What do you do with a degree in anthropology?

This is becoming a serious question, in large part thanks to Florida governor Rick Scott. Florida’s gov recently indicated that he’d like to move in a direction (in-step, with Florida’s Republican leadership) and redirect money away from state degree programs that don’t necessarily lead to jobs.

According to Governor Scott:

“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. 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.”

His comments were also reiterated, when he said of anthropology majors (such as his daughter) that while it is a great degree, they just aren’t necessary in Florida.

Of course the governor’s statements weren’t well received by the American Anthropological Association:

“It is very unfortunate that you would characterize our discipline in such a short-sighted way…. 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.”

Last year Florida’s leaders questioned the state’s top degree programs (degree-granted-wise), which were psychology and political science. State Senator Don Gaetz wasn’t impressed at the high number of graduates in the social sciences, essentially calling it a waste of public funding, wondering what careers, if any, these degrees would lead to.

Indiana Jones / Harrison Ford

On the reverse side, education leaders responded by reminding political leaders (and the public) that just because you get a degree in something, doesn’t mean that’s where you’ll end up working. Some (many/most/all?) social science degrees lead to employment in other fields, not necessarily degree-related fields. This is true for many graduates, regardless of what degree program or where their degree is from. How many of you went to school for a field that you’re not working in? Life has a way of changing course on us. Look at me, I have a degree in journalism and public health. I work in finance. Was my degree wasted? Or is your undergraduate degree, especially a well-rounded liberal arts program, more about preparing graduates to think critically, globally and further develop their skills, not exclusive to one major?

But, should public tax dollars be funding the future unemployed? Seriously, what are you doing with that degree in anthropology? What are you doing with your degree in English? Psychology? Political science? Sociology? Journalism? Math even? Or are these degrees about the other skills one gains in the process of completing a degree program? Maybe I can understand having community college degree programs be closely tied to in-demand-job-fields, but I’m not sure if that same thinking applies to four-year (and beyond) institutions. Should it? Is everything about “job creation”?

Leave it up to some irreverent puppets to pose a similar question, “What do you do with a BA in English?” via Avenue Q.

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About Jordan
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