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Anthropologists take aim at Gov. Scott

The American Anthropological Association this afternoon released a letter is has sent to Gov. Rick Scott over comments he made Monday that Florida "doesn't need a lot more anthropologists in this state." "We don't need them here," he told a Daytona Beach radio host.

Scott's larger point was that Florida students would have an easier time finding jobs and help fulfill his campaign promise if they studied science, technology, engineering or math. In a move universities will oppose, Scott wants to move state money from liberal arts programs to other degrees he says will give students a better chance of finding work.

"We're spending a lot of money on education. You look at the results and they're not great. A lot of kids dropping out of school. They’re getting degrees that there is no job," Scott said today during a speech to the North East Business Association in Tallahassee. 

"I got accused of not liking anthropology in the paper the other day. But let’s think about it," Scott continued. "How many more jobs you think there is for anthropology in this state? You want to use your tax dollars to educate more people that can’t get jobs in anthropology? I don’t."

But anthropologists said Scott was being "short-sighted" by taking aim at their programs.


"It is very unfortunate that you would characterize our discipline in such a short-sighted way," AAA President Virginia R. Dominguez and Director William E. Davis wrote in their letter.

"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," the pair wrote. "We look forward to meeting with youe to share anthropology's contribution to scientific advancement, economy and well-being of your state."

University of Florida anthropology department chairwoman Susan deFrance told the Gainesville Sun today that she was "shocked" by Scott’s comments.

DeFrance said anthropology benefits Florida tourism through archaeology done in St. Augustine and other historic sites. Crime prosecution in the state benefits from forensic anthropology, she said, while medical anthropologists have researched race and health disparities in Tallahassee.

"It's not that we just go out and study primitive people in the jungle somewhere," she said. "That's very much a caricature of what anthropologists do."