On My Mind: the writings of Sarah Bracey White                                                                                        

 
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 Project Talent

Historical perspective :
In the spring of 1960, 440,000 students in 1,353 schools across the U.S. spent two and a half days answering a series of questions administered by "Project Talent." Lincoln High School in Sumter, SC, the school I attended from 7th thru 12th grades was one of the "colored" schools included in that study. My 9th grade classmates and I were bombarded with tests that were designed to measure our overall academic potential (e.g. vocabulary and arithmetic); knowledge we had acquired both in and outside of school (e.g. social studies and home economics); and our innate capabilities (e.g. memory skills). "Project Talent" assessed our aptitudes, abilities and knowledge, and gathered information about our interests, aspirations, expectations, health, family life, and personalities. It was the first and largest study of young people ever conducted in the US.

The sponsor of "Project Talent" was the US Office of Education. The late 1950s were a period when the US was involved in the "space race," and worried that the Russians were beating us on the education front. Project Talent researchers believed that the challenges and successes of our generation would help determine future research priorities.

On Thursday, March 23rd, 2017, five students tested by "Project Talent" gathered at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago, and shared the stories of our lives since that study 56 years ago: the successes, the failures, the challenges, our coping mechanisms and the things that contributed to our resilience.

All between the ages of 71 and 75, we traveled to Chicago from Oklahoma, Michigan, Florida and New York - all not-quite-sure why we had been singled out to represent our generation; but, we were all inquisitive, sharp, verbally expressive, and willing to open our hearts to each other, the researchers and our audience.