Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Jefferson Chapman

Committee Members

Charles H. Faulkner, Alanson Van Fleet


This study deals with the presence and use of anthropological concepts in seventh grade geography courses in Tennessee public schools. The goals of the thesis were to determine the nature of the anthropological concepts incorporated into the textbooks of seventh grade geography courses in the state for the past twenty-five years, to assess active seventh grade geography teachers' attitudes toward and use of those anthropological concepts, and then to make suggestions on how to improve the use of anthropology in public schools in the state.

The goals were achieved by two methods. First, the textbooks recommended for use by the state in seventh grade geography courses in Tennessee for a twenty-five year period between 1954 to 1979 were located and analyzed for fourteen basic anthropological concepts they might contain. Second, a questionnaire was developed and mailed to a sample group of active seventh grade geography teachers in the Knoxville city school system that permitted an assessment of their feelings on the importance of anthropology to their students' educations, the type of preparation they employed in presenting anthropological concepts to their students, their knowledge of basic anthropological concepts, and their feelings on the best way to introduce anthropology into the public school curriculum.

The textbooks did contain many of the basic anthropological concepts under study. Those concepts were presented accurately but on a very simplistic level. The same basic concepts appeared in the seventh grade textbooks repeatedly throughout the twenty-five year study period. However, the concepts did not develop in number or complexity from 1954 to 1979.

Almost all of the teachers felt that anthropology was important to the education of public school students. The teachers were knowledgeable enough to recognize anthropology and to understand a few basic concepts but were not considered to be extremely competent in anthropology. Almost all of the teachers used their textbooks as their sole source of information for class preparation. Finally, the teachers felt that the best way to introduce anthropology into elementary and secondary schools was by either incorporating anthropological concepts into already existing social studies courses, or by developing a separate course that dealt strictly with anthropology.

It was recommended that interested anthropologists could change the use of anthropological material in social studies courses by pushing local and state boards of education to adopt textbooks that are specific enough to address the subject of the course but broad enough to include any anthropological concepts that are applicable to the course subject. By improving the selection of textbooks, there would be an improvement in the teaching of anthropological concepts by teachers because it was shown that they rely heavily on their textbooks for classroom preparation. They would present to their classes what was found in the textbook. It was also concluded that these teachers were fairly competent in anthropology although not highly knowledgeable, and that they were very interested in anthropology and in it being introduced to their students. It was felt that anthropologists should encourage teacher education in basic anthropological concepts that are applicable to the social studies courses they teach, to inform administrators of the great potential anthropology has when incorporated into existing social studies courses, and to urge realistic and sensible approaches to incorporating anthropology into social studies by realizing the pressures of budget, work load, etc., that school administrators and teachers must face.

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Anthropology Commons