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Resilient Constructs

The Myth of America's Broken Education System

Education reform is not a new topic in American discourse. The No Child Left Behind Act–perhaps the most extensive education reform carried out in the US in the past half century–was passed in 2001. Fourteen years later, its results are mixed, to say the least. But what if there was nothing to reform in the first place? What if the “education crisis” is another resilient, yet false, construct? The common scapegoats for the perceived failures of our education system are administrators, teachers’ unions, uninvolved parents, and government meddling.

The Hidden Influences

Recently, I took part in a discussion that, among other things, delved into the extent to which influences one doesn’t care about (and are thus ignorant of) ultimately affect the indifferent individual. In truth, many things influence us, especially forces we don’t care about enough to examine seriously. This is a famous scene from The Devil Wears Prada that, believe it or not, helps illustrate the point perfectly: [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vL-KQij0I8I[/embed] In this scene, Anne Hathaway’s character is dismissive toward Meryl Streep’s character, who is attempting to choose from two superficially identical belts in order to complete an outfit.

How Much do Politicians Lie, Anyway?

It’s another Presidential (primary) election season in the US, which means it’s time to trot out the old saw that all politicians lie. Politicians are not unique in this, obviously, but politicians tend to be characterized as much more profligate in this respect. Fortunately, to some extent we can quantify just how much lying is going on. Do some lie more than others? According to the New York Times, very much so:

Climate Change: Good News from Paris?

The 21st Climate Conference, also known as COP21, was just held in Paris. It is the most important international climate change agreement made at least since 1997’s Kyoto Protocol. But is it good news, or bad? Among environmentalists, there is disagreement as to whether the accord coming out of Paris represents a positive outcome: The major mainstream U.S. green groups are singing the Paris Agreement’s praises. Take the Sierra Club. “President Obama’s leadership in getting the world to this landmark agreement, a turning point for humanity, will go down in the annals of history,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.

About That North Carolina Solar Panel Story

There’s a viral story going around about a North Carolina town that rejected solar panels because “they would soak up all the sun.” Because North Carolina is in the South, and everyone in the South is stupid, right? It’s all too easy to believe! But it turns out there is more to the story than that. Snopes is always a good resource for this sort of thing, and they’re on the case this time, as well.

Changes, Bugs, and Popularity

Believe it or not, there are some site-related things to talk about this week! First off, I have upgraded Wordpress to the latest version, which is 4.4. This did not break any plugins, as far as I can tell, but it did break post scheduling, which I rely on heavily. I installed a plugin that should hopefully resolve it, but I guess we’ll see. I’ve also changed a few other things around:

Link Roundup: December 12, 2015

I heard you like links, so I posted some. Politics * ["Political identity is fair game for hatred": how Republicans and Democrats discriminate](http://www.vox.com/2015/12/7/9790764/partisan-discrimination) -- Tracing our evolution, as a culture, from one of more or less mutual respect and unity to partisan acrimony. * [GOP preparing for contested convention](https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/gop-preparing-for-contested-convention/2015/12/10/d72574bc-9f73-11e5-8728-1af6af208198_story.html?postshare=5821449782081267&tid=ss_tw) -- I would take this with a big grain of salt, but could spell big trouble for Republicans if true.

The Woman Who Would Destroy Affirmative Action

By now, you may have heard of Abigail Fisher, who currently has a case before the US Supreme Court regarding her denied admission to the University of Texas. If judged in her favor, the use of racial preferences in university admissions may well be outlawed. Per TruthDig: Fisher’s saga as a litigant began in 2005, when a former stockbroker and failed Republican congressional candidate named [Edward Blum](http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-court-casemaker-idUSBRE8B30V220121204#Qg1SUWbJyVgm8hH6.9) (no relation to yours truly) founded the Project on Fair Representation (POFR) in Austin as a nonprofit legal defense fund under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Do a Quarter of American Muslims Support Terrorism?

Some conservatives have been rabidly citing the hot statistic that 25% of American Muslims support terrorism. Where did this come from, and is it actually true? It’s the result of a poll commissioned by the Center for Security Policy, which has spun it as an alarming revelation. But what do the poll and its results actually say? Fortunately, they were nice enough to share the questions, results, and methodology, so we can learn quite a bit from how it was conducted.

Is Donald Trump a Fascist?

Is Donald Trump a Fascist? The question of whether Donald Trump can be called a fascist is becoming increasingly common in public discourse. The rebuttal is usually that Trump cannot be a fascist because he is just a clown who does not have a coherent ideology. The problem with this is: The lack of a coherent ideology is one of the main features of Fascism. Fascism, unlike National Socialism, did not even try to become a coherent ideology.