Florida Governor Campaigns Against . . . Anthropologists

Florida Governor Rick Scott is messing with the wrong people. Recently, Scott used anthropologists as an example of the type of degree that the state could do without. Anthropologists have reacted across the country, suggesting that Scott should be re-classified as a Homo Moronus. I would be careful before you tick off people (in the case of forensic anthropologists) who dig up bodies for a living. In the academy, we have long viewed our anthropologist colleagues with a certain fear and intimidation. When you confront one of these guys at a faculty senate meeting, they make it clear that there are “a lot of still active tar pits around the country where mammals can disappear for thousands of years.” When a critic for another department disappears, they just shrug and say, “Louie, is sleeping with the aquatic vertebrate.”

Here is what started the anthropologists digging into Scott from 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. 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.

Scott wants to cut funding in the area of anthropology.

That led the American Anthropological Association to issue a statement on behalf 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.” The message to Scott is clear: “our children will gnaw on your bones.”

The AAA noted “[p]erhaps 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.”

Scott however was not done. He continued to use anthropologists as an example of a deadweight loss for the public in a speech to the Northwest Business Association:
“We’re spending a lot of money on education, and when you look at the results, it’s not great. Do you want to use your tax money to educate more people who can’t get jobs in anthropology? I don’t.”

It is a false premise that public education is measured by the “results” of charting how many people go into a job in their field. First and foremost, public education allows people to develop as independently thinking and intellectually alive citizens. Education is essential to realize the full potential of being human. Every citizens should study in a field that engages them intellectually and exposes them to a greater reality.

Second, most graduates go into jobs that are not directly linked to their course of studies. Many lawyers do not practice law. They go into business or management or entirely different fields — benefiting from their legal education but not directly working as practicing lawyers. Likewise, political science majors generally do not become politicians. For their part, Anthropologists may go into public health or city planning or any number of collateral fields. Their degrees have many of the same component as other fields in learning statistics and research skills etc.

Finally, despite my jokes above, anthropology has gone a long way from the classic image of a desert excavation. It is a field that covers a wide ranger of social and political questions. These areas include Anthropology of religion, Biocultural anthropology, Cognitive anthropology, Ecological anthropology, Economic anthropology, Evolutionary anthropology, Forensic anthropology, Media anthropology, Medical anthropology, Palaeoanthropology, Transpersonal anthropology, Urban anthropology, and Visual anthropology. Besdies, anthropologists do not make for very good political foils. Flashing a picture of Franz Boas on the screen is not likely to have the same impact of Willie Horton.

What is truly tragic about Scott’s comments is that they strike an anti-intellectual note that is increasingly common during this campaign period. People like Sarah Palin have demonized intellectuals and “smart people” who over-think our problems. Florida universities have had incredible success in the last few decades. They have fantastic faculties and facilities. Florida is on its way to becoming a new California as a center for higher learning. With beautiful beaches and top schools, higher education should be a priority for politicians as a major contribution to the state economy. That is not going to happen when the governor of the state is referring to higher education as little more than a trade school system.

There is nothing wrong with calling for more engineers or doctors. However, leave the anthropologists and higher education alone. Indeed, some might say we need to cut back on our political science departments. After all, do we really need more politicians when we do not want the ones we currently have?

Besides, Scott does not exactly look like he is doing well in the survival of the political fittest, according to polls. He might want to keep in mind that no one knows how to dig up dirt like an anthropologist.

Source: PLOS as first seen on Reddit

36 thoughts on “Florida Governor Campaigns Against . . . Anthropologists”

  1. Hen-Man,

    As I’ve heard other people say, “Studying Constitutional Law was opposition research!”

  2. While true, people do disappear into tar pits, Florida has a booming business in regenerating people after they die. Right now, the anthropologists are at the top of the game, but the Regenerators are nipping at their heels. Govt. Scott has been paid off by the Regenerators to rub out the competition. What a clever ploy!

    Some people will do anything for a campaign donation!!

  3. What an odd science to select for scorn. Anthropology is the science of studying human behavior — people, cultures, traditions and psychology.
    let’s be fair…it isn’t scorn. I think he is trying to get people to support and be part of these industries that Florida has ‘invested’ so much into. When Scripps came to Florida it was at the machinations of some land and resource deals that many fought against. It was aselling point of the deal and understood after the fact that the Scientific community would bring great stuff to Florida. It also became clear that ‘Floridians’ were probably not ready to be a part of the potential success of the fruit of that deal.

