Education Media Tech & Social Media

[Still] struggling to get our head around social media in schools…

In February this year, I had the opportunity to ask over 1000 senior students from about forty schools across Australia, which statement best summed up how their school taught social media. I’m assuming schools would do this, as I can definitely recall a subject called Media Studies when I was at school back in the nineties…

I asked…

Which of the following BEST describes the manner in which social media is taught in your school?

a: It isn’t really

b: We only really get told what NOT to do

c: We are educated as to the power of social media to help us learn in school

d: We are educated as to the power of social media to help us learn, connect with others and develop a positive digital footprint.

This was the response [CLICK ON THE GRAPH TO ENLARGE]:

I then asked them whether or not they thought a Google (or your preferred search engine) search would make or break them, if a prospective employer chose to search for them online…

This was their response:

I think these two graphs present an interesting stimulus for a chat about how we approach social media in schools…

  1. Only around 70 senior students out of >1000 thought that an online search would stand them in good stead. This is a worry, as employers have been using online searches since the days of MySpace (remember that??)
  2. Over a quarter didn’t know what an online search would throw up.
  3. The vast majority of students thought an online search wouldn’t be an issue as there would be very little – if anything – about them online.

I wonder if we’ve taught kids that the opposite of a negative digital footprint is to have no digital footprint?

I also wonder if that’s because we haven’t really taught kids about social media. One of my most popular posts of all time was one I wrote back in 2012 called Driving Down Social Media Way in which I asked readers to imagine that we taught kids to drive the way we teach them about social media. In short:

1. Driving lessons would be taught by adults (teachers or parents) with little or no experience of driving.

Sure they may know of certain brands of cars or be aware of some of their capabilities. They may know it is illegal to speed or drive without a seatbelt, but in reality they have spent little time behind the wheel.

2. Driving lessons would only focus on what not to do.

An average driving lesson would entail students being preached to about the dangers of speeding, drinking driving or not wearing a seatbelt. There may be a little advice on how to keep you and your car safe, eg. regular service checks, installing an alarm and NEVER allowing a stranger to get into your car would all constitute sound advice.

3. Driving lessons would NEVER take place in an actual car.

In fact cars would be banned in the majority of driving schools. Students would be able to take notes, draw pictures or even present a PowerPoint on how to drive, but they would only be able to put these lessons into practice once they were out of sight of an adult.

It seems little has changed – which is unbelievable silly ridiculous bordering on negligent.

If you have the time or the inclination, here is a little spiel I gave in 2016 to some teachers on the subject… (it’s one of my favourite talks actually and please note the kids’ survey questions in this talk were from 2016, not the ones I cite in this blog post).


Education Media

The Revolution Won’t Necessarily Be Televised

keep-calm-and-start-a-revolution-6Over the past month Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC, aired a four-part documentary called Revolution School in which it followed the staff and students of Kambrya College in Victoria throughout the course of 2015. The premise of the doco was that Kambrya was a struggling school – in 2008 its Year 12 results put it in the state’s bottom 10% of schools – and that by applying “cutting edge research developed by Professor John Hattie at the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education, [Kambrya] undergoes a dramatic transformation. Ultimately [Revolution School] is a lesson for all schools in Australia, identifying what they can do to improve standards at this critical time.”

It was set against the backdrop of an Australian education system that is, “letting down our kids and the nation” and that’s compounded by the ‘fact’ that most of the things educators and parents think matter in education actually don’t.

John Hattie states from the outset that reducing class size, private education and giving parents choice do not “make a difference to the quality of education.”

The show concluded this week and it’s fair to say it received a mixed response – from 43 people on Twitter at least.

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 1.40.20 pm

Here, for what it’s worth, are my thoughts on it.



noun: revolution; plural noun: revolutions

a dramatic and wide-reaching change in conditions, attitudes, or operation.

I can only assume that this was a decision made by TV execs who needed something catchy, and to be fair it certainly caught my attention when I saw it advertised. I was genuinely curious to see what kind of revolution was taking place, but I was left feeling a little underwhelmed.

To be clear – I’m not dismissive of the efforts of the teachers, the consultants and – importantly – the students. Any school, teacher or student who works to improve standards is worthy of acknowledgement. From the outset I commend the staff and students of Kambrya for allowing the cameras in to give an insight into how a dedicated team of teachers (as well as the kids) can address some of the daily challenges faced in a typical school. For some watching it would have proven insightful.

Rather I was left underwhelmed because there was very little in the show that could be seen as being revolutionary. Whilst it might have documented a wide-reaching change in conditions, attitudes or operations at Kambrya, the claim that Revolution School would “serve as a lesson for all schools in Australia,” might be seen as a tad patronising.

It should be noted that Revolution School  had at one time been titled Making The Grade, which in my opinion would have been a more appropriate (if less appealing to TV execs) title for the documentary.


Many of the strategies for improvement were a result of the school’s partnership with Melbourne Graduate School of Education (MGSE), with its impressive team of educators and experts. Teachers were able to work with the likes of John Hattie, Lea Waters, Bill Rogers and Di Snowball to refine their approaches in class and the wider community. However the coverage of these working relationships was superficial at best, limited to soundbites and the obligatory rounds of applause at the end of teacher PL sessions. Bill Rogers, for example is a legend in the realm of classroom climate and handling behaviour issues, but all we got from his appearance was the idea that you could chart on a whiteboard how on-task the class are over the course of a lesson. Now I appreciate that TV execs might not think that a more in-depth exploration of classroom climate would be compelling viewing, but if Revolution School really was going to “serve as a lesson for all schools in Australia” then these are the paths they needed to go down.

Similarly with regard to Lea Waters’ work on wellbeing, I cringed at the superficial nature in which it was presented to the TV audience, with no reference to what Positive Psychology is or the potential significance of character strengths.

However one soundbite I did enjoy was literacy expert Di Snowball’s reflection of the way in which many schools teach reading using literacy exercise books. In doing this kids only read small passages in isolation – something that was implied did little to encourage a love of reading and as Di pointed out:

What’s the point of improving reading through these programmes if you aren’t then reading?

John Hattie was a common voice throughout the series and in Episode 4 introduced the idea of teachers having their lessons transcribed live, and their words projected onto screens around the classroom. A programme from MGSE called “The Visible Classroom.” (As an aside, this is on top of Hattie’s Visible Learning approach, and Lea Waters’ Visible Wellbeing approach. I’m spotting a theme.) One of the main reasons for doing this is so that the data from the class can be evaluated by MGSE to ascertain how much a teacher talks and what kind of dialogue with regards to questions and interaction is happening. Hattie argues that teachers should be talking for around 50% of the time in class, but in reality most teachers spend 80-90% of the time talking. Assuming this premise is correct, the episode went on to show teachers who had in fact reduced their talk in class, but again tellingly for a series that was to “serve as a lesson for all schools in Australia,” it didn’t explore the changes in practice/planning that teachers undertook to make this happen. I’d imagine for some teachers these changes would have presented significant challenges, and it would have been good to see how these challenges were addressed.

Towards the end of the series the concept of Clinical Teaching (the approach taught at MGSE) was introduced as having “the potential to revolutionise our classrooms” but again I was – along with many teachers I’d expect – left underwhelmed. The core principles of Clinical Teaching as explained by Hattie are:

  • Diagnose: Ascertain the areas in which kids need to improve, learn etc.
  • Intervene: Deploy strategies, questions and activities that address these areas.
  • Evaluate: Ascertain whether or not kids have improved their knowledge, skills or understand.

In other words… teach.

Look, I know I’m being a little flippant here, and I do know that this might seem revolutionary to some… but seriously, I recommend you read pretty much anything by Dylan Wiliam, because formative assessment has been addressing this stuff for yonks.


An outdoor ed camp, a class for disengaged boys, a kid who left under a cloud of drug use, another who left after Year 10, kids getting into strife for fighting and (alleged but ultimately unproven) theft, a school production of Aladdin, a formal ball, a kid who didn’t get into medicine, stressed out G&T kids, a girl arguing with her mother, school captain elections and a deputy who was a little skeptical of consultants… are the ingredients of a typical day in a typical school and I’m unsure as to what lessons they taught us, other than apparently after going on a four-day hike, some kids who hated school and had previously all failed a maths test all of a sudden aced it on their return… Again, not underestimating the impact of the outdoor education or the commitment of the staff, but come on… the superficial nature in which it was covered left me cold.

