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How countries in crisis can continue to provide education

Fuente / 7 de junio de 2016

GPE and IIEP publish new guidelines for preparing transitional education plans

A flood of children fleeing violent attacks in neighboring countries have sought refuge in Chad, one of the poorest countries in the world. Conflict in Yemen over the last two years damaged about 1,000 schools and left 1.8 million children there out of school. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has long struggled with protracted conflict, has one of the largest numbers of out-of-school primary-age children in the world (approximately 3.5 million).

The Global Partnership for Education has helped these countries and others in similar circumstances address these crises to limit their impact on the education system. That response often requires the development and implementation of a transitional education plan, or TEP, which focuses on addressing critical education needs in the immediate and medium term to keep as many children learning as possible.

A TEP is a policy instrument that enables authorities to bring together humanitarian and development partners to prepare a structured plan to help steer and mobilize resources that will help maintain education services in the wake of civil or cross-border conflict, health emergencies or natural disaster.

At the same time, it puts in place reforms that can render education systems more accountable, inclusive, and effective over time.

New guidelines for transitional education planning

Cover of Guidelines for Transitional Education Plan Preparation

GPE and the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning have just published the Guidelines for Transitional Education Plan Preparation, providing technical guidance for countries trying to educate their children even as they face new or persistent crisis.

The new guidelines are the result of an extensive collaboration among key partners active in the field of education in emergencies and protracted crises as part of the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies: UNHCR, UNICEF, the Global Education Cluster, the Global Education Campaign and the World Bank.

The guidelines were developed by building on country contexts, experiences, and needs collected from crisis-affected country practitioners in South-Sudan, Central African Republic, DRC, Chad, Somalia, and Haiti.

It’s no coincidence that the TEP Guidelines come at a time when GPE is steadily intensifying its efforts to help fragile and conflict-affected countries keep their children in school.

Guided by the new global education goals, which stress help for countries affected by adverse challenges, and recognizing that the number of out-of-school children living in countries facing war and violence has significantly grown over the last decade and a half 1, GPE has increased its funding for such countries from 21% of overall funding in 2008 to about 50% by 2015.

Bridging the divide between humanitarian and development support

The TEP Guidelines arrive the same week as the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, where a new education crisis platform and fund called Education Cannot Wait is being launched.

The new platform addresses the reality that humanitarian responses have historically treated education without the kind of urgency that other essential human services receive. One statistic tells much of the story: less than 2% of all humanitarian aid goes to education.

Where longer-term planning or the implementation of an existing education sector plan – the longer-term blueprint of a country’s educational progress – is compromised by growing humanitarian emergencies, a TEP will help bridge the humanitarian-development divide by bringing together authorities, development and humanitarian actors, and civil society.

In crisis situations, there is an increased need to align actions and to ensure that external efforts are complementary and address key priorities.

Sometimes it’s also necessary to harmonize emergency or early recovery education activities that may be specified in a humanitarian response plan with longer-term development priorities for the education sector, which can help countries manage rapidly changing contexts.

A TEP might, as in Chad, anticipate future needs associated with the return of refugees to the country or internally displaced persons to their home areas, or considerations related to protracted displacement.

GPE supports fragile and conflict-affected countries

 GPE cumulative allocations to fragile and conflict-affected countries

Right now, 28 of GPE’s 65 developing country partners are considered fragile or conflict-affected, and 12 of those countries are currently implementing transitional education plans with GPE’s financial support.

One of those countries is Chad, which became the first GPE partner to include refugees in its transitional education sector plan in 2013. GPE has subsequently provided Chad with two grants to implement its TEP and is already supporting the country’s development of a post-crisis full education sector plan for the period 2017 to 2026.

Yemen developed a TEP for 2013 to 2015. Based on it, US$10 million GPE funds were redirected in to rebuild schools, provide psychosocial support to 37,500 girls and boys, and replenish basic school supplies for nearly 91,000 children.  More recently, during the meeting of the country’s local education group in Amman, Jordan, Yemeni partners supported the development of a renewed TEP to ensure the continuation of previously suspended education activities in the country.

Also, GPE enabled DRC to prepare a transitional education plan for the period 2012 to 2014, making it the country’s first education sector plan since independence in 1960. Motivated by the new TEP, the government increased the share of its budget allocated to education, from 9% in 2010 to 16% in 2013, with the goal of reaching 18% by 2018.

When children’s lives are upended by humanitarian emergencies, it’s essential to keep them in school where they can continue to follow their rightful developmental path and find protection.  A transitional education plan is a critical first step toward that goal.

1 The proportion of out-of-school children living in conflict-affected countries increased from 30% in 1999 to 36% in 2012, and increased substantially in the Arab States and in South and West Asia (GEM Report 2015)

Raphaëlle Martinez Lattanzio is a Senior Education Specialist in charge of education planning, system strengthening and finance at the Global Partnership for Education.

Read our Policy Brief: GPE’s work in conflict-affected and fragile countries

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Authoritarian Politics in the Age of Civic Illiteracy

The dark times that haunt the current age are epitomized in the monsters that have come to rule the United States and who now dominate the major political parties and other commanding political and economic institutions. Their nightmarish reign of misery, violence, and disposability is also evident in their dominance of a formative culture and its attendant cultural apparatuses that produce a vast machinery of manufactured consent. This is a social formation that extends from the mainstream broadcast media and Internet to a print culture, all of which embrace the spectacle of violence, legitimate opinions over facts, and revel in a celebrity and consumer culture of ignorance and theatrics. Under the reign of this normalized ideological architecture of alleged commonsense, literacy is now regarded with disdain, words are reduced to data, and science is confused with pseudo-science.

Thinking is now regarded as an act of stupidity, and ignorance a virtue. All traces of critical thought appear only at the margins of the culture as ignorance becomes the primary organizing principle of American society. For instance, two thirds of the American public believe that creationism should be taught in schools and most of the Republic Party in Congress do not believe that climate change is caused by human activity, making the U.S. the laughing stock of the world. Politicians endlessly lie knowing that the public is addicted to shocks, which allows them to drown in overstimulation and live in an ever-accelerating overflow of information and images. News has become entertainment and echoes reality rather than interrogating it. Unsurprisingly, education in the larger culture has become a disimagination machine, a tool for legitimating ignorance, and it is central to the formation of an authoritarian politics that has gutted any vestige of democracy from the ideology, policies, and institutions that now control American society.

