African American Males Excelling in Higher-Level Courses

Subject: Education
Pages: 20
Words: 5414
Reading time:
20 min
Study level: PhD

Historical Background and Underlying Factors

Notably, several American professionals and facilitators are concerned about the poor performances registered by most African American males (within schools in America). This is a critical consideration when probed in the educational context. Disparities in educational performances between the general students (Blacks and Whites) remain eminent in America (Allen, Bonous-Hammarth & Suh, 2002). This phenomenon is attributable to several factors including cultural orientation, manner of speech, general characters, and mode of interaction. A historical analysis of this situation indicates a considerable performance gap. This is evident during the 1970s and 1980s academic eras (Adelman, 2006). However, it is notable that this state has immensely transformed since the beginning of 1988. Perhaps, with the increasing globalization and technological advances, the situation is set to worsen within most American schools.

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Observably, the academic performance among middle-class African American male students is generally diminished. Upon executing several class-based investigations on African Americans and White male students, it is clear that African American students should join schools with impeccable cultural and academic prowess (Allen & Jewell, 2002). Reportedly, this ought to be based on family integration as well as upbringing trends. However, according to recent studies, several sub-urban Black learners are persistently underperforming. This occurs even though some of these African American students come from privileged families. Therefore, it is notable that the economic orientation of some families plays an insignificant role in the poor performance of these black learners. Analytically, there must be underlying factors that immensely contribute to their underperformance and lack of ambition to enroll in higher grade courses. Presently, the topic is of great interest to most investigators.

In the latest investigations, “skills gaps” have been exponentially discussed by most researchers (Bush & Bush, 2010). This occurs about math and sciences as critical subjects to all students. The national student performance data indicates a general and obvious disparity in the academic gaps and performances in these two highlighted subjects between the Black And White students. Notably, the male African students have immensely improved and developed impressive performance since the 1970s. However, this trend remarkably transforms when these students reach high school level. This is observable in the present scenario. Around 77% of White students have performed better relative to the average African American student (Cabrera & LaNasa, 2000). On the other hand, it can be noted that only 23% of the African students are better readers relative to the average White learners. Observably, this is a 5% reduction from the notable trend in the past sixteen years. The situation is complicated in the performance of African American male students.

Generally, only a few percentages of the African American male students are best performers. Consequently, very few of these students are agitated to enroll for higher grade courses as compared to their female counterparts and the average American students (Wynn, 2007). Various performance discrepancies entailing different programs and subjects can also be noted in this trend (Carter, 2004). From a general perspective, American education has been seen (in the past) to be more skewed towards male students, unlike female students. By extension, this has penetrated the general American public schools and has led to the present significant influences within the capabilities of the male students. Presently, several educators and teachers feel that female students require and deserve a more focused and special consideration in the realms of education (Wynn, 2007). The stereotype idea that schools and communities downplay females has led to the emergence of supportive policies and practices in most public schools (Carter, 2004). Consequently, this has negatively influenced African Americans’ enrollment for higher grade courses.

Importantly, an array of factors can be attributed to the observed drop in the enrolment level of the males in these high courses. However, a closer analysis and examination of some societal factors and cultural practices associated with the African American community is important for the comprehension of this dismal performance. It is also apparent that even as these potential influences manipulate the general education competencies and the general performance of the students, this might also potentially affect their capacities to perform in individual subjects such as English (Wynn, 2007). A multi-dimensional approach to the analysis of this condition is therefore critical. This is because the African American male students might also be compromised in their general capabilities to shine and succeed in other academic realms (Bush & Bush, 2010). The hip-hop culture and language have been reportedly indicated as one of the reasons and factors that have considerably influenced the enrolment of African American males in higher English grade courses. Predominantly, the hip-hop culture is observed to constitute slang languages.

The indulgence of the African American males into slang language and the potential influences from the African American celebrities have lowered the performance potential of these students in English. The widespread slang and hip-hop culture have led to the diminished capacities of African Americans to perform adequately. Impeccable English has gradually grown into a foreign study for them. Consequently, this has been reported to have had a potential influence on their capacities to enroll for the notable higher courses in this subject (Losen & Orfield, 2002). From most observations, stereotypes regarding the technicality of certain subjects have also led to considerable implications. The African American male students have viewed English as a second subject that has limited opportunities for career development as well as lucrative employment opportunities (Adelman, 2006). Due to these beliefs, it is notable that most African American male students have developed a magnified interest in “technical” subjects such as math. Therefore, it is apparent that stereotypes and overgeneralization of issues have contributed to the low cases of African American male students’ enrolment in high-grade English courses.

