The conundrum of higher education accreditation

A few decades ago, Paulo Freire proposed a radical approach to education[1] which is integral in critical theory, where inquiry (research) is intentionally conflated with instruction,[2] and was a forerunner to the action research and participatory action research methodologies.
Continue reading “The conundrum of higher education accreditation”

  1. [1]Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 30th Anniversary Edition (New York: Continuum, 2006).
  2. [2]Raymond A. Morrow with David D. Brown, Critical Theory and Methodology (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1994); Norman K. Denzin, Yvonna S. Lincoln, and Linda Tuhiwai Smith, eds., Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008).

Difference and legitimacy

Adam Serwer, writing in the Atlantic, argues that Donald Trump and his followers at some level, whether explicit or implicit, believe that whiteness is a necessary condition for U.S. citizenship.[1] Michael Luo, editor of the New Yorker‘s web site, asks whether he and his twin brother, born in this country, but of Asian descent, will ever be accepted in this country.[2] Continue reading “Difference and legitimacy”

  1. [1]Adam Serwer, “Trump Tells America What Kind of Nationalist He Is,” Atlantic, July 15, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/07/trumps-white-nationalist-attack-four-congresswomen/594019/
  2. [2]Michael Luo, “Trump’s Racist Tweets, and the Question of Who Belongs in America,” New Yorker, July 15, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/trumps-racist-tweets-and-the-question-of-who-belongs-in-america

Xenophobia

It seems like xenophobia can never be defeated for long. Certainly not quickly or easily: When I reflect on the persistence of authoritarian populism—it has existed for a millenium[1]—I fear for the ‘other.’ And not just here in the U.S.[2] It’s a common impulse found throughout the world and not always with the same expression. Continue reading “Xenophobia”

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Barack Obama asks, ‘Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?’” Not Housebroken, November 4, 2018, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/11/04/barack-obama-asks-why-is-it-that-the-folks-that-won-the-last-election-are-so-mad-all-the-time/
  2. [2]Current events in the United States render this fear far from abstract: Priscilla Alvarez, “Lawmakers, including Ocasio-Cortez, lash out over conditions following border facility tours,” CNN, July 2, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/01/politics/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-clint-texas-facility/index.html; Josh Dawsey and Colby Itkowitz, “‘This is tough stuff’: At Texas detention facility, Pence sees hundreds of migrants crammed with no beds,” Washington Post, July 12, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/pence-tours-detention-facilities-at-the-border-defends-administrations-treatment-of-migrants/2019/07/12/993f54e0-a4bc-11e9-b8c8-75dae2607e60_story.html; Caitlin Dickerson, “‘There Is a Stench’: No Soap and Overcrowding in Detention Centers for Migrant Children,” New York Times, June 21, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/21/us/migrant-children-border-soap.html; Adam Harris, “An Astonishing Government Report on Conditions at the Border,” Atlantic, July 3, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2019/07/government-report-details-inhumane-conditions-migrant-facilities/593242/; Miriam Jordan, “Judge Orders Swift Action to Improve Conditions for Migrant Children in Texas,” New York Times, June 29, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/29/us/migrant-children-detention-texas.html; Alejandro Lazo and Jacob Gershman, “Lawsuit Alleges Government Mistreatment of Migrant Children,” Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/lawsuit-alleges-government-mistreatment-of-migrant-children-11561608969; Sam Levin, “‘Happy hunting!’ Immigration agents swapped cheery messages about raids, records reveal,” Guardian, July 3, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jul/03/ice-us-immigration-messages-raids; Katie Mettler, Mike DeBonis, and Reis Thebault, “Border agents confiscated lawmakers’ phones. Joaquin Castro captured photo and video anyway,” Washington Post, July 2, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/07/02/ocasio-cortez-says-dispute-with-border-patrol-agents-started-after-one-tried-take-stealth-selfie/; Geneva Sands and Nick Valencia, “2nd Customs and Border Protection-connected secret Facebook group shows mocking images,” CNN, July 5, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/05/politics/cbp-second-facebook-group-images/index.html; Jacob Soboroff and Julia Ainsley, “Migrant kids in overcrowded Arizona border station allege sex assault, retaliation from U.S. agents,” NBC News, July 9, 2019, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/migrant-kids-overcrowded-arizona-border-station-allege-sex-assault-retaliation-n1027886

A simple definition of fascism

Note, July 6, 2019: This article was originally published in my research journal on February 14, 2017, on parts-unknown.org, a site that is now and will, for the foreseeable future, remain off-line. Unfortunately, it contains citations that reference that site. I will update these as I can.

One of the topics I avoided in my dissertation work is fascism. There are two main reasons for this. First, the term is so ill-defined that at times, especially in the run-up to the election last year, I’ve even gone so far as to suggest the term should not be used. Sara Robinson notes that “[t]he word has been bandied about by so many people so wrongly for so long that, as [Robert] Paxton points out, ‘Everybody is somebody else’s fascist.'”[1] She relies on Paxton’s definition, writing that she

always like[s] to start these conversations by revisiting Paxton’s essential definition of the term:

“Fascism is a system of political authority and social order intended to reinforce the unity, energy, and purity of communities in which liberal democracy stands accused of producing division and decline.”