“Obsolete Man” Burgess Meredith, Twilight Zone, 1961. Public Domain.

I am not talking simply about the kind of anti-intellectualism that theorists such a Richard Hofstadter, Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky, and more recently Susan Jacoby have documented, however insightful their analyses might be. I am pointing to a more lethal form of illiteracy that is often ignored. Illiteracy is now a scourge and a political tool designed primarily to make war on language, meaning, thinking, and the capacity for critical thought. Chris Hedges is right in stating that “the emptiness of language is a gift to demagogues and the corporations that saturate the landscape with manipulated images and the idiom of mass culture.”[1]The new form of illiteracy does not simply constitute an absence of learning, ideas, or knowledge. Nor can it be solely attributed to what has been called the “smartphone society.”[2] On the contrary, it is a willful practice and goal used to actively depoliticize people and make them complicit with the forces that impose misery and suffering upon their lives.

Manufactured Illiteracy, Consumer Fantasies, and the Repression of the Population.

Gore Vidal once called America the United States of Amnesia. The title should be extended to the United States of Amnesia and Willful Illiteracy. Illiteracy no longer simply marks populations immersed in poverty with little access to quality education; nor does it only suggest the lack of proficient skills enabling people to read and write with a degree of understanding and fluency. More profoundly, illiteracy is also about what it means not to be able to act from a position of thoughtfulness, informed judgment, and critical agency. Illiteracy has become a form of political repression that discourages a culture of questioning, renders agency as an act of intervention inoperable, and restages power as a mode of domination. It is precisely this mode of illiteracy that now constitutes the modus operandi of a society that both privatizes and kills the imagination by poisoning it with falsehoods, consumer fantasies, data loops, and the need for instant gratification. This is a mode of manufactured illiteracy and education that has no language for relating the self to public life, social responsibility or the demands of citizenship. It is important to recognize that the rise of this new mode of illiteracy is not simply about the failure of public and higher education to create critical and active citizens; it is about a society that eliminates those public spheres that make thinking possible while imposing a culture of fear in which there is the looming threat that anyone who holds power accountable will be punished. At stake here is not only the crisis of a democratic society, but a crisis of memory, ethics, and agency.

Evidence of such a repressive policy is visible in the growth of the surveillance state, the suppression of dissent, especially among Black youth, the elimination of tenure in states such as Wisconsin, the rise of the punishing state, and the militarization of the police. It is also evident in the demonization, punishing, and war waged by the Obama administration on whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Jeffrey Sterling, among others. Any viable attempt at developing a radical politics must begin to address the role of education and civic literacy and what I have termed public pedagogy as central not only to politics itself but also to the creation of subjects capable of becoming individual and social agents willing to struggle against injustices and fight to reclaim and develop those institutions crucial to the functioning and promises of a substantive democracy. One place to begin to think through such a project is by addressing the meaning and role of pedagogy as part of the broader struggle for and practice of freedom.

The reach of pedagogy extends from schools to diverse cultural apparatuses such as the mainstream media, alternative screen cultures, and the expanding digital screen culture. Far more than a teaching method, pedagogy is a moral and political practice actively involved not only in the production of knowledge, skills, and values but also in the construction of identities, modes of identification, and forms of individual and social agency. Accordingly, pedagogy is at the heart of any understanding of politics and the ideological scaffolding of those framing mechanisms that mediate our everyday lives.   Across the globe, the forces of free-market fundamentalism are using the educational force of the wider culture and the takeover of public and higher education both to reproduce the culture of business and to wage an assault on the historically guaranteed social provisions and civil rights provided by the welfare state, public schools, unions, women’s reproductive rights, and civil liberties, among others, all the while undercutting public faith in the defining institutions of democracy.

As market mentalities and moralities tighten their grip on all aspects of society, democratic institutions and public spheres are being downsized, if not altogether disappearing. As these institutions vanish—from public schools and alternative media to health care centers– there is also a serious erosion of the discourses of community, justice, equality, public values, and the common good. This grim reality has been called by Alex Honneth a “failed sociality”– a failure in the power of the civic imagination, political will, and open democracy. It is also part of a politics that strips the social of any democratic ideals and undermines any understanding of education as a public good and pedagogy as an empowering practice, a practice which acts directly upon the conditions which bear down on our lives in order to change them when necessary.

George Carlin on government

One of the challenges facing the current generation of educators, students, progressives, and other cultural workers is the need to address the role they might play in educating students to be critically engaged agents, attentive to addressing important social issues and being alert to the responsibility of deepening and expanding the meaning and practices of a vibrant democracy. At the heart of such a challenge is the question of what education should accomplish not simply in a democracy but at a historical moment when the United States is about to slip into the dark night of authoritarianism. What work do educators have to do to create the economic, political, and ethical conditions necessary to endow young people and the general public with the capacities to think, question, doubt, imagine the unimaginable, and defend education as essential for inspiring and energizing the citizens necessary for the existence of a robust democracy? In a world in which there is an increasing abandonment of egalitarian and democratic impulses, what will it take to educate young people and the broader polity to challenge authority and hold power accountable?

What role might education and critical pedagogy have in a society in which the social has been individualized, emotional life collapses into the therapeutic, and education is reduced to either a private affair or a kind of algorithmic mode of regulation in which everything is reduced to a desired outcome. What role can education play to challenge the deadly neoliberal claim that all problems are individual, regardless of whether the roots of such problems like in larger systemic forces. In a culture drowning in a new love affair with instrumental rationality, it is not surprising that values that are not measurable– compassion, vision, the imagination, trust, solidarity, care for the other, and a passion for justice—withers.

A middle school in Lawton, OK. Local News.

