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Rick Scott’s anthropology stance is misguided

Published: Sunday, October 16, 2011

Updated: Monday, October 17, 2011 00:10

Liberal arts majors and anthropologists across the country are up in arms after Florida Gov. Rick Scott remarked that state universities should shift funding to science, technology, math and engineering (STEM) fields because those are the majors that create jobs.

"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," Scott said, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. "So I want that money to go to degrees where people can get jobs in this state."

The comment that really raised public ire was Scott's singling out of anthropology majors.

"We don't need a lot more anthropologists in the state," he said on a Daytona Beach radio show.

These misinformed comments demonstrate that Scott continues to treat the state as a business, not a government.

The American Anthropological Association responded with a letter to Scott expounding the virtues of anthropology. The letter noted that employment for anthropologists and archaeologists is expected to grow by 28 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook for 2011.

Brent Weisman, chair of USF's anthropology department, also told The Oracle that anthropology is considered a STEM field.

Clearly, Scott made a poor choice in singling out anthropology majors — his own daughter holding a degree in the field, according to the Associated Press — but the sentiment applies to all non-STEM majors. The idea that students should only pursue majors that are immediately profitable to the state is laughable, as is the notion that only STEM majors contribute to the economy.

Scott plans to make higher education reform a major issue when the legislative session begins in January, and unfortunately he may have support. Future Senate President Don Gaetz has called Florida a "second tier" state, according to the Gainesville Sun, because universities are not producing the right graduates to attract companies.

However, companies are unlikely to move to new states simply because there are more qualified job candidates there. Graduates would be more likely to move to where the companies are, taking their valuable STEM educations with them and contributing nothing to Florida's economy.

To dictate to students what they should major in flies in the face of American independence, and Scott's comments highlight his business mentality.

It is important to have a balanced budget and reduce debt, but governments and government institutions such as public universities are not designed to turn a profit.

If the bottom line is all that mattered, then yes, students should pick majors that would contribute to the greater economic good, rather than pursue their own interests and dreams. Thankfully, that is not how public universities work.

Michael Hardcastle is a senior majoring in creative writing.

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