Colorado Teachers want banned book reinstated

Anonymous Patron writes "Rocky Mountain News: Local: Littleton English teachers vowed Thursday to seek reinstatement of a book by Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison that the Board of Education banned in August.

The Bluest Eye was barred from the curriculum and library shelves after complaints about its explicit sex, including the rape of an 11-year-old girl by her father."

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Just because you don't get it . . .

I'm sure that Bluest Eye is too horrific for "some" students, but that doesn't give you the right to try to forbid all students from reading it.

You would think the "We Must Protect The Children" crowd would understand that you can't protect children from rape by hushing up that sort of thing. It's reminiscent in a way of the "We Don't Have A Drug Problem At Our School" mantra from the 50's and 60's. A big part of the problem was this kind of denial.

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

I'm sure that Bluest Eye is too horrific for "some" students, but that doesn't give you the right to try to forbid all students from reading it.

Of course it does. Its called standards.

You would think the "We Must Protect The Children" crowd would understand that you can't protect children from rape by hushing up that sort of thing. It's reminiscent in a way of the "We Don't Have A Drug Problem At Our School" mantra from the 50's and 60's. A big part of the problem was this kind of denial.

No one is going around looking to get raped. The "we don't have a drug problem" mentality went under the assumption that kids were naturally good and it was just those 'other kids' from the 'other neighborhoods' that got into trouble.

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

But the standard seems to be one of the Lowest Common Denominator. In order to protect those students that perhaps can't handle the book, they are penalizing those students that are mature enough to read an understand it.

The board, which is a political body, ignored the recommendation of the study group which reviewed the book. I think the act of banning the book from the school is much more harmful than any perceived damage that would be caused by leaving it on the shelf.

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

Every standard is one of Lowest Common Denominator.

I'm getting tired of this arguement: "In order to protect those students that perhaps can't handle the book, they are penalizing those students that are mature enough to read an understand it."

Simply because a child can handle something doesn't mean they should handle something. A school should be a place where the unnecessary is filtered out in order to focus on the necessary. There will be enough noise and nonsense to deal with once they get out.

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

Every standard is one of Lowest Common Denominator.

See, this is the problem with the censormorons of the right-wing; they define everything down. Those of us who respect human rights and human dignity define our standards up.

Understanding that you do not improve the quality of a product by lowering the standards it must meet or exceed is hardly rocket science, and yet it remains beyond the ability of the right-wing to grasp.

And don't give me that bullshit about how it is necessary to filter out what the strong-minded are capable of handing just because the weak-minded can't, or how they are going to have enough to handle once "they get out". They won't be able to handle it because the right-wing is forcing ignorance upon them. You have to be taught how to handle things. From day one. It is utterly stupid to expect someone to know how to handle something they haven't been exposed to simply because they've reached some magic age.

Not to mention that once they are adults they will still be forbidden access to anything that offends the prejudices and hypersensitivities of the right-wing.

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

And don't give me that bullshit about how it is necessary to filter out what the strong-minded are capable of handing just because the weak-minded can't, or how they are going to have enough to handle once "they get out". They won't be able to handle it because the right-wing is forcing ignorance upon them.

It doesn't really take a strong mind to handle such things. It takes a blunted and jaded mind. Because in the end they are not 'dealing with it'. Its not an experience they're likely to face. Its just one more horrofic event piled on the hundreds that are being force-fed to them in this and every other medium.

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

It doesn't really take a strong mind to handle such things. It takes a blunted and jaded mind.

Wrong again. Blunted and jaded describes the minds of right-wingers. Blunted and jaded minds cannot handle such emotional and provocative issues. It takes strong minds. Minds that can understand: This is Life, shit happens. Minds that have been informed that they are not the first or only victims; and where to seek help and support.

Which, by the by, brings up another right-wing rationale: "one is one too many". Under that rationale, commonly touted, your argument that they are not likely to experience such things is a hypocrisy, because there are people who do.

Perhaps I should pull a Tomeboy and ask you: Why do you hate these victims? Why is speech about these issues unAmerican?

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

I strongly suspect the School Board banned the book because it offended some parents, not because it was unnecessary. Simply because something is offensive does not make it unnecessary.

