The World's Poorest People Can't Afford Not to Go to Private School

Over at Aid Watch, Laura Freschi has a quick review of James Tooley's book, The Beautiful Tree. Tooley spent four years studying informal private schools that exist in the poorest parts of some of the poorest nations on earth. From Freschi's review:

When James Tooley first discovered low-cost private schools for the poor in urban slums and rural areas in India, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and China, aid agency officials and local government administrators did not receive the news warmly.

Most flat out denied that such schools existed. Even if they do exist, said the experts, they can’t possibly be any good. School owners that run for-profit schools in shantytowns and poor villages are just exploiting poor communities. Their teachers are untrained and poorly paid. Their buildings are cramped, dark and filthy. Worst of all, kids don’t learn anything there—they come out “half-baked,” one education official told him.

Actually, what Tooley found was that most of the schools outperformed the alternatives that local governments were providing. Moreover, the “free” public education in some of these countries isn't actually free—Kenyan parents had to come up with money for uniforms and maintenance funds even for the kids in government schools, for example. The informal schools aren't perfect, and their students don't perform quite as well as those in formally registered private schools, but in many cases they scored better on average than students in public schools.

Tooley provides yet another example of people who've been let down by their governments finding a way to solve their own problems. Rather than belittling these schools, aid agencies and government experts ought to be studying them and figuring out how to support their work and expand it.

Previous Reason coverage of Tooley's work here.

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  • jj||

    "Rather than belittling these schools, aid agencies and government experts ought to be studying them and figuring out how to support their work and expand it."

    Oh God, please no. Unless you want the schools destroyed, have government agencies leave them the hell alone.

  • Mad Max||

    QFT

  • prolefeed||

    If by "support their work and expand it", you mean "introduce statist indoctrination and unionized school teachers", then yes, that's what the government would love to do to these upstart schools.

  • Sam Grove||

    Exactly what I was going to write.

  • wackyjack||

    So the kids who go to schools not sponsored or run by the government don't do as well on government-administered tests?

  • robc||

    Article says they do better.

  • Raven||

    This was the subject of Stossel last week. I have to agree with the above, I really don't want the state supporting and expanding much of anything. When government "supports," government controls.

  • nobody||

    Maybe when Ben wrote "aid agencies and government experts ought to be studying them and figuring out how to support their work and expand it" he meant that governments should develop policies that lower barriers to entry for these types of enterprises.

    Right Ben?

  • liberty_equality_solidarity||

    Well I think this phenomenon is great, and I haven't read any of Tooley's work, much less this one; I wonder if he considered sorting effects at all (that is if I'm a parent who demands academic excellence from my children, I'm more likely to send my child to a private institution). This is a well established in the US, both as pertaining to private schools and the better public ones (moving to the burbs when the kids get to school age).

  • robc||

    Im sure there is. But I dont think it matters, there are three factors that determine how well students learn:

    1. How much the parents value education
    2. How much the child wants to learn (there is strong correlation between 1 and 2)
    3. How good the teachers are

    I think that is descending order of importance too. So, of course, these black market private schools are only going to have strong #1s. Parents that dont care arent going to go to the trouble.

  • Forrest||

    You have questioned the libertarian assumptions. Prepare to be labeled a troll.

  • MNG||

    forrest-robc doesn't care about the well being of children, or rather the well being of children (or anyone) comes second to his abstract system of moral rules. What matters is the abstract system must not be violated; if that results in the diminished well being of children (or anyone) then that is to be prefered to a system where well being is increased but the rules are violated. Robc is like a modern day Pharisee, he thinks the man was made for the Sabbath, not the Sabbath for man.

    So the fact that these private schools increase well being for the poor kids they service is really quite irrelevant for robc (that is, if he's being consistent, but few deontologists are that).

  • robc||

    He was replying to l_e_s, not me. You cant even follow threading?

  • tarran||

    There is something awfully comical about someone arguing with a straight face that a man advocating a philosophy of leaving people alone is a Pharisee...

    ...to the point where I have to question whether the person making that argument is really that stupid or merely arguing for the sake of behaving like an offensive asshole while pretending to be above the fray

  • robc||

    No question necessary. He is a troll.

    I promised not to kill him and it pissed him off because he's too chicken to do it himself.

  • MNG||

    The Pharisees were all for leaving peolple alone, like those in need on the Sabbath...

  • BakedPenguin||

    So you're in favor of forcing a Judeo-Christian morality on people? Mad Max will be so happy...

  • MNG||

    You're all for enforcing your morality on people too. For example, I'm betting you think tresspas laws should be enforced, even on people who don't respect private property as a moral matter. So get off your high horse man. Everyone is going to have some part of what they think is right "enforced" on other people, that the morality might have been endorsed by Jesus doesn't somehow magically make it inappropriate to do so...

  • BakedPenguin||

    Ah, that was unfair. Max doesn't want to force his morality on others, he just sincerely believes that life begins at conception.

  • MNG||

    Max lauds the old obscenity laws and the old Hays code, so on this, as so much else, you're wrong...

  • BakedPenguin||

    Yeah, and you used to actually make arguments and have valid points. Did you make a conscious decision to become an insulting, pointless troll, or did Climategate just push you over the edge?

  • MNG||

    Yeah, you guys are all "SLAVER" and "SOCIALIST" and OBAMA=Hitler since he won and it's ME that'g gone all insulting pointless troll...You know a little relativity might help. When you watch a train passing in the other direction you tend to focus on how fast it must be moving away from you and discount how fast you are moving away from it.

  • MNG||

    tarran
    I have to question if you know what you are talking about. That's right, you don't, do you? Like the movie says you're like a child who's wandered into the middle of a movie...

    In a previous discussion robc thought he'd take his deonotology out for a walk and asserted that the consequences of actions and how they affect human well being are not a criteria to be used in judging the morality of those actions. When pressed he said that if, for example, he were told to push a button which would restrict his idea of liberty in some small way, and his refusal to push the button would result in the destruction of the entire human race, he would not push the button (worse, he thought he was morally required not to). I pointed out the inhuman madness underlying such arguments and he was actually quite proud of his stance.

    You see, Pharisees thought the Law, their abstract system of right and wrong, trumped and was divorced from actual human well being. So when confronted by Jesus about whether it was ok to gather food for the hungry or heal the sick on the Sabbath they chose the abstract idea of right and wrong no matter the consequences to actual human well being. Rightly did Jesus rebuke folks like robc and the Pharisees, those who forget that rules and laws are secondary to human well being...

  • Jeffrey||

    Liberty is the natural Condition MNG, it can only be taken by force. Since when did force become an abstract idea. The barrel of a gun is a very real thing.

  • ||

    I have to question whether the person making that argument is really that stupid or merely arguing for the sake of behaving like an offensive asshole while pretending to be above the fray

    These are not mutually exclusive.

    -jcr

  • ||

    forrest-robc doesn't care about the well being of children, or rather the well being of children (or anyone) comes second to his abstract system of moral rules.

    Perhaps robc has concluded that the well-being of children is best served by his "abstract system of moral rules" as a the best results for everyone.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Forrest,

    You have questioned the libertarian assumptions. Prepare to be labeled a troll.

    Are you kidding? We don't banish trolls! We love them, and hug them, and pat them, and call them George!

  • ||

    The two largest long term problems facing the impoverished nations of the world are illiteracy and innumeracy. A lierate, numerate person can, and often does, make learning a lifelong habit.

    Teaching chidren their three Rs does not require a degree in education, support from aid agencies, support from the government or expensive infrastructure.

    It requires a literate, numerate patient person willing to spend their time doing so.

    The government propoganda, advanced science, and all the electives you took in high school take a back seat to teaching the population to read,
    write and do arithmetic.

    Again, this does of require much more than a teacher.

  • ||

    But it's so much easier to read a story to a bunch of kids and ask them their feelings.

    You can also make sure they are feeling the "correct" way.

  • Raven||

    To me, this points to parents being the best educators possible- which is why I intend to homeschool my two young sons.

    In the absence of a parent or other relative willing and able to do this, the obvious next best choice is someone who has an incentive to educate a child. Government workers have no incentive to educate kids; they get nothing extra for doing a great job and they don't get punished for doing a lousy job.

  • ||

    Pre-cisely. You might luck out and get an occasional good teacher in the public system, but you're depending solely on their benign interest in being good.

    Not to mention all of the built-in flaws that go with public schooling--ridiculous bureaucracy, politics, de-emphasis on personal responsibility and accountability, focus on getting the kids out rather than educated, fluff programs, criminal waste, etc., etc., etc.

  • Kyle||

    Sorry Raven, but this doesn't point to that at all. The kids educated by their parents in third world countries are not mentioned in this article. It is safe to assume that they would score most poorly of the four groups.

    Teaching is skill, just as parenting is a skill. These are seperate skills, and division of labor, even in an informal economy such as the one profiled, would dictate that better skilled teachers will have more successful schools.

  • Raven||

    I didn't say that the article pointed to that. I said that J sub D's comment pointed to that.

  • MNG||

    Pro L
    Do you seriously not think all the above would be found in any privatized system of education? Have you ever been to a large, private corporation or better yet a large private university for example. Yeah, no waste or bureaucracy there!

  • robc||

    Of course they exist in private organizations too. But at a lesser level. What private school has as many administrators as teachers? This is common in public school systems.

  • MNG||

    "Of course they exist in private organizations too. But at a lesser level."

    [citation ommitted]

    "What private school has as many administrators as teachers?"

    Er, pretty much every private college I know has as many of this as any given public college. Try again.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: MNG,

    Er, pretty much every private college I know has as many of this as any given public college. Try again.

    I WOULD believe you're lying through your teeth, but the fact is that gunvermint-facilitated student loans have converted private institutions into semi-public white elephants with little concern for efficiency and cost-cutting because, the very same way as with the public sector, the money coming into American private institutions is more or less guaranteed no matter what they do.

    So, I say you are correct, MNG, but not for the reasons YOU think - that is, not because of something inherent in all private organizations that makes them comparable to public organizations (which is not true), but because of the subsidies these particular institutions receive, totally changing their incentive system.

  • MNG||

    Ahh, a nice unfalsifiable charge by OM in response. Who saw that coming?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: MNG,

    Ahh, a nice unfalsifiable charge by OM in response. Who saw that coming?

    Who could, indeed? Never mind that applying a Popperian test to human action is futile.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: MNG,

    Do you seriously not think all the above would be found in any privatized system of education? Have you ever been to a large, private corporation or better yet a large private university for example. Yeah, no waste or bureaucracy there!

    A few points:

    + Private institutions (like businesses or private schools), if they operate under a profit/loss test, will invariably have LESS bureaucracy than institution that have their income guaranteed in some way, like the gunvermint, since the gunvermint obtains its income from straight extortion and threats of violence, or by banking fraud (what people call with a morbid sense of humor: "taxes" and "credit"), whereas private institutions have to trade their wares for money, that is, they have to convince a potential buyer that their wares are more valuable than the money they are carrying.

    + Due to the almost unlimited income the public institutions have access to, their incentive for efficiency and frugality are non existent. Private institutions do not enjoy that luxury.

    Again, the exception is institutions that receive ample subsidies from the gunvermint and from dumb parents who really buy into the hypothesis that by virtue of obtaining a modern replacement for the nobility title, their dumb kids will suddenly become smart and productive: a modern delusion.

  • MNG||

    I think [citation ommitted] should be placed after nearly every sentence in this post. Of course few of them make any testable empirical propositions, but even the goofy Austrian-esque base assumptions are rather silly here and don't do the work OM seems to think they do.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: MNG,

    I think [citation ommitted] should be placed after nearly every sentence in this post.

    I think you are playing dumb. Oh, sorry, I forgot to cite that.

    Of course few of them make any testable empirical propositions,

    . . . never mind that in economics, NO empirical test can be done because we're talking about humans that purposefully act.

    but even the goofy Austrian-esque base assumptions are rather silly here and don't do the work OM seems to think they do.

    Indeed - why argue against it, if one can cowardly dismiss it and still pat oneself in the back with a "Ha! That showed him!" Makes for great after talk with the geeky buddies at the local Chilli's.

    Your answer is another way of saying: "Oh, yeah? Oh, yeah? Well . . . your mom sucks!" Very grown up.

