AIR Founder Involved in Racial Eugenics Experiments

January, 2015

Karen R. Effrem, MD - Executive Director

As we honor the memory of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. who "had a dream" that " little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character," parents and policy makers should be aware of the sordid eugenics past of John Flanagan, the founder of the American Institutes of Research (AIR).  AIR is the organization that is doing the computer adaptive testing platform for the Florida's Common Core aligned statewide assessment at the cost of $220 million over six years plus another $15 million over three years to rent test questions from Utah where they were field tested.  AIR is also developing the computer adaptive testing platform for the federally funded, federally supervised Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) being used for the Common Core assessments in 18 states plus the US Virgin Islands as well as Florida, Utah, Wyoming, and Arizona, which have separate contracts with AIR.

AIR founder John C. Flanagan, was the chief psychologist involved in eugenics experiments via an organization called the Pioneer Fund, which greatly supported and promoted Nazi eugenics experiments during the 1930s and 1940s, such as paying for a film called "'Eugenics in Germany,' the Nazi film that had been distributed for viewing by [U.S.] high-school students." Pioneer Fund founding president Harry Laughlin said, "[w]hen education is expected to result in practical long-time race betterment, the moving picture in the school offers a profitable medium for presenting facts." Flanagan was described by a Pioneer Fund board member as "a psychologist, trained ... when the new psychological weapons were developed."

Flanagan summarized the work of the Pioneer Fund this way in his proposal for first major research project - the eugenics experiment involving the birth rates of U.S. Army Air Corps pilots in the 1930's when African Americans were not allowed to be pilots:

"My understanding is that the fundamental purpose for which the Pioneer Fund was created is the improvement of the human race. The general method chosen to further this end is to secure an increase in the birth rate among superior groups."(Emphasis added).

The data sheet
which was intended to gather information for this project, asked the Junior officers and their wives for their "Race Descent (Name the four principal racial stocks with portion or approximate portions of blood from each). (Emphasis added)"

It is a sad commentary on the philosophy of the AIR organization that its founder would begin his career with such a group. Is this the philosophy that is underpinning AIR's subjective and controversial psychosocial data mining projects? Here are just two examples:
  • The Social Genome Project - The idea of this project is to leverage "digital traces in various government data systems, which can collectively capture our social genome, the footprints of our society (Emphasis in original)" in order to, "if properly analyzed and interpreted...offer crucial insights into many of the most challenging problems facing our society (i.e. affordable and accessible quality healthcare, economics, education, employment, and welfare)." This effort collects and measures data on children through the life cycle and includes subjective and controversial social emotional data mining on children in early and middle childhood:
  • Project Talent  that started in 1960 collecting over 2,000 data points on over 440,000 high school students, the goals of which were to study and or produce among other things: 1) An inventory of human resources 2) A set of standards for educational and psychological measurement 3) Interests, aptitude and background factors 4) The effectiveness of various types of educational experience. Even before the federal government was involved in measuring data on students by race via the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, this study used racial data as one of its parameters. (See this data handbook for the freshman class, p. 5-6 of the PDF, and all of the data elements HERE).
There are many other problems with AIR that we have extensively chronicled and others that are coming to light:
  • The major emphasis of this organization on controversial and psychosocial topics and research in education instead of academics (See HERE, HERE, and HERE).
  • Psychological manipulation in their computer adaptive testing as evidenced by this interview with a 13 year old boy who took Utah's Common Core test developed by AIR:
  • Jon Cohen, AIR's president of testing, and listed on Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education website, admitted that computer adaptive testing for accountability has nothing to do with helping students improve academically:
"When you are using the test for accountability, you're not really using it to measure the kid, but you are using it to measure the school or the teacher or the district. (Emphasis added)"

Please contact Governor Scott and your legislators and tell them you are appalled that Florida would use such a problematic organization with such a sordid past to test and data mine our children.  Tell them you want them to:
  • Cancel the AIR contract immediately
  • Reaffirm parents' rights to opt out of testing
  • Leave the choice of tests to districts and or parents as is done with private and home school students that choose from among a list of nationally norm referenced tests
  • Prohibit online and computer adaptive testing
  • Prohibit psychological testing within the statewide or any other academic assessments
Thank you and stay tuned! Much more new information is coming soon!


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