Reference : Learning Disability
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Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Sociology & social sciences
Learning Disability
Powell, Justin J W mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Languages, Culture, Media and Identities (LCMI) >]
Encyclopedia of American Disability History
Burch, Susan
Facts on File
New York
[en] Learning disability ; normalcy ; eugenics
[en] Learning disability is so prevalent a concept that it has become difficult to imagine a world without it, especially given the centrality of schooling in contemporary society. However, the history of learning disability (LD) clearly shows that it need not have developed as it has. In fact, school systems in many countries know no such category. In America, the development of LD is inseparable from the dramatic expansion of compulsory schooling and intelligence testing since the beginning of the twentieth century. Begun as part of the military’s attempts to measure recruits’ intelligence during World War I, psychometric testing has since become routine in education, training, and employment. Hotly debated, these statistical and psychological approaches to measuring IQ redefined who was considered “normal” and “abnormal” – based on the normal distribution of intelligence along the Bell or Gauss curve. While “NORMALCY” is a common word, its derivation from mathematical methods of differentiating people by their characteristics (performance on tests, for example) is less well known. Early on, the EUGENICS movement abused IQ tests as arguments for the genetic “inferiority” or “superiority” of particular ability groups, classes or races. Despite repeated criticism of these tests’ validity and reliability, they were used to justify policies that limited births and immigration, segregated people in asylums, and led to forcible sterilizations. Revised for widespread use in schools, psychometric tests promoted the development of school “tracking” systems that separate students into ability groups according to their scores.
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