCE: Assalamu alaikum.

        MALALA: Thank you.
        Later, we’ll suggest that you listen to that first exchange. But that’s what this very unusual person was doing on the day when we American kids may get our first driver’s license.

        This morning, we’ll suggest that you do yourself a favor by watching that very unusual 17-minute tape.

        “Thank you to the children whose innocent words encouraged me,” Malala said, referring to her physical recovery over the past year. “Thank you to my elders, whose prayers strengthened me.

        “I would like to thank my nurses, doctors and the staff of the hospitals in Pakistan and the UK and the UAE government, who have helped me to get better and recover my strength.”

        The United Nations had declared this day “Malala Day.” The honoree expanded the honor:

        “Dear brothers and sisters, do remember one thing. Malala Day is not my day...There are hundreds of human rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for their rights, but who are struggling to achieve their goal of peace, education and equality.

        “Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists, and millions have been injured. I am just one of them.”

        To our ear, and this speech must be heard, one of the most remarkable moments came when Malala described the way the Taliban failed in their attempt to silence her and her friends, two of whom were also shot in the attempt to kill her.

        “They thought that the bullet would silence us, but they failed,” she said. “And out of that silence came thousands of voices.

        "The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this:

        “Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”

        You have to hear the way that last declaration was rendered.

        Already, this was perhaps the most unusual tape we had ever watched. But we were most struck by the passage in which Malala described her moral lineage, after making a statement to which we direct your attention:
        MALALA: Dear sisters and brothers! I am not against anyone.

        Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban, or any other terrorist group.

        I am here to speak for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists.

        I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there was a gun in my hand and he was standing in front of me, I would not shoot him.

        This is the compassion I have learned from Mohamed, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha.

        This is the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

        This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have learned from Gandhiji, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa.

        And this is the forgiveness that I have learned from my father and from my mother.

        This is what my soul is telling me: be peaceful and love everyone.

        Dear sisters and brothers! We realize the importance of light when we see darkness...
        I am not against anyone, Malala said, and the emphasis was hers. She then said that she had learned her values from a list of history’s Great Souls.

        The Great Souls don’t appear every day. (By that, we mean the people who can perform the duties of the Great Soul on the world stage.)

        Is it possible that this extremely unusual person is the latest of the Great Souls? It may seem strange to ask such a question about someone so young. But when the Great Souls appear, they tend to present at an early age.

        By tradition, Jesus amazed the elders when he was only 12. In Stride Toward Freedom, Dr. King almost apologizes for the tardiness of his own search.

        “Not until I entered Crozer Theological Seminary in 1948, however, did I begin a serious intellectual quest for a method to eliminate social evil,” Dr. King ruefully says.

        Dr. King was 19 when he entered Crozer. Meanwhile, in this other YouTube tape, you can see Nelson Mandela describing the way he and his comrades “identified with” Anne Frank when they read her book in prison.

        (“What we took away from that is the infinite ability of the human spirit, which expresses itself in different ways in different situations.”)

        Did Mandela really identify with Anne Frank? In that statement, Mandela is saying that he saw himself in a book which was written, then rewritten, when Anne Frank was 14 years old.

        Who will Malala turn out to be? We have no idea. But we were thrilled by the brilliant gumption with which she announced and accepted her moral and ethical lineage. And we were struck by her statement that she isn’t “against” anyone.

        We’ll admit it! It made us think of the moral shortfall we see at Salon and on The One True Liberal Channel. On that channel, we are instructed, night after night, in the ways to be against others.

        Explicitly, Malala rejected that approach. Why would somebody do that?

        Tomorrow: Being against

        Concerning that first exchange: Listen to that first exchange between this young person and her audience.

        “Assalamu alaikum,” some in the audience say. “Thank you,” Malala replies.

        Have you ever heard the sound of one hand clapping? Translating to our own cultural context:

        Given the degraded norms of our public discourse, have you ever heard a public statement which was completely devoid of pomposity and self-reference?

        That’s what we hear in that extremely quiet, “Thank you.” That’s the sound you will never hear from Lawrence, Chris Matthews or even from Rachel as you’re instructed, night after night, in the multitudinous ways to be against.

        The greatest achievers have rejected that stance. Why would we want to adopt it?

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