Playing the game of IQ testing in England and Denmark in the 1950s and 1960s - A Socio-Material perspective

Frederik Forrai Ørskov, Christian Ydesen

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The promotion of performance measurement and international large-scale assessments (ILSAs) is often explained in terms of the rise and expansion of the neoliberal thought collective; in other words, testing constitutes a core component of neoliberal education reform. A less well-known feature of the neoliberal regime is its numerous precursors and antecedents - including its testing, numbers, and metrics components - in the 19th and 20th centuries. This article provides a study of such historical precursors in the treatment of children seen as "mentally defective" in two emerging welfare states, namely Denmark in the interwar period and England in the immediate post war era. Based on the records of the municipal Educational Psychology Office in Copenhagen and the Birmingham Special Schools After-Care Subcommittee respectively, we argue that IQ testing and other metrics were integral to efforts at universalizing treatments in the fledgling welfare states; but that the nature of such testing, numbers and metrics components left them open to being gamed by various involved actors, to a certain extent undermining the ideal of the universalistic welfare state.
TidsskriftOxford Review of Education
Udgave nummer5
Sider (fra-til)599-615
Antal sider16
StatusUdgivet - 21 sep. 2018


  • Metrics
  • IQ testing
  • History of Education

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