Testing, Testing, one, two, three

When I went to grad school, you took a series of qualification exams after your first year to demonstrate your Ph. D. work readiness. The tests were on all four of the discipline’s quadrants: cultural anthropology, Physical anthropology, linguistics, and archeology. At a minimum, the expectation was that you should be capable of teaching an introductory course in each quadrant.
The tests spanned an entire week during which you ate, slept and, dreamed anthropology. My recurrent dream that week was sitting down to write my essays in the traditional little blue books, but my writing disappeared as soon as I finished.
It was not the tests or the classes that guided much of the following years. I left grad school before I completed my doctorate. Despite teaching as an adjunct professor, I knew that an academic career would not be for me. I worked in the practice of applied anthropology.
I prepared curriculum, researched topics for government, nonprofits, and for-profit corporations. I had an incredible time studying traditional crafts and creating cultural programs..
I lost track of how many public programs I designed, developed, and implemented. Throughout it all, it wasn’t the book learning or the lectures that influenced me. It was the pervasive influence of four professors. One taught me the essentials of fieldwork and applied research, another to teach—the third to adopt the book learning to practice. And the last taught me his dry humor, perhaps the most valuable gift of all.
As we would say at the end of a research paper – in conclusion – it’s not what you know, but how you use it that counts and much of that came from people, not books. As John Wooden said: “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”


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