If all standards are one of the Lowest Common Denominator, wouldn't that mean that all standards are the same? If my standard is based on the lowest common denominator, and your standard is based on the lowest common denominator, then why do we disagree so much?

If you remove a book that some consider necessary because others consider it unnecessary then you are picking sides and adversely affecting one group to benefit the other. Since those that consider the book unnecessary don't have to read it, keeping it on the shelf does the least amount of harm to both groups. Those that want to ban the book do not intend to read it (or already have and have been "injured" by reading it). Banning it is not to protect themselves, but to protect others who may not agree with their views. It is a way to force their views on to others.

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

Which, by the by, brings up another right-wing rationale: "one is one too many". Under that rationale, commonly touted, your argument that they are not likely to experience such things is a hypocrisy, because there are people who do.

Probably one of the most horrific books I ever read was when I was in high school. I don't even know where I got it. I assume some people didn't give it much thought. It didn't have a book cover and it was just a boring looking brown book with an odd symbol on the front. It was The Journeyer by Gary Jennings. To this day I don't know how much of it was historically accurate, though its not hard to believe some of it. Ancient torture techniques, how to make a eunich, how to save a woman in labor by cutting out the baby. Then of course there was the sexually bizarre. If there is a reason why I believe that people chose their own sexual paths, that book is it. And the paths are many and go in many different directions.

The book is fiction but I know enough to know this. There are 6 billion people on this planet alive today. Count the lives back to the beginning and you're talking trillions of people and every experience that happened in that book happened to someone, somewhere, at sometime. I could spend my entire life trying to know and understand only the most horrifying things that have happened to real people in humanity's history and I wouldn't scratch the surface. I would also go mad in the process.

If any adult wants to go on that journey they are free to do so but to push any child on that road without making men and women of them first is an act of sadistic cruelty.

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

I strongly suspect the School Board banned the book because it offended some parents, not because it was unnecessary. Simply because something is offensive does not make it unnecessary.

Doesn't make it necessary either. Too often the defense of these books relies on the fact that they are controversial.

If all standards are one of the Lowest Common Denominator, wouldn't that mean that all standards are the same? If my standard is based on the lowest common denominator, and your standard is based on the lowest common denominator, then why do we disagree so much?

Because a standard is normally a group consensus. It may not make an individual happy but it serves its purpose in leading future decisions.

Just a reminder, you and I have argued censorship many many times. You have never offered any standard that would involve any type of lowest common denominator. People are always trying to paint me as someone who would ban all books when that is absolutely not true and I've made enough arguements to prove that. You and others however have made it abundantly clear that you don't want to ban anything regardless of the age group involved. That you defend one book is undercut by the fact that you would defend any book no matter its content, no matter the age its meant for.

If you remove a book that some consider necessary because others consider it unnecessary then you are picking sides and adversely affecting one group to benefit the other. Since those that consider the book unnecessary don't have to read it, keeping it on the shelf does the least amount of harm to both groups. Those that want to ban the book do not intend to read it (or already have and have been "injured" by reading it). Banning it is not to protect themselves, but to protect others who may not agree with their views. It is a way to force their views on to others.

When you're talking about adults, all of that is true. We're not. And the rules are different. The purpose of schools is in fact to force a set of views onto a child.

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

school should be a place where the unnecessary is filtered out in order to focus on the necessary.

And who defines this necessary? For horrors! Children *might* be exposed to something negative. They might be exposed to something which makes them learn empathy, and realize that their own experence does not equal the sum totallity of the world? When you close your mind you also close your heart.

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

I did offer you a standard. You didn't like it. You statement that I'll defend any book for any reason is based on a false assumption. Simply because I've disagreed with you on every instance of book banning does not mean that I assume that all books are appropriate for all children. In all the examples that we have debated, I have felt that the decision to ban the book was wrong. As I think it is in this case. You have not shown how or why this particular book is wrong or unnecessary for students, say, 16, 17 or 18 years of age. And why it is necessary to ban the book. Several adults at that school do feel the book is appropriate and necessary (as much as any particular title can be said to be necessary). Nor is your argument that the rules that apply to adults is different a correct argument. On your own blog, you have argued for the banning of books that would be read by adults. To my mind, the standards you have enumerated are simply too vague to be of any use, an simply allows one group to impose their views upon another. I don't believe that, when it comes to reading and intellectual exploration, that people need to be protected from themselves. If I'm going to err, I'd rather err in favor of keeping books free, available, and unrestricted.

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

1. I haven't been arguing for or against the book. I've been arguing with the same people who continue to attack anyone who says a book might be inappropriate. If you want an arguement then the easiest one is that Toni Morrison is an adult author who writes for an adult audience and the book obviously covers adult themes not really appropriate for most minors. If it was a movie it would probably be rated R, if it was music it would probably have a content advisory on it. But because its a book and my fellow professionals fight such things tooth and nail, it is left to parents to step up to the plate and take responsibility for what goes on a school library shelf.

2. You didn't offer a standard, you offered a statement of wishful thinking. You haven't offered any examples of books that wouldn't pass whatever standard you claim to have. Until you do I will go with the assumptions I have.

3. You love to segment stuff. 16? 17? 18 yr olds? 18 yr olds probably aren't using the school library and 16-18 aren't the only ones who have access to it (and why not a 15 year old? what have you ever said that would make me think you would draw a line there?). Deal with the whole school. Deal with everyone who has access. That's what standards do. There is not enough time or money to create a specialized library for every single age group. You do what you can with what you got.

Mr. Curmudgeon: The community sets the standards, whether through the school board, the staff, community input or all three. Our laws are created that way. Our education systems is run that way. Government is run that way. This obsession with everyone trying to argue 'who decides' is a giant red herring. The people who decide are those willing to step up and make a decision. But when you say "I think all books should be available to all people regardless of age" then a lot of people both liberal and conservative are going to have a problem with that. It is a statement of anarchy and makes little sesne to most people.br>

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

Actually I did offer you an example.

But Adult is not only a legal definition.. it is a definition of maturity.

There are 18 year olds using school libraries. I was 18 when I graduated, and I was still using the High School library. Depending upon where your birthday falls, you could be 18 for a majority of your senior year.

If you're reducing the library to what is appropriate for the youngest age, then my statement about Lowest Common Denominator stands. A very mature 17 year old is going to have access in the school library to material that is only appropriate for 15 year olds? I'm not talking about specialized collections, I'm talking about making collections available that address the needs of the vast majority of the students in the High School, and yes, there is enough money, time and space to do that. If you're reducing the collection to what is appropriate for 15 year olds, then you are not adressing the needs of the entire school. If a book is wrong for an individual 15 year old, there are better ways to deal with that issue other than banning the book and making it unavailable to everyone in the school.

Mr. Curmudgeon is wrong and needs to be spanked. Simply because a decision is being made does not mean that it has to be accepted, or that it is a good decision. Democratic government is also run by being constantly second guessed. And Thank God for that. If a decision is bad, it needs to be changed. If the reasoning behind the decision is faulty, that needs to be confronted.

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

" Actually I did offer you an example."

Yes, if I recall it was Jenna Jameson's book. But I don't recall you giving any specific reasons why.

"If you're reducing the library to what is appropriate for the youngest age"

No I'm not. I'm saying a middle ground has to be found. I could just easily say that you are expanding the library to what is appropriate reading for the oldest age. An 18 year old can read Jenna Jameson's book among a list of other materials that can only be bought after providing a license. Shall we include those?

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

Are you certain that in all instances that a license has to be provided to buy Jameson's book? Is that a legal requirement, or on that has been instituted by the bookstore?

Yes, expand the library to what is appropriate reading for the oldest age as it fits in with the mission of a High School Library, and also provide material that is appropriate to the youngest age attending the school. There is your middle ground: inclusion of material for all groups within the school.

The Study Group that was directed to determine if Morrison's book was appropriate did so by a 3-2 vote. Again, I'm willing to bet the Board had the book removed for reasons of political and/or personal beliefs rather than because it conflicted with the educational mission and CD policy of the library.

