Re: Defending Anthropology's Irrelevance

Keith Dever (kdever@CALSTATELA.EDU)
Mon, 12 Feb 1996 18:16:43 -0500

>The harder we try to convince students of the uses of knowledge, the more we
>convince them--implicitly--that the only reason to value knowledge is
>for its (apparent) usefulness. This, at least at a liberal-arts
>institution, is perfectly self-defeating! We hope to instill a love of
>knowledge for its own sake, increasing the number of life-long learners
>out there.

At Cal State Univ, Los Angeles (advertised as the premiere urban university)
it doesn't seem that we have the luxury of teaching something because it's
"just something that is nice to know." Our students have young children at
home while they still live with aged parents; they work one, sometimes two,
jobs; they live in tough, if not dangerous, neighborhoods. It doesn't go
over well when a subject isn't framed in application terms. They ask
questions like, "what does that have to do with business or psychology or
social work or whatever?" If they ask such questions, anthropology is easy
to sell. If they don't or cannot develop the question, providing the answer
is difficult. No all students are attending classes because they are in the
pursuit of life-long learning.