Putting Education Reform To The Test

Gov. Scott Not Apologizing to Anthropologists

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Gov. Rick Scott attends a governors' summit hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in June.

Florida Governor Rick Scott is still answering questions after he suggested Florida colleges and universities should get less funding for social science programs, and more funding for science, engineering, technology and math programs, or STEM fields.

Scott told a Miami radio station that he’s related to the angriest anthropologist he’s heard from so far.

With Halloween approaching, the great anthropology debate is the Florida political story that won’t die (background here). But the question remains: Is anthropology a STEM field?

PolitiFact surveyed a couple folks to see what they think. According to its list of STEM fields, the U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement says “no.” The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology says “kind of.”

Our own State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan says “it is.” But in an interview between Governor Scott and WLRN Miami Herald host Phil Latzman, Governor Scott said, “it isn’t.”

Interview with Governor Scott

Q: Is there anything you regret about the comments you made about… liberal arts degrees. Anthropology got a lot of attention. Anything you want to recall on that?

A: No. You know, what I said was, I don’t know what jobs there are with anthropology degrees. And the point was, I was talking about the fact that we need to really put a lot of more focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Enterprise Florida says 15 of the 20 top areas for jobs in the next 10 years are going to be STEM so I want to make sure that’s where we’re spending our money and that’s where our focus is.

Q: The state’s own University System Chancellor Frank Brogan says anthropology is part of that STEM field. Do you agree with him?

A: It’s not. It’s not. If you look at all the Board of Governors data, it’ll tell you that anthropology is not part of science, technology, engineering, and math. It’s not part of STEM.

This is about jobs. This is about how do we make sure that our students get jobs when they finish.

Look, I grew up in public housing, I needed an education to get a job, and that’s why I went to school. I think that’s why most people go to school.

Q: Have you heard from any angry anthropologist?

A: Well one of the funniest things, my second daughter, my younger daughter, she’s 26, called me the next day and she said, ‘dad, do you realize that because I got an anthropology undergraduate degree, I was one of the top stories on yahoo?’ She was not very thankful for that.

But I said, well Jordan, what was it like? Did you get a job? ‘Well, no.’

So she got a masters in education after that, and now she’s back getting a masters in business.


  • David

    PolitiFact also spoke with a representative of the National Science Foundation, the premier federal funding agency for basic science research, who indicated that anthropology us a STEM field.  This should have also been mentioned in this article.  The Governor is selectively choosing the information he wants to support his contention about anthropology.  Shame on him.

  • josh

    I’m sure if his daughter had gone on to graduate school, like the majority of anthropology majors, she would have not had much problem getting a job.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Anthropology is a STEM field whether the people polled think it is or not. This serves as more evidence that liberal arts degrees are needed if people are not being taught how to think critically when constructing arguments. This “survey” should be taken as seriously as the zodiac reading in your newspaper.This entire act is an ad populum fallacy in deductive reasoning, just because a claim is widely-held to be true doesn’t mean that that the claim is correct. The criterion for making empirical valid claims is deeper than that. The methodology of the survey can also be called into question. Dr. Paul Doughty of University of Florida Anthropology elaborates on the fallacy in the methodology of the survey it in a response to an October 19th article on the survey: “There are two distinct types of organization commenting on Anthropology as science in the Truth-O-Meter article:

    First, there are scientific organizations, institutions built, managed
    and participated in by a broad spectrum of scientists, united in the
    use of scientific methodologies and theoretical structures for data
    gathering and analysis to test the hypotheses and theories. Mentioned
    in the Truth-O-Meter article is one: the National Science Foundation,
    whose personnel is largely comprised of actual scientists. NSF is a
    powerful arbiter STEM scientific research because it manages the
    distribution of public monies in support of scientific endeavors.

    There are other very significant scientific institutions not cited as
    authority by Truth-O-Meter. National Academy of Sciences (NAS, whose
    incorporation was signed by Abra…ham
    Lincoln) is a major and very important national science institution
    with regards to the issue raised regarding STEM raised by Governor
    Scott. Anthropology is recognized as significant part of NAS. Like NSF,
    NAS personnel are scientists and election to membership in NAS is a
    great honor. The third major science organization in the U.S. is the
    universally respected (non governmental) American Association for the
    Advancement of Science, the oldest (1840) American scientific
    organization, one of the oldest in the world, and, perhaps the largest.
    Anthropology has been part of the AAAS and played a significant role in
    its development throughout its long history. Finally and ironically,
    also omitted as authority by Truth-O-Meter, is the Florida Academy of
    Sciences in which Anthropology is strongly represented (see their
    website). These should have been consulted by Truth-O-Meter in seeking a
    scientific judgment.
    Second: the other agencies mentioned by
    Truth-O-Meter as arbiters of scientific standing are not scientific
    organizations, but bureaucratic ones, in which some scientists
    participate but are agencies subject to political whims, preferences and
    often the selective utilization of factual materials responding to
    those who establish them: the White House, congress, state legislatures
    and various officials, such as governor Scott. In that category we have
    the U.S. Custom and Immigration Enforcement, President’s Council of
    Advisers on Science and Technology; and, the Florida Board of Governors.
    Their judgments about STEM are not authoritative in a scientific
    sense, but rather in a political and managerial one. In view of the
    issue here their opinions are unscientific at best.”-Quoted text from Paul Doughty. 

  • Gene

    I would love to see the statistics of people with only a BS in math getting one of these high paying jobs he’s talking about.  If you’re going to get a job in the sciences, graduate school is a must. Anthropology is no different.  If you want to be competitive in the science job market, you have to pursue at least a graduate degree, in many cases doctor and post-doctoral work as well. 

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »