Foundations of Anthropology at the University of California   Seal of The University of California
Alfred Louis Kroeber: Objectives of Graduate Instruction and Research in Anthropology

October 24
Dean C. B. Lipman
California Hall

Dear Dean Lipman:

I transmit the requested report on objectives of graduate study and research. I have already apologized for its belatedness. Doctors Lowie and Olson have gone over the whole ground with me.

I should genuinely appreciate a reaction from the committee or yourself on the several problems raised. The most difficult as well as perhaps most important seems that of increase of interdepartmental correlation in graduate teaching.

As regards the undergraduate-graduate transition, it would help enormously if the plan could be adopted In Letters and Science which in the past year or two I have several times heard mentioned as a possibility, namely the abolition of the major as a requirement, upper-division students being segregated into at-large or pass students, and students specializing in a major field. Until a change of this sort is brought about, however, I think the problem will remain to plague us in graduate social science.

There is one important matter which I did not include in the re port because I was not sure whether it would be appropriate. If it is, please attach the following paragraphs to t he report itself.

This point concerns the subject-matter of anthropology and to what extent we are covering it. Three divisions of anthropology are generally recognized: (1) cultural or social anthropology, that is, ethnology and archaeology; (2) linguistics; and (3) physical anthropology. The departments elsewhere parallel to ourselves all offer systematic work in either two or three of these fields: Harvard and Yale in two, Chic ago and Columbia in three. Cultural anthropology is everywhere the basis. Harvard also covers physical anthropology, Y ale linguistics, Chicago and Columbia both. I mean by this they have on their staff a man who is a specialist in linguistics or physical anthropology, or two such men. We have neither. All three of us here are cultural anthropologists. We give no physical anthropology beyond the lower division course, and little linguistics.

During most of the last two decades I have kept list


ed one or sometimes two linguistic courses, and these have occasionally found students. It is however a subject that takes time to train people in properly, and I have had less and less time left over. Of late years I have therefore refused to take students unless they came sufficiently trained in some branch of philology. While I consider this requirement all to the good, it is one that shuts out most of our own students, who consequently go out from the Ph. D. entirely innocent of linguistics. This is specifically unfortunate because of the importance of linguistics as a tool in ethnological field-work, and generically regrettable because of the narrowing of experience and vision which it entails. We ought to be offering regularly at least one course on primitive linguistics in order to induct our own students into this field and to make them realize the desirability, if they want to go farther, of getting a n adequate preparation through some branch of recognized philology. After that we ought to be offering at least one strictly graduate course in linguistics for those who wish to specialize in the subject and for those of our prospective ethnologists who want linguistics also and have acquired the proper preparation for it. Such a program, I am afraid, will never be realized until we have a man giving full time, or the major part of his time, to the subject. I cannot possibly carry the load without slighting my undergraduate and graduate job in cultural anthropology.

During the past six years the Committee on the Study of America n Indian Languages has allotted $60,000 of Foundation money in grants for field work and analysis. Of this sum, just $550, or less than one per cent, went to the University of California, simply because we did not have sufficiently trained personnel to participate; although about $10,000 of the total was spent in the California area.

The situation is parallel in physical anthropology. This ought to be represented first of all by an upper division course specifically devoted to the subject. Such a course would appeal to certain of our majors, and would also draw premedical students, along with an occasional zoologist. Those who wanted to go on to graduate study centering in physical anthropology could then be sent to get their fundamental anatomy. After that they would be ready to come back to genuine graduate work in physical anthropology. None of our present staff could give this 1atter training because we lack the grounding in straight anatomy.

The tie-up between physical and cultural anthropology, which essentially are headed toward biology and social science respectively, occurs in the important field of prehistory. This is fundamentally cultural in its objective: but its data occur in nature so intimately associated with those of physical anth-


ropology (fossil man, etc.) that a well-grounded physical anthropologist is also of necessity a prehistorian, and vice versa. I need not say that prehistory is of intrinsic importance, and of considerable appeal in every university where it has been well taught.

