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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Full text download(s)

Published copy (DOI)



Publication details

JournalHistory of Education Quarterly
DateAccepted/In press - 28 Mar 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 19 Jul 2017
DatePublished (current) - 1 Aug 2017
Issue number3
Number of pages27
Pages (from-to)372-398
Early online date19/07/17
Original languageEnglish


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.

Bibliographical note

© History of Education Society 2017. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.

Discover related content

Find related publications, people, projects, datasets and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations