Florida Governor: Anthropology Not Needed Here (originally 11 October, 2011)

(We are republishing ‘legacy content’ from our PLOS Neuroanthropology weblog, which has been taken down, along with many of the other founding PLOS Blogs. Some of these, I am putting up because I teach with them. If you have any requests, don’t hesitate to email me at: greg.downey @ mq (dot) edu (dot) au. I suspect many of the links in this piece will be broken, but I will endeavour to try to slowly rebuild this content. Daniel originally published this on 11 October, 2011. Comments have been pasted in at the end of the post from the original.) 

Anthropologists have been singled out by Florida Governor Rick Scott as not being needed. On the Marc Benier show, Gov. Scott said:

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. I want to spend our dollars giving people science, technology, engineering, and math degrees. That’s what our kids need to focus all their time and attention on, those types of degrees, so when they get out of school, they can get a job.

The American Anthropological Association issued a swift response to Gov. Scott, and the news that he thinks anthropology majors are not needed.

As an association, we are a group of over 11,000 scholars, scientists, and professionals who are dedicated to studying humankind in all its aspects, including through archaeological, biological, cultural, medical, and linguistic research… Perhaps you are unaware that anthropologists are leaders in our nation’s top science fields, making groundbreaking discoveries in areas as varied as public health, human genetics, legal history, bilingualism, the African American heritage, and infant learning.

As reported by the Orlando Sentinel, anthropology has become Gov. Scott’s primary example of an area where he believes public spending should be cut.

Tax revenues are expected to be lower than expected, forcing the state to prioritize where it spends dollars. Along those lines, Scott repeated a statement earlier this week by saying the state should spend less on education programs that aren’t related to current workforce demands, singling out anthropology.

“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.”

Brent Weisman, chair of the University of South Florida’s Department of Anthropology, rebuts Scott’s ideas that anthropology is not science, and that anthropologists do not get jobs in Florida. In a letter from the department, he writes:

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.

Anthropology is a human science in its own right, and many of my colleagues receive highly competitive funding through the prestigious National Science Foundation to conduct original research on contemporary social problems. Recent faculty projects have focused on issues in immigration, aging, disparities in health care, and food insecurity, to mention a few, all of which are pressing problems right here in Florida.

And countering Governor Scott’s remark, the number of anthropology majors is increasing dramatically. We take this as validation of anthropology’s vital role in the modern world. Anthropology graduates get jobs in many careers outside of academia and help their employers solve the many complex human challenges facing our communities, our state, our nation, and our world. We respectfully disagree with our Governor. More anthropologists needed, not fewer, Mr. Scott.

Scott’s views of anthropology inform his anticipated push for large-scale reforms in higher education. Sarasota’s Herald-Tribune highlights four initiatives that Scott will try to move forward in Florida.

In a morning meeting with the Herald-Tribune’s Editorial Board and reporters, Scott said he expects the governing boards to discuss:

* Tenure. Do tenured professors advance student achievement?

* Evaluations. How can student evaluations of professors be used to determine educational effectiveness and compensation?

* Costs. Can the costs of higher education be reduced by outsourcing additional functions to the private sector?

* Tuition. Should colleges and universities reverse the recent trend toward increases in tuition?

Scott also said he wants higher education in Florida to put a greater focus on degrees — in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — that will fuel job creation. At one point, the governor asked: How many degrees in anthropology does Florida need for a healthy economy?

The readers of the Herald-Tribune disagree. In a poll posted at the end of their article, Rick Scott wants to shift university funding away from some degrees, the Herald-Tribune asks: Do you agree or disagree with Gov. Rick Scott’s plan to cut state funding for college majors such as anthropology, which he says are not needed?

At 2:00PM Eastern time, 826 people had voted, and 89% disagreed with Gov. Scott’s assessment. These voters want anthropology.

Over at Mother Jones, Adam Weinstein has written an editorial, Rick Scott to Liberal Arts Majors: Drop Dead, which provides a long rebuttal to Gov. Scott:

If Scott thinks that state colleges should only offer free-market-friendly majors, he’s been sleeping in class. First, he ignores a host of recent research that shows college majors don’t matter as much in graduates’ long-term earning power as is often assumed. Second, “soft” subjects like anthropology (and philosophy, and history, and psychology, and English) serve their students pretty darn well: Take a look at the surprising list of notable Americans who majored in them… including Dubya, Carly Fiorina, Clarence Thomas, Billy Graham, and Ronald Reagan. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better marketer or brand specialist than an anthro major.

None of that should matter, anyway. Is a degree’s intrinsic value really reducible to its marketability? Just a few blocks from the governor’s mansion, the Florida State University anthropology department—already ravaged by cuts and unable to admit new students—is fighting for its life by reminding visitors that anthropology is not only cost-effective and desirable on the job market, it’s morally satisfying, too. “The Anthropology Department educates students about the lack of biological support for the race concept and challenges the racist ideas that have led to inequality and exploitation,” the department’s website states. Hard to put a pricetag on a lesson like that.

