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Vouchers
The Right's Final Answer To Brown

from the Black Commentator, May 27, 2004


A direct line runs from the "segregation academies" of the post-Brown South and today's corporate-invented school vouchers "movement."

Both talk the same language: a "freedom of choice" double-speak that would preserve and expand racial and economic privilege. In place of Brown, today's voucher advocates would subsidize the "choices" that somehow become available in an American social marketplace that has historically devalued Blacks. They would achieve this unregulated educational supermarket by liquidating the principle and promise of universal, quality public education.

Just as segregationists shut down the public schools of Prince Edward County, Virginia, in 1959 in favor of private white and Black academies, today's voucher advocates openly agitate for defunding urban public schools. The very same rightwing forces that sought to neuter Brown at every stage in its 50-year history now push privatization as a remedy for the misery they have wrought in America's cities. They aim to profit – literally – from their own crimes.

Rewards for racism

"The crusade for vouchers actually has its roots in an effort to continue segregation," said Cynthia Tucker, editorial page editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in a July 7, 2002 column. "By the time of Jimmy Carter's presidency, the parents of segregation academy students were campaigning for tax breaks for private school tuition. They formed the early core of what later became the voucher movement."

The haste with which southern whites established private schools after 1954 made it impossible to cloak the exodus in euphemisms – this was white flight from physical proximity to Blacks, pure and simple, and the name "segregation academies," stuck. Whites in the North would react in much the same way when their turn came, opting out of the cities entirely to invest their taxes in quality schools for their own children in the suburbs. Those who remained in places like Boston chose private education over integration. "You saw an immediate drain of white participation from public education, going into parochial and private schools," said Rev. Graylan Hagler, president of Ministers for Racial, Social, and Economic Justice. "And ever since, they have attempted to redirect public dollars out of public education and into private schools."

Racists always find a "freedom" to mask their hatreds. Segregationists in Virginia devised a "freedom of choice" policy in the mid-Fifties to allow white students to transfer out of schools slated for integration. When Prince Edward County whites finally exhausted their legal bag of tricks in 1959, they shut the public schools down and set up a foundation to support the education of whites.

The county schools were among the five cases that had been combined under Brown. The late Wilbur Brookover, a Michigan State University sociologist who testified as an expert in Brown, chronicled the county's response to the decision:

    "The White school foundation...moved rapidly to raise money to establish the Prince Edward Academy, which used a variety of facilities beginning in fall 1959. Permanent Academy facilities for both elementary and secondary students were built soon after. Essentially all of the White children in Prince Edward County were enrolled in the Academy in the next few years. Some of the poor Whites in the county were provided scholarships to pay their children's tuition....

    "Although Whites established a private foundation to provide similar opportunities for Black children, many Black county residents and the NAACP refused this on the grounds that it continued essentially the same situation that the Brown decision was supposed to end. Those opposing this effort vocalized their concern by actively working to discourage Black children from signing up for the private schools. In January 1960, the Southside Schools, the name given to the private schools, received an application from one Black student. After that, private school advocates decided to postpone their efforts to educate Black students."

This was the fatal political flaw in the early segregation academies: their failure to gain Black participation. The Black citizens of Prince Edward County deserve a permanent place of honor for refusing to collaborate in a scheme to undermine their just-won rights to a non-Jim Crow, public education – even when the alternative was to have no public schools at all for five years.

President Lyndon Johnson's Internal Revenue Service made life difficult for the segregation academies, as detailed in this IRS memorandum:

    "The IRS response began in 1965 with the suspension of the issuance of rulings to private schools in order for the Service to consider the effect of racial discrimination on their exempt status. After extensive study, the IRS announced in 1967 that racially discriminatory private schools, which were receiving state aid, were not entitled to exemption under IRC 501(c)(3) based on public policy beginning with the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution."


In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court cracked down on backdoor subsidies to segregated private schools in Mississippi. The court ruled, in Norwood v. Harrison, that "free textbooks, like tuition grants directed to students in private schools, are a form of tangible financial assistance benefiting the schools themselves, and the State's constitutional obligation requires it to avoid not only operating the old dual system of racially segregated schools but also providing tangible aid to schools that practice racial or other invidious discrimination."

