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Illiteracy No Longer to Be a Cause For Rejection


"An undergraduate so ill-advised as to simulate feeble-mindedness with a view to escape military service, would stand as little chance as a six-footer pretending to be three feet," Frederic Lyman Wells, psychologist to the Hygiene Department stated recently.

According to Wells, who had a part in making out the famous Alpha test for the draft during the last war, the Army plans to use an entirely now system in the present mobilization. The Alpha, or "horse-feathers", test was for literate men and endeavored to determine their general mental ability by such problems as completion of arithmetical progressions, analogies between words, and recognition of synonyms and antonyms.

Sentences Were Scrambled

One part consisted of scrambled sentences which the examinee was expected to put in order, and then answer whether the statement was true or false. The words, "horses feathers have all", was an example and was the source of the test's nickname.

According to Dr. Wells the Alpha test was "the first organized attempt at measuring mass mental alertness." This sort of test has now been abandoned by the Army, for among other things "it should be applied only to the upper fourth of the population."

For illiterate men, Dr. Wells explained, the Beta test was used during the last war. This requires no reading ability and consists merely of solving various kinds of puzzles. "These puzzles, however, are more systematic than those which you buy in Daddy and Jack's," Wells explained.

Doubtful Draftees Examined

"Illiteracy is no cause for rejection," Dr. Wells explained. His work during the present draft has been to examine only those draftees about whom some doubt remained after they had gone through the usual process. The question for the examiner to solve is whether the draftee has "learned enough" as yet to be a good military risk. "It may be thought of as an educational problem in a very broad sense," Dr. Wells pointed out.

The Army, no longer using the Alpha test, plans to substitute in its place the General Classification Test which abandons the old Alpha principles and concentrates on determining special potentialities of soldiers. More simplified, the new tests consist of questions in recognizing numbers, knowledge of enough vocabulary to understand orders, and judgment of distances and spaces requiring powers of deduction.

Dr. Wells stated that test of the Alpha type might possibly be used after the men have been drafted to help determine special abilities useful in particular services with the Army. Trade and vocational tests can be used to find the proper placement of men in semi-military tasks.

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