Given the crisis of education, agency, and memory that haunts the current historical conjuncture, the left and other progressives need a new language for addressing the changing contexts and issues facing a world in which there is an unprecedented convergence of resources–financial, cultural, political, economic, scientific, military, and technological– increasingly used to exercise powerful and diverse forms of control and domination. Such a language needs to be political without being dogmatic and needs to recognize that pedagogy is always political because it is connected to the acquisition of agency. In this instance, making the pedagogical political means being vigilant about “that very moment in which identities are being produced and groups are being constituted, or objects are being created.”[3] At the same time it means progressives need to be attentive to those practice in which critical modes of agency and particular identities are being denied. It also means developing a comprehensive understanding of politics, one that should begin with the call to reroute single issue politics into a mass social movement under the banner of a defense of the public good, the commons, and a global democracy.

In part, this suggests developing pedagogical practices that not only inspire and energize people but are also capable of challenging the growing number of anti-democratic practices and policies under the global tyranny of casino capitalism. Such a vision suggests resurrecting a radical democratic project that provides the basis for imagining a life beyond a social order immersed in massive inequality, endless assaults on the environment, and elevates war and militarization to the highest and most sanctified national ideals. Under such circumstances, education becomes more than an obsession with accountability schemes, an audit culture, market values, and an unreflective immersion in the crude empiricism of a data-obsessed market-driven society. In addition, it rejects the notion that all levels of schooling can be reduced to sites for training students for the workforce and that the culture of public and higher education is synonymous with the culture of business.

At issue here is the need for progressives to recognize the power of education in creating the formative cultures necessary to both challenge the various threats being mobilized against the ideas of justice and democracy while also fighting for those public spheres, ideals, values, and policies that offer alternative modes of identity, thinking, social relations, and politics. But embracing the dictates of a making education meaningful in order to make it critical and transformative also means recognizing that cultural apparatuses such as the mainstream media and Hollywood films are teaching machines and not simply sources of information and entertainment. Such sites should be spheres of struggle removed from the control of the financial elite and corporations who use them as propaganda and disimagination machines.

Central to any viable notion that what makes pedagogy critical is, in part, the recognition that it is a moral and political practice that is always implicated in power relations because it narrates particular versions and visions of civic life, community, the future, and how we might construct representations of ourselves, others, and our physical and social environment. It is in this respect that any discussion of pedagogy must be attentive to how pedagogical practices work in a variety of sites to produce particular ways in which identity, place, worth, and above all value are organized and contribute to producing a formative culture capable of sustaining a vibrant democracy.[4]

In this instance, pedagogy as the practice of freedom emphasizes critical reflection, bridging the gap between learning and everyday life, understanding the connection between power and difficult knowledge, and extending democratic rights and identities by using the resources of history and theory. However, among many educators, progressives, and social theorists, there is a widespread refusal to recognize that this form of education not only takes place in schools, but is also part of what can be called the educative nature of the culture. At the core of analysing and engaging culture as a pedagogical practice are fundamental questions about the educative nature of the culture, what it means to engage common sense as a way to shape and influence popular opinion, and how diverse educational practices in multiple sites can be used to challenge the vocabularies, practices, and values of the oppressive forces that at work under neoliberal regimes of power.

There is an urgent political need for the American public to understand what it means for an authoritarian society to both weaponize and trivialize the discourse, vocabularies, images, and aural means of communication in a society. How is language used to relegate citizenship to the singular pursuit of cravenly self-interests, legitimate shopping as the ultimate expression of one’s identity, portray essential public services as reinforcing and weakening any viable sense of individual responsibility, and, among other, instances, using the language of war and militarization to describe a vast array of problems we face as a nation. War has become an addiction, the war on terror a Pavlovian stimulant for control, and shared fears one of the few discourses available for defining any vestige of solidarity.

Such falsehoods are now part of the reigning neoliberal ideology proving once again that pedagogy is central to politics itself because it is about changing the way people see things, recognizing that politics is educative and that domination resided not simply in repressive economic structures but also in the realm of ideas, beliefs, and modes of persuasion. Just as I would argue that pedagogy has to be made meaningful in order to be made critical and transformative, I think it is fair to argue that there is no politics without a pedagogy of identification; that is, people have to invest something of themselves in how they are addressed or recognize that any mode of education, argument, idea, or pedagogy has to speak to their condition and provide a moment of recognition.

Lacking this understanding, pedagogy all too easily becomes a form of symbolic and intellectual violence, one that assaults rather than educates. Another example can be seen in the forms of high stakes testing and empirically driven teaching that dominate public schooling in the United States, which amounts to pedagogies of repression which serve primarily to numb the mind and produce what might be called dead zones of the imagination. These are pedagogies that are largely disciplinary and have little regard for contexts, history, making knowledge meaningful, or expanding what it means for students to be critically engaged agents.

The fundamental challenge facing educators within the current age of neoliberalism, militarism, and religious fundamentalism is to provide the conditions for students to address how knowledge is related to the power of both self-definition and social agency. In part, this suggests providing students with the skills, ideas, values, and authority necessary for them to nourish a substantive democracy, recognize anti-democratic forms of power, and to fight deeply rooted injustices in a society and world founded on systemic economic, racial, and gendered inequalities. A as Hannah Arendt, once argued in “The Crisis of Education,” the centrality of education to politics is also manifest in the responsibility for the world that cultural workers have to assume when they engage in pedagogical practices that lie on the side of belief and persuasion, especially when they challenge forms of domination.

Such a project suggests developing a transformative pedagogy–rooted in what might be called a project of resurgent and insurrectional democracy–that relentlessly questions the kinds of labor, practices, and forms of production that are enacted in schools and other sites of education. The project in this sense speaks to the recognition that any pedagogical practice presupposes some notion of the future, prioritises some forms of identification over others, upholds selective modes of social relations, and values some modes of knowing over others (think about how business schools are held in high esteem while schools of education are disdained and even the object in some cases of contempt). Moreover, such a pedagogy does not offer guarantees as much as it recognizes that its own position is grounded in particular modes of authority, values, and ethical principles that must be constantly debated for the ways in which they both open up and close down democratic relations, values, and identities. These are precisely the questions being asked by the Chicago Teachers’ Union in their brave fight to regain some control over both the conditions of their work and their efforts to redefine the meaning of schooling as a democratic public sphere and learning in the interest of economic justice and progressive social change.