    Florida isn’t anti-science….we just want to control the outcome….:)

  4. Elaine-

    I didn’t even mention a Chicago area “Teacher of Constitutional Law” who chose the wrong career- (and his name ain’t Turley!)

  5. Rick Scott Wants the Government to Choose Your College Major — No More Anthropologists
    By Matthew Hendley Tue., Oct. 11 2011

    Here are Gov. Rick Scott’s small-government principles at work again — he wants the state to pick and choose which university majors are more important and shift funding from liberal arts programs toward the state universities’ engineering, math, and sciences departments.

    Scott’s main enemy in the battle: anthropology.

    “You know, we don’t need a lot more anthropologists in the state,” Scott said in an interview on the Marc Bernier Show. “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, math degrees. That’s what our kids need to focus all their time and attention on. Those type of degrees. So when they get out of school, they can get a job.”

    Now the state’s public universities would face even more budget cuts in their liberal arts and social sciences departments if the governor gets his way.

    Obviously those degrees never get anyone a job — like that Ronald Reagan guy who got a bachelor of arts degree in economics. Some guy named Steve Jobs also said he preferred to have employees with knowledge of the liberal arts.

    Scott’s argument was that it’s a waste for taxpayers to fund students getting liberal arts degrees and invited the public to give him more idea for ways taxpayers are getting screwed.

  6. Non-Human Rick Scott Launches Jihad Against People Who Study Humans

    Space monster/invoked demon Rick Scott is clearly not a human. Children everywhere know Rick Scott’s face very well: It is what they see during nightmares, the soulless mask of non-human evil as personified by Lord Voldemort in the demonic Halloween books by J.K. Rowling. Rick Scott has laughed off such accusations, in his inhuman laugh, but now the Florida governor and business “man” has begun an all-out assault on the one profession that can show he is not one of us: Anthropologists.

    The Miami Herald reports:

    Spending money on science and math degrees can help Floridians find work and provide a return on taxpayers’ investments, Gov. Rick Scott said today in an interview on “The Marc Bernier Show” on WNDB-AM in Daytona Beach.

    Scott said Florida doesn’t need “a lot more anthropologists in this state.”

    “It’s a great degree if people want to get it. But we don’t need them here,” Scott said.

    What an odd science to select for scorn. Anthropology is the science of studying human behavior — people, cultures, traditions and psychology. It is a powerful window into what makes us tick, with the “us” referring to the species Homo Sapiens of Planet Earth. Why would Rick Scott want to eradicate the study of human behavior and the experts who practice it? What is Rick Scott hiding? Oh right, he’s hiding his demonic/alien origins.

    Rick Scott would have you believe his assault on anthropology is just more of the typical corporate right-wing extremist gutting of the nation’s institutions in order to create a Medieval society of all-powerful demon kings ruling over a population of ignorant, terrified serfs — after all, Rick Scott is also trying to destroy tenured positions at Florida state universities, so that people who have dedicated their life to academia can be done away with as quickly as a seasonal fry cook at a Florida theme park. (Rick Scott picked up this teabagger idea from that other crook “Governor Rick,” Rick Perry.)

    But anthropology is a strange academic target for such a jihad. It’s a science that is especially applicable to the very corporate/government welfare-capitalism that made Rick Scott an obscenely rich kleptocrat — a shining example of the 1% in this country defrauding everyone else. Government bureaucracy, health care, consumer marketing and finance are the four primary “commercial” sectors where anthropologists are in high demand as social scientists studying the manipulation of human behavior. Look how Rick Scott got his $100+ million dollars and $11.5 million annual income:

    In 1988, Scott and Richard Rainwater, a multimillionaire financier from Fort Worth, each put up $125,000 in working capital in their new company, Columbia Hospital Corporation,[17] and borrowed the remaining money needed to purchase two struggling hospitals in El Paso for $60 million.[18] Then they acquired a neighboring hospital and shut it down.