That, in the end, is perhaps why Scott’s really out to kill anthropology and the liberal arts: As opposed to conservative-friendly disciplines like economics and business management, liberal arts produce more culturally aware and progressive citizens, inclined to challenge ossified social conventions and injustices.

Update #1: October 11th, 4:15 PM

The national reporting has started, with this article by Christine Armario from the Associated Press, Scott: State Doesn’t Need More Anthropologists.

On Yahoo’s The Lookout, we get more response, with Florida Anthropologists Respond after Governor Calls Them Unnecessary.

Still, Scott continues his critique of anthropology degrees, reports the Herald-Tribune. Here appears the heart of Gov. Scott’s flawed critique, because there are indeed jobs for anthropologists and funding invested in anthropology yields benefits. In any case, Scott says:

“I got accused of not liking anthropologists the other day,” Scott said. “But just think about it, how many more jobs do think there are for anthropologists in the state?

“Do you want to use your tax dollars to educate more people who can’t get jobs in anthropology? I don’t. I want to make sure that we spend our dollars where people can get jobs when they get out.”

Over at the Powered by Osteons blog, Kristina Kilgrove highlights why anthropology matters for jobs in her post, Why Is Anthropology Needed?

The majority of my undergraduate students, particularly in the large lecture courses, will go into one of three main occupational spheres after graduation: health and medicine (doctors, nurses, genetics research, allied health fields, etc.), business and economics, and teaching (from preschool to PhDs). Anthropology is useful to all of these fields.

Kilgrove goes on to outline the benefits in medicine, business, and teaching.

University of Florida anthropology department chairwoman Susan deFrance has also responded to Scott’s comments, as reported by the Gainesville Sun. She says:

DeFrance, an associate professor and the UF anthropology department’s interim chairwoman, said anthropology benefits Florida tourism through archaeology done in St. Augustine and other historic sites. Crime prosecution in the state benefits from forensic anthropology, she said, while medical anthropologists have researched race and health disparities in Tallahassee…

Anthropology benefits the hard sciences, she said, by helping to develop policies in line with cultural practices and beliefs. She said the field is addressing major problems of the day such as globalization and immigration, rather than just studying primitive cultures as the governor seemed to be suggesting. “We’ve gone way beyond that in the 21st century,” she said.

Also, the American Anthropological Association blog asks, Is Governor Scott asking for an anthropologist exodus in Florida? This post summarizes the AAA response, and emphasizes:

As a political leader with significant national and international influence, we at the American Anthropological Association think it is unfortunate that Governor Scott would characterize anthropology in such a short-sighted way.

Garry Cavanam highlights how English Composition majors have lower rates of unemployment than Information Sciences majors, in Destroy Your University the Florida Way.

And this piece highlights more the background on Gov. Scott’s anticipated education push, including trying to change the incentives and the funding of professors and of students.

Update #2, October 11th, 9;26PM

The Chronicle of Higher Education has weighed in briefly to report the news with Governor Says Florida Has Enough Anthropologists, Calls for Spending on Job-Producing Fields. The many comments are more than worth it.

The Herald Tribune continues its good coverage with its article, Anthropologists say Rick Scott doesn’t understand their field, which opens:

Before Rick Scott attacks anthropology as archaic, and prospective anthropologists as unemployable, perhaps Florida’s governor should study the subject a little, says a group representing America’s 11,000 professional anthropologists.

WUFT provides some good video coverage in UF liberal arts professors and students question Governor Rick Scott’s higher education reform agenda.

The State Column in Florida has provided summary coverage in its piece, Rick Scott takes aim at anthropologists.

TampaBay.Com also continues its coverage, this time with the piece Anthropologists defend profession after Gov. Scott’s snub. (And thanks for linking to here!)

On the lighter side, Wonkette gives us a satirical take on Gov. Scott as Voldemort in Non-Human Rick Scott Launches Jihad Against People Who Study Humans.

Over at the Broward Palm Beach New Times, there is the critical Rick Scott Wants the Government to Choose Your College Major — No More Anthropologists.

News Channel 5 says Anthropologists on governor Rick Scott’s hit list, and clearly articulates one main theme to Scott’s overall comments:

The message Scott seems to be floating is that universities can’t keep raising tuition and that they are going to have to do without some programs. “Do we need to do all those programs, rather than the first thing is we’ve got to raise tuition every year?”

Update #3, October 12, 7:54AM

This Is Anthropology in Florida is the new post up here, where a group of young anthropologists highlight what they do for Florida:

As anthropologists who have worked very hard to improve Florida’s education, healthcare, economy and understanding of local history, we feel that Governor Scott is poorly informed on what anthropology is. Below is a small sample of anthropologists who are working on projects that are important for Floridians.

