Dr. Charles F. Urbanowicz / Professor of Anthropology
Department of Anthropology
California State University, Chico
Chico, California 95929-0400
530-898-6220 [Office]; 530-898-6192 [Dept.] FAX: 530-898-6824
e-mail: / home page:

27 April 1999 (1)

[This page printed from]

This page appears as a chapter (pages 132-140) in Strategies In Teaching Anthropology (2000), Edited by Patricia Rice and David McCurdy (NJ: Prentice-Hall). The second edition ofStrategies In Teaching Anthropology was published in 2002 (also edited by Patricia Rice and David McCurdy and a Prentice-Hall publication) and my chapter entitled "Teaching as Theatre" is in that volume (pages 147-149).



A number of teaching "tricks" can be woven together to encourage students to appreciate cultural diversity wherever it exists. In my introductory Cultural Anthropology course, I use various quotations, selected mnemonics, appropriate transparencies, and as much current information as possible. All can be interwoven into a single course, or one "trick" can be used alone, as instructors see the fit with their own courses.


"Remember, Jim [Michener]. Writing a book or a dozen books [or giving a lecture or a dozens of lectures] doesn't remake you or create miracles. Next morning, when you wake up, you're the same horse's ass you were yesterday. Writing [or teaching!] is a job. Do it well, it's a great life. Mess around, its disappointments will kill you." James A. Michener, 1992, The World is my Home: A Memoir, p. 323.

The courses I regularly teach (and some for over 25 years) include a lower division Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (that briefly mentions archaeology, physical anthropology, and language), an upper division course on Peoples and Cultures of the Pacific, and the History of Anthropological Thought. I occasionally teach a graduate-level seminar, "Darwin" being the most recent. For the most part, however, I teach term-long courses in introductory cultural anthropology that range in size from 40-125 students. Most, if not all of the students in classes are taking the course as part of their General Education requirements.

Introductory Cultural Anthropology is designated a lecture-discussion course and it is heavily mediated. There are writing assignments, examinations, and as many discussions in class that can be generated in a large lecture hall (filled at times with some students who haven't an idea what anthropology is all about). Students are required to purchase a Notebook (that I developed) which includes lecture outlines, film notes, and terminology.



Throughout the term, I incorporate various "quotes" from anthropologists and non-anthropologists to get certain ideas across; these include ideas from various authors of fiction that students may have read at some point in time.

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness." Samuel Langhorn Clemens, also known as Mark Twain [1835-1910].

"Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow there, as weeds among stones." Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855).

Students may not have read Marcus, Mead, or Malinowski (yet), but perhaps they have been exposed to Twain and Brontë. As an anthropology instructor, you might consider incorporating your favorite authors into class lectures. Students do read for leisure at times and I am willing to draw on any author to get an idea across, be they historical authors or contemporary writers of fiction:

"Okay, class--what you see at the scene of a homicide is frozen in time. It is no longer a moving, living dynamic. You can create several stories about this still life, but these are only theories. A detective, like an archaeologist, can assemble hard facts and solid scientific evidence, and still draw the wrong conclusions. Add to this, a few lies and red herrings and people who are trying to help but make mistakes. Plus people who tell you what you want to hear consistent with your theory, and people with hidden agendas, and the murderer himself, who may have planted false clues. Through all this mess of contradictions, inconsistencies, and lies is the truth [stress added]" Nelson DeMille, 1997, Plum Island, page 215.

Perhaps students have read DeMille, perhaps not, but if students read what the archaeologist or biological anthropologist does is similar to what a homicide detective does (someone who might be more familiar to them because of their television "cultural knowledge"), perhaps they will see some value in anthropological approaches.



"What Bosch had were just parts of the whole. What he needed was the glue that would correctly hold them together. When he had first received his gold shield he had a partner on the robbery table in Van Nuys who told him that facts weren't the most important part of an investigation, the glue was. He said the glue was made of instinct, imagination, sometimes guesswork and most times just plain luck." Michael Connelly, 1996, The Black Ice, page 163.

Anthropology is obviously an exciting subject and for Introductory courses, I utilize a KISfS idea: Keeping It Simple for Students. Most of my students in these introductory classes range from 17 to 19 old (with a few "older seniors finishing their general education requirements and at times, a few older reentry students) and one of my personal problems is how to not share everything I know in a single term: the choice of material to be covered and "distillation" of ideas is essential. I have created various mnemonics that I incorporate into lectures and that summarize my vision of anthropology; KISfS is one of them.

ABCDE is another mnemonic that summarizes my vision of cultural anthropology: to me, anthropology is the Appreciation of Basic Cultural Diversity Everywhere. I stress in lectures, as well as in readings and films, that in order to "appreciate" basic cultural diversity, one must first acknowledge cultural diversity as well as accept it. The ABCs seem to get the idea across for me. I often combine quotations and mnemonics in an attempt to summarize a great deal of information into a single tight phrase. I share these quotes with students in their Notebook (and on the web) or on large transparencies:

"The unit of survival [or adaptation] is organism plus environment. We are learning by bitter experience that the organism which destroys its environment destroys itself." (Gregory Bateson, 1972, Steps to an Ecology of Mind, page 483)

"....descriptions vary with the conceptual or theoretical framework within which they are couched. To evaluate a description properly one must know something about the theoretical framework that brought it into being." (D. Kaplan and R. Manners, 1972, Culture Theory, page 22)

Another alphabetical mnemonic I use building on Bateson, is simply FGHI, which (in my mind) stands for Foraging, Gathering, Hunting, and Invention. While "true inventions" take place in foraging, gathering, and hunting societies, I use my definition of "inventions" to discuss continuing adaptation to the environment and the development of agriculture and eventually the industrial revolution. FGHI builds upon ABCDE and it seems to work in getting ideas across to students and having them think about anthropology and retain information about various people and how those people adapted to their environments. With my quotes, I continue to weave fact and fiction together when appropriate: " Don't fall in love with the theory of the case. It was, in fact, one of [Butch] Karp's sacred maxims." Robert K. Tanenbaum, 1996, Falsely Accused, page 316.

A final mnemonic that seems to work (and I have "created" these to allow me to easily recall keep a great deal of information) occurs when I get students to think about "research" and their own research and writing projects: here I use PQRSTU, standing for (again in my mind): Problem, Question(s), Research, Solution(s), Temporary Understanding (and possibly Verisimilitude). Every researcher is faced with a "problem" and the research that we do is generated by the questions that we ask: we come up with solutions and temporary understanding, and perhaps we even approach verisimilitude or truth in our research. I argue that PQRSTU is what all scientists do and it seems to work. At this point, I point out to the class:

"In the field of observation, chance only favors those who are prepared." Louis Pasteur (1822-1895)

"We were getting close to the answer and I was beginning to fly. I could feel my brain cells doing a little tap dance of delight. I was half-skipping, excitement bubbling out of me as we crossed the street. 'I love information. I love information. Isn't this great? God, it's fun...'" (The character Kinsey Milhone, in Sue Grafton, 1990, "G" Is For Gumshoe, page 277)

"Research is the key. You can never do enough research. This is so vital I'll repeat it. You can never to enough research. … Research can either lower the odds or tell you it's hopeless." (Clive Cussler & Craig Dirgo, 1996, The Sea Hunters, page xxxi)

By now, students have read some anthropologists and perhaps they are also familiar with the novels of Sue Grafton or Clive Cussler's action pieces: anything to get them to read and think! Of course, when one uses novels to get certain ideas across, one must also be prepared to explain the following to the audience: "The structural engineers and the marine scientists huddled around in small circles, mumbling to themselves as they frantically shoved their slide rules back and forth [stress added]" (Clive Cussler, 1976, Raise The Titanic, page 219). The instructor must always remember the age of the students: what may have been "real things: such as the slide rule, for the instructor are but wisps of "memory culture" or "ancient history" or unknown to the undergraduate student of today.

A final way to incorporate these verbal "tricks" into lectures is to associate the mnemonics or quotes with one "master" transparency that I begin the class with: the passage of time in a given term along one axis versus the increase of knowledge or information shared/obtained in the term along the other axis. A hard copy of this transparency can be found at the end of this article; it can be turned into a transparency to use in class. With this cumulative and temporal approach, I then use a "building block" approach to develop various ideas and theories, such as the following for FGHI and PQRSTU. (See end of article for these two figures.) Using these and other visuals as a constant template, the semester flows smoothly. Incidentally, RSTU is used to encourage the following in their assigned readings: Reading, Studying, Thinking, and Understanding. Merely reading an article is not the same as studying it, thinking about it, or even understanding it: unfortunately, too many individuals think "reading" is sufficient, and it is not.



In order to make anthropology "relevant" to today's students, I feel we must point out that what anthropologists "do" does have an impact in the "real world" (or the non-academic world) and information from the real world can be interpreted in an anthropological context. I use, as I know many of us do, cartoons of an anthropological nature (not only Gary Larson, but Watterson's "Calvin and Hobbes" and Thaves' "Frank and Ernest"); they provide ample topics for classroom discussion and getting things started.

