Building Resilience Through Transitions
Edited by Frances Westley, Katherine McGowan and Ola Tjörnbo
Chapter 3: The intelligence test
In a study of an innovation now seen as an example of social engineering, this case follows the emergent professional networks of psychologists and bureaucrats trying to reshape American society. The test began as an idea of how intellectual capacity works and a tool to measure it, which fell into the existing debate over social problems of poverty, underachievement and education (mislabelled at the time as feeblemindedness). The opportunities presented when America joined the First World War, and needed to develop a professional citizen army quickly, provided a perfect proving ground for the test’s applicability (if not accuracy). This is a cautionary tale of scientific measurement seeming to support social attitudes, and the power of networks to scale an idea into a policy.
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