In a day and age when our exposure to and ability to interact with other cultures is unprecedented, where the world is shrinking, it can be easily argued that understanding and compassion are more important than ever. It is here that anthropology comes into play; to develop compassion towards other cultures, one starts by studying them, their pasts and presents. There is perhaps no better time to begin that study than when we are young. The younger a child is, the less they understand stereotypes. Exposing and teaching children to anthropology when they are little, will help them carry that lack of bias with them into adulthood.
“Anthropologists study every facet of the human experience and behavior, both past and present,” in BYU’s Department of Anthropology. Classified as a social science, it covers a wide range of geographical areas and time periods. Kari Nelson, Curator of Education at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures, an anthropological resource for the community, says: “Being compassionate and kind are wonderful, but they are abstract. By applying the skills learned within the discipline, you can research your own family, your ancestors, and where you came from. This is a literal turning of the hearts.”
While taking children on a tour of the museum recently, Nelson stopped at a display of masks from another culture. Immediately, the children deemed them weird. She wondered: if they believed that about the masks, what would they think of the people who made them? It is to prevent experiences like these that children and youth need to study Anthropology. They need that understanding in order to live happily and to positively contribute in this world.
Beyond developing understanding of other cultures, though, the study of anthropology can help kids develop a number of skills and traits that will be useful to them in all of their studies, and in their lives. These include:
- analytical skills
- detail orientation
- good communication skills
- good physical condition
In addition, O*Net, an online database of occupational information, reports that these additional skills are acquired as one studies to become a professional anthropologist:
- public speaking
- active listening
- critical thinking
- reading comprehension
- scientific understanding
- active learning
- complex problem solving
- judgment and decision making
- social perceptiveness
- systems analysis
- time management
ScienceBuddies.org, an online resource for parents and teachers of anthropology and other sciences, reports that the median salary of an anthropologist is over $59,000 annually.
All of this being said, parents and students may struggle to know about all of the resources available to them to build interest in and understanding of anthropology. The Museum of Peoples and Cultures is an excellent starting point. Watch our site for another post in the near future about specific resources and strategies available to them.
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