It is amazing what we do not know.
For some time now, many Americans have thought that unusually bright Asian and Pacific Islander students dominated college studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
It was thought they held an upper hand in numbers at prestigious state and private universities across the country.
Not so, not even close.
According to a surprising study by the National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education and the College Board, these false assumptions have led to misinformed educational policy, policy that, in truth, has disadvantaged Asian and Pacific Islander students.
"The United States has been making sweeping decisions without adequate data about these individuals," said Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board. "Like so many others, I am stunned and determined to rectify the problem."
Wise public policy must be based on fact, not fiction, and we should think more and assume less. Too many citizens are imperiled by inadequate facts and figures.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are nearly 17 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the country. The umbrella term AAPI shelters 48 different ethnic groups, from historically different places like East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.
Historically, some individuals entered the United States because employers needed their expertise, while others came as refugees with scant resources and little opportunity. Still others came to study and then return home.
Yet here they are seen as students who are studious, self-sufficient achievers who dominate science, technology, engineering and math.
Significantly, these young men and women of varied backgrounds are evenly distributed in community and four-year colleges, and they are not wholly a group of science nerds. Two hundred colleges and universities enroll two-thirds of these AAPI students, which is less than 5 percent of all postsecondary institutions.
And nearly half attend college in just three states: California, New York and Texas. A large proportion of the students are working toward degrees in the social sciences and the humanities.
Congressman Mike Honda, of California, hailed the study for exposing the "long-held myth of student achievement" among Asian American and Pacific Islander students.
It is, at times, amazing how little we really know about the people around us, the people who are vital to the future of society within the United States. Perhaps we should all take time for a reality check.