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Anthropology in The Miami Herald

Yesterday writer Mary Jo Melone wrote an op-ed piece in The Miami Herald in response, or lack there of, by Governor Rick Scott of Florida and the recent findings by forensic anthropologists at the Dozier School for Boys. The piece, entitled Gov. Scott, anthropology and Dozier School for Boys is below:

When it comes to bad news, the truth is always inconvenient. And so it was last week, when forensic anthropologists from the University of South Florida reported on the expanding horrors at the now-shuttered Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, where, in the state’s name, boys in trouble were sent for over a century.

The anthropologists found that 96 children and two adults died, including two 6-year-olds. Fifty graves have been found on the property, not the 31 that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) reported two years ago. Nothing remarkable about its number, FDLE said then.

Hooey, said the men who still bear the scars of being there.

Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam has asked the FDLE to review the anthropologists’ claims and report to the governor and the Cabinet.

Although the Juvenile Justice Department has said it will cooperate further with the University of South Florida researchers — who suspect the existence of a second burial ground at Dozier — the current occupant of the governor’s mansion has been silent as a stone on the subject.

It may be that Gov. Rick Scott still doesn’t understand that much of a governor’s most important work is symbolic, and that it is vital that the man who represents the state represent its highest moral standards in both action and speech.

Or it could be that Gov. Scott knows that if he speaks about the University of South Florida investigators’ findings about Dozier, he’ll get tongue-tied when it’s time to utter the word anthropology.

Last year, the governor complained about how useless the subject was. He was talking about his desire to shift state university spending away from the liberal arts and put the money into science, technology, engineering and math — the so-called STEM fields — because that’s where he believes all the jobs are.

“Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists?” Scott asked. “I don’t think so.”

There has been much speculation that the governor singled out anthropology because his daughter holds an undergraduate degree in the field. Perhaps he disapproved and extended his ideas of being a dad and of pleasing a dad to state policy.

Whatever it was, Scott earned the wrath of the American Anthropological Association and anthropology faculty across the state.

Moreover, what came off as his disdain for the liberal arts in general created fear over the future of liberal arts.

Those are the so-called mushy fields, like history, English and psychology, in which people reflect on who we are and what and where we’ve been — on other words, on the human condition.

It’s a subject that also affects the governor, who sometimes needs to be reminded of his own humanity. (Remember testing welfare recipients for drugs?)

Now the University of South Florida department website includes a video response to the governor, in which numerous graduate students detail the kind of work they do in all kinds of fields: healthcare for veterans and farm workers, attendance at state parks, homicide investigations, consumer use of technology, and, the grad students said, the development of statistics he has used to support his argument on behalf of STEM education.

With the Dozier investigation, you could also argue that anthropologists peer into the darkest corners of the human experience and Florida history.

Gov. Scott probably won’t send anthropologists any more money. However, given the work the anthropologists did at Dozier, at least he should send the researchers at the University of South Florida a thank-you note.

Mary Jo Melone, a former columnist with the Tampa Bay Times, is a writer in Tampa.

To read the original article, visit The Miami Herald.

Petition to meet with Governor Scott

Recently, Governor Rick Scott of Florida was quoted in the Herald Tribune as saying that he wanted to devote state funding resources to encourage students to graduate with degrees in science, technology, engineering and medical degrees, noting “the state doesn’t need any more anthropologists.”

We ask that you join this petition to have Gov. Scott meet with representatives from the Florida anthropology community as well as our colleagues in humanities and social sciences, who are also threatened by his comment about anthropologists.  The goal of the meeting would be to initiate a proactive dialogue about our particular diverse contributions to the scientific advancement, economy, and well-being of Florida. We will be collecting signatures for the next two weeks, and plan to submit our request on Monday, October 31.

Thank you for joining this petition, and helping us underscore the value of humanities-related and social science research and study not only in Florida, but nationwide.

To sign the petition, below, add your name to the reply box below along with any constructive comments you have for the Governor.

Thank you for joining our petition, and helping us underscore the value of humanities-related research and study not only in Florida, but nationwide.

Utilize the Free Speech Anthropology Forum to continue the discussion on this topic and follow the member coverage of Governor Rick Scott.

Is Governor Scott asking for an anthropologist exodus in Florida

In an interview on “The Marc Bernier Show” on WNDB-AM in Daytona Beach, Florida’s Governor Rick Scott favors spending money on science and math degrees; however, was quoted saying that Florida “doesn’t need a lot more anthropologists in this state.” Read Michael C. Bender’s entire post on The Buzz – a political blog of the St. Petersburg Times

As a political leader with significant national and international influence, we at the American Anthropological Association think it is unfortunate that Governor Scott would characterize anthropology in such a short-sighted way. As a discipline that has a rich and robust history, anthropology has made numerous contributions to the study of cultures both foreign and domestic, and has helped us understand humankind. Anthropologists are leaders in our nation’s top science fields, from groundbreaking discoveries in public health to homeland security, and anthropologists work in various arenas, due to the diversity of the field in science and the humanities.

Download (.pdf) the official response to Governor Scott from the American Anthropological Association: http://www.aaanet.org/issues/policy-advocacy/upload/Letter-to-Gov-Scott.PDF

Blog readers, what do you have to say to Governor Scott?
Drop us a comment or leave your blog link and we’ll post it here.

 

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