Aware that many of my students do not spend a great deal of time reading newspapers, I attempt to incorporate as many newspaper articles (and headlines) as possible in the classroom, making transparencies as large as possible of various contemporary events: whenever the American Anthropological Association meetings are held, or the Association for the Advancement of Sciences meetings are occurring, I look for articles in the local paper and use them in class. I also tell students that I use "these references" as a jumping off point to go to scholarly publications, such as Science or Nature. Indeed, other disciplines use this approach and one can substitute the word "anthropology" for "Mathematics" in the following phrase and it makes perfect sense:

"It's time to let the secret out: Mathematics [or Anthropology] is not primarily a matter of plugging numbers into formulas and performing rote computations. It is a way of thinking and questioning that may be unfamiliar to many of us, but is available to almost all of us [stress added]." John Allen Paulos, 1995, A Mathematician Reads The Newspaper, page 3.

In addition to cartoons, and newspapers, I keep a blank videotape in my home/office VCR at all times and when something pops up that appears appropriate, I tape it (archive it), and use it in class when appropriate. I also use segments of various videotapes to get certain ideas across and I find the opening segment from Fiddler on the Roof a great introduction for certain points in the course. Other small segments of contemporary culture would work well in introductory-level courses.

"Myth and rumor come first. People don't believe it until they see it with their own eyes. Then suddenly there it is, and afterward nobody even remembers we disbelieved it. It seems ridiculous to have discounted it. It's all hubris. We think ourselves as the chosen ones, the supreme beings on the whole planet. We think we own the place, but we don't know the first thing about it." (John Darnton, 1996, Neanderthal, page 51)

Once again, perhaps they have read Darnton's Neanderthal, or perhaps I can encourage them to read Trikhaus and Shipman's 1993 publication entitled The Neanderthals: Changing The Image of Mankind. Perhaps they can read the scholarly works and compare the established scholarship with the "fiction" woven into the following novel by Clive Cussler:

"'Sinanthropus pekinensis,' Sandecker spoke the words almost reverently. 'Chinese man of Peking, a very ancient and primitive human who walked upright on two feet. In nineteen twenty-nine the discovery of his skull was announced by a Canadian anatomist Dr. Davidson Black, who directed the excavation and was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. Over the next several years, digging in a quarry that had once been a hill with limestone caves near the village of Choukoutien, Black found thousands of chipped-stone tools and evidence of hearths, which indicated Peking man had mastered fire. Excavations carried out over the next ten years found the partial remains of another forty individuals, both juveniles and adults, and what has been acknowledged as the largest hominid fossil collection ever assembled." Clive Cussler, 1997, Flood Tide, page 483.

For the past few years I have also been placing my introductory anthropology syllabus as a Notebook on the world wide web (for the fall 1998 syllabus please see; and for the spring 1999 syllabus, please see with lecture outlines and appropriate world wide web sites. The copyrighted Notebook is available for purchase at the student bookstore and I update the notebook every Monday with new web sites and appropriate course information; this keeps the course current for me and for the students and seems to work well. Web-pages for particular courses and email communications with students are becoming more and more common and will continue to be an important vehicle for communication in the future.



"Anthropologists are highly individual and specialized people. Each of them [or us!] is marked by the kind of work he or she prefers and has done, which in time becomes an aspect of that individual's personality." (Margaret Mead [1901-1978]) As cited in Isaac Asimov & Jason Shulman, eds., 1988, Isaac Asimov's Book of Science And Nature Quotations, page 20.

All in all, anthropology is fun! I enjoy what I do and in a few words, I honestly believe that teaching should be fun. I will use any "hard" anthropological data available to get the anthropological message across and any "soft" fictional data (or ideas) which are also appropriate. When I first came to California State University, Chico in 1973, some faculty in the Department of Geography were using a 1949 publication entitled Earth Abides by George R. Stewart (1895-1980). I had never read the novel before but once I did read it, I have used it in my introductory classes ever since. The book is most appropriate for a northern California setting: the opening scenes take place a few miles outside of Chico in the foothills of the community of Oroville. The story quickly moves to the San Francisco Bay Area (where approximately 50% of our student body comes from) and the imagery and information presented is something that the students can readily identify with; it is a "classic" novel and the best summary comes from the anthropologist Leon Stover who wrote the following in Current Anthropology in 1973:

"Anthropological science fiction enjoys the philosophical luxury of providing answers to the question 'What is man?' while anthropology the science is still learning how to frame it. … Perhaps the most persuasive answer to the question is Earth Abides (Stewart 1949). The novel reverses the story of Ishi, which Kroeber (1962) has recorded as the 'biography of the last wild Indian in North America.' Ishi, the last member of the Yahi Indians [of northern California], stepped out of an isolated Stone Age existence into a world of trolley cars and electric lights in early 20th Century California. Ishi's name in the Yahi language means 'man.' Ish [in Earth Abides] survives a pandemic disease to see civilization collapse and his children and grandchildren return to the life of Stone Age hunters. Ish is the last of the civilized Americans, Ishi the last of the aboriginal Americans. The one fiction, the other biography, both have the same moral: man is man, be he civilized or tribal. Stewart shows us that a tribal hunting culture is just as valid and real to its members as civilization is to us." Leon E. Stover, 1973, Anthropology And Science Fiction. Current Anthropology, Vol. 14(4), pages 471-474, page 472.

