Testing Assessment Thesis

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For hundreds of years, there has been a common idea that race and intelligence are statistically correlated. Even contemporary debate into this paradigm focuses on the differences in test scores when tabulated using different ethnic data. Central to this question remains the idea of nature vs. nurture -- is it the flaw of the test that changes the rubric of the results; the flaw in a balanced education of facts, experiences and opportunities available in some neighborhoods and not in others, or is there another socio-economic or cultural factor contributing to these perceived differences? (Rushton, and Jensen, 2005). Central to this argument is the nature of eugenics, a practice or belief in the improvement of the human species by discouraging reproduction from those who have genetic defects or undesirable traits, by encouraging reproduction from those with desirable traits, or more contemporaneously with the advent of genetic engineering, artificially creating those traits within the laboratory (Black, 2006).

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The eugenics movement first became known in the late twentieth century. Francis Galton, a distant relative of Charles Darwin, was the first man to define eugenics as a way to improve the human. For Galton, people possessing the desired traits were wealthy whites with no trace of mental illness in past generations. Minority groups were considered inferior and found to have undesired traits. Undesirable traits were found in people who have had a history of mental illness in the family, lived in poverty, and had something called "feeblemindedness" (Carlson, n.d., 1).

Thesis on Testing Assessment Assignment

Prior to eugenics, most scientists believed that a person's intelligence or even capacity for intelligence was dependent on brain size. The larger the brain- the more advantageous to the individual, thus -- the survival of the fittest. Darwin and the theory of "Natural Selection," then, became the basis for the Eugenics movement. The development of this new science helped to explain differences among races and species coexisting with each other. Why do some organisms of the same species survive longer than others? Why are some more "fit" for a certain environment? Why are human skulls shaped different, and how does that contribute to their ability to survive and evolve (Gould, 1980). Thus, the purpose of the new "science" of eugenics was to ensure that only the most fit pass on their genetic blueprint to future generations of humans, eventually culling out undesirable traits.

Historically, radical societal and cultural changes occurred in the late 19th century. Urban populations were rapidly increasing, the Industrial Revolution was at full force and providing an economic hierarchy like none seen before. And, with that economic wealth also came the exploited workforce, living in densely populated areas of poverty in which disease was rampant. Using Darwin as a model for society (Social Darwinism), scientists postulated that immigrants, minorities, and criminals were part of the genetic base that should be eliminated, since their lot in life was caused not by economic or cultural issues, but because of poor genetics (Samuda, 1998). The idea of separating individuals into categories depending on the purity of their genetic make-up formed two branches of eugenics: positive and negative. Positive, supported by Galton, was promoting reproduction among the fit; negative on prevention of the unfit, including those of low social status, those with mental or physical disabilities, and even those individuals who we would say were on the "left side of the academic bell-curve" (See various articles on traits, etc. In Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement). Using Darwin's theory, the idea was that humanity could only survive if certain elements and traits were bred out -- much like the improvement of a breeding mare or farm animal -- the positive traits are accentuated, the negative traits discouraged (Mendelsohn, 2000).

Nowhere has this idea of racial profiling, eugenics, and false scientific methodology been so apparent as the way that psychological testing was used post-1870 to determine the intelligence and suitability of African-Americans for specific activities within the Armed Forces of the United States.

Intelligence testing came to the United States in the guise of H.H. Goddard, who manipulated the French "Binet" scale to American culture. Goddard wanted a way to distinguish persons of good mental health from those who would bring down society, believing that the American population was at risk from the rapid immigration of the late 19th century. Goddard wanted to a test to distinguish between people of "good mental health" and morons.. He brought Binet's scale to America from France but he manipulated it to interpret, what he termed to be innate intelligence. Goddard believed that the American population was at risk from the swift reproduction of the feeble-minded and from immigration. Goddard's "scale" held that anyone with and IQ rating lower than 70 was moronic, and anyone with an IQ over 130 genius level. Goddard's belief was that intelligence was posited on one gene, thus inherited, doing some research on Ellis Island to prove his theory (Benjamin, 2009).

The Army, around the time of World War One, wanted to weed out all the recruits that were feeble-minded, and had little to buttress their views other than Goddard's research on intelligence. The military appointed Robert M. Yerkes, a professor of Psychology at Harvard in 1915, to the rank of Colonel, with instructions to modify psychological tests and protect the armed forces from trends in "minority feeblemindedness." Yerkes thus established the Army Alpha and the Army Beta exams, and tested 1.75 million recruits with these tests. The Army Alpha exam was a written exam for all the literate recruits. If they failed the Army Alpha exam they had to take the Army Beta exam - all pictures. If they still failed the Army Beta exam they had their individual IQ tested. Yerkes had certain grades that he gave the recruits based on their scores on these exams. Yerkes' scale placed people with C scores as average low; below that more moronic and likely unsuited for the specialized skills needed for the military. Using this data, Yerkes concluded that the average mental age for a white male recruit was 13, and for Black recruits 8. This created a new incentive to control the breeding of the feeble-minded. He also found that European immigrants could be graded by their country of origin and many of the men from other nations were "morons." He also believed that people of darker skin had a lower average test score than light-skinned people ("Race and Intelligence," 2009).

There were however some problems with these exams. They were strictly timed, and were a number of indications that the testee did not understand the instructions. Because there were so many blanks on the tests of African-Americans, Yerkes concluded that black recruits didn't attend school -- reflecting a low overall intelligence. Of course, Yerkes confused cause and effect, since sat the time; Blacks often did not go to school with white children -- due to job issues, segregation, economic needs, and requirements and postulations for gainful employment (Binkin, 1982).

A more balanced approach, however, comes from African-American scholar Thomas Sowell. Sowell notes that there have always between large disparities in intelligence test results and academic abilities -- within the native black population of the U.S., other African-Americans, and even disadvantages whites. For instance the U.S. Those blacks whose ancestors were "free persons of color" in 1850 have fared far better in income, occupation, and family stability than those blacks whose ancestors were freed in the next decade by Abraham Lincoln. What is not nearly as widely known is that there were also very large disparities within the white population of the pre-Civil War South and the white population of the Northern states. Although Southern whites were only about one-third of the white population of the U.S., an absolute majority of all the illiterate whites in the country were in the South. (Sowell, 2005).

Any intelligence testing done on populations at the time should have, but failed, to factor for bias outside modifiers. What is not nearly as widely known is that there were also very large disparities within the white population of the pre-Civil War South and the white population of the Northern states. Although Southern whites were only about one-third of the white population of the U.S., an absolute majority of all the illiterate whites in the country were in the South. The North had four times as many schools as the South, attended by more than four times as many students. Children in Massachusetts spent more than twice as many years in school as children in Virginia. Such disparities obviously produce other disparities. Northern newspapers had more than four times the circulation of Southern newspapers (Ibid). Only 8% of the patents issued in 1851 went to Southerners. Even though agriculture was the principal economic activity of the antebellum South at the time, the vast majority of the patents for agricultural inventions went to Northerners. Even the cotton gin was invented by a Northerner. Disparities between Southern whites and Northern whites extended across the board from rates of violence… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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