Originally Posted by accordion
Interested to know why you think that. Speaking to civil/environmental, I'm under the impression there's very little room in scaling the curriculum downward in terms of rigor. The classes that weed out students of lower aptitude generally teach very fundamental concepts (statics, for example), you either learn it or you don't.
What you are observing isn't inconsistent with my theory. It's actually one of the mechanisms of mismatch.
To succeed in quantitative majors, a kid needs to possess a minimum level of aptitude and preparedness-- in absolute terms, not just relative to his classmates. The black population capable of meeting this standard are generally recruited into highly selective schools. At the selective schools, though, the quantitative classwork is generally:
a) faster paced and more rigorous than you'd find at the next tier down (e.g. I think Princeton still uses Rudin's Principles of Analysis as their intro Calc textbook!) and, probably more importantly;
b) all these classes employ a fixed grading curve whereby x% of students get As, y% get Bs, z% get Cs.
It's not an environment where you'd be set up for success if you're in the bottom 20% SAT scores of admits.
The Journal of Economic Literature commissioned a survey paper of everything related to this idea of mismatch a few years ago-- there is extended commentary on the STEM literature and bar passage rate: