Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An Open Letter to Florida Governor Rick Scott

October 11, 2011


Sorry, I just can’t bring myself to address you as “dear.” I hope you’ll understand. J

I just read an article that’s attributed to The Miami Herald in which you are quoted as saying, “How many more jobs you think there is for anthropology in this state? You want to use your tax dollars to educate more people who can't get jobs in anthropology?"

I sure hope you were misquoted, for a couple of reasons. To begin: Every school child learns that subjects and verbs need to agree, and your first sentence reads like an elementary school dropout is speaking. What you should have said was, “How many more jobs DO you think there ARE for anthropology in this state?” But with journalism not being what it once was, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that maybe the reporter goofed here. Stranger things have happened. You’ve probably been involved in stranger things yourself, like that time when you were running HCA Inc. and they settled the largest Medicare fraud case in history for $1.7 billion.

But yeah, I know your mama thinks you’re a good boy. She said so in all those ads you paid for when you bought…oh, sorry…when you got elected governor of Florida.

Now about anthropology. I know a little bit about anthropology because it was my undergraduate major at the University of South Florida; that’s the big school just north of Tampa off I-275, in case you don’t know, because I know you haven’t lived in Florida all that long. I’ll put a picture of something from the school at the top of this article so you can see what it looks like.

This will probably shock you, but I didn’t pick my major to qualify me for a job. I picked it because I loved the subject matter and because it expanded my knowledge about the world and other cultures, and because knowing those things made me a better person and a better citizen of the United States.

By the way, I have to tell you that I love the U.S.A. I was born here—in Texas! where that Rick Perry lives, the one you like so much. My dad served on a destroyer in WWII and my mom was a stay-at-home mom who did the cooking and the housework and baked great pies. While I was growing up, my dad worked in the defense industry and, for a while, in the Federal Aviation Administration. I registered to vote as soon as I was old enough, and I think I’ve voted in every election since then.

Anyway, back to anthropology. Anthropology has a special characteristic that sets it apart from other academic disciplines—the “holistic viewpoint.” What this means is that anthropologists don’t try to understand just one aspect of a culture. Let’s use politics as an example. If I were trying to understand the politics of Florida, I’d examine not just politics but religion, economic systems, social customs, history, languages, health care systems, maybe even the environment, to see if and how each of those things influenced politics. I guess this means I’d investigate whether our politicians were actually representing the people of Florida, or whether they were being paid off by corporate lobbyists to do the bidding of big business. But I digress. J

I loved my studies in anthropology and I graduated with honors. I went on to get a master’s degree in another subject out in California, and I spent most of my adult life working full-time in higher education institutions. No, I never had what you could call a job “in anthropology,” but I sure used what I learned in anthropology in every single job I ever had.

I never made a lot of money, though. I guess this means you will automatically think of me as a failure. But see, that was a choice I made. I wasn’t happy working at institutions where money was the be-all and end-all of existence. I was happier helping people, learning new things, and trying to be of service to the arts, literature, and the environment, because those things are really my passions.

So when you ask “You want to use your tax dollars to educate more people who can't get jobs in anthropology?" I have to answer yes. I didn’t get “jobs in anthropology” but I don’t think Florida’s tax dollars were wasted on me. I don’t think those tax dollars would be wasted on students today, either.

I’ve been a productive citizen ever since I got my bachelor’s degree. I’ve always worked. My education in anthropology helped me to think critically—even creatively—to look at the “big picture,” to appreciate the value of a liberal arts education, to respect people who disagreed with me or held different opinions, to shun labels and sound bites, to think independently, to analyze things, to ask questions and not settle for easy or simplistic answers, and to take seriously my responsibilities as a citizen of my country—including voting.

Oh, wait…something is coming to me. An insight. Could it be…? No. I sure hope not. Well, I have to ask anyway.

Is the reason you don’t want people to study anthropology because you don’t want people like me out here asking questions about you when you run for re-election? And then going to the polls to vote? Now that I think about it, I’m really curious about your answers to these questions.

Looking forward to the courtesy of your reply,

A Word Witch


  1. I chose Economics as my major at the end of my first year in college.Once I took an Anthropology course just as a free elective and I fell in love with it. I reconsidered my major and found no difficulty to made my mind to swap to Anthropology. Now that I have been an Anthropology student student for two years I can really say that its what I REALLY WANTED. Despite the fact that belong to a poor country and I need a degree which can help me making more money, I don`t really care if I don`t get a job with this degree. Anthropology has helped me to be a good citizen and more than that to be a real 'human' not just a 'money machine'. Sometimes you need good citizens rather than just money 'earning machines'. I don`t think that one is wasting his/her in time studying anything, every major takes you somewhere and Anthropology is the one which takes you closer to humanity.When one is happy with majoring in Anthropology who are you to tell him/her that its not gonna get you a job. Think before you speak Mr.Scott, you need an anthropologist to guide you.

    sorry for my horrible English,I was furious and wanted to get my thoughts across.

  2. Thanks Masood and don't apologize! Your point comes across extraordinarily well--and I feel exactly the same way. I hope you enjoy your studies as much as I enjoyed mine; it sounds like you are!

  3. Mr Scott might want to brush up on an English 101 class: Looks like he slept through the first one... those tax dollars at work
    Thanks for this post.