In the context of the general performance, there are obvious disparities between the performances of African American students and Whites. This is irrespective of their sexes (Furry & Hecsh, 2001). Thus, there is an emergent need to explain various intricacies leading to or causing such inequalities within the general society. In such observations, cultural, societal, and personal behavioral factors are identified as major key players (Wynn, 2007). There has been a recent pragmatic transformation in the enrolment of boys within public schools. This transformation has been attributed to the high level of attention given to the female students due to the earlier societal claims of girl child discrimination. In this context, the feminist culture within the American society has been potentiated as one of the contributing factors to the low males’ enrolment in the English courses at higher grades (Cuyjet, 2006). Analytically, this trend might be similarly applicable for other subjects within the education system of America. In a real sense, a normal boy is seen or observed to be a year and a half lagging just behind any typical girl. This regards reading and writing.

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There are other additional observations that an average or typical American boy within the bracket of school attendance is less dedicated to school (Wynn, 2007). Furthermore, they are noted to be less likely to attend higher courses or even join the university or colleges. Perhaps, the typical example of the 1997 case would be appropriate. This has led to low male enrolment in specified courses. During 1997, the full–time enrolment of the males in higher learning was 45% for the boys (Carter, 2004). On the other hand, the rest were purely females. It is from such observations that the US education department has increasingly foreseen a continually and persistently shrinking population of males enrolled within public schools as compared to that of their female counterparts. From these observations, it can be noted that apart from classroom issues, other underlying factors have significantly manipulated educational trends among male students.

Notable Improvement Initiatives

Although there has been considerable attention to this disparity, not many efforts have been employed by relevant stakeholders to combat this menace. Most academicians and researchers have potentially attributed this situation to several notable factors (Douglas, 2006). Among some of these include the models and explanations relating to genetic inferiority. In addition, structural and environmental influences have been associated with such discrepancies in academic performance. Other potential factors have been reproduction, opposition, resistance factors, and trends notable within the African American lifestyle and general affairs.

This area requires intensive research to develop critical skills in the explanation of this discrepancy. Indeed, despite the history of potential educational achievement since 1954, it is observable that an awesome number of African students continue to underperform academically and fail within most American schools (Bush & Bush, 2010). An increasing amount of qualitative investigations or studies have cited and attributed diverse factors to this notable condition. For instance, there has been a general assumption that this underperformance might be because the perceptions of African male students have been neglected considerably during educational debates. The authorities have in this case sidelined the issues and concerns of the African male students while examining the general performance of the entire American population.

Underlying Theories from Other Researchers

Most educationists have investigated the factors that manipulate performance and patterns of education amongst different races and population segments within the US. Observably, the academic trends notable within African American males have been critically observed (Stearns & Glennie, 2006). There exist fundamental approaches often applied in the analysis of these trends. The personal or individual characteristics or traits have been analyzed. Apart from this, the cognitive and non-cognitive variables amongst the African American males have been analyzed comprehensively. As a result of these studies, various explanations can be attributed to the low instances of enrolment amongst African American male students into higher courses such as advanced placement and honors (Allen, Bonous-Hammarth & Suh, 2002).

The cognitive variables refer to aspects that may include the high school grade score aggregate. On the other hand, the non-cognitive variables embody the elements comprising social integration, motivation, and general student’s self-concept. More empirically, cognitive variables may be defined as the variables that categorically measure intellectual competencies and are depicted by a certain numerical score. This occurs through ranking or a given range. On the other hand, non-cognitive variables may refer to emotional, psychosocial constructs, skewed in nature, which express feelings, opinions, and attitudes. Studies depict those indicators. This includes high school scores, grade points, test scores, and education level (Carter, 2004). Additionally, constructive self-efficacy includes some of the factors correlating to the failure or diminished enrolment of the African American males in the high-grade courses. However, apart from these observations, there is an eminent concern that these investigators have not sufficiently explored other potential institutional trends. They have potentially limited these investigations to a simple dichotomous between the cognitive and non-cognitive aspects. This is a critical provision when considered critically in the context of educational prowess.

