Teacher, Tester, Soldier, Spy: Psychologists Talk about Teachers in the Intelligence-Testing Movement, 1910s-1930s

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This article focuses on teachers in the discourses of early twentieth-century proponents of intelligence testing in America. Teachers were often a targeted enemy in the academic literature on intelligence testing-their methods belittled, their unreliability emphasized. Yet, in part because teachers were essential for intelligence tests to be given in schools, they were also often talked about in more ambiguous ways. In particular, this paper argues that psychologists’ ways of talking to, at, and about teachers presented a relationship characterized by an originary indebtedness of teachers toward psychology. Intelligence tests, it was implied, were a gift for teachers, and psychologists’ help a favor that teachers should repay by using the tests and showing rigor, obedience, and gratefulness in doing so. Arguably, the debt was framed in such ways as to render impossible its repayment and to make illegible the potential contributions and initiatives of teachers in the intelligence-testing movement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372-398
Number of pages27
JournalHistory of Education Quarterly
Issue number3
Early online date19 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017

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