At WTSP Channel 10 Tammie Fields put together some good reporting on Scott’s comments and anthropologists’ reaction for her piece, Gov. Scott’s idea to slash liberal arts funding called “uninformed”. Here is the the actual video shown on the 11PM news last night, and the link to comments on WTSP’s website.

Inside Higher Ed provides its usual balanced and concise coverage with Florida GOP vs. Social Science.

Over at Care 2 Make a Difference, we get Don’t Know Much About Anthropology: Rick Scott Censures the Liberal Arts.

A Word Witch gives us An Open Letter to Florida Governor Rick Scott.

Jonathan Turley intermixes anthropology jokes and professorial coverage in his piece, Florida Governor Campaigns Against . . . Anthropologists.

The Miami Herald published this piece yesterday, Scott: State doesn’t need more anthropologists. It includes this tidbit which is getting quoted more widely:

Overall, liberal arts majors represent a small slice of all Florida undergraduate degrees – about 4.7 percent – and anthropology students an even lower percentage. At the University of Florida, for example, just 1.7 percent of all students study anthropology. The top undergraduate majors are in business and the sciences.

Ask Kuff posts an interesting piece from the perspective of a business anthropologist on what Scott said, why he said it, and what anthropologists can do to highlight their successes over at Anthropologists shouldn’t hate Gov. Rick Scott, we should prove him wrong.

And over at Anthropolaris a double science major talks about why anthropology made a big difference for him as an undergrad in Teach every undergraduate anthropology: A response to Gov. Scott from a (first-rate) STEM major.

Update #4: October 12, 4:36PM

Charlotte Noble put together Univ of South Florida student responses’ to Gov. Scott in one marvelous and flowing Prezi presentation, This Is Anthropology. It’s the beautiful multi-media version of the post earlier today here.

John Hawks weighs in with Florida: Anthropologists Not Wanted. He writes:

It’s very difficult to come up with a rapid and effective reply from an organization or department, so I understand these aren’t as punchy as they might be. Still, it seems to me a vastly more effective response would describe the economic impact of anthropologists in Florida, the dollar amounts of federal and private grants they bring to Florida universities, their role as custodians of natural and cultural history, and their history of engagement with indigenous and immigrant peoples in the state.

University of South Florida has done its own news article, called Anthropologists on the Offensive.

Over at Savage Minds, we get Governor of Florida: We don’t need no anthropologists.
I am going to leave off with a few questions for all you Savage Minds out there: What do you think about this tactic of using jobs as the sole calculus for measuring the value of a discipline? Should anthropologists be completely focused on producing jobs, or are there other elements that matter in a valuable and worthwhile education? What about the value of teaching students how to think critically and holistically about the world around them?

Vodpod video from the Tallahasee Business Meeting where Gov. Scott singled out anthropology, as well as a response from a recent anthro PhD grad. Also found on YouTube.

Edward Tenner at The Atlantic has weighed in with First They Came for the Anthropologists, which highlights problems with Gov. Scott’s simplistic proposal to simply focus on STEM disciplines as the type of education that will lead to jobs.

Tampa Bay Online has Anthropologists fire back at put down by Gov. Scott

Cody Heintz put together this graphic comparing what is spent on football and what is spent on anthropology at Florida’s top six public universities.

Over at Anthropos Mondorum there is Blame the failing economy on…anthropologists?

Chain Gang Elementary provides Florida Republicans not so fond of social sciences.

Washington Independent highlights Scott’s efforts, and the inevitable problems with such an effort, in Rick Scott wants to cut some liberal arts programs in Fla. college system.

Michael Ruse writes in Brainstorm at the Chronicle of Higher Education on the whole controversy in the piece Oxymoron du Jour: Florida Anthropologist.

Sherman Dorn writes about My Dangerous Colleagues in Anthropology:

My eternal thanks go to Florida Governor Rick Scott, without whom I would never have known that the 0.8% of Florida state university system graduates who major in anthropology comprise the major obstacle to state advancements in STEM. I always thought it had something to do with declining state support for higher ed, low requirements for science lab courses in high school…

Update #5: October 13, 7:01AM

First, the American Association of Physical Anthropologists publicly responded to Gov. Scott. The AAPA clearly defines biological anthropology as both a biological science and a social science, and highlights the job potential of anthropology graduates and provides clear examples of how anthropology is a science.

Still, the biggest news to break since yesterday afternoon is that Gov. Scott’s daughter holds a degree in anthropology from the College of William and Mary. I want to publicly thank Jordan Kandah for picking such a great degree!

I first heard about it in this ABC News/Associated Press Story, Knocking Anthropology? Gov’s Daughter Has Degree. The St. Pete Times/Tampa Bay Online also quickly covered it, Gov. Scott’s Daughter Has Anthropology Degree. But I think the best headline has to go to the Washington Post, Gov. who singled out anthropology degrees as job market losers has daughter with that degree.

