Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Academics to Florida Gov. Rick Scott: Drop Dead

By Nicholas Stix

A brief, unsigned blog item in yesterday’s Chronicle of Higher Education enraged scores of academic commenters. If you didn’t know better, you’d think someone had criticized same-sex “marriage.”

Governor Says Florida Has Enough Anthropologists, Calls for Spending on Job-Producing Fields
October 11, 2011, 10:36 am

Gov. Rick Scott of Florida is beginning to lay out his agenda for higher-education reform, including putting more state money into degrees that he says are likely to produce more jobs, but in an interview with The Herald-Tribune, a newspaper in Sarasota, Fla., the most notable thing he said concerned anthropology.

Under the Republican governor’s agenda, the winners would include programs in mathematics and science, but at the cost of supporting the humanities, the newspaper reports. “If I’m going to take money from a citizen to put into education, then I’m going to take that money to create jobs,” Mr. Scott told the paper. “So I want that money to go to degrees where people can get jobs in this state. Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so.”

The American Anthropological Association issued a prompt reply to the governor’s remarks, calling them “shortsighted” and “unfortunate” and noting that thousands of anthropologists are “making groundbreaking discoveries” in a range of related fields. A more-pointed rebuttal to Governor Scott was posted at Mother Jones, under the headline: “Rick Scott to Liberal-Arts Majors: Drop Dead.”

The responses were hysterical. The first five were typical in political position, though more civil than most that followed.

davi2665 1 day ago

Perhaps the anthropologists that Florida is producing could find abundant research investigating the extinct species of former legislators and executive leaders who used to be able to responsibly lead a state (or any other government) and not produce endless deficits through their pandering.

74 people liked this.

droslovinia 1 day ago

I know that a lot of people are criticizing Florida these days, saying that they are racing to the bottom. It's nice to see that they are better at the race than previously believed possible.

51 people liked this.

Joseph Kinsella 1 day ago

Well, I know where I'm not welcome! What an ignorant thing to say.

15 people liked this.

somethingclever 1 day ago

The critical thinkings skills students develop through the study of anthropology must not be shared by those pursuing careers in politics.

46 people liked this.

pchoffer 1 day ago

Folks: what's next? The classics? Philosophy? Comparative literature? Perhaps history--for it's clear that the governor knows little about the history of the social sciences. The problem is that the governor will not read any of our posts. Best, Peter

I’m only aware of four posters who challenged, or were permitted to challenge the status quo.

librarianexpert 1 day agoin reply to pchoffer

Any public servants is too busy to read excuses to waste taxpayers money. Time to get a real job Mr. Pchoffer.

5 people liked this.

davi2665 1 day ago

Anthropologists often provide outstanding instruction in the anatomical sciences for medical schools and DO schools, especially since most medical school-related graduate programs have abandoned any effort to train Ph.D. candidates in anatomy, histology, embryology, etc.- doesn't bring in enough grant money, the only thing that counts these days. I, for one, would like to offer a vote of confidence for the outstanding contributions that anthropologist make in many disciplines, and suggest that the governor and his universities turn out MORE anthropologists, and vastly fewer groveling toadies for administrative positions.

18 people liked this. Like

Socratease2 1 day agoin reply to davi2665

I am confused, since when do anthropologists teach anatomy and physiology in medical schools, what training justifies their ability to teach those subjects?? And on a larger point, I don't think Scott had it out for anthropology, that was just the the example he pulled out of his...hat. I must say it makes me cringe/laugh to see the ways people in this forum now feel obligated to justify the importance of anthropology to the state of Florida. Florida would do fine if it had zero anthropologists and I doubt the state economy would suffer one iota. There are plenty of unemployed anthropologist PhDs roaming the wilds of America, driving cabs, working construction who would be happy to move to Florida if anthropology jobs existed (apparently there are 3). We do not need more PhD anthropologists, that is for damn sure. And that is not because anthropology is not interesting or important to society but because there is no place for all these MAs and PhDs. Someone else already mentioned that in this blog. Graduate schols should be ashamed at themselves for admitting more and more people into the ranks of social science PhD while totally avoiding the job placement realities for these people. If you love learning and don't care about being under-employed and bitter, then by all means, become the next philosophy PhD on the block.

16 people liked this.

katisumas 11 hours agoin reply to Socratease2 [katisumas is a notorious, aggressively stupid poster at CHE.]

Socratease, take my "like" away. I clicked on it by error. I do not like your post.

Obviously you haven't heard of forensic anthropoligists or of physical anthropology in general or of medical anthropology. Why don't you look up the faculty of our most prestigious med schools, (including Harvard) and you'll find them.

6 people liked this.

Socratease2 9 hours agoin reply to katisumas

No, you are right of course, I have never heard of these very common branches of anthropology even though my dad is a professor of anthropology. If you read slowly you will see my question wasn't what are the branches of anthropology. I looked up Harvard Medical School Faculty, where are all these anthropologists you claim are teaching anatomy and physiology? So why don't you look them up and report back. And what percentage of all anthropologists are doing this medical work anyway? And if any forensic or medical anthropologists are teaching in med school it is because of their medical training not their background in anthropology so what is your point? That is how you are going to define the relevance of anthropology, by saying that anthropologists are important because they do the work of other academic/professional fields. Yes, that is a ringing endorsement for the relevance of the field. Furthermore, my point concerned undergraduate majors not med school faculty so try to stay on topic.