I was left wondering if police officers are equally underwhelmed after watching an episode of RBT? Or what about doctors and nurses after watching Trauma: Life in the ER?

But then again RBT & Trauma aren’t broadcast on the premise that the policing or health professions are failing to such an extent that they require such TV shows to “serve as a lesson.”

Now to be fair, the series finished by highlighting the gains the school has made which are impressive and for which everyone’s efforts should be applauded, and it’s worth noting that this has been an 8 year journey of which MGSE were a part for the past 12 months. Clearly they’ve made great gains but there are still some questions that remain particularly given the premise upon which the series was set.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 6.16.27 pm


  1. When Hattie says it’s not the school that make a difference, but the teachers, what does that really mean?
  2. When Hattie says, “Class size doesn’t matter,” do you think he should clarify that by finishing that statement with, “if we don’t change our practice.” As you may be aware I’ve covered this in the past in my blog posts and in an interview I had with John Hattie himself. 
  3. Aren’t the things advocated for in Clinical Teaching (more student interaction, better feedback etc) impacted by class size?
  4. What was the impact on staff & student engagement of having cameras in the school?
  5. How many adults (teachers, consultants, camera & sound operators) were in each classroom and what impact would this have had?
  6. Given the series website states, “By applying simple low cost ideas in the classroom Kambrya undergoes a dramatic transformation,” how much would it cost your school to do something similar with MGSE? Having looked at the MGSE’s School Network page, a quick calculation would put it at around $50-60K
  7. How did the airing of students struggling with drugs and family pressures serve as a lesson for schools around Australia?
  8. What have you learned (with regard to pedagogy, wellbeing, classroom management, professional growth, enhancing student outcomes) as a result of watching #RevolutionSchool?
Media Social Commentary Youth

Sex, Drugs, The Media & Our Kids

I originally write this for my regular Generation Next column

In the weeks since that Miley Cyrus performance at the VMAs, more fuel has been poured onto the fiery debate around the overtly sexual messages our kids are receiving thanks to the media.

Add this to the heady mix of alcohol, violence and drug use with the apparent rise of such related anti-social behaviour of our teenagers – once again commentators are calling on the media to pull its collective head in.

Just this Sunday, I was watching a movie with my five year-old son that featured, amongst other things:

• Every second character, including the two lead characters smoking.
• Every second character, including the two lead characters drinking alcohol.
• Drink spiking.
• A drunken bar room brawl that involved guns, knives and king hits.

The brawl only subsided when a stripper appeared on stage, dressed all in blue (the relevance of this will be apparent shortly) and began to sing,

Hey fellas
The time is right
Get ready
Tonight’s the night
Boys, what you’re hopin’ for will come true
Let me be good to you

You tough guys
You’re feelin’ all alone
You rough guys
The best o’ you sailors and bums
All o’ my chums

So dream on
And drink your beer
Get cosy
Your baby’s here
You won’t be misunderstood
Let me be good to you

Hey fellas
I’ll take off all my blues
Hey fellas
There’s nothin’ I won’t do
Just for you

So dream on
And drink your beer
Get cosy
Your baby’s here
Hey boys, I’m talkin’ to you
Your baby’y gonna come through
Let me be good to you

I reckon Miley herself would be pretty happy with those lyrics.

I know what you’re thinking…

“Haesler! What are you playing at letting your five year old boy watch an episode of Underbelly?”

But it wasn’t Underbelly.

It was Walt Disney’s 1986 animated classic, The Great Mouse DetectiveGreat Mouse Detective

Making $40 million – in the 80s – the film is widely acknowledged as being the saviour of Disney, after some less-than-stellar releases. It appears that even back then sex, violence, alcohol and drugs sold, and sold well.

Kids have always been subjected to these kind of messages, but I think we underestimate our youth – and the adults in their lives – when we believe whatever they see they’ll do.

Melinda Tankard-Reist wrote in her Fairfax column this week that the young girls she’d spoken to since the Miley performance were in no way influenced to act the same way. Some of the comments from the girls aged 12 and 13 were:

”She thinks it’s cool, she’ll attract more people, but she hasn’t.”
”She used to be inspirational, we used to look up to her, now she’s ruined herself.”
”The performance portrayed a negative image of women.”

