Race, Rigor, and Selectivity in U. S. Engineering: The History of an Occupational Color Line

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Despite the educational and professional advances made by minorities in recent decades, African Americans remain woefully underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, mathematics, and engineering. Even at its peak, in 2000, African American representation in engineering careers reached only 5.7 percent, while blacks made up 15 percent of the U.S. population. Some forty-five years after the Civil Rights Act sought to eliminate racial differences in education and employment, what do we make of an occupational pattern that perpetually follows the lines of race?

Race, Rigor, and Selectivity in U.S. Engineering pursues this question and its ramifications through historical case studies. Focusing on engineering programs in three settings—in Maryland, Illinois, and Texas, from the 1940s through the 1990s—Amy E. Slaton examines efforts to expand black opportunities in engineering as well as obstacles to those reforms. Her study reveals aspects of admissions criteria and curricular emphases that work against proportionate black involvement in many engineering programs. Slaton exposes the negative impact of conservative ideologies in engineering, and of specific institutional processes—ideas and practices that are as limiting for the field of engineering as they are for the goal of greater racial parity in the profession.

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Editorial Reviews

Dr. Norman L. Fortenberry
Race, Rigor and Selectivity is an important contribution to understanding the historical institutional and individual challenges in attracting, retaining, and advancing underrepresented minority students in engineering disciplines. Most significantly, she recognizes that many of the thorniest challenges are with the institutions that students would enter and not with the students themselves. Slaton offers common sense observations and practical suggestions for how the engineering community through diversification might add vitality to the profession, and better serve its creed of working for “the advancement and betterment of human welfare.”
Bruce Seely
In compelling fashion Amy Slaton reframes the entire debate about public policy related to diversity and under-represented groups in science and engineering programs.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674036192
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 2/20/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 298
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Amy E. Slaton is Associate Professor of History at Drexel University.
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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1

2 Identity and Uplift: Engineering in the University of Maryland System in the Era of Segregation 19

3 The Disunity of Technical Knowledge: Constructions of Racial Difference in Separate but Equal Engineering Education 48

4 Opportunity in the City: Engineering Education in Chicago, 1960-1980 79

5 Urban Engineering and the Conservative Impulse: Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Technology 113

6 Race and the New Meritocracy: Engineering Education in the Texas A&M System, 1980 to the Present 143

7 Standards and the "Problem" of Affirmative Action: Departures from Convention in the TAMU System 171

8 Conclusion 205

Notes 221

Index 271

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