Such a project should be principled, relational, contextual, as well as self-reflective and theoretically rigorous. By relational, I mean that the current crisis of schooling must be understood in relation to the broader assault that is being waged against all aspects of democratic public life. At the same time, any critical comprehension of those wider forces that shape public and higher education must also be supplemented by an attentiveness to the historical and conditional nature of pedagogy itself. This suggests that pedagogy can never be treated as a fixed set of principles and practices that can be applied indiscriminately across a variety of pedagogical sites. Pedagogy is not some recipe or methodological fix that can be imposed on all classrooms. On the contrary, it must always be contextually defined, allowing it to respond specifically to the conditions, formations, and problems that arise in various sites in which education takes place. Such a project suggests recasting pedagogy as a practice that is indeterminate, open to constant revision, and constantly in dialogue with its own assumptions.

The notion of a neutral, objective education is an oxymoron. Education and pedagogy do not exist outside of relations of power, values, and politics. Ethics on the pedagogical front demands an openness to the other, a willingness to engage a “politics of possibility” through a continual critical engagement with texts, images, events, and other registers of meaning as they are transformed into pedagogical practices both within and outside of the classroom.   Pedagogy is never innocent and if it is to be understood and problematized as a form of academic labor, cultural workers have the opportunity not only to critically question and register their own subjective involvement in how and what they teach in and out of schools, but also to resist all calls to depoliticize pedagogy through appeals to either scientific objectivity or ideological dogmatism. This suggests the need for educators to rethink the cultural and ideological baggage they bring to each educational encounters; it also highlights the necessity of making educators ethically and politically accountable and self-reflective for the stories they produce, the claims they make upon public memory, and the images of the future they deem legitimate. Understood as a form of militant hope, pedagogy in this sense is not an antidote to politics, a nostalgic yearning for a better time, or for some “inconceivably alternative future.” Instead, it is an “attempt to find a bridge between the present and future in those forces within the present which are potentially able to transform it.”[5]

At the dawn of the 21st century, the notion of the social and the public are not being erased as much as they are being reconstructed under circumstances in which public forums for serious debate, including public education, are being eroded. Reduced either to a crude instrumentalism, business culture, or defined as a purely private right rather than a public good, our major educational apparatuses are removed from the discourse of democracy and civic culture. Under the influence of powerful financial interests, we have witnessed the takeover of public and increasingly higher education and diverse media sites by a corporate logic that both numbs the mind and the soul, emphasizing repressive modes of ideology hat promote winning at all costs, learning how not to question authority, and undermining the hard work of learning how to be thoughtful, critical, and attentive to the power relations that shape everyday life and the larger world. As learning is privatized, depoliticized, and reduced to teaching students how to be good consumers, any viable notions of the social, public values, citizenship, and democracy wither and die.

As a central element of a broad based cultural politics, critical pedagogy, in its various forms, when linked to the ongoing project of democratization can provide opportunities for educators and other cultural workers to redefine and transform the connections among language, desire, meaning, everyday life, and material relations of power as part of a broader social movement to reclaim the promise and possibilities of a democratic public life. Critical pedagogy is dangerous to many people and others because it provides the conditions for students and the wider public to exercise their intellectual capacities, embrace the ethical imagination, hold power accountable, and embrace a sense of social responsibility.

One of the most serious challenges facing teachers, artists, journalists, writers, and other cultural workers is the task of developing a discourse of both critique and possibility. This means developing discourses and pedagogical practices that connect reading the word with reading the world, and doing so in ways that enhance the capacities of young people as critical agents and engaged citizens. In taking up this project, educators and others should attempt to create the conditions that give students the opportunity to become critical and engaged citizens who have the knowledge and courage to struggle in order to make desolation and cynicism unconvincing and hope practical. But raising consciousness is not enough. Students need to be inspired and energized to address important social issues, learning to narrate their private troubles as public issues, and to engage in forms of resistance that are both local and collective, while connecting such struggles to more global issues.

Democracy begins to fail and political life becomes impoverished in the absence of those vital public spheres such as public and higher education in which civic values, public scholarship, and social engagement allow for a more imaginative grasp of a future that takes seriously the demands of justice, equity, and civic courage. Democracy should be a way of thinking about education, one that thrives on connecting equity to excellence, learning to ethics, and agency to the imperatives of social responsibility and the public good. The question regarding what role education should play in democracy becomes all the more urgent at a time when the dark forces of authoritarianism are on the march in the United States. As public values, trust, solidarities, and modes of education are under siege, the discourses of hate, racism, rabid self-interest, and greed are exercising a poisonous influence in American society, most evident in the discourse of the right-wing extremists such as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, vying for the American presidency. Civic illiteracy collapses opinion and informed arguments, erases collective memory, and becomes complicit with the militarization of both individual, public spaces, and society itself. Under such circumstances, politicians such as Hilary Clinton are labeled as liberals when in reality they are firm advocates for both a toxic militarism and the interests of the financial elites.

All across the country, there are signs of hope. Young people are protesting against student debt; environmentalists are aggressively fighting corporate interests; the Chicago Teachers Union is waging a brave fight against oppressive neoliberal modes of governance; Black youth are bravely resisting and exposing state violence in all of its forms; prison abolitionists are making their voices heard, and once again the threat of a nuclear winter is being widely discussed. In the age of financial and political monsters, neoliberalism has lost its ability to legitimate itself in a warped discourse of freedom and choice. Its poisonous tentacles have put millions out of work, turned many Black communities into war zones, destroyed public education, flagrantly pursued war as the greatest of national ideals, turned the prison system into a default institution for punishing minorities of race and class, pillaged the environment, and blatantly imposed a new mode of racism under the silly notion of a post-racial society.

The extreme violence perpetuated in the daily spectacles of the cultural apparatuses are now becoming more visible in the relations of everyday life making it more difficult for many American to live the lie that they are real and active participants in a democracy. As the lies are exposed, the economic and political crises ushering in authoritarianism are now being matched by a crisis of ideas. If this momentum of growing critique and collective resistance continues, the support we see for Bernie Sanders among young people will be matched by an increase in the growth of other oppositional groups. Groups organized around single issues such as an insurgent labor movements, those groups trying to reclaim public education as a public good, and other emerging movements will come together hopefully, refusing to operate within the parameters of established power while working to create a broad-based social movement. In the merging of the power, culture, new public spheres, new technologies, and old and new social movements, there is a hint of a new collective political sensibility emerging, one that offers a new mode of collective resistance and the possibility of taking democracy off life-support. This is not a struggle over who will be elected the next president or ruling party of the United States, but a struggle over those who are willing to fight for a radical democracy and those who are not. The strong winds of resistance are in the air, rattling established interests, forcing liberals to recognize their complicity with established power, and giving new life the meaning of what it means to fight for a democratic social order in which equity and justice prevail for everyone.