In their review of the racist roots of voucher politics, People for the American Way note that President Nixon toyed with the idea of federal aid to parochial schools – "parochiad" – in 1971. Four years later, the far-right Heritage Foundation made its first foray into vouchers, sponsoring a forum on the subject. But it was not until the Reaganites came to power in Washington that the Heritage Foundation proposed attaching vouchers to federal education legislation, in 1981. The problem was, vouchers were still firmly (and correctly) associated with die-hard segregationists. Memories of white "massive resistance" to integration remained fresh, especially among Blacks, who had never demanded vouchers – not even once in all of the tens of thousands of demonstrations over the previous three decades.

Former Reagan Education Secretary William Bennett understood what was missing from the voucher political chemistry: minorities. If visible elements of the Black and Latino community could be ensnared in what was then a lily-white scheme, then the Right's dream of a universal vouchers system to subsidize general privatization of education, might become a practical political project. More urgently, Bennett and other rightwing strategists saw that vouchers had the potential to drive a wedge between Blacks and teachers unions, cracking the Democratic Party coalition. In 1988, Bennett urged the Catholic Church to "seek out the poor, the disadvantaged...and take them in, educate them, and then ask society for fair recompense for your efforts" – vouchers. The game was on.

The Heritage Foundation was soon joined in voucher agitation by the young, hyper-aggressive Bradley Foundation, of Milwaukee. Bradley and its allies steamrolled through the Wisconsin legislature a voucher program for Milwaukee's schools, and spent millions of dollars to buy a Black constituency to support it. In 2000, the Bradley, Heritage and Walton Family Foundations unveiled their African American front group: the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), whose job is to put a Black face on a rich, white man's creation.

Treachery

New Jersey is a battleground for voucher operatives, the most urban/suburban state in the nation, and a pet interest of John Walton, one of five heirs to the $100 billion Walton (Wal-Mart) family fortune. Walton and local white businessman Peter Denton took a special liking to 30-year-old, then first-term Black Newark City Councilman Cory Booker. With the help of the Bradley-funded Manhattan Institute and a national network of corporate rightwing donors and activists, Booker ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2002, hugely outspending the incumbent. Booker is a founding director of the BAEO and of Newark-based E-3 – Excellent Education for Everyone – the Right's voucher outpost in New Jersey, founded by Denton, a white Republican. Booker is a nominal Democratic, of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) variety. Indeed, he is the very model of the Black Democratic Trojan Horse that the rich Right now cultivates on a national scale. Publicists from the Manhattan Institute and other rightwing thought-manipulation tanks have dubbed this small but growing rump of Black Democrats the New Black Leaders. Naturally, the corporate media sing the same song.

Rightwing money has accomplished William Bennett's 1988 mission. They have created out of whole cloth the appearance – if not the reality – of an authentic Black voucher movement where none existed less than a decade ago. However, this spawn of the Bradley, Heritage and Walton Family Foundations (and now funded directly by the Bush Education Department) functions like no other "Black" political current in American history.

Witness the treachery of Dana Rone, Booker's closest local Black political ally and Vice President of the Newark Public School Advisory Board, who doubles as a "consultant" to the school "choice" outfit, E-3. In March of this year, Rone traveled to the state capital at Trenton to urge that Newark education monies be diverted to private schools.

    "As this is a budget committee meeting, I will share a particularly telling statistic. Between Newark and Camden, we share an almost $1 billion budget. For that we produced approximately 2,000 high school graduates last year.... In plain terms, that's a staggering cost of $1 million per legitimately proficient high-school graduate. Such numbers indicate the abuse of two things: the money the state sends into our urban districts, and the children who are subjected to the system."

    "We are, essentially, paid for our failure, and our customers – the children who live in our districts and who are zoned into our schools – are forced to take what we give them, regardless of whether or not it works for them, or for the community as a whole."