And, sorry, behavior speaks louder than words. You liked my post and that is the way it is going to stay, in fact I will pull up your "Like" everyday and caress it, speak lovingly to it and, in general, bask in the warmth of your posted approval. Though I am interested in how a "like" can be traced to an individual and how one might decide to "un-like" something in the CHE, that was the best part of your post.

Socratease2 1 day ago

Clearly, Scott could have said any number of majors to illustrate his point, doubt he has any direct axe to grind with anthropology. He did not make his point very diplomatically and I don't agree with his assumptions/premises....but he does bring up a useful point of discussion, even if he did not intend to. He is wrong to single out anthropology because, for the most part, what does it matter what you major in if you goal is to complete a liberal arts degree? A major is usually about 1/3 of your total credits to graduate and unless you went into engineering, nursing or some other professional (or dare I say that dirty word in academia: vocational) program then, really, I would love to hear how a Political Science major is better than a "degree" in Amencan Ethnic Studies or in Sociology. Let me guess, I will hear from someone in Women studies or
Comp Lit that their area of "knowledge" is special and without it Western or Global Civilization is doomed. I expect everyone to defend their academic fiefdoms based on self interest and time served going through the motions of their MA or PhD work. but I think we all know that few liberal arts majors are ever used directly by their degree recipients. But that is not the point of a liberal arts education, if you want to "do" anthropology then you are going to grad school. So Scott's point should not be to focus on the worth of specific undergrad majors (which is of course limited) but to evaluate the contribution of a liberal arts curriculum to US society, not just economically but politically and culturally as well. And if that is the question, then I think some discussion is warranted. Do we need hundreds of majors? You can parse out the distinctions among Ethnic Studies, Sociology, Law Socities and Justice, and Political Science if you enjoy splitting hairs but all of these "majors" (and many more) could be reorganized and possibly integrated. Maybe more generalist majors would make higher ed more effective. I think theory has its place but, if anyone in academia would be honest, then they would agree what is going to help non-professional degree students is "application" whether that comes through increased focus on internship requirements, service learning credit requirements, or anything that prepares students to actually work in the world and not inhabit their parent's cellar after graduation. I am not saying there is no place for basic research or no need to advance the frontiers of human knowledge but If universities are going to continue to trumpet that they are "the economic engines" of their respective states, then I guess higher education should attempt to show that is true.

8 people liked this.

11319762 1 day ago

Governor Scott's Anthropology example was an unfortunate one, but one that also points to a larger problem in higher education: the overproduction of Ph.D.s. The plight of adjunct faculty is one that shows up constantly in The Chronicle, and has been the subject of considerable discussion on my own campus. Research universities have doctoral programs filled with candidates who have little or no chance of finding a regular full-time (i.e. tenured) position once they graduate. This raises significant questions about strategic planning, the allocation of resources, and ethics.

Governor Scott's comments about funding programs that offer few if any opportunities for gainful employment touch exactly upon this issue: why are we funding programs to prepare people for a career that they have little or no chance to pursue?

There is a beauty in pure research and the creation of knowledge, but a position from which to conduct such research is needed, and in a whole array of disciplines, we are pumping out scholars who have no opportunity to do just that. Is that fair to them? to the tax payers? to society?

9 people liked this.

goodeyes 1 day ago

Is there enough money to have excellence in all degrees? If not, the question must be asked as to where to spend limited resources. We must stop pretending that there is money to support everything. Money in one area hurts funding in another area. Choices must be made.

3 people liked this.


My response follows.

Most of you—with the honorable exceptions of Socratease2, 11319762, librarianexpert and goodeyes—remind me of my colleagues when I taught college during the 1990s, and that’s not a compliment. My colleagues all had utter contempt for the taxpayer, and felt that he should let them endlessly rape him.

Higher ed has been a Ponzi scheme since the federal government began financing it 47 years ago. (And no, don’t try and claim the GI Bill is the same as federal financing for higher ed.) What are the cognitive advantages of graduating more young people with worthless degrees? So they can come to hate learning as much as you do? So they can spout the racist, sexist, anti-American slogans (aka “critical thinking skills”) you drilled into them, and the fraudulent theories of hoaxers like Franz Boas and Margaret Mead, while they wipe down restaurant tables? That’s if they are lucky enough to get those jobs, over your favored illegal aliens.

Since the 1960s, campuses have increasingly admitted functional illiterates and semi-literates, because they almost always qualify for financial aid, and if they don’t, officials can still sucker them into taking out loans. It’s been to finance your pay checks, and those of your socialist/communist/racial supremacist cronies.

Higher ed is a money pit, but it is also a home to stupidity. Look at this comment thread. It’s full of smug, ad hominem attacks on Rick Scott. My mom graduated high school in 1947 with better reasoning abilities than you mooks. I’m reminded of the line from The Godfather II: “Whaddaya go to college, to learn to be stupid?”

A person can get a much better education today by reading the great books for free on the Web, than by letting the likes of you waste the best years of their lives.

If you cared at all about higher ed, you’d all support cutting admissions on both the undergrad and grad level. And if you cared at all about America, you’d all support cutting higher ed spending to the bone, but you don’t give a damn about higher ed or America.

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