[1] Chris Hedges, “The War on Language”, TruthDig, (September 28, 2009)

online at:

[2] Nicole Aschoff, “The Smartphone Society,” Jacobin Magazine, Issue 17, (Spring 2015). Online at:

[3] Gary Olson and Lynn Worsham, “Staging the Politics of Difference: Homi Bhabha’s Critical Literacy,” Journal of Advanced Composition (1999), pp. 3-35.

[4]. Henry A. Giroux, Education and the Crisis of Public Values, 2nd edition (New York: Peter Lang, 2015).

[5]. Terry Eagleton, The Idea of Culture (Malden, MA: Basil Blackwell, 2000), p.22.

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El FBI tiene un nuevo plan para espiar a los estudiantes de secundaria de todo el país


fbi camaras

By Sarah Lazare, AlterNet | Report

Under new guidelines, the FBI is instructing high schools across the  country to report students who criticize government policies and «western corruption» as potential future terrorists, warning that «anarchist extremists» are in the same category as ISIS and young people who are poor, immigrants or travel to «suspicious» countries are more likely to commit horrific violence.

Based on the widely unpopular British «anti-terror» mass surveillance program, the FBI’s «Preventing Violent Extremism in Schools» guidelines, released in January, are almost certainly designed to single out and target Muslim-American communities. However, in its caution to avoid the appearance of discrimination, the agency identifies risk factors that are so broad and vague that virtually any young person could be deemed dangerous and worthy of surveillance, especially if she is socio-economically marginalized or politically outspoken.

This overwhelming threat is then used to justify a massive surveillance apparatus, wherein educators and pupils function as extensions of the FBI by watching and informing on each other.

The FBI’s justification for such surveillance is based on McCarthy-era theories of radicalization, in which authorities monitor thoughts and behaviors that they claim to lead to acts of violent subversion, even if those people being watched have not committed any wrongdoing. This model has been widely discredited as a violence prevention method, including by the US government, but it is now being imported to schools nationwide as official federal policy.

Schools as Hotbeds of Extremism

The new guidelines depict high schools as hotbeds of extremism, where dangers lurk in every corner. «High school students are ideal targets for recruitment by violent extremists seeking support for their radical ideologies, foreign fighter networks, or conducting acts of violence within our borders,» the document warns, claiming that youth «possess inherent risk factors.» In light of this alleged threat, the FBI instructs teachers to «incorporate a two-hour block of violent extremism awareness training» into the core curriculum for all youth in grades 9 through 12.

According to the FBI’s educational materials for teenagers, circulated as a visual aide to their new guidelines, the following offenses constitute signs that «could mean that someone plans to commit violence» and therefore should be reported: «Talking about traveling to places that sound suspicious»; «Using code words or unusual language»; «Using several different cell phones and private messaging apps»; and «Studying or taking pictures of potential targets (like a government building).»

Under the category of domestic terrorists, the educational materials warn of the threat posed by «anarchist extremists.» The FBI states, «Anarchist extremists believe that society should have no government, laws, or police, and they are loosely organized, with no central leadership… Violent anarchist extremists usually target symbols of capitalism they believe to be the cause of all problems in society – such as large corporations, government organizations, and police agencies.»

Similarly, «Animal Rights Extremists and Environmental Extremists» are placed alongside «white supremacy extremists,» ISIS and Al Qaeda as terrorists out to recruit high school students. The materials also instruct students to watch out for  extremist propaganda messages that communicate criticisms of «corrupt western nations» and express «government mistrust.»

If you «see suspicious behavior that might lead to violent extremism,» the resource states, consider reporting it to «someone you trust,» including local law enforcement officials like police officers and FBI agents.

This terrorist threat does not stay within the geographic bounds of high schools, but extends to the Internet, which the FBI guidelines describe as a «playground» for extremism. The agency warns that online gaming «is sometimes used to communicate, train, or plan terrorist activities.» Encryption, ominously referred to as «going dark,» is often used to facilitate «extremism discussions,» the agency states. In reality, encryption is a commonly used form of protection against government spying and identity theft and is often employed to safeguard financial transactions.

Young Muslims Are the Real Targets

At the surface level, the FBI’s new guidelines do not appear to single out Muslim students. The document and supplementary educational materials warn of a broad array of threats, including anti-abortion and white supremacist extremists. The Jewish Defense League is listed alongside Hizbollah and Al Qaeda as an imminent danger to young people in the United States.

But a closer read reveals that the FBI consistently invokes an Islamic threat without naming it. Cultural and religious differences, as well as criticisms of western imperialism, are repeatedly mentioned as risk factors for future extremism. «Some immigrant families may not be sufficiently present in a youth’s life due to work constraints to foster critical thinking,» the guidelines state.

«The document aims to encourage schools to monitor their students more carefully for signs of radicalization but its definition of radicalization is vague,» said Arun Kundnani, author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, extremism, and the domestic War on Terror and an adjunct professor at New York University. «Drawing on the junk science of radicalization models, the document dangerously blurs the distinction between legitimate ideological expression and violent criminal actions.»

«In practice, schools seeking to implement this document will end up monitoring Muslim students disproportionately,» Kundnani told AlterNet. «Muslims who access religious or political material will be seen as suspicious, even though there is no reason to think such material indicates a likelihood of terrorism.»

The Obama administration’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program is heavily influenced by its British counterpart, which exclusively focuses on spying on Muslim communities and has been deeply controversial from the onset.

Launched in the wake of the 2005 London bombings, the British the «Preventing Violent Extremism» (Prevent) program monitors and surveils Muslim communities and people, including mosque-goers and members of community organizations who have committed no wrongdoing. The iniative has been broadly criticized as oppressive and stigmatizing of British Muslims, including by a committee of British lawmakers in 2010.