Various methodologies have been applied in these studies. For instance, the use of quantitative approaches utilizing the logistical regression strategies and retention has been applied. In a typical study, it is vital to note the dependent and independent variables in this context to conduct a comprehensive statistical analysis of the concerned factors. For example, in some investigations, the independent variables have been categorized into four basic sets (Douglas, 2006). For instance, the pre-college influences, comprising of the parent education extent as well as high school preparation, may include the first independent variable in a study. Consequently, testing the competencies and analyzing other cognitive factors influencing the student’s capabilities might also be the independent variable. The student lives and experiences both inside and outside the college or high school have also been applied in most studies as independent variables. These have demonstrated a potential depiction of the common behavioral and decision influences concerning the subjects they should and ought not to enroll in (Stearns & Glennie, 2006).

Ideally, a multivariate approach to the analysis of the gathered information would be critical in the application during such studies. Factors such as elevated school GPA, course credit durations and their numbers, and the adequacy of preparation for maturity and enrolment in various programs emerge as potential influencers of the decision of the African American male students to enroll or not within the high-level courses (Cuyjet, 2006). Generally, there is an observation that many scholars and researchers still doubt the contribution of cognitive as well as the non-cognitive factors in the determination of various factors influencing the students’ decisions on education. Additionally, these scholars have also largely doubted the validity of such studies that the cognitive, as well as non-cognitive factors, may manipulate the factors surrounding the academic decisions of the African American male students in high school. Recent research indicates that it is vivid that increased attrition rates notable within the African American male students may be largely associated with their inherent socio-economic orientation (Losen & Orfield, 2002).

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In these studies, the peculiar attributes notable within the higher institutions have been singled out. In this context, it is evident that whenever all these socioeconomic factors get managed, the enrolment rates of the African American males within high-level courses might just be equivalent to those high rates observable within other groups (Furry & Hecsh, 2001). Therefore, there is evidence of the increasing importance of the institutional elements on the decisions and performance of African American male students once they enroll in their high schools. The role of the institutions in the influence of the decisions and the fate of these students are seemingly vital and can never be underscored. There are also indications that the various underlined cognitive factors act synergistically with other institutional factors to influence the enrolment decisions as well as capabilities of the African American male students. Generally, this study can draw a lot of lessons and potential approaches notable within other past investigations. This perhaps elucidates why it is critical to consider the diverse case studies to develop comprehensive research.

For many decades, most educational scholars such as John Ogbu have conducted studies and theorized on the issues of academic performance. Some of the observable concepts that have been stipulated within such studies include the concepts of academic performance and disparities between the immigrant as well as the non-immigrant populations (Losen & Orfield, 2002). Minority students under this case have been studied and scrutinized depending on their migration and cradle land status. Although normally debated within the realms of education for stereotyping, it is clear that these studies have been critical in the comprehension of the attitudes as well as characters of the general African American students enrolled within America’s public schools and other learning institutions.

Related studies capturing the intricacies of analyzing the African American accomplishment gap concerning education have been conducted (Stearns & Glennie, 2006). Particularly, these have been conducted within the ethnographic investigations of most upper-middle-class and the sub-urban Shaker Heights society in the exterior of Cleveland, Ohio (Douglas, 2006). Most studies have also applied the cultural-ecological explanation model to investigate and analyze the many intertwining elements or conditions that may influence the students’ school performance. This has similarly been done to investigate the African male’s academic engagement as well as the notable coping skills necessary for effective performance. Following these studies, there has been considerable development of spectra of knowledge and assumptions. For instance, the cultural-ecological model related to minority schooling integrates two major groups of factors or elements that may mold these minority students and learners’ school adjustment as well as their consequent academic performance (Losen & Orfield, 2002). These include 1) how a particular community together with its notable educational and learning institutions manage and have handled its minorities and 2) how these minorities interpret and consequently respond to this treatment.