The other significant news contained in that AP story comes tucked in at the end, and indicates that Gov. Scott has backed off from singling out anthropology while nonetheless wanting to continue to push STEM majors and an overhaul of higher education in Florida.

Scott spokesman Brian Burgess said today the governor wasn’t knocking anthropologists, just making the point that there’s a high demand for graduates with engineering, mathematics, science and technology degrees, and Florida needs to meet it.

The St. Petersburg Times gives us more of this broad overview in their article Gov. Rick Scott rolls out his job agenda. Here’s two relevant pieces:

In 2009, about 14 percent of the 51,433 bachelor degrees in Florida were in STEM subjects. That compared to 27 percent in California, the best percentage in the nation, according to a report from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System…

“People with degrees in anthropology do good work,” Weisman said. “They have the very kinds of skills that are necessary to confront the problems that exist in Florida.”

On Wednesday, Scott left out the quip and instead highlighted a state report that shows Florida companies will need 120,000 new workers in STEM-related fields by 2018.

The Ledger also provides good extensive coverage of Scott’s overall approach in Governor Scott Unveils Job Plans. In it comes across the complex bureaucratic politics that will likely play out as the State University System of Florida Board of Governors tries to institute changes.

Despite the National Science Foundation listing, Layman said anthropology is not classified as a STEM degree in Florida.

“We categorize all degrees according to type using specialists in our universities and the board of governors,” she said.

Florida is very specific in its 103 STEM degrees, she said. There are many other STEM-oriented courses in many disciplines, but that doesn’t mean they are STEM degrees.

“For example, a veterinary medicine degree is not categorized as STEM. It is health. But veterinary sciences, which include clinical sciences, is STEM,” she said.

Onto more personal news, I was really excited to see this Wall Street Journal’s Idea Market piece Florida’s Governor Disses Anthropology, which features both the great work by USF students and Neuroanthropology.

More interestingly, several anthropologists have written in to the website Neuroanthropology, providing capsule summaries of what they do and how it helps Florida. And what do you know, some of them appear to do useful work!

Tom Lyons at the Herald-Tribune steps up to defend anthropology in Rick Scott Needs an Education:

Do as Scott pretends to: Focus only on hard, cold business realities. What major employers would spend money for the services of those anthropologists?

Well, here’s a fraction of a list of such employers, posted by the American Anthropological Association, though not in response to Scott.

Ever heard of Intel, Citicorp, AT&T, Kodak, Boeing, Motorola, Disney, Microsoft, General Mills and Hallmark, just to start?

But, really, why the heck have mega-businesses lured anthropologists away far from the proverbial cannibal cooking pot to jobs in corporate America? Many reasons, much including skills in market research, the association says. Product use and perception, and resulting sales, vary hugely between cultures and demographics. Reckless gamblers may prefer to go with pure gut instinct when deciding what product designs and marketing approaches will fly, and where, but many CEOs know analytical study of research data, with detailed record keeping and systematic observation, is often vital.

Cyber Anthropology provides a great example in her post Dear Rick Scott:

I would like to state for the record that I am an anthropologist. I not only have a job, but a very good paying job. Additionally, I do research in everything from Open Source Software development to User Experience Design. I have conducted research for companies such as Microsoft, Motorola, General Motors, Red Hat, and am currently working on research for Pitney Bowes. Last I checked these all represent aspects of technology, one of those subjects that seems to be tremendously valued by you. Please learn more about my discipline before saying it’s useless.

Now onto one of my favorite titles so far, Rick Scott: No $$$ for Neanderthals.

The Anonymous Anthropologist writes Your Major Is a Minor Matter.

I know why Rick Scott hates anthropology: It teaches evolution. It causes you to question your religion. It asks you to to critically examine things you take for granted. It insists that you give up your prejudices. Like all social sciences, it is secular, humanist, and progressive.

The Herald-Tribune of Sarasota publishes letters from readers in Your Takes on Scott’s Education Plans

AnthroIllinois, the blog of the Department of Anthropology at Illinois, has the overview post in Gov. Scott of Florida Disses Anthropology

Finally, Taking Candy from Strangers contests Scott in her anthropologically-informed post, Worthless Degree?

Update #6: October 13, 9:23PM

The national news sites are really starting to weigh in.

US News and World Report gives us Florida Governor May Divert Taxes to STEM Majors.

NPR features a quick blurb on the story in Fla. Gov. Rick Scott Slams Anthropology Degrees.

Rachel Newcomb, anthropologist, has a great piece on the Huffington Post entitled To Governor Rick Scott: What Anthropologists Can Do for Florida

Finally, the New York Times gives us Florida Governor Wants Funds to Go to Practical Degrees. They actively solicited comments, and there are some good ones.

