The Duke study, we noted, offers support for the book Mismatch by Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor, Jr., which we also reported on. The book shows that minority students who attend colleges where they are in the middle or the top of the admitted class are far likelier to study STEM subjects than those who receive preferences at elite schools. Admissions preferences, the authors argue, perversely contribute to low minority representation in STEM fields.
Now, surprisingly, comes further confirmation from a Duke alumnus suddenly in the news, the newly appointed interim U.S. senator from Massacusetts and prominent Boston attorney William Cowan.
We're only surmising that Cowan received an admission preference at Duke, but the circumstances of his early years suggest that his academic preparation did not match that of most students admitted to the South's most elite university. Growing up in a working class African-American family in a small, highly segregated, town in rural North Carolina, he was the first graduate of his high school ever to attend Duke.
Clearly, Sen. Cowan is a very able and accomplished man. He is now entering a particularly distinguished phase of his career. But one can't help wondering what his accomplishments might have been had he gotten a fair chance to apply them to STEM.