While authentic Black leadership everywhere struggles to overcome the near-universal underfunding of urban schools – an historic injustice that the New Jersey Supreme Court has ordered the state to correct through the expenditure of billions of dollars – Rone and her cohorts encourage the suburban legislative majority's deeply ingrained desire to withhold funding. Rone earns her living mouthing free market shibboleths:

    "Make money follow children to schools they choose instead of tying school funding to guaranteed populations segregated by zip codes.... And, most importantly, leverage successful private and parochial schools in our communities that have a proven track record of educating minority children at, incidentally, a substantially lower cost than our traditional public system. Tying dollars to children will make us compete for students. Market forces will lead to more efficient, and effective, use of the aid the state sends us and, ultimately, the improvement of every public school in our district."

Of course, no voucher program in the nation has proven "successful" by standards that are applied to the public schools.

But what counts is that Rone's remarks are music to billionaire patron John Walton's ears, believing as he does that the most fundamental human right, is the right to shop.

Rone mimics her local guru, white businessman and E-3 founder Peter Denton, who takes every opportunity to undermine the court's Abbott urban funding decision: "New Jersey's record of huge increases in urban education spending over the last generation, coupled with this lack of results, makes arguments for increased funding more and more difficult to sustain."

This then, is the Right's answer to Brown: that urban public education is not worth funding. African Americans should join with the privatizers, put their hopes in the "market," and abandon demands for equality in the public sphere.

"For me ladies and gentleman, it's education by any means necessary," Rone bizarrely proclaimed to the legislators. "And in my heart, I know that Malcolm would agree with me."

From the lips of a corporate mercenary, the words are obscene.


http://www.blackcommentator.com/92/92_cover_vouchers.html
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "I have not always been right, but I have always been sincere." ~ W.E.B. Du Bois ~~~~~~~~~~~
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quote:

Between Newark and Camden, we share an almost $1 billion budget. For that we produced approximately 2,000 high school graduates last year.... In plain terms, that's a staggering cost of $1 million per legitimately proficient high-school graduate. Such numbers indicate the abuse of two things: the money the state sends into our urban districts, and the children who are subjected to the system."

"We are, essentially, paid for our failure, and our customers – the children who live in our districts and who are zoned into our schools – are forced to take what we give them, regardless of whether or not it works for them, or for the community as a whole."



Wow, that quote sure makes it sound like the speaker is opposed to public schools. But what if we fill the quote in with the portions that the author of the article omitted:

quote:

Between Newark and Camden, we share an almost $1 billion budget. For that we produced approximately 2,000 high school graduates last year.... In plain terms, that's a staggering cost of $1 million per legitimately proficient high-school graduate. Such numbers indicate the abuse of two things: the money the state sends into our urban districts, and the children who are subjected to the system." As a school board member, I can tell you that, despite these results, we need every pennyof the money the state sends us. Without the equalization of funding inherent in Abbott,our districts would dry up and collapse. Yet something is clearly wrong with the deliveryof the service of public education when we spend $15,000 per pupil and get the results I mentioned earlier.


She goes on to discuss how her solution involves ensuring accountability to the parents, via a number of means. She discusses the idea of having the Newark School system change from the guaranteed zip code system to a competitive "magnet" style system, and a few other things, including vouchers.

It's one thing to disagree with vouchers (I suppose), but it's something else to intentionally recast somebody's words to make them sound like something disagreeable.
*Sigh* You know, most people who meet me would probably never peg me as a Black separatists or Nationalist, but the older I get and have to deal with this crap, the more I am in favor of voluntary segregation. They want segregation, fine--give us enough money and leeway, and we make our own schools and when our children are outperforming them (like Asians and the children African immigrants), we remind them that this is what they wanted so stop bitching already. Yeah, I'm in a bad mood today. Sometimes you can only be so patient and peaceful.
quote:
Originally posted by James Wesley Chester:
I see the point of noting the history of 'going the private route, but does that automatically make 'vouchers' per se segregationist?

It feels like a 'reach'.


Point noted Vox.

JWC, the answer to your question depends upon how serviceable the idea of vouchers is to our needs.

The fact is that by defunding the public schools (and also underfunding NCLB) you are definitely creating a situation that works in the interests and to the advantage of segregationists.

I realize that this issue is per se one that is separate from whether vouchers as an idea has merit. But if the very people who are pushing vouchers to us fall short on implementation, how serious can they be?

So though one can support vouchers and not have a segregationist agenda, the question remains: whether those of us who have embraced vouchers have actually bought a lemon?

