by douglas reeser on October 13, 2011
Anthropology is a commonly misunderstood discipline. For many, it is not all that clear what anthropologists actually do, especially because there are few job positions with the actual title of "Anthropologist." Yet anthropologists work in a variety of roles in a variety of fields. We seek to understand humans and human activity in the present and the past, and more often than not, we are working toward the improvement of the lives of those we work with.
Still, the lack of clarity about what it is that we do has come to the forefront, as numerous news outlets are covering a developing story out of Florida. Anthropologists around the country are talking about recent comments made by Florida Governor Rick Scott to multiple media outlets over the last week. It's clear that Scott can be added to the list of those who don't quite get what anthropologists do. It began when Scott commented on the Marc Benier Show:
"We don’t need a lot more anthropologists in the state. It’s a great degree if people want to get it, but we don’t need them here."Later, to the Orlando Sentinel, Scott reiterated his remarks:
"We’re spending a lot of money on education, and when you look at the results, it’s not great," the governor told a luncheon crowd of the Northwest Business Association in Tallahassee. “Do you want to use your tax money to educate more people who can’t get jobs in anthropology? I don’t.”Anthropologists, including the American Anthropological Association, have responded quickly, and most impressively by my colleagues in the University of South Florida Anthropology Department. The chair of the department, Brent Weisman, has been interviewed by numerous news outlets, and has defended the discipline admirably. In his letter from the department, Weisman explains why Scott is wrong to call out the discipline:
My colleagues and I in the Anthropology Department at USF encourage our Governor to do his homework on the modern discipline of anthropology before making another casual but ill-informed remark. Anthropologists at USF work side by side with civil and industrial engineers, cancer researchers, specialists in public health and medicine, chemists, biologists, and others in the science, technology, and engineering fields that the Governor so eagerly applauds. Our colleagues in the natural, engineering, and medical sciences view the anthropological collaboration as absolutely essential to the success of their research and encourage their students to take courses in anthropology to help make them better scientists.And fellow students, led by Charlotte Noble and Janelle Christensen, have put together the above slideshow highlighting the diverse work of anthropologists, illustrating that anthropology is engaged with and plays an important role in our everyday lives.
And finally, in a twist to the story that would be hard to believe if it wasn't true, it has been reported that Rick Scott's own daughter received a degree in Anthropology. What can you say really, although I'm just glad my parents don't denigrate the degrees I hold to the national media!
Check out the slideshow above to learn about some of the great work that anthropologists do!
And for a comprehensive summary (with a ton of links) of the controversy check out Daniel Lende's Neuroanthropology column here >>>