FEW MINORITY students in this country, with the notable exception of Asian Americans, have high aspirations in mathematics and the sciences. Is that cause for concern? Yes, because of the rapidly growing demand for high-technology jobs that require the skills learnedin advanced math and science courses. As two rapidly growing segments of the U.S. popula-tion, blacks and Hispanics will account fora bigger share of the American work force.Will they be prepared to assume a heightened role? If current trends continue, the answer could be no.
Blacks and Hispanics make up 19 percent of the U.S. population. The National Urban Coalition says blacks and Hispanics earn less than 4 percent of the master's degrees in the physical and biological sciences. A National Science Foundation study shows that only 2 percent of the country's scientists and engineers are black. Few have taken the advanced math and science courses available in some high schools, and the numbers aren't increasing. The number of blacks in the nation's graduate degree programs, for example, has decreased since 1977.
In 1980, traditional manufacturing jobs accounted for 28 percent of the job market. By the year 2000, that share is expected to drop to 11 percent. An array of new occupations is growing, ranging from industrial laser processing to computer-assisted design. Urban Coalition President M. Carl Holman is right when he says that remedial math and science in high school aren't the whole answer. Curiosity about math and science must begin at home and in the elementary schools. Much more can be done to get young blacks and Hispanics interested in this absorbing -- and rewarding -- subject matter.