I would guess that these girls have strong role models in their lives, be they male or female, parents or otherwise. And I think that’s the point.

Of course the proliferation of the media has meant kids are getting these messages more often, but we can’t underestimate the power of a good adult role model and their ability to dilute, deflect or redefine these messages so kids can watch The Great Mouse Detective without becoming drunken gun-slinging strip club regulars.

Media Social Justice Wellbeing

Impact of the Influential on Mental Illness

Appalled by some of the comments made by BBC personality Jeremy Clarkson last week, I wrote this piece. It has been published on the ABC website, The Drum.

“Imagine in the aftermath of a suicide on a busy rail network, trains don’t wait until body has been removed from tracks. Imagine the remains of the victim are left, while drivers are ordered to get the train back on schedule as quickly as possible. You can’t imagine that. Can you?” Read the full article on The ABC…


An Open Letter to Ray Hadley of Radio 2GB

Dear Mr Hadley,

Today I came across a recording of a conversation you had with Cheryl, a primary school teacher who called in to defend NSW teachers’ decision to strike for better pay and conditions.

I’m not a huge fan of industrial action myself, but the point of this letter is not to argue the merits or otherwise of such action. Politics and democracy gives us the opportunity to have differing points of view and avenues to discuss them openly and maturely.

Rather I take issue with your abhorrent attitude towards Cheryl, who you decided you could treat with little or no respect because, “It’s my show!”

You also state that such disregard for teachers, as opposed to say the police, or nurses, is just, “A fact of life.”

The bulk of your tirade (if I may call it that) against Cheryl and the teaching profession seemed to be formed around three key points: hours worked, salary (obviously) and the nature of the job.

I’ll address each in turn.

1. Hours worked – No doubt you trump the teachers here Mr Hadley! You say that you work from 5am – 7pm, six days a week! An incredible effort. But what I find even more incredible is that for a man who obviously puts in so many hours of research, time and again you are picked up by ABC’s Media Watch for being a little frugal with the truth.Obviously comparing a teachers workload to yours only serves to highlight how little they do! Everyone knows teachers only work 9am – 3pm, five days a week – and only 40 weeks of the year!

2. Salary – Assuming a classroom teacher has been in their job for eight years, they can expect to earn a salary of around $85000. That equates to approximately $70/hour. Not bad I’m sure you’ll agree. But surely you feel a little disingenuous talking about how much people are worth when you earn $100000 alone for your “blink and you’ll miss ’em” spots on Channel 9. Let’s not forget the salary from 2GB which is reportedly anywhere between $2 million – $5 million! A little maths demonstrates that if you work as hard as you say, you’re raking in approximately $460 per hour.  Obviously I’m assuming you’re only earning $2 million 😉

3. But of course the disparity in our pay packets is justified when you attack Cheryl and every other teacher in the country by effectively saying anyone could teach. As a teacher myself, I’m a realist, I know there are good and bad teachers, just as there are bad and very bad shock jocks… but you know what? I’d bet (only if there was pre-commitment legislation of course!) that you wouldn’t last a week in the classroom, let alone a term!

But what really made me laugh was when you alluded to the fact that no-one else could do your job! (It was actually at this point I thought this may have been a prank call!)

I hear plenty of people who bully, vilify and harass others as you do. I see plenty of people who lie, promote homophobia, racism and who are just plain wrong on many things. Yes, these people do speak for some Australians, and yes, occasionally, the law of averages suggest they may make a valid point. But ALL these people are usually propping up a bar late at night somewhere and doing it for free!

Let’s be clear Mr Hadley, the reason you have been so vitriolic towards teachers is because they have challenged Barry O’Farrell and his Liberal Government. They have had the temerity to suggest that capping a wage increase at 2.5% may not actually be particularly fair given that inflation is running at 3.5%. I reckon your maths teacher could explain why.

And while your teacher’s explaining that, get them to show you that having a 20% share of the listening audience means that 80% AREN’T listening to you.

Having said that, just because you’re not as popular as you think you are doesn’t mean I was going to let this through to the keeper.

