Coda: Notes on my essay on STEM education and racial health disparities

COVID death african americans

The 511 / March 3, 2020

For information in the 20th century, we called 411. The 511 includes:

  • a handful of paragraphs about health tech or some other science-y thing
  • 1 sentence for reflection (and maybe a laugh), and 
  • 1 track I’ve currently got in heavy rotation.

Welcome to the 10 people who started following my blog since February 18.

Why I wrote this essay

Last time around, I featured my essay that recently appeared in Crain’s Cleveland (here). (Click the image below, though, if you’re not a Crain’s CLE subscriber.) Back in the day, I taught courses for 10 years at colleges and universities in New York City and Cleveland, and then I worked for 11 more as a dean at Oberlin College. So yeah: 21 years thinking about the different ways to help young people succeed at college. Some students, though, through no fault of their own, arrive at college less prepared than others. The different ways that colleges and universities address that question (or ignore it) was a key topic of conversation among my colleagues at Oberlin and elsewhere.

Today, as a B2B copywriter, I focus mostly on what the market will bear, in terms of products and services. I think, too, about what the market will bear in terms of acts of generosity, and how those acts can be harnessed to benefit, say, high-school students without access to a robust STEM education. (Foundations operate in a different type of marketplace, but it’s a market nonetheless.)

As you know, disparities and long-standing inequity along class and racialized lines inspired protests, op-ed pieces, and even social change in 2020. Protests commenced overseas, too. In the English Premier League, their “No Room for Racism” campaign continues apace. Is such a campaign be effective? Can lessons in math class help third graders be more “woke”? I do not claim to know the answers to this question.

Social scientists speak to this question in all sorts of compelling ways. One of the more fascinating analyses I found focused on the correlation between Recent social science research indicates that prosocial, inclusive behavior correlates positively with racially diverse neighborhoods. From a study by researchers at Singapore University:

“After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, the Boston Globe newspaper set up a website where individuals could offer to host stranded visitors in their homes. Using a sample of 4,502 help offers posted on the website, we found that people in more racially diverse neighbourhoods were more likely to spontaneously offer help to complete strangers who were stranded by the bombing.”

“People in More Diverse Neighbourhoods are More Prosocial,” by Krishna Savani

I dig the design of this study. My own designs, though, compared to new legislation at the state and federal levels, were pretty damn humble, and boiled down to a single question: What could a group of three or more committed people do to help improve dozens of lives starting this June? A successful pilot in summer 2021 could, in turn, help hundreds in summer 2022, and maybe even more the year after that.

The money is out there, and filling in the details for the model, even in pandemic times, should be fairly simple in states that still endorse masking up and physical distancing and, in a word, science.

Please consider sharing this essay with a colleague. And let me know what you think!

Thank you!

Essay sources

Key sentences or fragments, with links. Hover over to find the blue link, please.

NBS Knowledge Lab – People in More Diverse Neighbourhoods are More Prosocial (

5(1)1 — On life’s tempo

“At best Americans give but a limited attention to history. Too much happens too rapidly, and before we can evaluate it, or exhaust its meaning or pleasure, there is something new to concern us. Ours is the tempo of the motion picture, not that of the still camera, and we waste experience as we wasted the forest.”

Ralph Ellison, Shadow and Act (1964)

51(1) — In rotation: Duke, Mingus, Roach

Ralph Ellison was one of our finest writers, and certainly one of our finest writers on jazz. Every track on this LP is a gem, and I’m confident he loved this LP. I hope you dig it, too.

Duke Ellington: Money Jungle (1962) UK United Artists | LondonJazzCollector


# # #

Published by Randal Doane

Living the good life in NE Ohio. I dig science and the written word. Let's build something amazing together.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: