Sunday, October 17, 2010

An Endnote is Just the Begining

Those party people at the National Academies are up to it again. Shortly after the National Research Council published the report I blogged about earlier this month (LINK), the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine released a report on the need to boost the involvement of underrepresented minorities in STEM higher education. (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.) Taking a stand that PIA project can easily get behind, the National Academies said that getting underrepresented minorities into STEM education at all levels should be understood as "an urgent national priority."

I agree.

And I have the same usual question PIA project asks when an entity wisely chooses to take steps to help underrepresented minorities. That is: "Did you remember that Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are underrepresented in higher education?"

When I went searching for the answer, at first this appeared to be another example of well-intentioned folks excluding Pacific Islanders. The press release said that when the Academies were talking about underrepresented minorities it included these three groups: "African Americans, Hispanic, and Native Americans." (Here's a link to that press release: LINK)

But it would be premature to blog about this report without looking at it. So I downloaded the report and skimmed it. I was pleased to find the following language within an end note at the bottom of page sixteen:
Underrepresented minorities, as used in this report, refer to African Americans, Hispanic or Latino Americans, Native Americans and Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

It went on to say that "Pacific Islanders are considered an underrepresented group. However, most national data sets for scientists and engineers aggregate Asians and Pacific Islanders so it is generally impossible to present separate data for this group."

While PIA project is displeased that Pacific Islanders are lumped together with Asians in so many national data sets, this is nothing new. On the other hand, it's refreshing to read that a report on underrepresented minorities acknowledges both that Pacific Islanders are underrepresented and that the practice of burying Pacific Islander data within the "Asian Pacific" category makes it harder for scholars to see what's going on with this population.

I would like to see this discussion elevated higher than an end note on the bottom of one page, but hey - it's a start.

To access the report, click here: LINK


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