It is critical to observe that the first set of factors deals with the genera system prevalent within society. However, the second factor deals with personal or individual predisposition about certain manipulative or affective factors eminent from the major systems of the society. The last factor is also unique because it majorly relies on the distinct history as well as the minority conditions or status within the larger American society (Carter, 2004). Generally, these factors may be viewed to be the set of conditions that originate from the communist forces. The focus of most studies has also intensively reviewed and analyzed the general student beliefs, practices, perceptions as well as characters of the African American male students. Some of these have potentially included factors such as their fundamental educational convictions as well as behaviors. Their associations with the general education system as well as schools and their explicit convictions and behaviors have also been critically analyzed and investigated (Hoff Sommers, 2000).

The manners in which the African American male students interpret and consequently respond to the notable cultural and language disparities remain significant. This is due to their united identity. In addition, the education strategies and approaches applicable and pertinent to these affected persons are vital in the analysis and examination of the basic reasons or factors influencing and leading to their underperformance. An elementary of most studies such as the Shaker Heights has been to expose the reason for Black students’ poor and general disengagement from the academic work, potentially resulting in their underperformance (Wynn, 2007). The information or facts from most of such investigations and studies have been to assist in the comprehension of the existence of low-achieving African male students not just within the urban setting, but again within the suburban communities (Stearns & Glennie, 2006). Thus, it is notable that the class-based inspection of the challenges confronting African American male students is still insufficient. Current studies on the African American male students attending public schools seem limited. This, research will contribute considerably to the mentioned Black-White educational catastrophe. The issues of African American students advocate addressing and investigating the experiences of living as well as attending learning institutions within a racially mixed but predominantly White society. it is crucial to consider these provisions in the educational context. The educational trends assumed by the black American male students are quite devastating. They require immediate attention from the concerned organs (Smeldley & Jenkins, 2007). This has been evident even within most research cases and study findings. Therefore, it can no longer be assumed that the prevalence of domineering of the White student populations within certain specific public institutions has a potential influence or manipulation in the performance of the African students.

Some notable scholars and educational researchers have stressed and implied that the present educational discourses are pertinent in the attribution of African American students to underperformance (Thelin, 2004). Elementarily, this is due to the school, personal, and communal factors. Some of these notable influences might emanate from factors such as tracking, stereotype teacher characters, traits, as well as convictions. Other factors that have been predominantly attributed to the notable academic performance of the African American male students include the social class and society stratification influences, and major cultural dissimilarities observable between home as well as school (Wynn, 2007). There has been a general observation that the African American community students must not be held responsible or obligated due to their roles within the African American underachievement. This is irrespective of an individual’s care in society at large.

Similarly, there is an increasing and overwhelming pressure for the notable investigators, policy formulators, and practitioners within the education sector as well as all relevant stakeholders to consider the necessary community forces that are likely to stimulate and propel the African American male students’ performance (Thelin, 2004). Community forces herein have been defined as the particular manners in which the minorities interpret and as well as respond to school going, their convictions as well as characters in the larger community concerning education, learning, and other traits that students from minority communities carry to the schools (Smeldley & Jenkins, 2007). The role of the African American society within the concept or subject of the racial accomplishment gap emanates in most studies regarding this topic.

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The African American Male Students

In 2007, the African American females enrolled in historically black colleges in higher percentage as compared to their counterpart males (Bush & Bush, 2010). Generally, there has been a decrease in their percentile enrolment in higher courses and colleges relative to the female enrolment rate. Despite this, the low trend of academic performance has been noted amongst the general African American student population relative to that of the White students’ performance (Carter, 2004). The numbers of the degrees earned by the female counterparts are also considerably higher as compared to those of the African American male students within higher colleges of learning and universities.

According to some reports issued by the Schott Foundation for Public Education in 2006 (regarding 2003 and 2004 academic year), 55% of the African American male students never received their diplomas compared to their other classmates (Whites) just four years following their high school period (Cabrera & LaNasa, 2000). Additionally, numerous states, for example, Florida and Nevada, did not graduate a third of the African American male students. This trend has also been noted in the general national performance comparisons from different American states. A similar trend with intensive cases of dropouts particularly for the male students has been reportedly noted in the major US cities including New York, NY Detroit among other cities (Allen & Jewell, 2002).