Should you be prepared to have a more mature conversation than the one you had with Cheryl, please feel free to contact me through

I should be able to squeeze you in… I have a few free periods.

Your sincerely

Dan Haesler

Media Wellbeing Youth

The Kids Are Alright – In the National Times

Fed up with the constant media attacks on our youth, I sat down at the laptop and wrote this. And the National Times decided to publish it…

Another day, another media attack on the youth of Australia. This time it’s the turn of Channel Nine’s A Current Affair, to have a report, “All parents should see.” It claims to show, “What your kids are getting up to.”

A quick look at the headlines in the last six months would lead you to believe that most of our youth are alcohol fuelled members of fight clubs, who in between cyber-bullying and sexting, rate their sexual partners’ prowess via root rating sites. How teens find the time to do all of this in between planking, dealing drugs and causing chaos on our roads in their P-plated cars is anyone’s guess.  Read my full article at the National Times

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Media Wellbeing Youth

Talking Youth Depression on Channel 10

In case you missed my appearance on Channel 10 discussing youth depression and wellbeing, you can watch the interview here.

Please share it with your staff at your school, friends or family.

We need to keep on talking about it…

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Media Wellbeing Youth

Catch Dr Suzy Green and Me on Channel 10 – Monday 6.30pm


Just a quick note to let you know that last week I recorded an interview for the 6.30 Report with George Negus. It is due to be aired on Monday 15th September at (guess when?) 6.30pm on Channel 10 in Australia.

The subject of the story is youth depression and how education can address student wellbeing in a more proactive way. As well as me, Dr Suzy Green from the Positive Psychology Institute in Sydney also features.

If you can’t manage to see it tomorrow, I’ll post the video of it on my site in the coming days.

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Media Youth

What is it with Rs in Education… This week: Root Rating?!?!

The (anti) social media habits of schoolkids have taken up a lot of newspaper and online column space this week in Australia. The latest craze to take hold of our teens (doesn’t it seem like only last month it was planking?) is to “rate roots” via ingeniously titled “Root Rater” pages on Facebook.

For the benefit of my international readers, “rooting” is the uniquely Australian euphemism for getting to know someone very well.

The accepted protocol seems to be: root, rate and add a comment if further detail is required. Unsurprisingly, in the examples in the media this week,  this detail is not often complimentary. As well as identifying some schools where root-rating was prevalent, a fair amount of questions were asked as to what schools could do (if anything) to address the problem.

The public reaction has ranged from the nonplussed to the extreme – here’s my take on the reaction…

1. It did NOT happen in your day – Too many people equate Facebook with the note that was passed around class. Granted the behaviour is the same, but the consequences are far more extreme. One example of such a site had 1200 members and this does not account for the people who have search for and found such sites since the media exposure. And of course, unlike notes, the “Net” cannot be thrown away. Interestingly, the people who compare social media sites with notes range from (obviously) technophobe parents to (bizarrely) people who are well versed in social media.

2. Kids WON’T report it – Children don’t report bullying. The reasons are too varied and complex to go into here, but it’s safe to say, if kids won’t report what may be considered “standard” playground bullying, they are even less likely to report incidents of being the subject of Root Rater sites. There is another factor at play as well, which is unique to cyber-bullying; and that is that kids believe if they report cyber-bullying, the technology will be taken away from them. Despite it being the source of such angst, they are more worried about losing access to the phones or computers that connects them with their peers.

3. Ignorance is NEGLIGENCE – I’m not saying parents need to be able to set up a wireless network, rather they have to get their heads out of the sand and understand that kids need guidance on the net, just as they do in other areas of life (if not more so). Putting on NetNanny or similar software is only a superficial (and probably the least effective) step. Parents should be aware what, why, how and when their kids interact with the Net. Parents should help their kids navigate the online world, just as they do the offline world… and young teens should not have a laptop or phone in their room… bottom line.

4. Social Media is NOT the enemy – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, in most schools are banned. If we cannot access them in school, how can we demonstrate the amazing potential of social media? How can we teach kids how to be global online citizens? By banning them in schools we further reinforce the notion that we, as adults think social media is not important, or just a waste of time. With regard to our kids, it is not the tools that are the problem, it is the way in which they are being used. Why not engage kids in school by using these tools for good… examples like The Invisible Hearts Project or How to Build a School in 3 Hours would be good starting points to build incredible learning experiences.

