Jim Porter: “Testing, Guidance Counseling and the Problem of Motivation among the 'Highly Able'”

  • Date: –15:00
  • Location: Zoom. Link will be sent in advance.
  • Organiser: Department of History of Science and Ideas
  • Contact person: Jenny Andersson
  • Seminarium

The Higher Seminar

The landmark 1954 Brown v. Board U.S. Supreme Court mandate to integrate schools by “race” was followed just 4 years later by efforts from white policy makers to implement more systematic testing and guidance counseling programs in the nation’s public schools as a part of the 1958 National Defense Education Act.  Such calls for testing and guidance were frequently justified by a perceived need to motivate an allegedly marginalized cohort of “highly able” students who apparently languished--frustrated and disaffected--in high schools across the country.  In this chapter I explore how such a depiction of the “highly able”—misunderstood and marginalized within their own school systems—sought to re-appropriate what had been highly effective legal and scientific argumentation from Brown and repurpose it here for socially diametrical ends: to hinder or otherwise divert integration and preserve educational privilege for whites.

“Testing, Guidance Counseling and the Problem of Motivation among the “Highly Able” -  Chapter 6 from the forthcoming book manuscript: Safeguarding Whiteness: Intelligence Testing and Educational Opportunity in the Years after Brown v. Board, Sputnik, and The National Defense Education Act.

Jim Porter is a researcher at the Hugo Valentin Centre and this work is part of a project funded by the Marcus och Amalia Wallenberg Minnesfond to study transformations in discourses on “race,” “ability” “intelligence” and educational opportunity across the interwar and post-WWII US.

Cover of NEA journal October 1960