Around the Web

Here in Hampton Roads we’ve got the Army base Fort Eustis, the Norfolk Naval base (the largest naval base in the world), Langley Air Force base, plus the Coast Guard, NASA, and a Naval weapons station — the Fourth of July is kind of a big deal. So indulge me in a little flag waving.

Sadly, after this short was filmed the Sweedish Chef was deported by the INS. We need a path to citizenship, people!

And now back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

“Discover it, then blow it up”

  • NPR had an interesting piece on a 1962 experiment to detonate a hydrogen bomb in outer space, it features a fascinating if disturbing video of the light show from the surface of the Earth. (Props to A Hot Cup of Joe who tipped me off to the story)

Racial bias and the SAT

The AAA moves into online video

  • The AAA blog put up a series of videos, “Ten Years After: The Legacy of Eric R. Wolf”, taken at the most recent annual meeting. I am heartened by this move and would like to thank whomever took the initiative to make this important panel accessible to everyone. Perhaps in the future there will be even more videos with better production values and we can all give TED a run for their money!

East European Cave Art

  • My favorite lecture to give in General Anthropology is the Upper Paleolithic explosion of cultural innovation, so I was very keen to read this news report in Science on the discovery of cave art in Romania. Too bad there’s only one picture. Commentary from John Hawks is here.

The Cultural Experience of Time

  • Anthropology in Practice has run a series of three posts on time. This one about time, colonialism, and power is my favorite. As I read I was visualizing the concatenations of time as an othering device, like “CPT” or “Indian Time”, which always have to do with the perceived divergences of non-Whites from the Protestant work ethic.


  • AAA anounces “The National Endowment for the Humanities has launched a new grant program, Enduring Questions, to support the development of a course that addresses some of the fundamental questions raised by the humanities: What is good government? What is the relationship between humans and the natural world? Are there universals in human nature? And others. The grant awards up to $25,000 to support the design, preparation and assessment of the course.”

An Anthropologist Among the Generals

  • Diana Putman is recognized for “constructive dissent” by the State Department for risking her prestige in USAID in challenging US military orders in Africa. Anthropologyworks got the scoop she is a cultural anthropologist. The Washington Post has the news.


Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson is Project Cataloger at The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia, and currently working on a CLIR ‘hidden collections’ grant to describe the museum’s collection of early 20th Century photography. He has a doctorate in anthropology from the University of North Carolina and a Masters in information science from the University of Tennessee.

6 thoughts on “Around the Web

  1. Hamptom Roads, nostalgia flash. Grew up in York County, which, thanks to military bases and the National Park Service (Yorktown Battlefield) had only 60 privately owned square miles in a total of 160. Helped immensely with school desegregation. When the military said to York County schools, you will desegregate or lose your impacted area funding, resistance died instantly.

  2. Bias against blacks?

    If that was true, why not bias against coal miner’s kids from Appalachia, or against Vietnamese refugees, or against Hispanics? What about comparing the results of West Indian or African immigrant kids ?

    The dirty little secret is that those of us with minority kids have to look carefully to find teachers who don’t teach down to our kids and let them pass when they don’t study, but insist they study and grade them fairly, not give them a “pass” because they feel sorry for them.

    Fix inner city schools, allow the smarter kids to go to charter/church schools and you will see the difference disappear.

  3. Respectfully, I don’t think you read the link very carefully. The Harvard study shows that there are specific questions on the verbal portion of the test where White students give certain answers and non-White students give other answers. These are systemic patterns throughout the verbal section and are rooted in the questions themselves. While it may be the case that, as you suggest, well educated students do well and poorly educated students do poorly, it is more complicated than that. To paraphrase the article it is not “merely” that American society is unfair, but that the test itself is unfair. The former will take structural economic change for social justice, the latter requires that the private company that makes the SAT at a huge profit admit that their product is inherently flawed.

  4. Matt, I think we have to think of the test in context. The test is not designed test intelligence, it is designed to predict how well someone is likely to do in college. It’s like a credit score of students to be used to reduce the risk of accepting someone that isn’t likely to do well.
    In this sense the test is very valid statistically. Students who do better on the SATs generally do better in college. It doesn’t matter what it’s measuring, because it’s purpose is to predict, not qualify intelligence.
    As a Chinese peer of mine in school told me, “we just learned the language, and never lived here in your culture, and we could do it, why can’t they?” Rather than changing the SATs, which is tantamount to making them less predictive of academic performance, which would require a change to academia in general, why not make primary education more rigorous?

  5. I partly disagree with you Rick. Whle I do believe our public school system is in urgent need of reform, the fact of the matter is that the way these tests are formed makes it difficult for a minority student to GET THE CHANCE to achieve. There also needs to be a break-down of the particular types of questions that are answered to differently by various ethnic groups, but more importantly socio-economic class. When taking the GRE examp I had to force myself to think like an upper middle class white male in order to answer correctly many of the word association questions for example. They were based on life experiences completely foreign to someone from a lower socioeconomic background and a different culture.

    Such students succeed less often in a university precisely because they have never been exposed to such language and circumstances and require a bit of extra help. That is where I’m a big advocate of Jr. colleges where a minority student can test out his/her feet in college without wasting alot of money if they can’t hang, but where they also have smaller class sizes and more individual attention from professors.
    At the same time however, I think that Universities can do a much better job at helping out minority students who make it in. Lower-cost public universities with heavy minority/lower socioeconomic student populations can do much better jobs at retaining minorities, but are only making tiny efforts to do so given the cost to benefit ratio to the overall program. In addition, often there IS OUTRIGHT RACISM in departments by professors and staff. I witnessed this first hand in our old anthropology department Rick (before you were a student there). I talked to a female professor who I will not name about a very dark-skinned and shy hispanic friend’s research paper that recieved a B- grade. This friend was too angry/embarrassed to speak to the professor herself about it. I had read the paper and thought it was vastly better then my paper that recieved an A+.
    So when I talked to the professor about this paper, I was shocked by the professor’s response. She said, “This is the student’s words. She didn’t write this.” That blew my mind as I was very familiar with this student’s writings as we were in many undergraduate classes together. I told this professor about my feelings and that this absolutely was the student’s writing style and language. I also mentioned another shy female WHITE student who’s integrity had never been questioned. The professor was rather embarrassed realizing what she had done and agreed to apologize to the student and change the grade. Still, this student never quite made top scores despite her writing and academic skills mainly because of how she presented herself in class discussions (mainly not wanting to talk much or engage in debate) purely due to the feeling of intimidation. She and other minority students from lower-socioeconomic backgrounds often commented that they felt like a fish out of water there and that it was an environment that forced them to “think and act white”. All of those students who told me that dropped out including the female anthropology graduate student I mentioned.

    This may be entirely foreign to you Rick, but the fact of the matter is that University life in America is VERY daunting for black and hispanic students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Hell it was daunting even for me. I still feel often like a fish out of water amongst academics, but for me its not so much a racial issue, but rather a socioeconomic issue where I realize that I am talking to someone who has no clue about where I come from and what I’ve experienced. Likewise I do not understand or relate to much of their background or experiences. While it can be easy to dismiss this as just personal bias, it is a pattern that I saw over and over again speaking with students who were both minorities and from a lower socioeconomic background. Even alot of poorer white university students encounter similar problems. Like it or not, the university process (especially at a graduate level) is a cultural indoctrination program (something long-noted by anthropologists) and is indeed discriminatory despite our half-hearted efforts to avoid this.

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