There are other pieces of fiction that are based on particular locals that can be exploited for use in introductory-level courses.

I firmly believe that learning should be fun but teaching is work and the words of the French Essayist Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) couldn't be more truthful: Enseigner, c'est apprendre deux fois, or "to teach is to learn twice." (In George W. Seldes, compiler, 1985, The Great Thoughts, page 215).



Figure 1: Increase in Knowledge Over The Passage of Time.



Figure 2: FGHI (Foraging, Gathering, Hunting, and into Invention and the Industrial Revolution).


Figure 3: PQRSTU (Problem, Question[s], Research, Solution(s), Temporary Understanding).

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Asimov, Isacc & Jason Shulman [editors], 1988, Isaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Bateson, Gregory, 1972, Steps to an Ecology of Mind. San Francisco: Chandler Publishing Co.

Connelly, Michael, 1996, The Black Ice. New York: St. Martins.

Cussler, Clive, 1976, Raise The Titanic. NY: Pocket Books.

Cussler, Clive, 1997, Flood Tide. NY: Pocket Books.

Cussler, Clive, & Craig Dirgo, 1996, The Sea Hunters. NY: Pocket Books.

Darnton, John, 1996, Neanderthal. New York: St. Martin's Press.

DeMille, Nelson, 1997, Plum Island. New York: Warner Books.

Grafton, Sue, 1990, "G" Is For Gumshoe. New York: Bantam Books.

Kaplan, D. and R. Manners, 1972, Culture Theory. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Kroeber, Theodora, 1962, Ishi In Two Worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Michener, James, 1992, The World is my Home: A Memoir. New York: Fawcett.

Paulos, John Allen, 1995, A Mathematician Reads The Newspaper. New York: Doubleday.

Seldes, George W. [compiler], 1985, The Great Thoughts. New York: Ballantine Books.

Stewart, George R., 1949, Earth Abides. New York: Fawcett.

Stover, Leon E., 1973, Anthropology And Science Fiction. Current Anthropology, Vol. 14, No. 4, pages 471-474,

Tanenbaum, Robert K. 1996, Falsely Accused. New York: Signet.

Trikhaus, Erik and Pat Shipman, 1993, The Neanderthals: Changing The Image of Mankind. New York: Knopf.

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1. This page appears as a chapter (pages 132-140) in Strategies In Teaching Anthropology (2000), Edited by Patricia Rice and David McCurdy (NJ: Prentice-Hall). For this web page, Urbanowicz adds the following:

"I have prepared a written article entitled 'Mnemonic, Quotations, Cartoons, and a Notebook: 'Tricks' for Appreciating Cultural Diversity' and I grant and assign solely and exclusively to the Publishers of this Work and all rights in the Work and all deriviative works throughout the world, in all languages, for the full term of copyright and all renewals and extensions thereof, and the rights to secure copyright in the Publisher's name or any other name. This grant includes, but is not limited to, the exclusive rights to reproduce, print, distribute, market, promote, publish, sell, license, broadcast, or transmit, in all channels of distribution, the Work and derivitative works, in whole or in part, in all forms, formats, media and versions, now know or hereafter developed, including, without limitation, by any electronic or electromagnetic means or analog or digital signal, or on any human of machine readable medium, including as part of an electronic database, and to license others to exercise and all such rights. For these rights, I accept the payment of two gratis copies of the volume as the sole compensation for the article."

If you have accidentally come across this page, you might also be interested in "Teaching as Theatre" in Strategies In Teaching Anthropology (2001), Edited by Patricia Rice and David McCurdy (NJ: Prentice-Hall), based upon a paper entitled "Teaching As Theatre: Some Classroom Ideas, Specifically Those Concerning Charles R. Darwin (1809-1882)" presented at the 99th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association (November 15-19, 2000), San Francisco, California. To return to the beginning of this page, however, please click here.

[~3,661 words]

To go to the home page of Charles F. Urbanowicz.

To go to the home page of the Department of Anthropology.

To go to the home page of California State University, Chico.

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Charles F. Urbanowicz

Cosmetic changes on 13 February 2003

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