More locally, Kim Wilmath at the St. Petersburg Times gives us USF anthropology students to Scott: We matter. It opens:

Justin Shiver came away from a year in Iraq with one overriding thought: we need more anthropologists.

They are the ones really making a difference over there, said Shiver, who worked as a combat medic. They help soldiers and locals work together. They are the reason Americans haven’t been rejected as enemies. More than anyone with a gun, Shiver says, anthropologists save lives.

Daniel Ruth gives us Gov. Scott’s School Daze. Also at the St Pete Times, Robert Moore’s Do We Need Anthropologists? Absolutely.

Over at the Herald Tribute, it’s Eric Ernst’s Leave education to those who understand it.

Onto more bloggy stuff. Richard Vedder on Chronicle of Higher Education’s Innovations writes, The Texas-Florida Axis of Evil.

Jason Antrosio at Living Anthropology gives us The Florida Governor’s Daughter an Undergraduate Anthropology Major. Starting with that title, who’d expect it would end up with Weber?!

Florida Public Archaeology weighs in with Archaeology (a sub-discipline of Anthropology) contributes… Get the economic impact here!

Finally, the Antropologi blog delivers “This is Anthropology”: Students enlighten “We don’t need anthropology” Governor. This line really made me chuckle:

Anthropologists love talking about themselves and the importance of their discipline, so Lende’s list is long.

And, crap, it’s even longer now.

Update #7: October 15, 3:46PM

The American Anthropological Association has a new post, Petition to Meet with Governor Scott. You can access the petition directly here.

We ask that you join our petition to have Gov. Scott meet with representatives from the humanities community so that he can be educated as to our collective contribution to the scientific advancement, economy, and well-being of his state. We will be collecting signatures for the next two weeks, and plan to submit our request on Monday, October 31.

Over on Florida Public Anthropology Network, we get the FPAN Statement on Anthropology in Public Universities (pdf), yet another association directly communicating to Gov. Scott how wrong he is with what he said.

Indeed, two other association also weighed in – The Society for American Archaeology and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences – with letters directly to Scott.

Bridge to Tomorrow highlights the work of anthropologists (!) on the importance of high school education for future careers in science, technology, engineering, and math, doing exactly the sort of work that Scott ironically would need to make sure his types of initiatives work.
See The definitive work on high school preparation for STEM majors: anthropologists (and a sociologist) did this

WMFE gives us Fresh Perspectives and a radio interview with Robert Moore, Professor of Anthropology at Rollins College in Winter Park, on Anthropologist Defends Liberal Arts Education. It’s a very good interview, and the questions that Tom Parkinson puts to Dr. Moore are the right ones, and the type of questions that anthropologists need to be ready to answer.

Recycled Minds gives us This IS Anthropology! starting with the This is Anthropology prezi, and then going into further reflections.

From Relevant for Now comes A Letter To Governor Rick Scott

You conceded that only one out of five college students has a degree in what you’ve implied to be appropriate fields, do you really think that cutting the funding for the education of 80% of collegiate America is going to improve the workforce?

Paul Fleming writes On education, Scott shows little faith in market forces, and delves into Scott’s own educational past.

Florida Governor Questions Value of Studying Anthropology briefly covers the controversy, and then looks briefly at the value of teaching anthropology in high school.

Oliver Luu writes Asian Parents Aren’t the Only People who Think Humanities and Social Sciences are Useless.

In another piece of irony, Intel highlights the work of Intel employee and anthropologist Genevieve Bell on their blog in the post, What Makes You Curious.

The beginning of the video is great at outlining how people don’t initially get why anthropology applies (their mistake!), and how she shows it as central to the work that Intel does.

Nathan Crabbe at the Gainesville Sun tells us Scott’s talk of changing tenure has UF nervous, providing continued background on Scott’s controversial educational pus.

Nathan Crabbe also gives us Range of sources criticize Gov. Scott’s comments over at the Gainesville Chalkboard.

Culture World 21-C gives us David Moore’s Governor Scott vs. The Liberal Arts

Over on A Philosopher’s Blog we have Scott & Education.

Jeff Parker, the cartoonist for Florida Today, gave us Primitive Thinking, a clever cartoon on the controversy.

Greg Downey’s new post highlights the work of anthropologist David Graeber and how it provides an important contrast to the initiatives and type of thinking that surrounds Governor Scott and many other government and economic institutions

Anthropology News, the newspaper/blog of the American Anthropological Association, highlights the work of USF students in This Is Anthropology.

