ARG-179

The following appeared in an article written by Dr. Karp, an anthropologist.

"Twenty years ago, Dr. Field, a noted anthropologist, visited the island of Tertia and concluded from his observations that children in Tertia were reared by an entire village rather than by their own biological parents. However, my recent interviews with children living in the group of islands that includes Tertia show that these children spend much more time talking about their biological parents than about other adults in the village. This research of mine proves that Dr. Field's conclusion about Tertian village culture is invalid and thus that the observation-centered approach to studying cultures is invalid as well. The interview-centered method that my team of graduate students is currently using in Tertia will establish a much more accurate understanding of child-rearing traditions there and in other island cultures."


Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.


According to the article, some anthropologists recommend that all future research on Tertian child-rearing practices be conducted via the interview-centered method. The conclusion mainly rests on Dr. Karp’s contention that the interview-centered method is superior to the observation-centered approach, a judgement that in turn relies on a comparison between Dr. Karp’s and Dr. Field’s respective conclusion about Tertian culture. Unfortunately, the evidence cited in the article is insufficient for the readers to generate a clear preference between the two approaches, and a series of questions should be addressed to really corroborate the anthropologists’ recommendation.


For starters, based on her observation, Dr. Field concluded that Tertian children were raised by the entire village, while Dr. Karp’s interview implied that, because children on the group of islands including Tertia spent more time talking about their birthparents, Tertian children must be raised by their biological parents. This apparent difference led Dr. Karp to deny Dr. Field’s conclusion, but there are three implicit steps where she should have been more critical.


First, there is not necessarily a connection between how frequent a child talked about someone and who that child was raised by. It is possible that while she was raised by the whole village, she still recognized he parents, and was emotionally more attached to them, making them more often the theme of her speech. Thus, the interviewer had better propose the direct question of who brought these children, rather than look for indirect clues.


Second, it is not known whether there are differences between the culture on Tertian and the culture on adjacent islands. Dr. Karp investigated a group of islands including Tertian, but she did not specifically state is Tertian children responded the way children from other islands did. It is possible that the children from Tertia were among the few interviewees who did not display a sharp discrepancy between the lengths of conversations devoted to their parents and to other adults. To firmly reach a conclusion about Tertia, she should really focus on just Tertia, rather than include other islands that are not necessarily related.


Third, assuming that Dr. Karp was right about Tertian child-rearing culture, it does not instantly contradict Dr. Field’s position. After all, Dr. Field’s observation was conducted two decades ago, whereas Dr. Karp’s interview just took place. It is simply unknown whether there has been a drastic cultural shift during this time. Perhaps, within the last twenty years, Tertia had more contact with modern civilization, so it gradually gave up its earlier gregarious customs. As a result, it was only recently that unclear families became the dominant trend, reconciling the apparent conflict between the two studies. Based on these three aspects, the information in the article is insufficient for the readers to prefer one study result to the other.


Now, building on the implication that Dr. Karp’s study was the accurate one, other anthropologists are quick to apply the interview-centered method to future research on Tertian child-rearing culture. Unfortunately, this application does not stand on firm ground either, and there are a couple of important questions to address. First, no evidence is provided as to whether Dr. Karp’s study was successful because of the neither superior nor inferior to the observation-centered method. It was perhaps just because Dr. Karp was more careful, patient, and thorough that the interview went smoothly; in contrast, Dr. Field might have been rash in conducting her study, basing her results on just a few observations. Had Dr. Karp chosen to observe, her meticulousness might have reward her with the same correct result as well. Thus, a detailed analysis of the two scholars’ research processes is needed to further evaluate the validity of the two different methodologies.


Second, because of the apparent success of Dr. Karp’s study, the anthropologists assume that the interview-centered approach will always be the better method for every future study on Tertian child-rearing culture. Unfortunately, it remains questionable whether all important information can be obtained by interview. Perhaps it is true that Tertian children were very honest in their interviews, so their answers were extremely helpful to the scholars. However, long isolated form the outside world, adults in Tertia might be very wary of, and thus hostile towards intruder. If so, their responses, if they are willing to respond at all, could be insincere or incomplete, thus making interviews fruitless. Since child-rearing studies need to focus not just on children, but also on parents, this possibility would mean that some other methods have to be adopted to supplement interviews.


Overall, the article has failed to successfully prove that Dr. Field’s conclusion is not as trustworthy as Dr. Karp’s conclusion, that the interview-centered approach was the key to Dr. Karp’s “success”, or that Dr. Karp’s “success”

can be replicated in future research. The anthropologists need to look for future information and resolve all the crucial questions mentioned in order to make their recommendation more convincing.


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