China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Although the civil service examination system was administered to place educated men in positions of official administration in China, it had functioned more broadly to reinforce Confucian cultural and moral norms. Despite its technical abolition in 1905, Chinese intellectuals in the twentieth century continued to draw upon the moral legitimacy and historical precedent of the civil service exams, but in new ways, emphasizing meritocracy for a new democracy and the historical depth of the new nation-state. By the early 1920s, educational psychologists in both China and the United States were arguing that the exam was a precursor for new quantitative examinations like the IQ test. They drew upon the legitimacy of history in order to push forward the modernization and mechanization of a new academic profession in educational psychology. In an era of nation-building, the validation of this national history helped to legitimize the contribution of China to a new, modern era of qualitative metrics.