Room 350, Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics (133 S. 36th Street)
Food provided / Free and open to the public
Chelsea Chamberlain (Penn Department of History)
"The Myth of Human Equality: Intelligence Testing and Exceptional Children, 1900-1930"
Ana Klimchynskaya (Penn Comparative Literature)
"Fictions of Equality: Science Fiction and the Technological Challenge to Democracy"
Educational psychologists declared the early twentieth century “the dawn of a new era in education.” Beginning in the 1890s, compulsory education laws had brought increasing numbers of students with wide-ranging mental and physical capacities into schools. Psychologists and educators debated what to do with the “exceptional” children: those who lagged behind, repeating grades without learning anything and the bright children whose potential went unfulfilled. In an era devoted to maximizing efficiency, such waste could not stand. CHELSEA CHAMBERLAIN uses the publications and archival collections of prominent psychologists Leta Hollingworth, J.E. Wallace Wallin, and H.H. Goddard to explore how intelligence testing created and attempted to solve the problem of “exceptional children” in public schools. Their efforts not only reorganized public education but also raised new questions about democracy and citizenship by declaring human equality a myth. Moreover, while historians have argued that compulsory education laws were meant to “safeguard democracy,” Chamberlain argues that connections between public education and eugenic institutionalization demonstrate that, combined with intelligence testing, such laws instead redefined democracy and remade the bounds of citizenship.
Examining several technologies – including machine learning, biotechnological enhancements, and Big Data – ANA KLIMCHYNSKAYA argues that technoscience can bring either increased equality or increases social stratification. With the arguably exponential pace of technological development, however, it has become difficult even for experts to keep up with innovations in their respective fields. Additionally, our legal system is a fundamentally reactive one, with regulation following behind innovation. How, then, do we ensure the proper and informed regulation of new technologies? How might we transform our education system to prepare citizens for the far-reaching transformations such swiftly developing technologies will inevitably bring, and how might we educate them about the dangers and drawbacks of these innovations? And, finally, how might we ensure equal access to these transformative technologies while safeguarding rights, such as those of intellectual property?