Several years ago the question of having physical anthropology represented in the University was brought up, and a committee reported favorably. However two years ago when it came to a point of choosing between adding a physical anthropologist or a third man in cultural anthropology, I decided after much heartburning that it was better for us to intensify what we were already doing rather than spread out into a new field. Dean Deutsch agreed with me, and the result is that Professor Olson was added to the staff. With the heavy demands of undergraduate teaching here, I think the choice was wise. But of course it means that, for the next few years at least we shall continue to train men really in only one of the three sub-fields of anthropology, whereas our competitors, if I may call them so, train them in two or in three. Sooner or later this condition will have to be remedied if the University wishes us and the quality of our Ph. D. output not to fall behind.

Sincerely yours



The principal objective of graduate study and research in the Department of Anthropology is considered to be the training of men who will form the next generation of anthropologists; who, in other words, will be among those representing the profession in research, and in turn grounding their successors.

The situation in regard to such students is pretty clear-cut because the majority of professional positions in the subject are in universities, so that usually nothing short of a Ph. D. comes into question. Anthropology has so far got no foothold whatever in the high schools. In fact, only a few sporadic attempt s have been made to introduce it into junior colleges, and most four-year colleges and a few universities have not yet taken up the subject. The prospective school teacher finds anthropology without value to her. There is also almost no demand of an applied or practical nature for the subject. The typical serious graduate student therefore comes to us with the id ea of being an anthropologist and making his living in an academic position or its equivalent.

California is one of four or five universities at which anthropology is sufficiently well developed to make the Institution a natural place of training for anthropologists. Virtually all of the Ph. D.'s conferred in the subject have been given at Harvard, Columbia, Chicago, and California, plus a few scattered ones at Pennsylvania; and Yale, which formally instituted the subject a year ago, will no doubt have to be added to this list hereafter. In this Ph. D. training our position is strong for several reasons and weak in one respect. The advantages we possess are: a well worked out and comprehensive scheme of undergraduate training, the presence of a museum, and special opportunities for field work. Our handicap is, or rather has been, overemphasis on the undergraduate side.

Undergraduate Training.- The only institution which exacts of its graduate students a subject preparation equivalent to our own is Harvard. At Columbia, Chicago, and Yale the departments beg an essentially as graduate ones, and have largely remained so. The result is that their work is weak in its underpinning. Students lack both the information which they need, and the organization of elementary ideas which accompany such knowledge. W e believe that our situation in this regard is much sounder. We made an exchange with the Harvard people last year of the comprehensive examinations set undergraduate majors. Each of us were a little fearful that we were perhaps over-requiring mere information in distinction from understanding, but on comparison we agreed that our examinations were of about equal difficulty and similar in weighting.


This subject prerequisite is entirely satisfactory for graduate students who have had their undergraduate work with us, but is less satisfactory for students whose undergraduate work has been taken elsewhere. Even if such new students fulfill the general university requirement by taking 12 units of upper division courses, plus perhaps auditing one or two courses in addition, they acquire only about one-half the familiarity with the subject as our own majors who have had 8 units of lover division and 18 to 24 units of upper division anthropology.

We doubt whether it would be wise or fair to increase the existing requirement by insisting upon additional courses, because so doing would involve too many technical curricular difficulties. We do feel however that in principle it would be desirable if all students embarking upon Ph. D. work began with a training equivalent to that exacted of our own majors, as defined roughly by the comprehensive examination. This would probably involve no curricular complications, and in the case of the best men ought to result in no loss of time, for students from elsewhere. We are suggesting here the comprehensive as added to the existing 12-unit prerequisite, not as replacing it. W e are not ready at the moment to make a definite proposal on this point; but a recommendation may follow.

Museum work.- A second strong factor in the California situation is the presence of a good museum under departmental control. This advantage we share only with Harvard. In its present instalment, the Museum of Anthropology to able to furnish exhibition to undergraduate classes only to a limited degree. On t he other hand, we have specific facilities for advanced students to do individual pieces of research in the Museum. While each semester with rare exceptions graduate students were formerly unable to spare the time consumed in several trips a week to the far end of San Francisco, we now have several students at work in the Museum on problems. There is also a professional course, 490AB, on Museum Methods.

