Gov. Scott and the Usefulness of Anthropology

Governor Scott of Florida is an ignorant, far-right ass, no doubt.  As I just posted to the Huffington Post, 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. I am far from alone.  Intel, Microsoft, Sapient, General Mills, Ford, GM, Apple, and Nasa all employ anthropologists.  The anthropology programs at DePaul and Wayne State have a focus on business and design applications.  The US Armed Forces, the CIA and the Foreign service employ anthropologists and sociologists in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the globe — the result has been improved diplomacy and countless lives being saved.

As to the programs themselves, there isn’t an anthropology degree program in the country that doesn’t require graduating students taking a significant number of classes in genetics, statistics and biology.  In other words, those “hard” courses engineering and chemistry students take.  It also requires taking courses in systems theory, logic and philosophy, courses my former undergraduate engineering and business students failed regularly (just as I, admittedly, failed calculus). So the idea of a lack of academic rigor is simply absurd. Simply, some of us aren’t adept at math and others aren’t adept at literature, painting or philosophy.  That hardly means that a lack of given talent means what we do well is without value.

But this isn’t about academic rigor or the usefulness of the education gleaned from anthropology.  The problem is that anthropology, like philosophy, political science and psychology, forces students to examine the world and the nature of “truth” through a different lens, one that is at times at odds with the Far Right.  Anthropology is inconvenient for the Right, just as it is for the Left. Unfortunately for the likes of Gov. Scott, without these seemingly useless approaches to understanding the world, we wouldn’t have a democracy or a republican form of government.  We wouldn’t have had the great leaps forward in thought.  Which is precisely what these sorts want.  They seek a population that blindly accepts the status quo and doesn’t blink when told the world is only 5000 years old.  It is about fostering drones and turning the university into a glorified form of trade school.

Published by gavinjohnston67

Take an ex-chef who’s now a full-fledge anthropologist and set him free to conduct qualitative research, ethnography, brand positioning, strategy and sociolinguistics studies and you have Gavin. He is committed to understand design and business problems by looking at them through an anthropological lens. He believes deeply in turning research findings into actionable results that provide solid business strategies and design ideas. It's not an insight until you do something with it. With over 18 years of experience in strategy, research, and communications, he has done research worldwide for a diverse set of clients within retail, legal, banking, automotive, telecommunications, health care and consumer products industries.

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  1. I also worry about the current tsunami movement of universities toward that “glorified form of trade school” status you reference. These schools charge students top dollar and then groom and brainwash them into the approved corporation culture and ideology.

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