The Contribution of Psychology to Standardized Social Darwinism It is safe to predict that in the near future intelligence tests will bring tens of thousands of these high-grade defective under the surveillance and protection of society. This will ultimately result in curtailing the reproduction of feeble-mindedness and in the elimination of an enormous amount of crime, pauperism, and industrial inefficiency.
It is hardly necessary to emphasize that the high-grade cases, of the type now so frequently overlooked, are precisely the ones whose guardianship it is most important of the State to assume. ~ Lewis. M. Terman (1916)The commercialization of intelligence may be one of the most controversial issues American education has faced in the twentieth century.
Lewis M. Terman introduced the concept of classifying students through IQ tests to the public at a time when society was probably eager for any solution psychology could offer for their social and educational problems. Between the 1890s to the early 1920s, many novel problems were arising in Americas educational system. A substantial amount of these problems were most likely caused by mere overpopulation; urban school enrollment was increasing at an unprecedented rate as immigrants flocked to the United States, a marked shift of families from rural to urban areas was also adding to school overcrowding, and finally newly enacted and enforced compulsory education laws were causing children to actually be present in classrooms. In a society where efficiency was of top priority, school administrators began focusing on new goals.
Attention to college preparation shifted considerably to life preparation; people were being educated on how be useful members of society, not for higher education. Yet, at the same time, administrators may not have been ready to give up the ideals of American education and therefore were searching for a way to preserve academic traditions. On top of this, the costs of educating so many children were astronomical; education needed to be factorized and streamlined. Thus, the arrival of the IQ test came at what was probably a critical turning point in education philosophy. However, many questions regarding the philosophy and implementation of the intelligence tests themselves still remain.
First of all, when did psychology first begin to affect education? What was the original purpose of the tests and how has this principle evolved over time? What groups were behind the IQ tests and whom did they aim their standards at? What has public sentiment been toward the tests? Lastly, what have been the lasting effects of the intelligence quotient?iEducation as a Science: Thorndikes Infusion of Psychology into Social Policy During the time of Edward L. Thorndike, psychology itself was still a fledgling science, striving to prove itself through experiments and empirical data on human behavior. As a former animal behaviorist, Thorndike carried this meticulous nature over to his work on individual characteristics of humans, namely intellect and learning. Like many psychologists of his day, Thorndike found a lack of positions available for traditional psychology students and was forced to turn to new fields, such as child study and teacher education programs.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, Thorndike had fully committed himself to education and began collecting data on learning theory. One of Thorndikes more important revelations established his career; in 1901; using empirical evidence, he disproved one of the central theories of 19th century education by proving that learning difficult subjects like Latin and Greek does not in fact exercise and increase the strength of the mind. Thorndike then expanded this theory to say that intellect was genetically influenced and could not be improved nor changed in any way. iiIn 1910, Thorndike himself argued for the necessity of psychology in educational theory. He stated in his book The Contribution of Psychology to Education that Psychology contributes to a better understanding of the aims of education by defining them, making them clearer; by limiting them, showing us what can be done and what can not; and by suggesting new features that should be made parts of them.
He argued that psychology gave definition and meaning to peoples perceptions of culture, knowledge and skill, and also that learning and comprehension were futile if they were not passed onto the next generation. Therefore, psychology was salient to education in that it not only defined concepts, but it designated the best methods to pass the knowledge on. He conceded that mere classroom experience could indeed tell the best methods of teaching, but affirmed that psychological research was necessary to explain why methods were successful. This methodological inquiry into the why behind learning is probably the most important contribution of science to education. iiiThorndike then went on to define his new science with Laws of Learning.
As with other sciences, Thorndike was quick to point to problems that needed to be focused on and solved within the educational system; namely, the aims, the material or subjects, the means, the methods and finally the results of education. He held that the most important aims of educational psychology were to find the most efficient means to educate men. Finally, and perhaps one of Thorndikes more accurate observations of education, were his Laws of Exercise and Effect. The Law of Exercise stated the more frequently an action is connected with a response, the more likely the action would be learned. The Law of Effect basically stated that a positive response to an action would bring a person to repeat and therefore learn said action.
These two laws helped to set the foundation for future learning theorists. ivToward the end of his career, Thorndike believed that science could solve all of the social ills. More importantly, he rejected G. Stanley Halls developmental theory and advocated genetic psychology.
