Margolis, J., Estrella, R., Goode, J., Jellison-Holme, J., & Nao, K. (2008). Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, & Computing. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA


The number of African Americans and Latino/as receiving undergraduate and advanced degrees in computer science is disproportionately low, according to recent surveys. And relatively few African American and Latino/a high school students receive the kind of institutional encouragement, educational opportunities, and preparation needed for them to choose computer science as a field of study and profession. In Stuck in the Shallow End, Jane Margolis looks at the daily experiences of students and teachers in three Los Angeles public high schools: an overcrowded urban high school, a math and science magnet school, and a well-funded school in an affluent neighborhood. She finds an insidious “virtual segregation” that maintains inequality.

Two of the three schools studied offer only low-level, how-to (keyboarding, cutting and pasting) introductory computing classes. The third and wealthiest school offers advanced courses, but very few students of color enroll in them. The race gap in computer science, Margolis finds, is one example of the way students of color are denied a wide range of occupational and educational futures. Margolis traces the interplay of school structures (such factors as course offerings and student-to-counselor ratios) and belief systems—including teachers’ assumptions about their students and students’ assumptions about themselves. Stuck in the Shallow End is a story of how inequality is reproduced in America—and how students and teachers, given the necessary tools, can change the system.

This book was the recipient of the 2009 American Association of Publishers Prose Award in Education.

Praise for Stuck in the Shallow End

The most important book you will read this year

Review of Stuck in the Shallow EndComputer Science Teachers Association Blog

Forty years after Brown v. Board of Education, Jane Margolis exposes a barely recognized fact: minority children are still stuck in separate and unequal educational settings. Margolis points out why having high-tech equipment without a system in place to foster critical thinking does little to close the achievement gap in poor communities.Geoffrey Canada, President/CEO, Harlem Children's Zone
Author of Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America
In Stuck in the Shallow End, Jane Margolis and her team explore racial disparities in computer science by studying structural details as well as the belief systems and psychological aspects that influence ‘true access.’ This book shows that having physical access to computers is not the same as having intellectual access to computer science. Stuck in the Shallow End should be required reading for all educators who care about our children and their futures.Indira Nair, Vice Provost of Education, and Professor, Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University
This is a highly compelling book that should be read by everyone interested in the future of science and engineering education in the US.Maria M. Klawe, President, Harvey Mudd College
Stuck in the Shallow End is an insightful, nuanced view into a complex set of problems. In the end, this book gives us hope that there are solutions. Jane Margolis and her colleagues show us the insights that social science can offer us in trying to understand (and meet!) the challenge of broadening participation in computing.Mark Guzdial, School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology
Stuck in the Shallow End is at once heartbreaking and inspiring. Its close-up look at three high schools shines penetrating light on how well-meaning educators construct social inequality through unquestioned assumptions and everyday practice. At the same time, it also reveals their eagerness to become righteous change agents, if given hope, opportunity, and support. From swimming pools to computer science labs, Margolis and her colleagues have much to teach educators and policymakers about urban schools.Jeannie Oakes, Presidential Professor in Education Equity, UCLA