I seriously doubt you could find a legitimate High School educational criteria for including Jameson's book in the collection. Which is probably why it is not there (I'm guessing, I haven't checked). For myself, I can see the HS Library not buying Jameson's book but having Morrison's book on the shelf. Maybe I'll change my mind when Jenna wins the Nobel Prize for literature. ;)

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

Are you certain that in all instances that a license has to be provided to buy Jameson's book? Is that a legal requirement, or on that has been instituted by the bookstore?

That's not what I said at all.

Yes, expand the library to what is appropriate reading for the oldest age as it fits in with the mission of a High School Library, and also provide material that is appropriate to the youngest age attending the school. There is your middle ground: inclusion of material for all groups within the school.

Then you're not looking out for the interests of younger students. You're throwing them into an area that contains anything and everything.

The Study Group that was directed to determine if Morrison's book was appropriate did so by a 3-2 vote. Again, I'm willing to bet the Board had the book removed for reasons of political and/or personal beliefs rather than because it conflicted with the educational mission and CD policy of the library.

Politic and personal are the exact same thing and there is nothing wrong with taking such things into consideration. You say a 'legitimate High School educational criteria' wouldn't include Jameson's book but you don't have the guts to say why. And its because of political and personal reasons. The porn industry is a billion dollar industry populated mostly by women. Why wouldn't it be in the criteria?

What's a Nobel got to do with what book a minor reads? Call me when she gets a Newbery.

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

But people are going around looking to rape. Though people who have drug problems aren't looking to have drug problems.

Rape is sadly a fact of life that many kids have to experience in real life, not in books. And hiding information about rape does effect how people assess the threat and their willingness to report rape when it occurs. Many kids who use that library know that first hand. Banning is a very powerful way of telling them that society wants them to keep quiet about what happened to them.

It's an action that speaks more loudly than the book would.

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

That's not what I said at all.

Then I'm not sure of what you meant by "An 18 year old can read Jenna Jameson's book among a list of other materials that can only be bought after providing a license. Shall we include those?" That certainly does say that you need a license to buy Jameson's book.

Then you're not looking out for the interests of younger students. You're throwing them into an area that contains anything and everything.

No, I'm not, and see below for why. I have never claimed that anything and everything ncessarily belongs in a HS library. How am I not looking out for the interests of the younger students? What would happen if our archtypical 15 year old browsed the shelves, picked up a copy of Morrison's book, and read it? What is the damage to that student that is so great that the book needs to be banned?

...but you don't have the guts to say why."

The reason I wouldn't have Jameson's book in a HS library is not personal. Or political. It is professional. Now, I could be convinced otherwise if someone has a good argument, and I am not a HS librarian, so take that into account.

1) The writing, from what I've understand, and the few pages I read, is not of a sufficient quality to consider inclusion.

2) It does not have any, or very little, educational value with regards to the schools curriculum. Any educational value it possess could certainly be found in other books that would discuss those issues in a more informative fashion.

3) The audience for which it is written, and intended, is an adult audience. It was not written for a HS audience.

4) The author is not an important member of the literary or cultural captial of the nation or world.

No one reason would be sufficient to keep me from purchasing Jameson's book for the HS library, but all of the reasons combined are. Morrison's book was probably intended for an adult audience, but for reasons #1, 2 and 4 I would include it in the collection of a HS library.

The Newbery award is given to books that are written for children up to age 14. Most of your students in a HS are over the age of 14. It is no more relevant than a Nobel prize.

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

Sorry.. left a dangling HTML tag.....

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

I'm reposting with the tags fixed. If it annoys me to try and read it, I can only imagine what it does to everyone else.

That's not what I said at all.

Then I'm not sure of what you meant by "An 18 year old can read Jenna Jameson's book among a list of other materials that can only be bought after providing a license. Shall we include those?" That certainly does say that you need a license to buy Jameson's book.

Then you're not looking out for the interests of younger students. You're throwing them into an area that contains anything and everything.

No, I'm not, and see below for why. I have never claimed that anything and everything ncessarily belongs in a HS library. How am I not looking out for the interests of the younger students? What would happen if our archtypical 15 year old browsed the shelves, picked up a copy of Morrison's book, and read it? What is the damage to that student that is so great that the book needs to be banned?

...but you don't have the guts to say why.