Yet Prevent has expanded since implementation, and as of summer 2015, British public schools are now mandated to report students for supposed early warning signs of extremism. According to the advocacy organization CAGE, this program has led to the wide-scale interrogation of children without parental consent. Just last month, a Luton high school student was questioned by police for wearing a «Free Palestine» badge.

The first public iteration of the US counterpart to this program emerged five years ago to «address ideologically inspired violence in the Homeland,» uniting a broad array of government agencies, including the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. In 2015, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a CVE summit at the White House and unrolled three «pilot programs» in Boston, Minneapolis and Los Angeles. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, these initiatives solely target Muslims in each of these cities.

Muslim communities and human rights campaigners have raised profound concerns about civil rights violations. «Past injustices have taught us to be wary when the government redefines its moral and legal authority in response to overbroad national security concerns,» reads a statement from nearly 50 Muslim organizations in the Minneapolis area. «It is our recommendation that the government stop investing in programs that will only stigmatize, divide and marginalize our communities further.»

But instead, the government is expanding CVE programming into high schools across the country.

Using Discredited Science to Identify Danger Everywhere

«The whole concept of CVE is based on the conveyor belt theory – the idea that ‘extreme ideas’ lead to violence,» Michael German, a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, told AlterNet. «These programs fall back on the older ‘stages of radicalization’ models, where the identified indicators are the expression of political grievances and religious practices.»

The lineage of this model can be traced to the first red scare in America, as well as J. Edgar Hoover’s crackdown on civil rights and anti-war activists. In the post-9/11 era, the conveyor-belt theory has led to the mass surveillance of Muslims communities by law enforcement outfits ranging from the FBI to the New York Police Department.

US government agencies continue to embrace this model despite the fact that it has been thoroughly debunked by years of scholarly researchBritain’s M15 spy agency and an academic study directly supported by the Department of Homeland Security.

Even the FBI’s new guidelines claim that the agency «does not advocate the application of any psychological or demographic ‘profiles’ or check lists of indicators to identify students on a pathway to radicalization.»

Yet in the same breath, the FBI freely lists «concerning behaviors» that indicate an individual is «progressing on a trajectory to radicalization and/or future violent action in furtherance of an extremist cause.» In other words, the FBI is using new terminology to call for students to be profiled as potential future terrorists.

As Hugh Handeyside, staff attorney for the ACLU’s national security project, told AlterNet, «Broadening the definition of violent extremism to include a range of belief-driven violence underscores that the FBI is diving head-first into community spying. Framing this conduct as ‘concerning behavior’ doesn’t conceal the fact that the FBI is policing students’ thoughts and trying to predict the future based on those thoughts.»

If the FBI’s criteria are to be believed, children who exhibit «development delay or disorders, resulting from low quality supportive environments» are at greater risk. So too are the «disenfranchised – student feeling lost, lonely, hopeless, or abandoned.» The FBI calls for greater scrutiny of students with mental health disorders and identifies neighborhoods families, and socio-economic status as factors to watch out for.

There are already reasons to be concerned about who will be most vulnerable under this mass surveillance plan. In what is popularly known as the «school-to-prison pipeline,» students of color and young people with disabilities are already disproportionately suspended, expelled, arrested and funneled into juvenile prisons for alleged behavioral infractions at school.

The FBI’s instructions to surveil and report young people not for wrong they have committed, but for violence they supposedly might enact in the future, is likely to promote an intensification of this draconian practice. Using a program initiated to spy on Muslim-American communities, the government is calling for sanctuaries of learning to be transformed into panopticons, in which students and educators are the informers and all young people are suspect.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.


Sarah Lazare is a writer and organizer in the US antiwar veteran and GI resistance movement, as a steering committee member of the Civilian-Soldier Alliance and an ally to Iraq Veterans Against the War. She is also an active union member and a graduate student at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, where she is studying Arabic and learning about social movements in the Middle East and North Africa. Sarah is interested in connecting local struggles for racial, social and economic justice with international movements for justice, peace and liberation.


Racism on Campus – Not Free Speech – Is the Real Story: Mainstream Media Are Missing the Mark

By Sarah Cornett, Truthout | News Analysis

Students Across the Country Collaborate to Fight Institutional Racism

By Erica Moriarty, Speakout | Op-Ed
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Fascism in Donald Trump’s United States


Henry Giroux

Donald Trump’s blatant appeal to fascist ideology and policy considerations took a more barefaced and dangerous turn this week when he released a statement calling for «a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.» Trump qualified this racist appeal to voters’ fears about Muslims by stating that such a ban is necessary «until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.»

When Trump proposed the ban at a rally at the USS Yorktown in South Carolina, his plan drew loud cheers from the crowd. Many critics have responded by making clear that Trump’s attempts to place a religious test on immigration and travel are unconstitutional. Others have expressed shock in the face of a proposal that violates the democratic ideals that have shaped US history. Fellow Republican Jeb Bush called Trump «unhinged.»

Trump’s call to do «the unthinkable» is a fundamental principle of any notion of totalitarianism.

What almost none of the presidential candidates or mainstream political pundits have admitted, however, is not only that Trump’s comments form a discourse of hate, bigotry and exclusion, but also that such expressions of racism and fascism are resonating deeply in a landscape of US culture and politics crafted by 40 years of conservative counterrevolution. One of the few politicians to respond to Trump’s incendiary comments was former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who stated rightly that Donald Trump is a «fascist demagogue.»

This overtly fascistic turn also revealed itself in November when Trump mocked Serge Kovaleski, a New York Times investigative reporter living with a disability, at a rally in South Carolina. This contemptuous reference to Kovaleski’s physical disability was morally odious and painful to observe, but not in the least surprising: Trump is consistently a hatemonger and spreads his message without apology in almost every public encounter in which he finds himself. In this loathsome instance, Trump simply expanded his hate-filled discourse in a new direction, after having already established the deeply ingrained racism and sexism at the heart of his candidacy.

To read more articles by Henry A. Giroux and other authors in the Public Intellectual Project, click here.

Trump’s mockery of Kovaleski and his blatantly discriminatory policy proposals against Muslims are of a piece with his portrayal of Mexican immigrants as violent rapists and drug dealers, and with his calls for the United States to put Syrian refugees in detention centers and create a database to control them. These comments sound eerily close to SS leader Heinrich Himmler’s call for camps that held prisoners under orders of what the Nazis euphemistically called «protective custody.» This fascist parallel only gains currency with Trump’s latest efforts to ban Muslims from the United States. To quote the Holocaust Encyclopedia:

In the earliest years of the Third Reich, various central, regional, and local authorities in Germany established concentration camps to detain political opponents of the regime, including German Communists, Socialists, trade unionists, and others from left and liberal political circles. In the spring of 1933, the SS established Dachau concentration camp, which came to serve as a model for an expanding and centralized concentration camp system under SS management.

Moreover, Trump’s hateful attitude toward people with disabilities points to an earlier element of Hitler’s program of genocide in which people with physical and mental disabilities were viewed as disposable because they allegedly undermined the Nazi notion of the «master race.» The demonization, objectification and pathologizing of people with disabilities was the first step in developing the foundation for the Nazis’ euthanasia program aimed at those declared unworthy of life. This lesson seems to be lost on the mainstream media, who largely viewed Trump’s despicable remarks toward people with disabilities as simply insulting.

What is truly alarming is how many corporate media figures and intellectuals are defending Trump, not realizing that his candidacy is rooted in the brutal seeds of totalitarianism being cultivated in US society. Trump represents more than the anti-democratic practices and antics of Joseph McCarthy; he illustrates how totalitarianism can take different forms in specific historical moments. Rather than being dismissed as a wild card in US politics, as «careless and undisciplined,» as some of his conservative supporters claim, or not a true member of the Republican Party as Ross Douthat has written in The New York Times, it is crucial to recognize that Trump’s popularity represents what Victor Wallis has described as a dangerous «political space … in both the wider culture and in recent history.» This is evident not only in his race-baiting, his crude comments about women and his call to round up and deport 11 million immigrants, but also in his increasing support for violenceagainst protesters at his rallies.

There is a disturbing totalitarian message in his call to «make American great again» by any means necessary. The degree to which Trump expresses his support of violence, racism and the violation of civil liberties, visibly and without apology, is unprecedented in recent national political races. But the ideas he espouses have always been present under the surface of US politics, which is perhaps why the public and media on the whole seem unperturbed by such comments as: «We’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule … And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.» Trump’s call to do «the unthinkable» is a fundamental principle of any notion of totalitarianism, regardless of the form it takes.

We heard this same hatred in the words of Hitler, Mussolini, Pinochet and other demagogic orators.

The roots of totalitarianism are not frozen in history. They may find a different expression in the present, but they are connected in all kinds of ways to the past. For instance, Trump’s demagoguery bears a close resemblance to the discourse characteristic of other fascist leaders. There are traces of fascism’s past most particularly in what has been called by Patrick Healy and Maggie Haberman, Trump’s «dark power of words.» As Healy and Haberman point out in a recent New York Times article, Trump’s use of fearmongering and bombastic language is characterized by «divisive phrases, harsh words and violent imagery» characteristic of demagogues of the past. Moreover, Trump, like many past demagogues, presents himself as a prophet incapable of being wrong, disdains any sense of nuance and uses a militarized discourse populated by words such as «kill,» «destroy,» «attack» and «fight,» all of which display his infatuation with violence and deep disdain for dialogue, thoughtfulness and democracy itself. Trump is an anti-intellectual who distorts the truth even when proven wrong, and his appeals are emotive rather than based on facts, reason and evidence.

Trump and his ilk merge a hypernationalism, racism, economic fundamentalism and religious bigotry with a flagrant sense of lawlessness. His hate-filled speech is matched by an unsettling embrace of violence against immigrants and other oppositional voices issued by his supporters at many of his rallies. This type of lawlessness does more than encourage hate and violent mob mentalities; it also legitimates the kind of inflammatory rhetoric that gives credibility to acts of violence against others. There has been an eerie silence from Trump and other Republican Party presidential candidates in the face of the killing of three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, the shooting of Black Lives Matter protesters by white supremacists in Minneapolis, the increasing attacks on mosques throughout the United States, and the alarming number of shootings of Black men and youth by white police officers, not to mention the recent shooting in San Bernardino, California.

Trump and his fellow right-wing extremists rail against Mexican immigrants, Syrian refugees and young people protesting police violence but said nothing about the police officer who shot Laquan McDonald, a Black 17-year-old, 16 times, or about the Chicago Police Department’s refusal to make public a year-old squad-car video of the incident. And Trump’s camp has remained silent about the threat of white supremacists groups in the United States, the US drone strikes that killed members of a wedding party in Afghanistan and the illegal targeted assassination of alleged terrorists.

This is not simply the behavior of moral and political cowards; it is the toxic affirmation of the machineries of death we associate with fascism. Such acts point to a large climate of lawlessness in US society that makes it all the easier to ignore human rights, justice and democracy itself. There are historical precedents for this type of violence and for the hate-filled racist speech of the politicians who create the climate that legitimates it. We heard this same hatred in the words of Hitler, Mussolini, Pinochet and other demagogic orators who have ranted against Jews, communists and others alleged «infidels.»

Totalitarianism lives on in new forms and it is just as terrifying and dangerous today as it was in the past.