Finally, statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics directly contradict Gov. Scott’s notion that there are no jobs for anthropologists. Job growth looks robust through 2018! See US Bureau of Labor Statistics – Anthropology Job Growth “Much Faster than the Average”

Update #8: October 18, 7:00AM

This article from 2008 by USF anthropology professor Elizabeth Bird shows that what Scott is saying today about the liberal arts is part of an overall tradition of attacks on the importance of social sciences and liberal arts here in Florida. The piece is Florida’s War on Knowledge:

The basic issue, of course, is that our legislative leaders aren’t particularly interested in education. What excites them is “work force development,” and Pruitt is leading the charge. He has no time for the liberal arts and social sciences, arguing that the job market should drive academic course offerings. “How many psychologists do we really need?” he quips.

I missed this last week. USF’s student newspaper The Oracle has a really solid article on the whole controversy: USF reacts to governor’s anthropology remarks.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal has an editorial, Emphasize math, science but don’t dismiss all else. It provides some basic information on the need for science and math training in the United States – something anthropologists as scientists definitely endorse.

Gavin Johnston writes on Gov. Scott and the Usefulness of Anthropology.

I am a practicing anthropologist with four patents, working in the private sector, making a substantial living and responsible for the successful business and marketing strategies of a host of Fortune 500 companies.

The Independent Florida Alligator has good quotes from the University of Florida Department of Anthropology’s chair in Anthropology department reacts to Scott’s announcement.

“The real issue is that he’s just confused, one, about what anthropology is, and two, the role of a liberal arts education and what it can do for you,” said Susan deFrance, interim department chair of anthropology.

At UF, she said, there are about 650 undergraduate anthropology students and 150 anthropology graduate students, who pursue majors and jobs in biological, medical, forensic, cultural and environmental anthropology.

DeFrance said Scott lacks understanding of what modern anthropologists do. To Scott, she said, anthropologists must seem like Indiana Jones, running around the jungle in search of lost treasure, or with people who have never had contact with western civilization.

That conception is largely false. Anthropology is an interdisciplinary major, and students who earn degrees in the subject can work in a multitude of fields.

The same is true for other liberal arts degrees, she said.

Robert Moore explains and defends anthropology over at Tallahassee.com in And now a word from a real anthropologist, including a description of his early forays in business.

Since I had done some anthropological research in Latin America, I had a basic understanding of and appreciation for the cultures of places such as Mexico, Costa Rica and Venezuela. Consequently, I quickly began looking for customers in those places, something nobody in the company had done before.
Within a few months, I had developed a small but rapidly growing export operation in Latin America

Toni Wallace, president of St. Augustine Archaeological Association, tells us Anthropologists are a job-growth field:

The state of Florida’s economy is based largely on tourism. Visitors interested in heritage tourism tend to spend more money and stay longer than other tourist groups as reported by our Tourist Development Council. Anything that diminishes support for programs that contribute to our history and archaeology will be detrimental to the state’s long-term economic recovery.

Triple A Learning has Why Study Anthropology, a short summary of the controversy, and also links to good YouTube clips.

AnthroNerd has Rick Scott: We Don’t Need Anthropology

Kim Wilmath gets her St. Pete article in The Ledger, and hopefully in front of Scott: Students: Scott Doesn’t Grasp Subject of Anthropology

Politics Monday: Tenure, Scholarship, and the Humanities explains why tenure matters, along with the broad approach to scholarship taken in the modern university.

The schools that adopted tenure attracted the best professors, which in turn helped those universities recruit the best students, all of which helped fill classrooms and turn profits.

The schools that allowed politics to control scholarship struggled financially and carried poor reputations. Eventually most colleges and universities decided to adopt the tenure system because it became obvious that politics should not be allowed to trump scholarship. High quality scholarship helped make a successful university.

For someone who agrees with Scott, see Nancy Smith and Gov. Rick Scott’s Liberal Arts Masterstroke.

Michael Goforth is on the opposite side of Smith with his piece, Gov. Rick Scott suggests fundamental and controversial changes to college education in Florida.

Attorney Peter Schorsch also backs the Florida governor in Gov. Scott is absolutely right about the need for more S.T.E.M. degrees – and here are stats to back him up.

Nathan Crabbe over at the Gainesville Sun tells us that Anthropology among popular majors in UF college, coming in at #6 among University of Florida undergrads.

The Gainesville Sun also hosts a Virtual Town Hall Meeting on the topic, Has a liberal arts education lost its value in a high-tech world? Some pointed comments on both sides of the debate.

Over at Education Matters, we have Rick Scott’s neanderthalesque view on education.

One of the biggest job creators in Florida has been former Walt Disney Co. chief executive officer Michael Eisner, who majored in English and wrote plays for his college’s drama club. And English is the most common undergraduate major among students admitted to the University of Florida’s medical school, a university career counselor told me.

An online petition was initiated by a University of Central Florida student. She plans to present this petition to prevent funding cuts to liberal arts programs at Florida public universities to the Board of Governors. Messages in support of anthropology are powerful when they come from student-led initiatives.