This inflexible system did not allow room for growth and Thorndike capitalized on this by proposing a moral scale to measure people by. This idea could have set the foundation for the future proponents of the IQ test; Thorndikes rigid scale of morality could have easily been transformed to the scale of intellect used to classify children throughout the 1920s. vLost in Translation:The Intelligence Quotient Crosses the AtlanticThorndikes popularization of psychology as a necessary contributor to educational theory greatly influenced American acceptance of IQ testing. With this foundation in place, Alfred Binets work in France may have seemed like the optimal solution to problems with overcrowding in schools.
Possibly in response to Charles Darwins publication of On the Origin of Species, people became interested in the heritability of human intelligence. Thus, in 1904, Binet was called upon by the French government to develop a technique to identify children who were struggling in school, and maybe due to this influence, he chose to quantitatively measure intellect. Before this request, Binet had been focusing his research on the individual differences in children that contributed to their learning technique. The French government called upon Binet not to sort the children, but to measure their potential so it could be told if the education system was utilizing every childs potential. With this goal in mind, Binet published three versions of an intelligence scale before his death in 1911. He wanted to measure the intellect of the children to find flaws in the system, not in the child.
1908 was probably the most critical year in the development of the original IQ test; this year Binet assigned age levels to his tasks and thus established the concept of mental age. However, it was not until 1912 that German scientist W. Stern put forth the idea to divide the mental age by the chronological age, thus birthing the term Intelligence Quotient or IQ. This system of measurement was soon after taken to America and eventually added to the lexicon of educational theory.
The quantification of intellect was never an aim of Binet; he wanted to use the scales to help improve education theories, not to limit and categorize children. Psychologist Stephen J. Gould comments, But of one thing Binet was sure: whatever the cause of poor performance in school, the aim of his scale was to identify in order to help and improve, not to label in order to limit. Some children might be innately incapable of normal achievement, but all could improve with special help. vi Binets original purpose of the IQ test could have been altered anywhere between the translations of H.
H. Goddard to Lewis M. Termans adaptation and mass marketing of the test. H. H.
Goddard published the first English translations of Binets work and forever immortalized the categories Binet chose. People were designated as below average, average or above average. The subcategories of below average, imbecile and idiot, have menaced the English language since their translation. However, the most important mistranslation of Binets work came with the category right below average.
Binets French word meant weak, yet Goddard decided to use the new word moron to describe this category of people. This category was designated to contain the people who would never succeed, but who could survive in society. With this designation, Goddard forever stigmatized the word moron and also put forth his ideas on categorizing people. Along with Terman, Goddard thought that these morons should be stopped from reproducing and tainting American society, and elementary school seemed the perfect place to designate them.
viiFollowing Goddards advice, in May of 1917 Lewis Terman developed intelligence testing for the united states army, which over the next two year supposedly increased the efficiency of the armed forces through categorically assigning men to positions by their intellect. By 1919, Terman had helped transform these army tests into the National Intelligence Test for school children; within a year he had sold and distributed over 400,000 tests across America. Having adapted Binets work, he called the tests the Stanford-Binet. Perhaps Termans most significant alterations to Binets work were that he extended the test ages between 5 and 16, put forth the concept of using the IQ to separate children and maybe most critical to the development of IQ testing in America, he standardized the process so that the test could be given accurately in any location. viiiReal Life Application:Quotients in the ClassroomIn keeping with the new scientific nature of educational theory, before its implementation in schools nation-wide, Binet experimented with his new IQ tests. However, despite his best efforts, this initial assessment may have been a biased sample, giving the test itself a dubious beginning.
Termans subjects were all from the surrounding Stanford area, and he purposely chose this homogeneous area where he said the schools were such as almost any one would classify as middle-class. Few children attending them were either from very wealthy or very poor homesCare was taken to avoid racial differences due to lack of familiarity with the language. None of the children was foreign born and only a few ere of other than western European decent. This study elicited criticism from the incipiency of the testing movement and possibly gave future critics basis to invalidate the test altogether. ixHowever, in the early 1920s the test seemed to be widely accepted by the public and implemented in public schools across the nation.