Trump’s recent call to bring back waterboarding and to support a torture regime far exceeds what might be called an act of stupidity or ignorance. Torture in this instance becomes a means of exacting revenge on those whom the right considers to be «other,» un-American and inferior – principally Muslims, immigrants and activists taking part in the movement for Black lives. We have heard this discourse before during the totalitarian regimes of the 1930s and later during the dictatorships in Latin America in the 1970s. Heather Digby Parton is right when she writes that Donald Trump «may be the first openly fascistic frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination but the ground was prepared and the seeds of his success sowed over the course of many years. We’ve had fascism flowing through the American political bloodstream for quite some time.» (1)

This is a discourse that betrays dark and treacherous secrets not simply about Trump, but also about the state of US culture and politics. Trump’s brutal racism, cruelty and Nazi-style policy recommendations are more than shocking; they are emblematic of totalitarianism’s hatred of liberalism, its call for racial purity, its mythic celebration of nationalism, its embrace of violence, its disdain for weakness and its anti-intellectualism. This is the discourse of total terror. These elements of totalitarianism have become the new American normal. The conditions that produced the torture chambers, intolerable violence, extermination camps and the squelching of dissent are still with us. Totalitarianism is not simply a relic of the past. It lives on in new forms and it is just as terrifying and dangerous today as it was in the past. (2)

Trump gives legitimacy to a number of fascist policies through his appeal to hypernationalism and disdain of human rights, his portrayal of Muslims and immigrants as a racial and religious threat, a rampant sexism, his obsession with national security, his aggressive mobilization of a culture of fear, his targeting of dissent and individual groups, his endorsement of human rights abuses such as torture, his support for the ongoing militarization of public life, his invocation of an external enemy as a threat to «our way of life,» his call for the creation of a detention system as part of a state of emergency, support for a blind patriotism, his calls for the suspension of the rule of law, his affirmation of a belligerent masculinity, and his support for an aggressive imperial policy.

Mark Summer is right in arguing that the ghost of fascism runs through US society, indicating that fascist sympathies never went away and that the threat of fascism has to be taken seriously. Summer writes that fascism didn’t win on the battlefield, but it won ideologically:

It won because the same fears, the same greed, the same hatred that fueled its growth in the first part of the twentieth century never went away. The symbols of fascism became anathema, but the causes … went deep. And gradually, slowly, one step at a time, all those vices became first tolerated, then treated as virtues, and then as the only acceptable view…. [For instance,] our long, stumbling lurch to the right; the building force of corporate power; the relentless need for war; a police whose power of enforcement is divorced from law; a preening nationalism that rewards the full rights of citizenship only to those who fit an ever-narrower mold … I’m not saying we’re moving toward fascism. I’m saying we started that drift a long time ago, and now we’re well across the line.

Trump is not just an ethically dead aberration. Rather, he is the successor of a long line of fascists who shut down public debate, attempt to humiliate their opponents, endorse violence as a response to dissent and criticize any public display of democratic principles. The United States has reached its endpoint with Trump, and his presence should be viewed as a stern warning of the nightmare to come. Trump is not an isolated figure in US politics; he is simply the most visible and popular expression of a number of extremists in the Republican Party who now view democracy as a liability. Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio all support an ideology that reduces certain human beings «to anonymous beings.» Think about their prevailing attacks on Mexican immigrants, Black people and Syrian refugees. Primo Levi, the great writer and survivor of Auschwitz, called this use of dehumanizing abstractions one of the core principles of Nazi barbarism. Fast forward to Trump’s endorsement of violence at his rallies, coupled with his overt racism, his call for mass surveillance, his discourse of mass hatred and his embrace of politics as an extension of war.

This is not the discourse of Kafka, but of those extremists who have become cheerleaders for totalitarianism. Trump is not a straight talker, as some writers have claimed, or merely entertaining. As David L. Clark pointed out in a personal correspondence, the frankness of Trump’s call for violence coupled with his unapologetic thirst for injustice position him as the «latest expression of a fascism that has poisoned political life throughout modernity. He is unabashedly vicious because he is both an agent and a symptom of a barren political landscape in which viciousness goes insolently unhidden.» (3) Trump is a monster without a conscience, a politician with a toxic set of policies. He is the product of a form of finance capitalism and a long legacy of racism and violence in which conscience is put to sleep, democracy withers and public values are extinguished. This is truly a time of monsters and Trump is simply the most visible and certainly one of the most despicable.

What must be acknowledged is that Trump is the most extreme visible expression of a new form of authoritarianism identified by the late political theorist, Sheldon Wolin. According to Wolin, all the elements are in place today for a contemporary form of authoritarianism, which he calls «inverted totalitarianism.» Wolin writes:

Thus the elements are in place: a weak legislative body, a legal system that is both compliant and repressive, a party system in which one part, whether in opposition or in the majority, is bent upon reconstituting the existing system so as to permanently favor a ruling class of the wealthy, the well-connected and the corporate, while leaving the poorer citizens with a sense of helplessness and political despair, and, at the same time, keeping the middle classes dangling between fear of unemployment and expectations of fantastic rewards once the new economy recovers. That scheme is abetted by a sycophantic and increasingly concentrated media; by the integration of universities with their corporate benefactors; by a propaganda machine institutionalized in well-funded think tanks and conservative foundations; by the increasingly closer cooperation between local police and national law enforcement agencies aimed at identifying terrorists, suspicious aliens, and domestic dissidents. (4)

Totalitarianism destroys everything that makes politics possible. It is both an ideological poison and a brutal mode of governance and control. It puts reason to sleep and destroys any viable elements of democracy. Trump reminds us of totalitarianism’s addiction to tyranny, its attachments to the machineries of death and its moral emptiness. What is crucial to acknowledge is that the stories, legacies and violence that are part of totalitarianism’s history must be told over and over again so that it becomes possible to recognize how it appears in new forms, replicated under the banner of terror and insecurity by design, and endlessly legitimated by the image-making of the corporate disimagination machines. The call to safety in authoritarian societies is code for illicit spying, treating people as criminals, militarizing the police, constructing a surveillance state, allowing the killing of Black people as acts of domestic terrorism, and ultimately making disappear those individuals and groups that we dehumanize or consider threatening. The extremist fervor that Trump has stirred up should be a rallying cry for a struggle not simply against a crude and reactionary populism, but also against the tyranny of totalitarianism in its new and proto-fascist forms.

Note: This article was adapted from a much shorter article that appeared previously on CounterPunch.


1. Heather Digby Parton, «The Unprecedented Nightmare of Donald Trump: He’s Actually a Fascist,» AlterNet, [November 25, 2015]. Online: It is interesting to note that John Kasich released an ad directly connecting Donald Trump to the Nazis. Hopefully, the corporate media will wake up and do the same thing. See TrueBlueMontaineer, «Kasich’s new Trump ad goes full on Godwin and it’s a doozy,» Daily Kos (November 24, 2015). Online:

2. See, especially, Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York: 2001).

3. Personal correspondence with David L. Clark. November 30, 2015.

4. Ibid., 14-15.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission of the author.




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