Establishing Barriers to Entry in Archaeology
This Post-Dispatch article quotes several archaeologists who are unhappy with a high school dig that’s taking place on private property. The teacher who’s supervising the work doesn’t have the credentials he would need if he wanted to use a federal grant. The criticisms look like a thinly veiled attempt to keep out competition:
Mark Raab, acting president of the Missouri Association of Professional Archaeologists, said he’s thrilled students are getting exposure to archaeology, but adds that the question lies in whether it’s being done to the highest professional standard.
Of course, any work done by high school students is not going to meet the highest professional standard. They’ve only recently started working in the field.
As for the teacher’s credentials, these students are fortunate to have a teacher with any archaeological training; it’s unreasonable to insist that a high school teacher study archaeology full time for 12 months straight, as the federally funded archaeologists are required to do. This teacher worked on excavations over two summers, when school was out. And there’s no guarantee that he would make better decisions if he had more degrees.
If every high school dig had to meet the most exacting standards, high schoolers simply wouldn’t be able to experience archaeology.
There are some cases in which allowing a lower standard for educational purposes is inappropriate. For example, I argued that people should not be allowed to own dangerous wild animals, even though restricting wildlife ownership to zoos will mean that some people miss out on opportunities to learn to care for the animals. The danger to other people outweighs the potential educational benefits.
But, in the case of the high school archaeological dig, the only ones who stand to lose from suboptimal work are the property owners — and they’re OK with it. If they want to call in top archaeologists, that’s their prerogative. And, if they want to turn the dig over to a teacher and his students, they’re free to do that.
The article puts it this way:
There is no standard process to follow if a high school group wants to dig on private property.
That’s how it should be.