Field study.- Field work is still more important than museum work, because it presents an even nearer equivalent to laboratory in the natural sciences. Here we have the advantage over all eastern institutions, this time including Harvard, of proximity to the field, especially in ethnological research, and t he consequent possibility of such field studies being carried even with small resources. With one exception, every past recipient of the Ph. D. In Anthropology at California, has performed a creditable and productive piece of field research. We do not look upon field investigation as the crown of anthropological training. We do however consider it an integral part. There is the further fact that the nature of anthropological data is such that even a man who is unable to achieve fundamentally new interpretations, is often able through field work to make a worth-while contribution of useful data. Besides, a certain solidity is imparted to his efforts; he develops the sense of adding something to the sum of human know ledge; and he tends to acquire the attitude of productive scholarship.


For a number of years the larger part of the funds received fro m the Board of Research have been allotted by the department to advanced students who show promise of not only profiting by field work themselves., but of making a genuine increment to anthropological knowledge. This policy had its beginning even before the establishment of the Board of Research, when President Wheeler in 1909 first granted a departmental appropriation for research, being no doubt guided by the fact that the department was established in 1901 primarily not for teaching, either graduate or undergraduate, but as a research agency.

Undergraduate relations.- The handicap under which we carried o n for many years was a necessary over-emphasis on undergraduate instruction, due to smallness of staff. With three m en of professorial grade, the situation is now better. There is however a hang-over of difficulty, due to the unusual nature of all undergraduate work in Berkeley. Our classes are large -- not as compared with most of those in the other social sciences, but as compared with those in anthropology in other institutions. The major students in them are in the minority. The courses must therefore be kept from assuming too technical or professional an aspect; and they must also perforce be given primarily through the medium of lectures. The student's attitude thus inevitably becomes too largely a passive one. The result is that when he enters graduate work he finds himself suddenly called upon to deploy initiative without being trained in it. Thrown into a seminar with more mature students, he is relatively helpless; and while bitter experience such as he then encounters may be fruitful to him in the end, his flounderings are not to the profit of his maturer associates.

It was with this situation in mind that we instituted the pro-seminar which is now in its second year. It is intended as a device for demonstrating to students what the nature of their work as graduates during the next few years will be -- and incidentally for weeding out the unfit.

General problem of undergraduate-graduate transition.- This problem is rather peculiar to Berkeley a because at the only other large university intensively pursuing graduate anthropology on the basis of serious prerequisites, namely Harvard, the undergraduate classes, except for two or three, are very much smaller, and consist primarily of major students (concentrators) in the subject. The great majority of anthropological courses at Harvard fall into what they, call "the middle group". Most undergraduates who want anthropology only to round out a general educational program, do not go beyond the two or three most general courses. A "middle group" course may therefore average an enrolment of 10 anthropology majors, 5 undergraduates specializing in related fields and therefore taking the course with a definite purpose, and perhaps 10 first and second year graduate students. A body of men like this can obviously be handled very differently from one of our upper division courses, which may consist of perhaps 15 majors and 50 or 60 miscellaneous undergraduates. Under the Harvard conditions the advanced undergraduate learns


from the graduates with whom he is in almost daily association; an d the entire course can be conducted with greater emphasis on initiative and more reference to individuals.

The possibility of such a condition is however wholly imaginary so far as Berkeley is concerned. It is cited only to indicate that we are here face to face with a problem which must b e met somehow. Part of the answer is the pro-seminar; but the entire solution is not yet found.