  • ||

    No where near as much, and there's a lot more accountability in the private situation. In fact, there's virtually no accountability in public education, which is why they can venture off into Bizarro world.

  • Attorney||

    A lierate, numerate person

    Joe'z Law?

  • John Tagliaferro||

    I think he means numerint.

  • zoltan||

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/numerate

  • zoltan||

    Never mind, I'm retarded.

  • Casey||

    STOSSEL SEGMENT WITH TOOLEY FROM LAST WEEK:

    http://www.foxbusiness.com/on-.....t_id=87050

  • Old Mexican||

    Actually, what Tooley found was that most of the schools outperformed the alternatives that local governments were providing.

    That's because their public schools are non-union, like ours!!!!

    Wua, wua, wua, wuaaaaaa!

  • No Name Guy||

    Tsk, tsk, tsk...... Tooley, please send your location to the NEA / Big Aid / Government Development folks and stay put. The goon squads will be by to pick you up.

    How DARE you reveal that folks can help themselves without massive, intrusive state / big charity administered programs. We have a nice spot in the gulag waiting for you.

  • Marc||

    Hey, why don't you go to private school in Mogadishu, LIBERTARDS?!

    (I keed, I keed.)

  • Warty||

    PILDWOMN MAN!!!!

  • MNG||

    Is it just me, or is everyone overlooking the fact that the increased in availibility of public education has been contemporaneous with never previously heretofor increases in quality of life, opportunity and, well I'll just say it, liberty? I guess you could all just travel back in time to community college math 101 and repeat the mantra "Correlation doesn't equal causation" but it seems like an interesting thing to most...

  • Warty||

    contemporaneous with never previously heretofor increases

    You're trying too hard again. Shut the fuck up, MNG.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    +1

  • oncogenesis||

    It's just you.

  • tarran||

    Not really. Increased public education has given us places like Cuba, North Korea and post-war England.

    In fact, given most places got modern public school systems only with the arrival of modern dictatorial states, it is pretty clear that the arrival of public schools correlated as often as not with negative trends in wellbeing.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    Mao was big on public schools.

  • MNG||

    And Milton Friedman went to a public school (undergrad included).

    See, Captian Anecedote works for our side too! Now go talk to your other personalities and let the sane people discuss things Johnny.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    I know, wasting keystrokes.

    Friedman never forced others into public schools to teach them "the truth".

    You are really some kind of fucked up.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: MNG,

    And Milton Friedman went to a public school (undergrad included).

    Even *I* went to public school, all the way to grad! See? That proves Public Education must be superior!

  • true colors||

    I see.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    Mussolini and Hitler were big on public schools too.

    Wasn't one of them a schoolmaster?

  • MNG||

    Yeah tarran, what great examples. Of course you left out a little nation like the United States which saw educational opportunity rise with quality of life and liberty of life.

  • Jersey Patriot||

    You needed the Industrial Revolution and enough advancement of worker incomes that children could be withheld from the workforce without their families starving. Public education without increased wealth would have been a disaster for the poor. So, the increases in health & wealth preceded public education.

    As to causation, I have no doubt that increased education improves a society, but that's not the question. The question is "Has education been delivered in the most effective and efficient way?" I think the answer is no. We can find plenty of public systems that produce better results than ours do, although that's heavily skewed by other factors. And in our own country alone, we've seen a massive increase in resources directed to schools with basically no return.

  • RichN||

    "Education is a weapon,
    whose effect depends on who
    holds it in his hands and
    at whom it is aimed."
    - "uncle" Josef Stalin

  • Old Mexican||

    Is it just me, or is everyone overlooking the fact that the increased in avail[a]bility of public education has been contemporaneous with never previously [seen] increases in quality of life, opportunity and, well I'll just say it, liberty?

    It is just you, MNG. Actually, a more cogent case can be made that the appearance and ubiquity of public education has COINCIDED with the lessening of opportunity and freedom for many people, since it has gone hand with hand with the increase of government and a decrease in educational standards.

    The biggest problem for the US is not so much mandatory schooling laws (even though they ARE problematic and woefully unconstitutional, violating the 13th Amendment). No, the biggest immediate problems are LICENSING LAWS AND BUILDING CODES AND REGULATIONS, which call for no less than a Pharaonic building just to house students, instead of allowing teachers to open their own little schools. The very same barriers to entry that the State has a penchant for imposing make the cost of private education very high for people that are already hobbled by taxes to pay for the public education!

