Anthropology and education

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Anthropology and education

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The first publications specifically linking education with anthropology may be two papers by Edgar Hewett. The first (1904) consists of two pages affirming the relevance of scientific anthropological knowledge for school teachers and planners. The second (1905) addresses what remains a perennial topic: what is the influence of cultural environments on the psychology of individuals and how does this impact teaching and learning in schools.

At the same time, Emile Durkheim was giving a series of lectures on education, pedagogy, the history of schooling in France that were both an application of his sociology and a development as he kept thinking about the relationship of individuals to the determined forces that seek to constrain them, as well as changes in institutional patters. These papers were later collected in several volumes (1956 [1922], 1974 [1925], 1969 [1938] )

At the same time, John Dewey started his argument for an education that would systematically foster democracy (1916) through a set of examples where he emphasizes the need for children to be made to fit within human environments ("cultures") that are not directly biologically given.

These three frame problematics that continue to define the anthropology of education as continually reconstituted: what does anthropology, as a discipline concerned with social structures, cultural patternings, individual constitution and freedom, have to contribute to the politics of the public school in an enlightened society?

At Teachers College

By the 1930s, Teachers College, Columbia University, begun to offer courses in anthropology as part of the foundations of education. By 1948 Margaret Mead started what would be a long association with Teachers College where she taught until the early 1970s. In 1953 Solon Kimball joined the faculty. By the 1970s there were up to eight faculty members with PhDs in anthropology at Teachers College(Bond, Byers, Comitas, Harrington, McDermott, Ianni, Sayres, Varenne). A similar evolution occurred at Berkeley, Stanford, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, etc.

The Institutionalization of Anthropology and Education

Two dates mark the institutionalization of the anthropology of education. In 1954, a conference brings together nine anthropologists (among whom Jules Henry, Felix Keesing, Solon Kimball, Alfred Kroeber, Dorothy Lee, Margaret Mead, Bernard Siegel) along with several school researchers and professionals. The proceedings of this conference were published in a volume edited by George Spindler (1955). In 196? some of the same participants organized the Council on Anthropology and Education as a subsection within the American Anthropological Association. The mission statement confirms the problematics that already characterized the field: ....

Related issues: Technology, culture, education

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