Janice Harper on The Huffington Post asks, Is Rick Scott Right about Anthropology? It has a mix of points, and here’s one piece we haven’t seen before:

[Scott] no doubt is thankful to anthropologists for advancing his family’s economic standing in other ways. Forbe’s reports that much of his fortune comes from the alternative health care industry, which is heavily dependent upon the research and theories of anthropology. And in 2003, Scott invested $5.5 million in Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy. Pharmaca is a maker of homeopathic and herbal medicines and skin care products; the corporation employs large numbers of medical and cultural anthropologists in its marketing and research and draws on the holistic theories and findings of anthropology to promote its products.

Also on the Huffington Post, Paul Stoller writes The Limited Good of Rick Scott’s Anthropology. Now this piece has something to say!

If we eliminate the liberal arts and humanities from public university curricula, we will produce a generation of uncritical technocrats who will have lost their sense of wonder, their feeling of intellectual passion and their capacity to dream about life beyond the boundaries of the limited good. In such a passionless and unimaginative space, we will lose our capacity to think, grow and reconfigure a rapidly changing world

Anthroprobably gives us Anthropology under Attack over at Social Science Space

At the USF Crow’s Nest, we have Florida anthropology professors respond to Gov. Scott. Here’s a quote:

Anthropology professors from seven of the state’s public universities finished a letter to the Governor outlining four points on why anthropology is an important field and degree. The letter cites new employment opportunities, the use of STEM in the field, continuing education, and the importance of the study to Florida overall.

“With the industrialization of the economy in foreign markets, there are more foreign workers in everything from software to food,” Sokolovsky said. “Anthropologists help corporations understand how to effectively incorporate these populations.”

Sokolovsky also cited the growing need in the field of forensic anthropology and those in law enforcement with anthropology backgrounds.

The Saint Petersburg Times gives us what is definitely a favorite headline (in that ironic way)! At Tampa stop, Gov. Rick Scott says, ‘I love anthropology degrees’ I can’t resist quoting at length from the piece. But please do see the beginning of this update, and what Liz Bird says. He might have changed his tune about anthro, but the overall song sounds like a broken record.

Scott told the group he wants to emphasize science, technology, engineering and math degrees, or “degrees in things where you can get jobs.” Scott faced criticism last week when he told a radio talk show host that Florida doesn’t need “a lot more anthropologists in this state.”

One of Scott’s daughters, Jordan Kandah, has an anthropology degree from the College of William and Mary.

“I love anthropology degrees, just so you know,” Scott told the crowd of about 400, which included Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Scott then recounted a phone conversation with his daughter after the story broke.

“‘Dad, do you know I’m the No. 1 story on Yahoo! today?’” Scott said, mimicking his daughter to laughter.

And, indeed, a second article on Tampa Bay Online, Scott dings anthropology, showcases local manufacturing, provides a more balanced appraisal.

Gov. Rick Scott says he loves anthropology majors. He just wants them to know there may be no jobs for them when they graduate.

Science and technology majors, on the other hand, are the ones who will boost the Florida economy, he said.

Update #9: October 20, 9:20AM

Change.org has a great petition online that you can sign: Say No to Education Funding Cuts in Florida!
Here is just a taste:

While it is important to have strong science programs, destroying social sciences is not the way to accomplish such a task. He has directly asserted that liberal arts programs are useless and do not provide jobs, a point on which he is incorrect. Liberal arts degree-holders are essential to the Florida economy.

The Release of University Salaries

The Governor did a very public release of all the salaries of people working in the state university system early in the week. Herald Tribune Politics did the initial basic reporting in Rick Scott posts university salaries online

Nathan Crabbe continues with his informed coverage over at the Gainesville Sun, this time in response to the public release of university staff salaries, in his piece, UF faculty say salaries offer incomplete picture of their worth. It’s really a great piece covering how university salaries and finances working in a short piece.

This piece in State Impact – A Closer Look at Florida University Salaries – provides the best basic overview of what the released data say. Here to me is the most relevant statistic, which comes all the way at the end of the piece:

The median higher education salary is $49,000. The median Florida income in 2010 was $40,766, according to U.S. Census data.

Onto continuing reactions to the original anthropology controversy:

The Miami Herald is reporting that Frank Brogan, Chancellor of the State University System, is correcting Scott on his characterization of anthropology as a field: Brogan: Anthropology is a STEM degree.

The Chairs of Florida’s departments of anthropology have penned a strong letter responding to Rick Scott. They highlight (a) The employment prospects for anthropologists are good; (b) Anthropology is a STEM field; (c) Degree level effects employments outcome; and (d) the challenges facing Florida are complex and demand complex solutions, which is exactly what anthropology can help do.

The Leave Your Mark – Major in Anthropology website, hosted by Pearson and with input from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the American Anthropological Association, gives a long A-Z list of jobs that anthropology majors can get.

