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.”

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Best of the rest 2009

Daniel and I get some help on Neuroanthropology.net, not least of all from Paul Mason, but also from a whole host of other folks, including colleagues, students, long-distance collaborators, and completely innocent bystanders who do absolutely nothing to warrant inclusion. So here’s the most popular posts from 2009 that neither Daniel nor I wrote.

The majority of the posts on this list come from Daniel’s students at the University of Notre Dame. He has been doing award winning community-based research (see posts here and here), and one thing that makes it distinctive is that he gets the students to publish reports of their work online, where people from the community and others can read it. It’s a great use of this sort of virtual platform to promote serious undergraduate research, and to open up the doors of the classroom to let others peer in on what we’re doing. Daniel’s done a workshop at the American Anthropology Association on the subject as well, so I’m hoping he’ll continue to share this sort of work and his reflections on it through Neuroanthropology.net.

1. Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone by James J. McKenna — While technically from the very, very tail end of 2008, this post by our colleague at Notre Dame just keeps generating traffic. It’s a well-written, deeply important consideration of the neuroanthropological dynamics of mother-child co-sleeping (that’s in the same bed or very close by, for those of you non-parents out there). Well worth a look, especially if you’ve got a very little one in the family, or soon will have.

2. What’s the Dope on Music and Drugs? by John Barany, Abby Higgins, Melissa Lechlitner, and Joanna Schultz. Some of Daniel’s students look into the controversy about the effect of references to drugs in the lyrics of popular music. The authors point out the radically different sales figures for ‘cleaned up’ versions of the most explicit popular recordings and whether or not Michael Phelps’ problems with marijuana might have had anything to do with listening to Lil’ Wayne on his headphones before swimming for gold.

3. The Encultured Brain: Why Neuroanthropology? Why Now? by Greg Downey and Daniel Lende — Alright, but technically, it belongs somewhere because it is one of our most widely read posts. The statement we wrote for The Encultured Brain conference as an attempt to try to articulate the Big Picture. We’re still working on it, but it’s already pretty hefty.

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Greg Downey’s top 10 of 2009

At the risk of being accused of self promotion (but, of course, what else is blogging?), I’m going to offer my own top 10 list of myself for 2009. These are the most read posts I wrote during the course of the year. Of course, by ‘most read’ I mean that people clicked through to them. In a few cases, I’m fairly certain that a substantial majority never actually read the longer ones through to the end.

That said, I’m pleased that some of my longest, most substantial posts seemed to attract the most readers. I think it bodes well for Neuroanthropology.net and the willingness of people to consult serious work on line, or at least as serious as I can manage here. Thanks for all your support in the past year, and I’ll keep trying to produce the goods in 2010.

1. What do these enigmatic women want? — Right after the new year, in a fit of irritation with a piece about women’s sexuality research in The New York Times, I dashed off this snide little piece, and it’s had great legs (no gender-related pun intended). Every once in a while, some other blogger notices it and links to it, so it keeps getting little bumps up in the standings.

2. Lose your shoes: Is barefoot better? — In July, I test drove a chapter from the sports book I’m working on, exploring the pitfalls of barefoot running and the effects of shoes on our feet. A few barefoot running advocates and podiatry websites have linked to this posting, which I think is more about the intertwining of biology, culture and behaviour than about condemning shoes or anything. But then again, as an anthropologist, I should be suspicious about authors’ claims to authority over what they write.

3. Fear of Twitter: technophobia part 2 — I spent way too much time putting this post together, inspired mostly by a cartoon about Twitter and irritated yet again by the Baroness Lady Susan Greenfield, PhD, serial technophobe and media addict. Although I have zero vested interest in Twitter, I wound up defending what is likely an annoying social networking technology by arguing it was no more vapid or shallow than most human communication.