We cannot hope to learn very much from the procedure of the natural sciences, because conditions are too different. A subject like chemistry, for instance, is from its very nature far more highly organized than anthropology or history or any social science can hope to be. It is also from the beginning of to aching a laboratory subject, with all the opportunities that this involves for throwing iniative upon the student. The University can and does provide laboratory facilities in chemistry for 500 freshmen; it could not provide the equivalent in ethnological field work for 50 seniors, nor could these correspondingly profit by it. Finally, natural science is begun in the high school; anthropology not until the sophomore year, so that a beginning Ph. D. student has had five years of his subject as against three. Hence we feel that this problem of the transition from the undergraduate to the graduate method must be worked out in our own way, and not by precedent in the methods or standards of other disciplines.

Interdepartmental Relations in the Social Sciences.- An analogous problem exists in regard to the relation of anthropology to the other social sciences. We feel that all the social sciences have become too separatist. The prevailing condition on this point has been made clearer by the fortunate abolition of the minor. While properly qualified graduate students in anthropology ought to have a real background at least in geography and history, and if possible also in the natural history aspects of biology and certain phases of economics, etc., this is not the case. Our recently introduced background prerequisite in these subjects meets this lack in some measure, but also shows how much more is needed. The situation is that of late years we have had practically none but prospective anthropologists in our own graduate courses, and practically none of our students have been in graduate courses in other departments . I believe that this undesirable condition holds throughout the social science wing of the University. Students who wish to strengthen themselves in a correlated subject such as history, of which they have had an insufficiency as undergraduates, find it impossible to do so to most cases, except at prohibitive cost of time in taking prerequisite courses. The same applies as regards geography, psychology, etc., and conversely to students in these subjects who as graduate students would like to know something of the tie-ups of their subject to anthropology.

Again, a parallel with the natural sciences would be misleading . Chemistry and physics, for instance, are united not only in the curriculum but in the undergraduate students mind.


He knows by the time he is a sophomore that he cannot get far in one without having a decent grounding in the other. The same holds for the relation of astronomy to mathematics, and of the various biological sciences to one another. To bring about a corresponding attitude in the social sciences would mean that our whole undergraduate or even highschool system of education would have to be remodeled.

There is however something that can be done within the Graduate Division. This would be the establishment of a set of graduate courses conducted strictly in a graduate spirit but different in scope from primarily departmental courses. Such anthropological courses would concern themselves with the historical, geographical, or psychological as well as anthropological aspects of certain topics; and correspondingly in other departments. For such courses the 12-unit special-discipline prerequisite should be waived in favor of a sol id prerequisite in any social science subject plus perhaps full graduate status. From courses of this nature, properly relate d as to objective, and properly conducted, a student specializing in any social science could derive far more in one or two semesters, in the way of the fundamental tie-up of his subject to related ones, than by taking four upper division lecture courses plus perhaps a couple of graduate seminars of professional training type.

It is with the idea of heading toward teaching of this type that we are this year instituting the new courses Anthropology 218 and 225. It remains to be seen whether these will justify them selves in their actual working out; in fact whether they will draw the students whom we most aim to reach. We believe however that somehwere along the line of this idea is the possibility of overcoming what seems to be the greatest defect in our graduate training in the social sciences. Certainly as soon as other departments are prepared to offer courses of this sort we should urge and expect our own students to avail themselves of these; if necessary by including appropriate questions in the written portion of the qualifying examination. for the Ph. D.

We should also appreciate the reactions on this point of the Committee on Objectives of Graduate Teaching.

The M. A.- Only one other point remains to be disposed of: the M.A. Anthropology not being taught in the high schools, we are free of satisfying any needs for the M. A. or the teacher's certificate. We feel that the M.A. in general has lost its original meaning and become diverted to essentially practical purposes. It is thoroughly foreign in spirit from the Ph. D. It mixes students of different aspirations and calibre, cluttering up the work of the Ph. D. men and giving the M.A. candidates an illusory semblance of something better than they or their degree are. Its only possible justification in anthropology is as a species of half-way insurance for Ph.D. candidates who for economic reasons are uncertain of being able to continue to their real degree. We should heartily favor abolition of the M.A., or its removal from the graduate division; or at least its complete curricular separation from the Ph.D.

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