Anthropology Under Attack

So the Governor of your state just publicly attacked your college major and declared it useless; what do you do?  Well, if you are an anthropologist from the state of Florida, you fight back.

Last week, Florida Governor (and Tea Party member) Rick Scott went on a popular right-wing talk radio show to discuss his state’s need for more college graduates from the so-called STEM subjects.  He then proceeded to use Anthropology as an example of a worthless liberal arts degree and stated: “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”. Governor Scott claims that science, technology, engineering, and math degrees are in high demand and students should focus on “those types of degrees, so when they get out of school they can get a job”.

Florida anthropologists quickly fired back at the Governor.  Anthropology students, professors, and graduates from Florida’s universities sounded off in numerous letters and statements addressed to the ill-informed Governor.  The anthropology department chairs of the University of Florida, the University of South Florida, and Florida State University all issued statements condemning the Governor’s comments.  The heads of these universities and four others have decided to compile an anthropology “education packet” to inform the Governor what it is that anthropologists actually do.

The American Anthropological Association issued a response stating: “It is very unfortunate that [the Governor] would characterize our discipline in such a short-sighted way.” The AAA statement went on to address the Governor’s ignorance on the subject: “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, African American heritage, and infant learning.” The AAA has also put together an online petition to have Scott meet with representatives from the humanities community so that he can be educated about their contributions to the state’s well-being.

Other responses varied from anger to disbelief that a public servant of such stature would speak out about something he has no knowledge of.  The Florida Public Archaeology Network issued a statement against the Governor’s characterization of anthropology, as did the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.  University of South Florida anthropology student Charlotte Noble put together a great online resource, This is Anthropology, showing the contributions of various USF anthropologists to the state of Florida.

In separate interviews Governor Scott has indicated that he wants to cut funding to liberal arts and social science programs in the state’s public universities.  Republican attacks on liberal arts funding are nothing new, but why single out anthropology?  Perhaps, as the AAA has asserted, it has something to do with the Governor’s lack of knowledge of the field of anthropology. Maybe Governor Scott is clinging to an outdated public-view of anthropologists as tree-hugging, touchy-feely types.  Or, more feasibly, he has a personal vendetta against the subject itself.  Why is this more feasible, you may ask?  Scott’s daughter has a degree in anthropology.

Just one day after the Governor’s comments, the Associated Press and numerous other sources revealed that his daughter, Jordan Kandah, obtained an anthropology degree from the College of William & Mary.

The fact that Scott’s daughter did not pursue a career in anthropology and is currently back in school working towards a degree in another subject may have something to do with the Governor’s recent attack on the subject.  This is not only a scary revelation (that the Governor would let his personal biases affect the policies of an entire state’s public education system), but it should serve as a warning sign to other states. Don’t let the outdated or uninformed opinions of politicians limit the potential of your education.

Related: US Bureau of Labor Statistics – Anthropology Job Growth “Much Faster Than the Average” at Neuroanthropology

This was originally posted at SocialScienceSpace.com

Plagiarism and Academic Integrity

I wanted to start the new blog off with a topic that hits close to home for many academics, writers, and teachers: plagiarism. I first thought of doing a piece on stealing intellectual property when I started noticing my words being used without credit in others’ articles and blogs months back. I understand that when information seeps in to one’s mind and becomes knowledge, it is sometimes impossible to trace the origin of an idea or thought. But when I see large chunks of my sentences literally copied and spliced into another’s work I know that it was no accident. This can be both maddening and deflating to writers and academics who make their living off of their thoughts and words.

I have some experience dealing with my academic work being stolen during my undergraduate career as well. It was at the end of my senior year at UNC Wilmington that I first became a victim of plagiarism. A few classmates and I finished our Human Osteology final exams early and left them in stacks on the professor’s desk along with our final course assignments while the rest of the class finished their exams. After I left the building, one of the students was allowed to head down to the computer lab to print out the remainder of his materials for the class. Fortunately for me, two of my osteology lab partners entered the computer lab and found this student furiously copying all of my measurements and answers from my papers onto his. He had taken all of my course materials off of the desk when he turned in his exam and took them to the lab to plagiarize my lab results and conclusions. My lab partners confronted the student and got my materials back to the professor. Who knows, he probably would have thrown away my papers and turned his in, leaving me with an incomplete one week before graduation.

I finally decided to write about this issue when, last week, I inadvertantly caught and called out two students (one of whom being an officer in her college’s Anthropology Club) who were posting a public conversation about cheating on a college cultural anthropology class’ coursework on Twitter. I wanted to let the aforementioned parties know that hashtagging (making searchable) a request for anthropologists to contact you if they “want to make some money” for doing your coursework probably isn’t the smartest way to go about cheating in college. Not only can anyone (future employers, other students, your professors!) see everything you put out on the internet, but we all judge your character by what we see. 

It wasn’t my intention to ruin anyone’s name or academic career when I posted this:
 “@Anthroprobably: Not Too Smart: Using the #anthropology hashtag on Twitter to find someone to do your college anthro assignments for money. Cc: @JDagger18″ May 4, 2011 2:20PM
But I did want the involved parties to know that someone was watching and disapproved of the honor code violations. There were a number of tweets back and forth between @JDagger18 and @BeatrixKiddo27 discussing the logistics and monetary compensation of the latter student doing the former’s cultural anthropology assignments/exams. Well, my Twitter followers (an awesome group indeed) took this and ran with it! I had a number of people retweet (re-post) the message and this generated a lot of comments about the event. 

Another Twitter colleague took it a step further. Megan McCullen (@GLEthnohistory on Twitter) took screen captures of the conversations before @BeatrixKiddo27 deleted her account and changed her webpage address once she realized she had been called out. From the information in the student’s web bio, Megan was able to find and contact the professor of the girl who was debating doing @JDagger18’s work for money. Megan, being an educator, said that if this were her student she would want to talk to her about the incident. I agree; this was the right thing to do. The worst part about the whole situation is that the female student in question was apparently an officer in her school’s Anthropology Club (hopefully no longer). 

So, let this be a warning to all young or ignorant academics out there: people are watching everything you post on the internet and social media sites. Cheating and plagiarizing are serious offenses and have no place in academia. Not only does copying someone else’s work take away from the authenticity of your credentials, it hurts the integrity of the field you work in. Make good choices, do your own work, and call out plagiarism when you see it!

Related Links:
Tweeting Indigenism by Megan McCullen

Fighting Plagiarism and Defending Academic Integrity featured in Guardian Higher Education Network