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Daniel Lende’s top 10 of 2009

Daniel’s been a busy boy this year, and he’s snowed under right now, so it falls to me to do a few year-end house-cleaning type chores. One of the easier ones (thanks to WordPress) is for me to compile a brief list of our top posts for the year. Rather than put them into a single posting — and thereby reveal that Daniel’s probably got way more of the more popular posts than I do — I’m going to take the liberty to do at least two separate 2009 lists with a bit of commentary, in case you missed these the first time around. I’m also going to leave out the posts that Daniel put up that were written by his students (they’ll be on another list); these were some of our most popular of the year.

My statistics may be slightly distorted by the fact that I’m a few days pokey getting around to doing this, but here’s Daniel’s most popular posts of 2009, starting with the one that got the most traffic:

1. Wednesday Round Up #47 — Leading off in January 2009 in high style, Daniel put up our second most popular post of all time (second only to Jim McKenna’s widely read piece on Mother-Child co-sleeping, an article that draws constant readership). The normal Wednesday Round Up was extraordinary because it focused on the inauguration of Barack Obama, providing an extraordinary wealth of links to posts about many aspects of his life, thought, and character. This post still ticks over constantly due to the depth of the list that Daniel provided.

2. Encephalon #71: Big Night — Daniel can’t take all the credit for this one, as the moving feast that is Encephalon came to Neuroanthropology.net, but he did all the heavy lifting on this blog carnival, offering a really remarkable edition of the blog carnival of the brain.

3. Trance Captured on Video — One of the more startling postings on Neuroanthropology.net, Daniel’s posting provided a single place to find a series of videos of trance states discussed on the Medical Anthropology listserv, as well as his own notes. If you haven’t checked it out, you should – there’s some great stuff on the list! It’s become a point of reference online for those interested in the anthropology of altered states of consciousness.

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The Relevance of Anthropology – Part 2 on the Best of Anthro Blogging 2008

Here I continue to build on all the passion other anthropology bloggers have put into their writing, their sites, and their preferred media. In Part One I covered how anthropology blogging is relevant using three different categories: Public Relevance, Anthropological Vision, and Being Human.

In Part Two I will cover four more themes: (a) Controversy, Commentary and Critique; (b) Empiricism and Scholarship, (c) Language; and (d) Blogging. As before, these are the categories that came to me as I read the submissions and represent one way to parse the great work others have done. I hope it proves useful for exploration, teaching, fun, and sharing with others what anthropology is all about.

Controversy, Commentary and Critique

Anthropology courts controversy and revels in critique, and we bloggers produce a running commentary on events of the day. Or events of the past, for that matter. Given our anthropological vision we indeed find strength, perhaps even some authority, in offering critique that takes “common sense” and shakes it up, questioning common assumptions through cultural insights, cross-cultural data, and archaeological and evolutionary ideas.

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The Relevance of Anthropology – Part 1 on the Best of Anthro Blogging 2008

The Best of Anthropology Blogging 2008 shows what we bloggers have done – anthropology has both a public voice and a powerful presence on the Internet. In this post I want to speak to that presence, building on The “Best of Anthro 2008” Prizes and the descriptions of the posts that anthro bloggers selected as their most popular and their best.

The prizes were to get attention, such an important feature of Internet buzz (and it worked!); the descriptions for power browsing. Here I want to bring greater focus on why anthropology blogging is relevant. I hope my summary of the efforts of many helps you explore, learn, enjoy, teach, muse, argue, and share.

In reading over the posts again, I came up with seven categories. They are: (1) Public Relevance; (2) Anthropological Vision; (3) Being Human; (4) Controversy, Commentary and Critique; (5) Empiricism and Scholarship, (6) Language; and (7) Blogging. I’ve highlighted illustrative posts in each category, then provided a list of other good examples. I will cover the first three categories in this post and the other four in part two.

I should say that this is my own subjective reading of the posts, my own way of thinking through them. Someone else would surely do it differently; this is just my attempt at highlighting why anthropology blogging is important.

Public Relevance

Why should anthropology matter to people reading and browsing out there? Here are posts that address issues of public concern, and that show that anthropology can make a difference in myriad ways.

Continue reading “The Relevance of Anthropology – Part 1 on the Best of Anthro Blogging 2008”