Observations presented by the yearly study in the US Office of Civil Rights indicate that African American males generally constitute a disproportionate percentage of the learners or students present within the special education, optional schools, as well as most remedial classrooms. In addition, these students have been represented to be among those students predominantly diagnosed to be mentally retarded and depicting gross learning disabilities. Furthermore, it is critical to note that these surveys have also revealed that the African American male students have been victims of severe emotional as well as social disturbances (Smeldley & Jenkins, 2007). Perhaps, it might be concluded that these are some of the factors that have significantly contributed to their dismal performance within the public schools and consequently lack of the attitude and capability to enroll for higher grade courses.

Notably, related investigations have depicted an existence of a significant and increasing correlation between the African American males performing dismally at school and with low motivation to enroll for higher courses with their consequent connection to the state’s penal system. For instance, the 2005 Bureau of Justice Statistics information indicates that African American males were jailed in prisons compared to other racial or ethnic groups. Consequently, this group has also been depicted to have a higher incarceration rate as compared to that observable or notable with their counterpart White males. Furthermore, such studies or surveys have indicated that for every three number of African American males, especially those within their early 20s or 30s, most of them spend a significant proportion of their lifetime either incarcerated or on state legal probation (Wynn, 2007). They might also be observable under a certain kind of command from the state penal system at a particular point in their lifetime. Information from the US education department indicates that even hen regarded to be shy as well as demoralized, the present-day females have potentially outshined their male counterparts.

Reportedly, African American males get poor grades in their continuous and final exams. Therefore, they are less self-esteemed and lack higher educational objectives. That might also explain why a high number of females generally enroll for high-level courses (Smeldley & Jenkins, 2007). There is also an observable preference for science courses or subjects. This is because English is the common language within the US and most African American males do not always want to associate with the subject within higher professional levels. The analysis of factors surrounding is discrepancy is important and the review of several past studies would be most vital in developing vital theoretical models and assumptions to help in the explanation of the trend (Hoff Sommers, 2000). This explains the core objective of this research, given the several instances and lessons that can be drawn from the different sources of data on the general education trends.

The Advanced Placement (AP) Course Program

This program was established in1950s through the help of the College Examination Board for the US. Majorly, it comprises high school courses, which are dependent on the curriculum drawn on the reliance of the introductory courses for the college (Douglas, 2006). However, it remains very distinct from other programs because it is characterized by technical and standardized post-course examinations. The AP technical course remains remarkable throughout the US and has significantly gained recognition after the administration of almost 32 diverse subjects in 2000 throughout the country. Some of the notable subjects that are eminent in this program include American history, English literature as well as composition, and calculus AB. Other subjects that have been offered under the placement program are the English language as well as composition, the general US federal politics, and other life sciences including biology subjects (Allen & Jewell, 2002).

Generally, most states within the US have had dramatic and notable transformations in some of their students enrolling and undertaking these high-level examinations for grade courses. Concurrently, the placement programs must have a unique approach to education. This is because they offer several benefits both to the personal students, their mentors or teachers, and the general system of learning and education. It is crucial to understand these provisions in the educational context. It is from this context that the mentioned arguments lie. The design of this program was based on several substantial reasons following adequate researches and investigations that were conducted by several scholars, educationists as well as policy formulators within the education and learning sector. For instance, it was postulated that high-performing students who may generally find high school life boring would alternatively get challenged by improved work (Hoff Sommers, 2000). Consequently, this group of students could be exposed to a high level and platform of learning that is needed by the colleges. the system itself operates under stringent guidelines with high academic expectations from the interested students who qualify.

Ideally, it is observable that students must work hard to increase their chances for admission. They also have the mandate to choose their preferred colleges and courses to attend. However, this largely depends on their level of performance during the technical examinations. These stringent requirements and regulations have also played a critical part in lowering the number of African American male students who are enrolled in the various courses like English within this program. However, the program is noted to have obvious benefits for the entrants. This perhaps has also heightened the level of competition and chances available nationally or in every American state (Furry & Hecsh, 2001). For instance, the students under this program have the chance to obtain their college credits while still in high school.

This consequently reduces their period within the college and as well minimizes the tuition fees required while undergoing their college training. On the side of teachers, they gain the opportunity to extend their potential as well as develop their inherent capacity and competency since they can instruct the college-level materials.