Maybe those with greater familiarity with the subject can help me (because I really lack knowledge here) but it has always been a mystery to me how one would devise a system to measure the quality of, say, charter schools.

Is it testing? ... But it's extremely easy to train people to pass a test. Passing tests is good but it's not a deep measure of a quality education.

The idea of privatizing education has always struck me as throwing the learning process to the Wild West. Right now we have a public system with (fairly) uniform standards and measures (although there are differences from state to state) and one which is open to independent scrutiny. What do you have if you don't have one system but many competing systems? And corporate systems at that? The over-riding imperative of a corporation is to maximize profits.

My biggest concern is that the privatization idea buys in to the * myth * that the competition encouraged by market forces improves goods and services.

Meanwhile, wealthier whites committed to a de facto segregationism will always be able to afford the best teachers and the best schools.

I really don't have the answers ... but I have many doubts about the idea of vouchers ...
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quote:
Originally posted by HonestBrother:

My biggest concern is that the privatization idea buys in to the * myth * that the competition encouraged by market forces improves goods and services.


AGREE.

Hey - the police is pretty messed up. Should we privatize that? How about the military? Perhaps Halliburton can protect us better than the US military. sck
JWC, the answer to your question depends upon how serviceable the idea of vouchers is to our needs.---HonesBrother

I agree that the voucher system should serve the need of the student, the user.

The fact is that by defunding the public schools (and also underfunding NCLB) you are definitely creating a situation that works in the interests and to the advantage of segregationists.

We cannot have it both ways.

I choose voucher, and here I am equating 'vouchers' with chartered schools as well as otherwise privately owned-and-operated facilities.


I realize that this issue is per se one that is separate from whether vouchers as an idea has merit. But if the very people who are pushing vouchers to us fall short on implementation, how serious can they be?

The feds are pushing school districts on NCLB.

The parents are pushing shool districts on charter schools.

In this instance, the user of the system is setting the standard, or mre accurately registering dissatisfaction, and requiring the user-share be diverted to an education-jprovider that may, or may not, be under the jurisdiction and control of the school district...as is the case with a charter school.


So though one can support vouchers and not have a segregationist agenda, the question remains: whether those of us who have embraced vouchers have actually bought a lemon?---HonesBrother

'Embracing vouchers' does not dictate that your child be sent to a school that exclusionist in it admission practices.

Maybe those with greater familiarity with the subject can help me (because I really lack knowledge here) but it has always been a mystery to me how one would devise a system to measure the quality of, say, charter schools.---HonestBrother

Certainly, I am no expert. My understanding, however, is that the State Department of Education approves the curricula, the evaluating methods and procedures, and requires subordination to the school district, and has the final 'sign off' on all performance for both the school AND the school district.

Is it testing? ... But it's easy to train people to pass a test. Passing tests is good but it's not a deep measure of a quality education.---HonestBrother

In Pennsylvania an assessment system, part of NCLB, I think, that is used to measure all schools by student, by district grades 3 through 11.

That's measuring results for all (publicly approved) providers.

Charter schools impact the quality and performance of the teachers as well as the administration of the facility.

The idea of privatizing education has always struck me as throwing the learning process to the Wild West. Right now we have a public system with uniform standards and measures and one which is open to independent scrutiny. What do you have if you don't have one system but many competing systems? And corporate systems at that?---HonestBrother

Charter schools are not privatization.

Vouchers clearly can be used for private schools.

Both alternatives exist because the public alternative is failing to meet the needs of students...for a wide variety of reasons; the most perncious of which, namely big business and unionism, will not correct themselves.


My biggest concern is that the privatization idea buys in to the * myth * that the competition encouraged by market forces improves goods and services.---HonestBroher

Competition is the only choice left.

Meanwhile, wealthier whites committed to a de facto segregationism will always be able to afford the best teachers and the best schools.---HonestBrother

Controlling the money is good for them, and not good for less economically able?

Something is wrong with that reasoning.


I really don't have the answers ... but I have many doubts about the idea of vouchers ...---HonestBrother

As for us, as African Americans, it is long past time for us to learn to exercise what authority we have, AND to acquire as much as we can.

