Creating the Well-Adjusted Citizen: The Human Sciences and Public Schools in the United States, World War I ? 1950
Huimin Wang

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Wisconsin-Madison

Primary Discipline

Since the end of World War I, a new way of thinking about individuals' fit (and misfit) in social and educational institutions spread in the United States. The key to evaluating fitness was various conceptions of psychological "adjustment" and "maladjustment." This project explores the emergence and circulation of adjustment thinking in the human sciences and public schools from World War I to 1950, and the social implications of the scrutiny of emotional fitness among its citizenry in the U.S. The study utilizes a variety of archival sources and print materials: personality tests, personal papers of social scientists, records of philanthropic foundations and welfare agencies, and scholarly and popular publications. By revealing embedded perceptions of human differences and hierarchy in scientific constructions of the "well-adjusted citizen," this study sheds new light on the roots of what became commonsense understandings about children's socio-emotional development and mental health.
About Huimin Wang
Huimin Wang is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her interests center on the histories of education reform, childhood, and psychology in twentieth century United States. In her research and scholarship, Huimin aims to unpack the underlying assumptions, complicated contours, and socio-political implications of past education policies, and to bring historical insights to current education debates through deep contextualization of categories, classifications and norms. Her dissertation explores the history of emotional interventions in U.S. public schools from World War I to 1950. Specifically, she looks at how educators and social scientists used psychological knowledge to tackle the problems of school or social ``misfits,`` with the goal of creating ``well-adjusted`` citizens. Huimin grew up in southeast China and moved to the United States to start her Ph.D. in 2014. Prior to her doctoral study, she received an M.A. in History of Education and a B.A. in Education and English Literature, both from Beijing Normal University in China.

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