The reason I wouldn't have Jameson's book in a HS library is not personal. Or political. It is professional. Now, I could be convinced otherwise if someone has a good argument, and I am not a HS librarian, so take that into account.

1) The writing, from what I've understand, and the few pages I read, is not of a sufficient quality to consider inclusion.

2) It does not have any, or very little, educational value with regards to the schools curriculum. Any educational value it possess could certainly be found in other books that would discuss those issues in a more informative fashion.

3) The audience for which it is written, and intended, is an adult audience. It was not written for a HS audience.

4) The author is not an important member of the literary or cultural captial of the nation or world.

No one reason would be sufficient to keep me from purchasing Jameson's book for the HS library, but all of the reasons combined are. Morrison's book was probably intended for an adult audience, but for reasons #1, 2 and 4 I would include it in the collection of a HS library.

The Newbery award is given to books that are written for children up to age 14. Most of your students in a HS are over the age of 14. It is no more relevant than a Nobel prize.

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

Then I'm not sure of what you meant by "An 18 year old can read Jenna Jameson's book among a list of other materials that can only be bought after providing a license. Shall we include those?" That certainly does say that you need a license to buy Jameson's book.

Then its poor form on my part but her book was meant to be seperate from the list but the common theme was porn.

No, I'm not, and see below for why. I have never claimed that anything and everything ncessarily belongs in a HS library. How am I not looking out for the interests of the younger students? What would happen if our archtypical 15 year old browsed the shelves, picked up a copy of Morrison's book, and read it? What is the damage to that student that is so great that the book needs to be banned?

Just one book? Probably none. Its not just about one book. Its about garbage in garbage out. And if you surround a kid with nothing but the most depressing nihilistic junk out there then that's the kind of kid you'll get.

1) The writing, from what I've understand, and the few pages I read, is not of a sufficient quality to consider inclusion.

2) It does not have any, or very little, educational value with regards to the schools curriculum. Any educational value it possess could certainly be found in other books that would discuss those issues in a more informative fashion.

3) The audience for which it is written, and intended, is an adult audience. It was not written for a HS audience.

4) The author is not an important member of the literary or cultural captial of the nation or world.

First, took you long enough, second, those are both political, professional, and ignorant opinions. Also snobbish and elitist. Why should it be written as well as Morrison? She didn't make her money writing. And the fact that the book is true should give it a hell of lot more weight then any work of fiction. And exactly what information about the porn industry are you going to find elsewhere in your collection? I can't believe you wrote that stuff. The cultural world snears at genre fiction let alone someone like Jameson. Who cares what they think? And again, considering porn is a billion dollar industry who's culture are we talking about?

The Newbery award is given to books that are written for children up to age 14. Most of your students in a HS are over the age of 14. It is no more relevant than a Nobel prize.

Helluva lot closer in age, usually more readable, usually better then a lot of adult books.

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

Its about garbage in garbage out. And if you surround a kid with nothing but the most depressing nihilistic junk out there then that's the kind of kid you'll get.

And, of course, being a bivariate typologist and basically a reactionary, you can't see that such books also have positive messages. You can focus only on the negative. I'll have to read Bluest Eye, but I'm guessing the protagonist survives and grows and into a better person despite all of the evil that happens to her. Which illustrates not nihilism, but survival and spiritual growth.

Censorship is nihilistic. Why not bitch against that?

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

Censorship is nihilistic. Why not bitch against that?

Constant censorship is nihilistic, Mikey. Selective censorship is a requirement of the job.

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

Censorship is not selection; the two are mutually exclusive.
"Selective" censorship makes sense only in the context of picking and choosing what to ban, and even that constitutes an oxymoron. I've said it often enough: There is nothing that cannot be found offensive by someone, somewhere. Which means everything is selectable for banning. Even applause and paper bags; alpahabet primers, Where's Waldo, dictionaries. . . .

Saying that censorship is not constant, by the way is either disingenious or naive. There is the constant censorship of the right-wing regime in office, for instance; its anti-intellectualism, cover-up of the Abu Ghraib atrocities, . . . I could go on, but that's what my Chronology of Censorship is for.