  • MNG||

    YEah OM, the real issue in education is reform: we need to gut building codes to save money on that highschool gym (and think of the teaching moment when the gym falls down; students can learn first aid first hand, they can study how to rebuild it or at least how best to remove the rubble, etc)

  • Old Mexican||

    Well, MNG, you are starting from false premises - who said a high school needs a gym?

  • ||

    Is it just me, or is everyone overlooking the fact that the increased in availibility of public education has been contemporaneous with never previously heretofor increases in quality of life, opportunity and, well I'll just say it, liberty?

    Correlation, etc.

    Perhaps increases in education occur as societies get wealthier and have the resources to pay for it and reward it, and don't need to have their kids working at an early age?

    I think its much more likely that wealth and education drive each other, without the need for government mandates and funding.

  • MNG||

    Oh Warty, please bite me.

  • Warty||

    Why don't you bite me in SOMALIA???? Refute that, liberfags!!!!@1

  • MNG||

    You live in Somalia? Actually it would make sense of some things, I've long suspected you had a Somali-level education...

  • ||

    Racist.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    Most flat out denied that such schools existed. Even if they do exist, said the experts, they can’t possibly be any good. School owners that run for-profit schools in shantytowns and poor villages are just exploiting poor communities. Their teachers are untrained and poorly paid. Their buildings are cramped, dark and filthy. Worst of all, kids don’t learn anything there—they come out “half-baked,” one education official told him.

    How could they possibly provide the proper quality without a union?

    World Card Check for all.

  • MNG||

    Have you people been within ten miles of any school in the last few years? In most states there are no "teachers unions", maybe associations like the NEA at best. The teachers do not bargain collectively, cannot strike, etc. You people are living in a recurring paranoid delusion.

    But, but TEH TEACHER'S UNIONS! Jesus, turn off your AM radios and think a little on your own every now and then, leave your basements for something other than Tea Party rallies...

  • Warty||

    In a shocking twist, you don't know what you're talking about.

    Pressured by the NEA and AFT, states began adopting laws sanctioning collective
    bargaining for teachers. According to NEA researchers, 34 states and the District of
    Columbia currently have laws obligating districts to engage in collective bargaining
    with organized teachers. Eleven more states have laws providing for “permissive
    collective bargaining rights at the discretion of the employer,” while Georgia and
    South Carolina have no specific laws protecting or denying collective bargaining for
    teachers.36 In three states—North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia—state law explicitly
    stipulates that districts may not collectively bargain. Even in Texas, however, teachers
    frequently organize, select representatives, and find districts willing to negotiate
    through a process called “meet and confer.” [See Sidebar 3] And because courts have
    consistently ruled that state efforts to prevent public employees from joining unions
    are a violation of the First Amendment right to free association, all 50 states have
    affiliates of one of the two major national teachers unions.37

    Three is most, right guys? Right?

  • robc||

    3 out of 57 is about 123%, right?

  • John Tagliaferro||

    Your math is off. Obamaland has 58 states. He traveled to 57 and had one left.

  • MNG||

    By your own stats, which are wrong (see below), you're talking about roughly 2/3 of the nation, a great big chunk not covered.

    http://www.enotes.com/everyday.....bargaining

    Of course, you're wrong too. A state PERMITTING something like collective bargaining is certainly nothing like what you're thinking of concerning collective bargaining. Meet and confer is certainly nothing like it. And, as my source demonstrates, many states that allow collective bargaining under what we might traditionally think of as collective bargaining restrict the government employees from any effective labor tactics (like strikes).

  • Warty||

    So now you're reduced to claiming that because some states don't allow teachers to strike, teachers' unions are powerless. Or something. Good work.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    More like he is trying to claim that teachers are 3/5 of a person for some sort of sympathy vote.

  • MNG||

    You're 3/5 of your person. Suki is another fifth of your person, and that little albino midget who cries about his mommy leaving him so much is the other 1/5. That other personality you have is just a delusion.