Although American schools had been grouping children sine the early 19th century, the lines were never as clear nor as easy to assign as they became with the IQ tests. By mid-century, terms such as ability grouping, homogenous grouping, and tracking were common in the English language. However, the methods and intent of grouping seems to have changed greatly with the implementation of IQ tests. In his book, Schools as Sorters, Paul Chapman states three main reasons why the IQ tests were developed in America. The first is that psychology was trying to pinpoint the quality of intellect by developing a variety of tests to measure both specific and general abilities. Second, the psychological research was stimulated by the practical need of the schools to explain individual differences in student performance and to identify poor performers.
Finally, reforms in the Progressive Era might have enabled psychologists to promote their new measures of intelligence as a means of improving schools. In the time of muckrakers and intense social unrest, society was probably looking for order and Termans IQ tests provided just that for their children. xA 1921 article published in The New York Times detailed the implementation of such a system of order in one school district. Louis A. Marks, Principal of Public School 64 in New York, recounts his efforts to more efficiently organize his school using psychological tests to group children into five categories; gifted, bright, average, dull normal and defective.
The article states that the courses were planned according to the rate of progress as follows: Gifted pupils, 8 years in 6; bright, 8 years in 7; average, 8 years in 8 or 9; dull normal, 8 years in 10; defective, assigned to special courses. In this way, pupils were grouped and teachers could concentrate on the individual differences of the groups. Also, the school kept records of each pupil and if it seemed he or she was falling behind her predicted success the individual was referred to a psychologist to identify the factors holding him or her back. Marks states that such a method will mean a policy of prevention rather than one of correction. Furthermore, the article says of Marks,Although, he concludes, the question of expense may seem to hinder the fulfillment of this plan, it is probably most economical in the end, because its success will mean the elimination of many wasteful and expensive elements in the present system.
There will be for example: Little retardation of pupils, less need for correctional institutions, better chance for true education because of better understanding of the children, much happier teachers, supervisors and parents, social improvement because of the lessening of early antagonism to education and social authority, and a really effective attempt at vocational and educational guidance. In effect, this article seemed to state that by removing the deficient children from classes that the more gifted will succeed. Throughout this Progressive Era, Terman made his intentions for the students clear. In keeping with the ideas of Social Darwinism, he wanted experts in schools to make reforms to better society.
Terman seemed to be trying to extrapolate the gifted children from classrooms so that they wouldnt be held back by the deficient. xiThe whole philosophy of tracking was contingent on one idea; that IQ could not only be accurately measured, but remained stable throughout a persons life. It seems that education was taking a large gamble, determining a childs future based on his or her performance on one test. Furthermore, the test itself contained variables, including but not limited to, the administrator and the questions themselves. The Mechanics of the Test:The Fallibility of the AdministrationIn 1918, Thorndike commented on the use of educational measurement, What we do, or course, is to make not such a complete measurement of the total fact, but to measure the amount of some feature, e. g.
, the general merit of the composition or the richness or its vocabulary, just as physical science does not measure the elephant, but his height, or his weight, or his health, or his strength of pull. Every measurement represents a highly partial and abstract treatment of the produceIt should be noted also that single measurements are still in a sense complex, being comparable to volume, wattage or the opsonic index, rather than to length, weight or temperature. A decade into the twentieth century, IQ tests had been widely accepted and used by the public, this section will divulge just what was contained in the tests as well as how they were administered. xiiTo find the nature of the test, Terman himself is probably the best source. In 1916, he published The Measurement of Intelligence, from which some central ideas of the test can be extrapolated. The Binet scale itself is made up of series of tests that are categorized by mental age, the test taker completes each task and is assigned a mental age, to be used in comparison with his or her actual chronological age.
As Terman states, How much the child has learned is of significance only in so far as it throws light on his ability to learn more. The tests were aimed at different areas of learning, such as differences in memory, the ability to compare, the power of comprehension, time orientation, facility in the use of number concepts, power to combine ideas, knowledge of common objects, and many other categories. This range of categories was probably meant to ensure that the child got multiple ways to prove his or her intelligence. Some sample problems that Binet outlined are as follows:xiii Age 3:1.
Point to nose2. Repeats two digits3. Gives family nameAge 4:1. Gives his sex2. Compares two lines3. Names key, knife and pennyAge 5:1.
Compares two weights2. Repeats a sentence of ten syllablesCounts four pennies Age 7:1. Describes a picture2. Executes three commission, given simultaneously3. Names four cardinal colorsAge 151.