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

Just one book? Probably none. Its not just about one book. Its about garbage in garbage out. And if you surround a kid with nothing but the most depressing nihilistic junk out there then that's the kind of kid you'll get.

But that is what banning is usually about. One book. And it doesn't matter that the majority of the other books in the collection are not "nihilistic junk". Or even nihilistic. By the way, would you consider The Bluest Eye to be nihilistic junk?

First, took you long enough...

Sorry dad, I didn't know you were in a hurry... can I still borrow the car tonight?"

Why should it be written as well as Morrison?

I never said it had to be. In terms of literary appeal (and I'll accept that this is perhaps snobbishness on my part)I do not think it is even a good representative of well written non-fiction. If it were extremely well written, then I would, if I were an HS librarian, give it more consideration.

And the fact that the book is true should give it a hell of lot more weight then any work of fiction.

Not for the literature classes it shouldn't. I'm assuming they still teach those in HS.

And exactly what information about the porn industry are you going to find elsewhere in your collection?

In High School? Probably not much. I don't know if, and I seriously doubt that they do, teach a class on the porn industry in school. Which would go back to my original statement about supporting the curriculum. Now, it would be interesting to teach a class that compared the experiences of various porn stars, and contrasting Jameson's book with Linda Lovelace's Out of Bondage would be fascinating. If they're doing that, then I would probably include Jameson's book in the collection. There are other, less sensationalistic, titles that deal with Pornography and the production of Pornography.

The cultural world snears at genre fiction let alone someone like Jameson.

Some of the cultural world does. But I wouldn't say that is a majority opinion. And certainly not mine. There is quite a bit of genre fiction that has reached the status of "Classic". Jameson's book, again in my opinion, is not not a well written repsentative of personal memoir non-fiction. But that is my opinion, and if someone felt differently, I would certainly leave myself open to having my mind changed.

...both political, professional, and ignorant opinions."

So how are those "political" and "ignorant"? I can see how you would misconstrue them as "snobbish" and "elist". But, since you didn't explain how they were the other two, I guess I have to ask for clarification. (Please note, as you've told me in the past, it should have been up to you to provide explanations of what you meant by those without me asking).

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

Please note, as you've told me in the past, it should have been up to you to provide explanations of what you meant by those without me asking

Maybe, but since I post my own views and opinions here and on my own blog all too regularly I don't always feel required to explain every single word. Whereas you like to pick away at others while rarely offering your own arguements. Which is what the 'took you long enough' comment was about.

I didn't have to misconstrue anything. You said it was not as culturally significant as Morrison's book. That was snobbish and elitist. I consider those the same as ignorant and I consider them both to be personal opinions which are inevitably political. You know better then others what is culturally significant. That's politics, bad politics but politics.

--And the fact that the book is true should give it a hell of lot more weight then any work of fiction.--

Not for the literature classes it shouldn't. I'm assuming they still teach those in HS.

We're not talking about literature classes, we're talking about the library.
You keep talking about literary appeal. But the crux of this arguement is over the content. The most common defense that I get for this book and books like it is that kids should be able to read about these experiences. If you truly believed that then Jameson's book is a better more accurate representation of such experiences.

Re:Just because you don't get it . . .

You said it was not as culturally significant as Morrison's book.

Yeah, I think that was the wrong thing for me to say, and I retract it. I was thinking primarily in terms of literature (English) classes. In terms of literary output, Jameson does not have the same body (pun intended) of work. However, that does not make her culturally more insignificant,necessarily, than Morrison. I feel I can safely ignore the other excessive labeling.

We're not talking about literature classes, we're talking about the library.

We are talking about a High School library, and how would Morrison and Jameson fit into the collection (if they do). Since one of the primary functions of a HS library is to support the curriculum and educational needs of the students, the comment about literature classes is relevant.

But the crux of this arguement is over the content.

Yes, because that is the reason books are banned. However, one of the problems of banning a book is that it also affects the other value(s) to be found in the book. One of those values of a book is the skill in which the author presents their views. And it is valuable for students to be exposed to well written books.

f you truly believed that then Jameson's book is a better more accurate representation of such experiences.

I would disagree. And, the experiences the two authors are describing are actually different experiences.

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