Continue reading “A simple definition of fascism”

  1. [1]Sara Robinson, “Is the U.S. on the Brink of Fascism?” Alternet, August 6, 2009, http://www.alternet.org/story/141819/is_the_u.s._on_the_brink_of_fascism

Colin Kaepernick is right

Colin Kaepernick is right.[1]

It would be one thing if the U.S. had ever given up its slavery habit and if reparations had been made.[2] Then we might look upon the association between the Betsy Ross flag and slavery[3] as quaint. But it hasn’t. Continue reading “Colin Kaepernick is right”

  1. [1]Eli Rosenberg and Michael Brice-Saddler, “A GOP governor wants to cancel a Nike contract after flag-shoe flap, but the city it’s headed for isn’t backing down,” Washington Post, July 3, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/07/03/gop-governor-wants-cancel-nike-contract-city-its-headed-isnt-backing-down/
  2. [2]Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” Atlantic, June 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/; see also David Benfell, “The trouble with reparations isn’t what you think it is,” Not Housebroken, June 11, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/06/11/the-trouble-with-reparations-isnt-what-you-think-it-is/
  3. [3]Eli Rosenberg and Michael Brice-Saddler, “A GOP governor wants to cancel a Nike contract after flag-shoe flap, but the city it’s headed for isn’t backing down,” Washington Post, July 3, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/07/03/gop-governor-wants-cancel-nike-contract-city-its-headed-isnt-backing-down/

Violence is the illegitimate authority that begets all other illegitimate authority

So it’s amazing I have to explain this. It should be self-evident. I guess it isn’t, at least not on Twitter:

Violence is the illegitimate authority that begets all other illegitimate authority.

Rulers rely on violence of both the structural and physical kinds, both threatened and actualized, both implicit and explicit. But perhaps some folks hadn’t noticed the police. I guess some folks hadn’t noticed militaries. I guess some folks hadn’t noticed the uneven distribution of resources, a structural form of violence. I guess some folks hadn’t noticed the various forms of scapegoating to be found in nearly all—if not all—societies, another structural form of violence.
Continue reading “Violence is the illegitimate authority that begets all other illegitimate authority”

It’s time to be clear: Migrant children are being held in concentration camps and the Trump administration is fascist.

Apparently, migrant children are being underfed and denied mattresses, heat, and basic sanitation, and not just at a facility in Clint, Texas:[1] Continue reading “It’s time to be clear: Migrant children are being held in concentration camps and the Trump administration is fascist.”

  1. [1]Caitlin Dickerson, “‘There Is a Stench’: No Soap and Overcrowding in Detention Centers for Migrant Children,” New York Times, June 21, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/21/us/migrant-children-border-soap.html

Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration

Note: This is the pre-publication version of my dissertation[1] from November 20, 2015.

CONSERVATIVE VIEWS ON UNDOCUMENTED MIGRATION

A dissertation presented to the faculty of Saybrook University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Human Science

by

David Benfell

Oakland, California

November 2015

Approval of the Dissertation

CONSERVATIVE VIEWS ON UNDOCUMENTED MIGRATION

This dissertation by David Benfell has been approved by the committee members below, who recommend it be accepted by the faculty of Saybrook University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy in Human Science

Dissertation Committee:

_________________________________ ___________________

Robert McAndrews, Ph.D. Chair Date

_________________________________ ___________________

JoAnn McAllister, Ph.D. Date

_________________________________ ___________________

Marc Pilisuk, Ph.D. Date

Abstract

CONSERVATIVE VIEWS ON UNDOCUMENTED MIGRATION

David Benfell

Saybrook University

While many may view conservatism as monolithic, this dissertation describes a taxonomy of seven tendencies in conservative thought in the United States: 1) traditionalist conservatism, 2) social conservatism, 3) capitalist libertarianism, 4) authoritarian populism, 5) functionalist conservatism, 6) neoconservatism, and 7) paleoconservatism. This dissertation then employs discourse-historical analysis to uncover the diversity of conservative thought among these tendencies in the example of undocumented migration. It supports distinctions between most of these tendencies. However, George Nash described social conservatives and traditionalist conservatives as allies on most issues; this dissertation finds members of each of these tendencies divided on the issue of undocumented migration between those who emphasize compassion over law and those who emphasize law over compassion. This dissertation also fails to support a distinction between authoritarian populism and paleoconservatism as members of both tendencies subscribe to an “us” versus “them” view toward undocumented migrants. Finally, it observes a profound difference in epistemology between most conservatives and many others: Conservatives appear resistant to forms of evidence that others consider essential.
Continue reading “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration”

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).

The species we must become: On direct democracy, or why its alleged bugs are features

In “Federalist no. 10,” a continuation of Alexander Hamilton’s “Federalist no. 9,”[1] James Madison laid out several reasons for opposing a true democracy in favor of a republic:
Continue reading “The species we must become: On direct democracy, or why its alleged bugs are features”

  1. [1]Kelly Kyuzawa with Robert Brammer, eds., “The Federalist Papers,” Congress, May 3, 2016, https://www.congress.gov/resources/display/content/The+Federalist+Papers

The trouble with reparations isn’t what you think it is

Somehow, it’d been longer than I thought since Ta-Nehisi Coates published “The Case for Reparations” in the Atlantic. I think when I first heard about the article, I was furious about the Left lumping me, along with all white males, in with wealthy white males as “privileged,” following Donald Trump’s election in 2016, despite my having been systematically excluded from the job market for, now, over eighteen years.[1] (The article was actually published in June 2014, while I was still working toward my Ph.D.) Continue reading “The trouble with reparations isn’t what you think it is”

  1. [1]Even with my Ph.D., it appears driving for Lyft is my sole career option.