The AP exam outcomes offer an exterior and standardized corroboration of the facilitator’s competency to assist students in obtaining their high-performance standards. It is also notable that all the school systems possess advantages and room to scale up their pre-AP-level curriculum. This is in the academic preparation of the students so that they are competent enough to face the challenges of the AP system and examinations (Allen, Bonous-Hammarth & Suh, 2002).

However, in the AP system, certain practices are more likely to hinder some segments of the students from joining the system or enrolling in the courses offered. For instance, this program is usually practiced within the private school setting. This implies that the students within the public school domain may at times be technically locked out from enjoying the program benefits (Thelin, 2004). This might be particularly applicable to those students from economically challenged family backgrounds.

Some obvious issues and debates have developed and cropped up due to the emergence of this program. For example, most critics have potentiated that this course emphasizes so much on facts together with memorization. These, as they have stated, might reinforce scores for the AP tests. This contrasts critical thinking knowledge and skills, which may hold great value in a person’s learning, professional, as well as personal life (Douglas, 2006). This is a critical provision in various contexts. Generally, there also exist complaints that the program is severely exclusive in conception and by all standards. Therefore, these high-grade courses are seen to be favoring some students who may have easy access to adequate and proper academic preparation. This also contributes to the element of the students’ financial orientation either and the level of the economic status of the family. These enlisted factors are most likely to play significant roles in the minimization of the number of African American male students registering for the high-grade courses in America. Most significantly, there are concerns as to whether the AP courses are readily available for all the qualified students in the entire nation or within all American states (Cabrera & LaNasa, 2000).

There have been significant reiterations over these concerns. Most people have associated the concerned programs with some element of prejudice and biases based on several factors. The locality and family backgrounds of the concerned students have also contributed to the alleged low enrollment rate among black Americans as indicated earlier (Thelin, 2004). This regards students who reside in rural areas and come from low-income zones. Concurrently, gender and ethnicity issues have been cited as major contributory factors to inequalities recorded in the enrolment patterns as well as performance factors. This is a critical provision based on its contribution to the low enrolment rates and other relevant educational concerns. African American males have been disadvantaged because most of them are residents of rural areas and come from low-income zones within their respective states. Apart from these areas being potentially disadvantaged (in terms of access to higher educational programs), there have been intensive issues of female advocacy in these native regions (Hoff Sommers, 2000). This has led to a largely feminist society that has majored exceedingly in the welfare of the females relative to the males. The females under the auspices of gender equality can therefore access more elevated and beneficial programs, notwithstanding the waivers that they have to enjoy on enrolling in such programs, subject to their claims on “weaker sex” (Adelman, 2006).

Concurrently, another condition that might hinder African American male students from enrolling in higher education programs is inequality, prejudice, and lack of adequate opportunities to establish, exercise, and embrace their creativity. When students are enrolled in schools where the faculty or management opposes or does not embrace creativity, uniqueness, novelty, and other cultural inclinations, this might interfere with the mentioned enrolments. Alternatively, there are cases where the system has been largely viewed as propagating gross inequality within the general learning system (College Board, 2010). Technically, this might hinder the African American male students from enrolling in the high-grade courses within their schools. Underlying factors are acting synergistically to manipulate the performance and enrollment of African American male students. This interferes with the mentioned high-level courses such as the placement program.


Observably, conditions are hindering African American male students from joining colleges and enrolling in higher grade courses. Additionally, it is observable that societal factors, family, and individual influences play massive roles in the process. This is a significant provision when considered critically in educational contexts. Although there have been extensive studies regarding this issue, it is vital to consider the importance of additional investigations in this area. This will help in elucidating more on the phenomenon. Similarly, policymakers and educationists emerge as key partners and stakeholders in attempts to address policy and learning issues that continue to propagate this notable disparity. The need for effective policies and measures to control this discrepancy is largely eminent. Some scholars have proposed critical measures and adjustments that should be conducted to improve the enrolment rates of all students irrespective of their ages, gender, or racial orientation. Consequently, it is necessary to make higher learning courses and their curriculum more accessible and easily adaptable. Further research is crucial in this context. It will provide critical information on educational trends and policy implications. Even though significant studies on educational disparities have been done, it is necessary to conduct more research for purposes of refining the US education system.


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