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Education Leadership Media

Testing Times for NAPLAN

For the benefit of my overseas readers, all Australian school students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 are assessed using national tests in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions (Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation) and Numeracy.

These are known as NAPLAN tests. They are the equivalent to the SATs in the UK or the NEAPs in the US.

Every year standardised tests come under the microscope. Everyone with an opinion (educated or otherwise) throws in their two cents…

So here’s mine (you can decide whether it’s educated or otherwise.)

In the last couple of weeks, with regard to NAPLAN, the media has been awash with allegations of teachers cheating, parents refusing to allow their kids to take the test, and principals selecting new enrolments based on NAPLAN scores.

With stories like this it’s not surprising that anyone who wanted to condemn NAPLAN got their obligatory 3 minute soundbite onto Morning TV. Bold statements like “NAPLAN harms our kids for life” at breakfast time, make for essential viewing for the mums and dads of every 8 – 14 year old in the country!

But here’s the thing…

Standardised tests do have a role to play in today’s education. They can serve as a diagnostic tool to highlight areas in a child’s learning that may need attention – indeed that is the purpose NAPLAN was intended to serve.

On the NAPLAN website it says:

  • Students and parents may use individual results to discuss achievements and progress with teachers.
  • Teachers use results to help them better identify students who require greater challenges or additional support.
  • Schools use results to identify strengths and weaknesses in teaching programs and to set goals in literacy and numeracy.
  • School systems use results to review programs and support offered to schools.

The tests themselves are not the problem.

The issues such as those reported in the media this week arise because the data is abused by people who should know better.

The problems associated with standardised tests are due to the seemingly innate human desire to compare oneself (or children) to others.

This has been exacerbated by the fact that the governments MySchool website uses NAPLAN results as its main source of comparison data.

In early 2010, Prime Minister, Julia Gillard whilst still Education Minister stated, “Before MySchool, parents would do everything they could to find out as much information as possible about the schools in their suburb – maybe they’ve moved suburb, moved cities, moved states, want to know which is the school that their child should go to and that’s been a hard battle for them to get the information. Now, as one source of information they will be able to get on MySchool and see more comprehensive information than they’ve ever had access to before.”

As soon as we have a notion of choice – we get competition between the potential choices (in this case, schools) and in every competition in the world – there is cheating and corruption. So should the stories in the media these last two weeks be surprising? I don’t think so.

This has the potential to get much worse with Ms Gillard’s government announcing at its budget this month, their intention to introduce incentive based pay for teachers.

You guessed it – NAPLAN test scores would be part of the assessment criteria!

So, stay with me here…  scores from a test – that we are told, you cannot teach to or prepare for – will form the basis of whether or not a teacher nets an extra $8000 a year or not…

If NAPLAN wasn’t high stakes before… it certainly will be now – for the teacher at least! Never mind the raft of research that tells us performance related pay actually DECREASES performance! (But that’s another blog post yet to come…)

As well as principals keen to ensure that their schools league ranking doesn’t slip on their watch, individual teachers will have the thought of an extra $8000 in their mind when it comes to planning the next week’s work.

In the quest to net the extra cash, what will be the first to go from the child’s learning experience? Art, Music, Drama, PE? Perhaps creative writing will be pushed the side so classes can work from books that look to maximise your NAPLAN performance.

But that’s all to come… back to the issues of the day.

Principals and teachers have to be the leaders in the education revolution. They have to stand up for what is right and spell out to the politicians and misguided masses, what is blatantly wrong about using these standardised tests in a way they were never intended.

The media will report whatever makes the headlines that day… so whilst one day they’ll be condemning NAPLAN, you can be assured that in a month or two, the same outlets will be publishing league tables or promoting the idea of Performance Related Pay based on NAPLAN data.

As I said before. I have no problems with standardised tests per se; but the way in which we use them is fundamentally flawed.

If a principal uses NAPLAN test scores as a means to select students into their school (and for the record – I don’t believe there is a single principal in the country that would only use test scores to do this) then the sooner they retire, the better. And you can quote me on that.

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