  • MNG||

    My point is that even ceding your figures the "OMG TEH UNIONS" refrain as to what is happening negatively in our nation's schools is certainly a goofily broad brush: even using your fantasy Pixie Hollow figures a huge chunk of the nation simply has no real "teacher unions" playing any significant hand in the running of schools...

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: MNG,

    In most states there are no "teachers unions", maybe associations like the NEA at best. The teachers do not bargain collectively, cannot strike, etc. You people are living in a recurring paranoid delusion.

    I live in California, so I am *not* delusional about the power of the Teachers' Unions here.

  • ||

    You can tell MNG went to state schools, on account of his math and reading skills.

    First he tells us this:

    In most states there are no "teachers unions",

    Then we learn this:

    According to NEA researchers, 34 states and the District of
    Columbia currently have laws obligating districts to engage in collective bargaining
    with organized teachers. Eleven more states have laws providing for “permissive
    collective bargaining rights at the discretion of the employer,”

    For a total of 45 states with collective bargaining, 34 of which make it mandatory. To MNG, this means:

    2/3 of the nation doesn't have collective bargaining by teachers.

  • robc||

    The teachers do not bargain collectively, cannot strike, etc.

    WTF? That is bullshit right there.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    Look where it came from and save the wear on your keyboard.

  • robc||

    I did and I know. Its why I want incif back, it provides me a mechanical means of self-control.

  • Warty||

    When I tried incif back in the day, I found that it took away half the fun of H&R. I mean, when you go to the zoo, and the monkeys are jerking off and throwing poop, you make sure to watch, right? Same thing.

  • robc||

    New version (see below) seemed to block whole trees under banned names, I think there is an option to set that, may play with it.

    I was careful with it. Didnt block MNG for the longest time. Never blocked joe. I just didnt want to deal with sockpuppets and trolls. Never blocked DanT.

    LoneWhackJob was the first to go in mine, Im pretty sure. Actually, I think he and john were there by default.

  • MNG||

    And it allows you to be a pussy who can hide in a world where people agree with him.

    And you wonder why you guys can't break the 5% barrier...Keep on stroking one another, how's that worked out for ya?

  • robc||

    From nea.org:

    United States labor union committed to advancing the cause of public education.

    Apparently they arent a union, but just an association. Huh, they disagree.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    Card Check will save us from Toyota too. Honda soon to follow.

  • MNG||

    I'm glad someone brought up Toyota. I mean, let's hear it for that quality non-union craftsmanship!

  • John Tagliaferro||

    Good thing the new owners of GM and Chrysler can fine, jail and execute those evil Toyota scum. Anybody dusted off FDR's detention camp manual yet?

  • Old Mexican||

    I mean, let's hear it for that quality non-union craftsmanship!

    Interesting you say that, since the gas pedals were made by an American company.

  • robc||

    Woo hoo!!!!!

    I found a version of incif that works with the new layout!

    Mucho Thanks to semiapies. If you post here under another name, let me know so I can praise you directly.

    MNG is filtered. Need to add Chony.

    http://github.com/semiapies/INCIF for anyone else interested. Need to have greasemonkey installed for it to work.

  • robc||

    One (very minor) problem with new version. It doesnt allow you to set up your name/email/website by default. That prevented me from making the joke name post by accident many a time.

  • MNG||

    Why didn't you stick with the more traditional hiding b'neath your mother's skirt?

  • ||

    Actually, that's YOUR mother's skirt, and what he's doin' there is not called "hiding".

  • ||

    Oh, ja, it's called hiding der salami.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    MNG seems to be losing a bit from his fastball. Not as entertaining as usual. Or maybe I'm still dazzled from the day in Paultardia.

  • ||

    Yeah, the RP people were pretty tiresome.

    BTW, why hasn't anyone mentioned incif before, here? Give that man a Nobel *&^%$#@! prize.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    I learned a great new insult, though.
    "Drink the vinegar, scum!"
    Pure.
    Comedy.
    Gold.

  • ||

    Right, pretty scary when you think about it, isnt it?

    Jess
    www.true-privacy.es.tc

  • andy||

    "The Voluntary City" talks about this in 18th cent Britain...

    ...and of course it's always worth reading Gatto's "Underground History"

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