Monday, April 30, 2012

Anthropology Major


One of the most common complaints that I hear about our major (from faculty and students) is that it doesn't train students to do anything. Yes, this goes against the "4-field/allow no specialization" mantra, but it is stated again and again by our most ambitious, talented and smart students.  The reasons for these complaints are clear: we fail to offer a coherent set of classes that provide in-depth training (laboratory and field as well as conceptual/critical) in the areas of the discipline that require them (and for which there is abundant demand) and we have gotten rid of the classes that used to make us a notable department.  Now with the exception of just a few classes, we offer a fairly useless major – like most anthropology departments.  

The reality of where we stand is made clear through this NY Time Op Ed piece and this recent AP study. Those students who get majors who are not trained to do anything (I.e., "4 field") are the least likely to get jobs.  The anecdotal and statistical evidence is consistent.  Although a taboo topic in faculty meetings, this is a serious problem that should be addressed one way or the other. Solutions should be implemented: — I.e., bringing back a range of in-depth courses in field, lab and analysis in specific aspects of sub disciplines with pre-requisites and specialization. Sadly, in our department at least it doesn't appear that such a discussion will be allowed to take place.  Tragicomedy for our students at their own expense….

1 comment:

Evan said...

It's not just an issue at the department level though. I'm still trying to figure out why I needed to take "capstone" courses in things like "Comic Humor" - a course aimed at surveying the history of comedy in literature - because they supposedly make me a better addition to society.

I hope the academic bureaucracy will have to face the ridiculousness of its policies soon enough. Lots of professors and administrators seem to downplay the role of online educational services as being only "supplemental" and unable to ever provide a true replacement for the traditional classroom environment. With the increasing amount of high quality websites aimed at educating the public for free (some, like MIT/Harvardx and Coursera, eventually planning on offering certificates of their own), how much longer will higher education be able to continue the tragicomedy?

P.S. I didn't need a semester of "comic humor" lectures to teach me what tragicomedy meant. A glance at Wikipedia would have sufficed.