Finds three rhymes for a given word2. Repeats a sentence of twenty-six syllables3. Interprets a pictureAge Adult:1. Solves the paper-cutting test2. Gives differences between pairs of abstract terms3.
Gives three differences between a president and a kingThe answers to the tests were then compared to other childrens to determine ones grouping. However, Terman adapted Binets questions in such a way that made them more bias toward native English speakers by focusing the test culturally and linguistically on abstract concepts. One example of such a question was:An Indian who had come to town for the first time in his life saw a white man riding a long the street. As the white man rode by, the Indian said The white man is lazy; he walks sitting down.
What was the white man riding on that caused the Indian to say, He walks sitting down. (Gould 206)To such a question, the only accepted answer was bicycle; the test did not leave room for interpretation. Furthermore, this Stanford-Binet test served as a starting point for many tests that followed it. The thinking was probably that if the Stanford-Binet measured intelligence accurately, than any test following its model would do the same; however, many of Binets original measures and goals were inevitably distorted.
In this way, children had their futures subjectively determined in elementary school. xiv Moreover, a relatively significant flaw developed in the way the tests were administered. Thorndike notes that originally, the test was meant to be used scientifically by highly specialized experts, and yet it now hangs on the wall of thousands of classrooms as a means for pupils to measure themselves. Although one aim of the tests was to remove the subjective prejudices some teachers might have had against pupils, the tests were entrusted to the teachers themselves to administer and evaluate. Thorndike holds that the administrators, principals and teachers had been so sincere in their want to have tests which they could administer themselves, that psychologists were giving in to their requests.
Tests were developed mostly to link intellect with achievement in school. Furthermore, he admits that the want to test vast numbers of pupils necessitated the creation of tests that could be administered by persons utterly devoid of judgment concerning the products in question. While it may be arguable that the original Stanford-Binet test had some merit, the subsequent mutations of it did children a great disservice. xvThe College Man:Predictions of the IQ TestThe 1920s can be considered the zenith of the IQ testing movement. This decade was marked by the philosophy that children should not only be separated by their IQs but that their intellect could predict the rest of their life. An avid believer in the strict heredity of intellect, Terman wanted to eventually separate children into professions at young ages, use the tests to choose who should be leaders and which people should not even be allowed to reproduce.
In establishing this meritocracy, it was believed that paying extra attention to the deficient children was wasteful. In 1916, when commenting on a child with an IQ measured at 75, Terman said X is feeble-minded, he will never complete the grammar school; he will never be an efficient worker or a responsible citizen. xviInfluenced by such attitudes, the public began using the test as a standard for higher education as well. In an article published in 1919, Walter T. Marvin defines a typical college man.
He says that ninety-eight percent of men are not suited for higher education and that while some may claim reasons like poverty, lack of schooling or lack of interest in intellectual affairs for this, the prime reason was lack of intelligence. He used the empirical evidence that men of higher IQ fulfilled higher positions in life more frequently than those of a lower standing. Finally, he concluded his article with a very telling statement:From a mans score in the test, knowing nothing else about him, we can predict, with considerable probability, what his scholastic attainments have been or will be, or, what is even more important, what his scholastic attainments can be. Through the next ten years, the public did not seem to see any problem with categorizing and limiting people in such a way. Psychologists seemed to have found their niche in education and few seemed to have success disproving the power of the test.
xviiChanging Public Sentiment:Dissent in the Latter Part of the 20th CenturyStaring with the Great Depression of the 1930s, public sentiment in general seemed to turn against the government, standardization and science in general. This attitude carried over to IQ testing, and people began to question the heritability of intellect. Perhaps the most telling evidence for this shift in attitude is Termans 1939 revision of his own ideas. He made a few concessions in what appeared to be an attempt preserve the use of the IQ test; mainly he moved the far boundary of mental age from sixteen to eighteen. He also admitted that perhaps not all factors contributing to the test and to intelligence were hereditary and stated that there may be no way to tell how much environment influenced ones IQ. This publication was just the beginning of decades of controversy over the use of IQ testing.
xviiiIt seems that the most controversy over the validity of the IQ tests manifested itself in the 1940s and 1950s. During this decade, newspaper articles were printed vehemently defending each side, which could show that public sentiment was strong in both directions. One such example of fierce controversy was an article in the New York Times written by Benjamin Fine in 1949 entitled, More and More, the IQ Idea is Questioned. Fines article stated that Such is the hold that intelligence measurement has on American schools that this revolt represents one of the most significant developments in education. He held that IQ testing did not take into account pertinent factors such as personality, character, social attitudes, physical development and common sense. Fine pointed to the fact that although a child may be intellectually capable, that in no way makes him or her emotionally ready to be placed into groups and tracked through school.