PEACE

Jim Chester
quote:
Originally posted by MBM:
quote:
Originally posted by HonestBrother:

My biggest concern is that the privatization idea buys in to the * myth * that the competition encouraged by market forces improves goods and services.


AGREE.

Hey - the police is pretty messed up. Should we privatize that? How about the military? Perhaps Halliburton can protect us better than the US military. sck


Just to piggyback on that idea, which is kind of off topic, but many, many companies "hire" private security forces (mercenaries) to protect their interests abroad and even to fight as needed. I'm sure their numbers outnumber our military on the continent of Africa alone, not to mention Central and South America. Example Wackenhut. Maybe this could be a seperate topic....
quote:
Originally posted by UppityNegress:
*Sigh* You know, most people who meet me would probably never peg me as a Black separatists or Nationalist, but the older I get and have to deal with this crap, the more I am in favor of voluntary segregation. They want segregation, fine--give us enough money and leeway, and we make our own schools and when our children are outperforming them (like Asians and the children African immigrants), we remind them that this is what they wanted so stop bitching already. Yeah, I'm in a bad mood today. Sometimes you can only be so patient and peaceful.

To me, this is really the issue.

The Court's ruling in Brown, and the belief amongst the Black elite that sending our children to school with white folks was a solution to the racial divide in amerikkka, is the reason why we are having this coversation today... it is the reason for the current gap in achievement between Black and white students.

It is not a mystery that whites and Jews began calling for school voucher systems. They KNEW the Court's ruling in Brown would be impossible to enforce. Not only was this an opportunity to maintain de facto segregation, it was a chance to attack the monopoly state governments had on education... a chance to open new markets and make wealth for more white folks. When Milton Freidman gave birth to the idea of using vouchers to pay for education a year after the Brown decision (see the Role of Government in Education (1955), Economics and the Public Interest, New Jersey; Rutgers College), Black folks missed the set-up. Put forth as scholarly work by one of this nation's most respected economist, Freidman in 1955 provided the intellectual and market rationale needed to maintain white supremacy in the area of education... it was the formal beginning to white backlash for the masses of everyday white folks (And I say "everyday white folks" because the ELITE whites had long since established private schools for the education of their progeny) hell bent on not sending their kids to school with Black people... it was a planned event with the goal to erode the Court's decision.

Okay... cool. How should we respond as Black folks?

The same way SNCC did in 1960. Organize to enter the marketplace... organize to control community schools. Because many African Americans began to see Brown as an ineffective tool toward teaching black students, they began organizing to take over the schools in their community. SNCC began to establish "Freedom Schools" for the African American community.

As designed by SNCC, Freedom Schools were deliberately constructed spaces of practice in the organizational vision of the community education process, and they functioned as environments of teaching, learning and places of focused community education. It was in these learning communities that the questioning, problem posing and creativity so important to the education of African American people took place. In the Freedom Schools, SNCC leadership found the key to sustained progress and any social change in the future is connected to the education of young African American people.

The community school movement was destroyed by who else... the United Federation of Teachers... a Jewish led union designed to protect the jobs of white teachers - who certainly would not have had a job miseducating Black children if this vision was realized.

Today, we are back at square one having the same discussion. It is time to forget about Brown v Board of Education and educate our children like our ancestors did when Plessy was the law of the land.
quote:
Originally posted by James Wesley Chester:


So though one can support vouchers and not have a segregationist agenda, the question remains: whether those of us who have embraced vouchers have actually bought a lemon?---HonesBrother

'Embracing vouchers' does not dictate that your child be sent to a school that exclusionist in it admission practices.


My question was not whether the school is exclusivist in its policy ... but rather in its effect... and secondarily whether the voucher system can be made to actually produce quality results on a wide scale (see below for an explanation).


quote:

Is it testing? ... But it's easy to train people to pass a test. Passing tests is good but it's not a deep measure of a quality education.---HonestBrother

In Pennsylvania an assessment system, part of NCLB, I think, that is used to measure all schools by student, by district grades 3 through 11.

That's measuring results for all (publicly approved) providers.

Charter schools impact the quality and performance of the teachers as well as the administration of the facility.


The question is about the nature of the "assessment".

There are 2 ways to teach students so that they perform successfully on a test:

1. You can teach them how to think about the subject so that they really understand it. So that when they are examined, a good outcome will actually show subject competence. In other words, the student has mastered the subject.

2. If you (the teacher) know the types of questions that wil be asked and have some familiarity with how the test is structured, you can coach/train your students how to answer the questions. In this case, a good outcome is measuring test taking ability. In other words, the student has mastered the test. They forget what little of the subject they knew once the test is over. And you still have a student product that lacks competence in the subject and the requisite thinking skills.

Any experienced teacher knows this. It is much much easier to take the 2nd approach. It is the educational path of least resistance.

So really my issue is that if big business takes over the business of education ... and the bottom line is the bottom line ... what kind of assessment will guarantee that they are not merely producing good test takers?

My point: "Competition" might produce "results" ... but they may not be the type of results you (the parent) really want. But merely a screen masking the fact that the problem was not really solved ... just disguised.

Am I misundertanding something?

My bottom line: As someone who has taught content courses to public school teachers, I believe that the problems with the public schools can be fixed if we are really serious about doing so.

But I really DEEP DOWN do not trust the free market to educate my future children. I don't trust market forces with the quality of knowledge and information that I receive.

I could be wrong but I believe that vouchers is a false fix.

The free market gives us FOX News.
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'...and the bottom line is the bottom line...'---HonesBrother

I strongly believe 'the bottom line' drives today's education system as much if not more that the 'me first' mentality that dominates the faculty.

I could be wrong but I believe that vouchers is a false fix.---HonestBrother

I have given up on even hoping that any 'fix' applied and controlled by current administration and faculty can ever be successful.

Business and the teachers' unionism protect their vested interest to detriment of the student....no matter how they try to spin it.


"Competition" might produce "results" ... but they may not be the type of results you (the parent) really want. But merely a screen masking the fact that the problem was not really solved ... just disguised.---HonestBrother

I agree the results are vulnerable to bad methods.

No results are iron-clad.

Solutions can be 'yes, but..' forever.

And still...

Our children deserve an answer.

We should be making positive decisions to save our children from the greed and incompetence that now preys on them.

Incidentlally, I seldom find articles endorsed by 'black commentator' to be objective.


PEACE

Jim Chester
Like HB and others, I also have a problem with the likelihood that "accountability" in a NCLB-style environment creates the risk that the schools will try to teach solely to improve the test-taking bottom line. For that reason, I'm suspicious of federal intervention in these kinds of matters.

At the same time, I don't get what any of that has to do with school choice, or vouchers. Where it concerns inner city parents, there are lots of factors that go into what kind of school they would want to send their kids to. The debate over educational quality vs. test-taking education goes on within schools even now, and most reasonably concerned parents can and probably do weigh in on it, and could make decisions (if permitted) based on what they see. Also, where I live, a lot of parents are concerned about safety in the schools, discipline, and the types of peer issues the kids will face there. A lot of parents would agree that if one school has less of certain kinds of distractions than another school does, a lot of the educational problems tend to take care of themselves.

All of these issues would go into a parent's decision on where to send their kids. When parents work three jobs so they can send their kids to some Catholic school, they usually do so for reasons other than -- or at least, "in addition to" -- test scores. That's why, from the perspective of that issue, I don't see what the concern is over the test-taking standardization issue and vouchers. As long as the vouchers aren't being used to send kids to a school run by some large corporate for-profit entity, like some "Edu-Matic Solutions, LLC" kind of madness, then I don't see the connection between that issue and vouchers. That is potentially a problem for all schools, whether public or private, or whether the school is paid for by vouchers or out of the parent's paycheck.
I don't remember whether 'Freedom Schools' were in addition to, or a replacement of public schools.

The replacement alternative would certainly 'bring out' the union.

I like the wrinkle of making a 'Freedom School' a charter school, and therefore, a part of the public school system.

That would make the school a private school, and independent of the public school district, but still required to meet the standards of the State Department of Education...as a minimum.[/I]

The children of an ethnicity that must maintain its identity while functioning in a greater and different society MUST have control of some of the education of its children in order to sustain itself.

Clearly then, an ethnicity in similar circumstance must have some control of the education its children if ever it is to reclaim itself, or establish itself, in the midst of a greater, and different society.

PEACE

Jim Chester

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