Volume 16, Issue 1 (1987)
Gesell: The First School Psychologist - Part I: The Road to Connecticut
Thomas K. Fagan
In 1915, the Connecticut State Board of Education appointed Arnold Lucius Gesell to what has been cited as the first“school psychologist” position in the United States. Mention of this historic appointment has been erratic in our literature.While it fails to appear in the earliest text on school psychological services (Hildreth,1930)’ and in several of the texts of the 1960s including the historical introduction in the Magary Text (Wallin & Ferguson,1967), it does appear in other early books(Cutts, 1955; Bardon & Bennett, 1974, Herron,Green, Guild, Smith, & Kantor, 1970)and in more recent books (Tindall, 1979;Reynolds, Gutkin, Elliott, & Witt, 1984). In all instances, treatment of the subject is very brief though somewhat greater information is available in other accounts(Gesell, 1952; Miles, 1964; Connecticut State Department of Education, 1943).Collectively, these sources mention the year of the appointment, that it was the first such appointment in the United States, and that it was primarily for conducting mental examinations of children throughout the state of Connecticut, particularly in rural areas. There is no account of the events leading up to Gesell’s appointment,his responsibilities, the conditions of his employment and practice, or their significance to contemporary school psychology. The author has discussed these matters on selected occasions (Fagan,1983, 1984, 1986b), and will attempt to integrate available information in this two-part series. Part 1 will explore the events leading up to Gesell’s official appointment,and Part 2 will describe aspects of his conditions of employment and practice. Brief mention will be made of potential controversy surrounding the distinction of his being regarded as the first school psychologist.
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