He noted that the test had become a panacea for the problems of the education system; however, he agreed that in certain cases it could be useful. He urged teachers to buy the test for the pupils, administer them, but to use them only subjectively and not to attach any real significance to the numbers. Fine brought up the seemingly overlooked point of the effect that segregating children had on their emotional wellbeing, a fact that even the psychologists ignored. He wrote, For a time children of like IQs were placed in the same classes, on the theory of homogeneous grouping. In extreme cases children were segregated even within the classroom, those with the highest IQs occupying the front row and those with the lowest sitting in the rear in the dumbbell row. What this meant to the sensitive feelings of millions of doomed children is not hard to imagine.
Fine proposed the solution of putting all the children back in the classroom together, and cited the fact that doing so would not hinder the learning of the brighter children. Finally, Fines used the point that children of certain backgrounds and ethnicities frequently did better on the tests than pupils with fewer advantages. This point was backed by Dr. Mark Roser who set up a clinic for children with lower IQs and using proper teaching methods was able to raise their scores by an average of twenty points. Fine brings up many interesting points in this article, namely those of the bias of the test and the flexibility of intellect.
Yet, within a month, the same newspaper published an article directly opposing the work of Fine. Dr. N. E. Cutts, a professor of psychology at Yale University, and Dr. Nicholas Mosely, an educational consultant, wrote an answer to Fines argument saying that he assumed that the teachers used prejudice against the lower IQ students.
They held that the IQ tests did far more to correct prejudice than to cause it, citing cases where teachers had assumed lack of ability in children that the IQ tests measured as bright. They argued that the IQ test acted as a challenge for any teacher to try and teach despite disability. Fine immediately responded that tests still prejudiced teachers because they were the people responsible for the administration and evaluation of the test. His counter argument was that the tests just furthered teacher bias. In public forums, the arguments for and against the IQ tests were zealously defended; however, one marked improvement was that both sides did agree that the tests were somewhat subjective and bias and therefore in need of revision. xixFrom the 1960s to today, psychologists and educators have finally begun conducting tests to study the role of testing in American education.
One critical test took place in the 1960s when Nancy Bayley, a psychologist at the University of California, began to measure changes in test scores over long intervals and found that the results showed much variation. Bayley systematically retested pupils over the course of twenty-five years and found that even far into adulthood, the human intellect continued to grow and change. Through these observations, she not only proved that IQ was not absolutely fixed and heritable, but also said that, The job of the teacher is to try to trigger the next stage of development by providing the appropriate motivation. This was a critical change in the perspective of education since the beginning of the testing movement; that it wasnt the students who were lacking but perhaps the education system itself. Such ideas were in keeping with the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Some major complaints that arose during the following decades were that the tests were culturally biased against minorities, that psychologists could not accurately define IQ and therefore could not objectively measure it, that the tests were nothing more than a test of a persons ability to do well on other tests, and finally that IQ is nothing more than a measure of specific knowledge and acquired skills.
Even today, most criticism of the IQ tests questions whether the human intellect can be objectively measured. xxStandardized testing is by no means a novel idea; in fact Horace Mann used such tests in 1845 as means to report on the success of Massachusetts school systems. He even predicted that such tests would be a popular tool in American education to evaluate teachers; however, this aim was twisted by the IQ tests which were used only to evaluate students. Even Binet, when creating the original IQ test, wanted to prove to teachers that they could maximize a students potential and set goals for the schools to live up to.
However, in the time when the tests were popularized in America, society needed a quick fix to the ills of the education system; it was easier to blame the children themselves than to ameliorate the entire education system. Today the IQ tests are not used as measures to classify children, however they have by no means become archaic. Ironically, their use seems to have come full circle; the tests are now used to ensure that students are being taught to maximize their potential; if a problem student is identified, he or she is given individual attention as opposed to being deemed deficient. IQ tests no longer focus on the Darwin ideas of separating weaker human beings to improve society, now they aim to individuate students and eliminate weaker education policies. xxii Chapman, Paul Davis.
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