This article describes several ways that anthropologists of education can maximize impact on knowledge projects, policies, and practices. The approaches discussed here are all anchored in powerful and distinctive qualities of our field, and include: (1) Centering our disciplinary authority by refusing to capitulate to dominant forms of knowledge, (2) adopting the sensibilities of public anthropology, and (3) being as expansive in our collaborations and networks as we are in our considerations of context.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
In 2011, I took on a role as an external evaluator of the Turnaround River City Leadership Project (TRC) in my new home of Minnesota. This was a five‐year U.S. Department of Education–funded initiative intended to create dramatic improvement in low‐performing schools by removing bureaucratic barriers and enhancing leadership capacity. I was soon learning a great deal about the role of leadership in school improvement efforts, but was also keen to investigate the extent to which urban and immigrant students were acquiring similar as well as different forms of psychological capital. I realized, however, that the category of psychological capital would be likely unfamiliar to the district’s research review committee, the teachers and school leaders with whom I’d be working, and the interdisciplinary urban affairs grant program to which I’d be applying for funding. I soon became aware of the literature on “non‐cognitive factors,” “soft‐skills,” “grit,” “developmental assets,” as well as “academic mindsets” underlying student academic success, and saw that these were more the categories‐in‐use, or “conventional wisdom” of the researchers who had carried out most of the studies to date in this area. This literature was dominated by largely interventionist research in psychology and social psychology. I was also strongly motivated by indignation at the continuing hegemony of analyses of educational disparities that continue to identify assets and deficits at the level of the individual, and by critiques of the neoliberal individualist assumptions that underlie the “grit” discourse more generally (see, e.g., Golden ; Herold ). So, in writing the grant proposal for the project, I realized that in order to try to broaden “the framework of discussion” on this topic (Peacock , 113), I would need to, and at least for the time being, adopt these categories‐in‐use.
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- engaged anthropology