Get the inspiration behind Jeff Parker’s great cartoon on Rick Scott and Anthro. Here the cartoonist describes his own thinking.

Summary and comments on Janet Harper’s Huffington essay, here in Florida’s The Current, How far off were Rick Scott’s anthropology remarks?

The Saint Petersburg Times Wednesday’s letters covers the Scott controversy, and features three different letters under the heading All knowledge is worthwhile.

Alan Fein on the Huffington Post writes the initially tongue-in-cheek, What Took Them So Long? But really it’s a reflection on inequality, “Now, here in America, we are creating a dual, walled society, just like in Latin America.”

Jack Davis, USF professor of history, has a broad critique of Scott’s approach in Keep government out of college classrooms.

Over at the Miami Herald, we have a nice piece, Here’s an economic engine, Gov. Scott: Poetry.

A Hot Cup of Joe gives us, Don’t Be a Rick: Anthropology and Liberal Arts in the Republican Gunsights.

In a state where another Rick (Perry) installed his own “people” on the University of Texas Board of Regents, there was a decision to eliminate several “non-producing” master’s programs, including that of my own anthropology department.

The good news is that I’ll still be able to get my own master’s degree, but the bad news is that it might not carry the weight it would have. The worse news is, the undergraduate population is rather large and many of them were looking toward our graduate program for the future -the graduate faculty are truly top-notch at my university.

The Writing on the Wall:

Bill Cornfield at the Senator, Should We Stop Funding Liberal Arts Education with Public Dollars? It’s an overview of the debate, really of liberal arts vs. stem. And I think that he’s probably close to the mark on what one of the ways of “funding STEM” will actually work – by cutting funding to the liberal arts.

As I understand it, students wouldn’t be prevented from study Liberal Arts, they just wouldn’t get as much public dollars via student grants and loans to do so. This wouldn’t affect Scholarships or other private sources of tuition assistance.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reacted to the salary news, posting Florida Governor Posts Online Individual Faculty Salaries in The Ticker. But, really, it’s the phrasing here that reinforces what I emphasized above about cuts (rather than investments):

Mr. Scott, who sees a Texas plan for overhauling higher education as a blueprint for his own state, recently said it makes no sense to spend tax dollars on degree programs in social-science fields such as anthropology when jobs for those majors aren’t readily available.

The Tampa Tribune has the ultimate writing-on-the-wall article, with Scott’s letter to universities questions focus, job training. You can access the full text of Gov. Scott’s letter here, with its 17 demands and its emphasis on accountability measures, and all the ways that will lead to more state oversight.

Gov. Rick Scott has sent a list of 17 detailed, auditlike questions to Florida’s 11 university presidents, challenging them to show what they’re doing to prepare graduates for jobs…

The universities have already seen their budgets cut by more than 25 percent over the past four years, but Scott seems focused on more-fundamental changes.

He has circulated copies of a Texas think-tank report called “Seven Breakthrough Solutions,” which proposes revamping how professors are paid and awarded tenure, emphasizing large classes and evaluations from students, whom it calls “customers.”

And Scott has made the rounds of newspaper editorial board meetings, talking about the importance of programs in what’s known as STEM: science, technology, engineering and math.

The governor began his Thursday letter with a brief discussion of the 900,000 people who are out of work in Florida, saying many university graduates can’t find jobs and implying that the problem is with their education.

The St. Pete Times also has the piece, Gov. Rick Scott wants colleges to show how much grads earn.

“I’d like to understand why our universities cost what they cost,” Scott said during an interview this morning on 97.3 FM in Gainesville.

Scott’s team asked for time on the radio station, about six miles away from Florida’s second largest university, to raise questions about the the type of graduate being produced by the state’s higher education system and whether tuition should be increased this year.

The Chancellor of the entire state university system and Florida Gov. Scott see eye-to-eye on many of these issues, StAugustine.com report, in University head, Scott working together on higher-ed reforms.

Speaking at House panel on Wednesday, Brogan said universities should embrace performance-based funding, be open to more scrutiny of tenured professors and be more aggressive in producing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates, all references to policies Scott has shown an interest in.

“We need to move toward more of an outcome-based funding model for the state university system,” Brogan told a panel of House lawmakers on the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee. This means tying state funding to outcomes, such as graduation rates, job placements, and degree production.


All right, that’s the end of the comprehensive summaries. The controversy over Governor Scott’s anthropology comments is dying down, and there was a strong positive response against the attack on anthropology. If any big news or great links pop up, I will likely include them below. But no more of the obsessive detailing of most everything I can find.

Moreover, the story has now changed, and grown bigger. No longer is it one major, it’s the entire university system. This new assault will require a coordinated institutional response to avoid the story that Rick Scott wants to write on the walls of academia, and to pen something better for Florida itself over the long term.


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