    In settlements reached in 2000 and 2002, Columbia/HCA plead guilty to 14 felonies and agreed to a $600+ million fine in the largest fraud settlement in US history. Columbia/HCA admitted systematically overcharging the government by claiming marketing costs as reimbursable, by striking illegal deals with home care agencies, and by filing false data about use of hospital space. They also admitted fraudulently billing Medicare and other health programs by inflating the seriousness of diagnoses and to giving doctors partnerships in company hospitals as a kickback for the doctors referring patients to HCA. They filed false cost reports, fraudulently billing Medicare for home health care workers, and paid kickbacks in the sale of home health agencies and to doctors to refer patients. In addition, they gave doctors “loans” never intending to be repaid, free rent, free office furniture, and free drugs from hospital pharmacies.

    In late 2002, HCA agreed to pay the U.S. government $631 million, plus interest, and pay $17.5 million to state Medicaid agencies, in addition to $250 million paid up to that point to resolve outstanding Medicare expense claims. In all, civil law suits cost HCA more than $2 billion to settle, by far the largest fraud settlement in US history.

    The business “man” and politician Rick Scott badly needs the expertise and research of anthropologists to continue his lifelong ripoff of the federal government, state government, taxpayers and people requiring health care. He needs social scientists to manipulate perceived reality. Yet he fears a backlash from these very anthropologists, should they even turn their eyes to his serpent head. [Miami Herald/New Times]

  7. Gov. Scott’s idea to slash liberal arts funding called “uninformed”

    Tampa, Florida – If you’re a student trying to earn a degree in anthropology, or even journalism, Governor Rick Scott says don’t bother.

    He says if the state is to compete for the best jobs, he wants students focusing on science, engineering, and math. Governor Scott says Florida needs more graduates in high tech fields so companies will consider relocating to the Sunshine State. But he’s being criticized for his idea to shift tax dollars away from liberal arts majors like anthropology and journalism.

    Natalie Odom is majoring in mass communications at the University of South Florida. She says, “I think it’s awful because not everyone has an interest in math and science and if he cuts out areas that people have an interest in, that is just going to make for less students enrolled in college because they may not want to study a field that they have no desire or passion to study.”

    It’s not clear what evidence Governor Scott has that graduates have less job prospects in the anthropology and journalism fields. According to the Miami Herald, liberal arts majors represent a small slice of all Florida undergraduate degrees: 4.7 percent. According to the American Anthropology Association, about 64 percent of those with a graduate degree in anthropology find a job within 12 months of graduating.

    Staff members from USF’S Department of Anthropology say it’s considered one of the best in the country and has been a consistent job creator for Tampa and the state of Florida. Brent Weisman, Ph.D. is the chair of the department and says the governor’s statement is “completely uninformed. That’s a statement made without any basis in fact.”

    Weisman adds, “I think it’s an impressionist, anecdotal statement based on perhaps the stereotype of anthropology as a discipline that studies underwater basket weaving or something like that. It bears no relation to reality.”

  8. Yup. Florida is the new New Hampshire….and people should take a close look because this is what is coming ….

  9. It’s not a good idea to steer someone away from a career they love. Sometimes that has unfortunate, unintended consequences. Ask the former chicken farmer Heinrich Himmler. Or the former landscape artist Adolf Hitler. Or the former Seminary student Josef Stalin. Or the former village idiot Rick Scott.

  10. “There is nothing wrong advising people towards successful careers….”

    The issue of a “successful career” is not for you or the Governor of Florida to define or limit. This being a place that used to resemble America, one has the choice of whatever college major or field of study THEY choose to create their own definition of a successful life and career. See how that freedom thing works?

  11. AY has it right. What better way to earn the vote of Creationists than banning the scientists who disprove that poppycock every day. Behind this very public position on a seemingly trivial matter is a theological payoff, I suspect.

  12. I have spoken with many successful individuals, most in “business” who have said that their cultural anthro course was the most useful in their working life. As for the Gov, . . . .

    MA Anthropology

  13. I’m afraid I can’t completely agree on that one. An ex was studying anthropology and told me it was the field of study with the second highest unemployment (which might of course vary depending on the country). It is exactly as Scott said: If people want to study this, there is no harm in that, but the number of graduates does seem to be higher than the job market can take.

    Before throwing stones, I would look into it in more details. There is nothing wrong advising people towards successful careers, that’s exactly what career advisers do for a living.

  14. I suppose he does not want to know where he evolved from…..Oh yeah…that is…creationist….

  15. “We don’t need a lot more anthropologists in the state … I want to spend our dollars giving people science … degrees.”

    Anthopologists are pseudoscientists?

    What about regular old apologists?

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