There was an excerpt of this story in a literature textbook I used in high school. I cannot remember the title or the author's name, but it was about a scientist who invents a test to see if people are sane enough to continue as members of society. Most of the world's population fails the test because it's ridiculous and end up in huge asylums across the globe.

If anyone could help identify this short story I would be very grateful. Thank you!

  • 5
    Heh, reminds me of Wonko the Sane.
    – terdon
    Feb 28 '14 at 16:30
  • Any more information that could help identify this? Language of text, age of story etc. Anything you can remember about the textbook? Identifying the textbook could lead to the story. What was the subject of the textbook?
    – Moogle
    Feb 28 '14 at 16:47
  • I've no time right now, but I believe it was included in the collection The Survival of Freedom edited by Jerry Pournelle and John F. Carr. If no one has answered when I get back from a few hours of class I'll try to find the table of contents and look up the amusing little gem of a story Feb 28 '14 at 17:00
  • I believe this should help identify it: web.sbu.edu/friedsam/archives/carr/…
    – Moogle
    Feb 28 '14 at 17:04
  • 1
    If @dmckee is right it's probably "SQ" by Ursula K. Leguin. Summary here semes to match: soullessmachine.com/2007/07/sq-by-ursula-le-guin.html I'll leave it to him to post as an answer since he's the one who actually got it.
    – Paul
    Feb 28 '14 at 18:28

I believe you are asking about "SQ" By Ursula LeGuin.

The story is told from the point of view of the secretary to a researcher turned policy-maker Dr. Speakie. The good doctor has invented a test that (provably) determines a person's degree of sanity--as represented by their sanity quotient (SQ)--and arranged for the governments of the world to require people to regularly pass the test or be sent for (humane) rehabilitation.

Over time, increasingly large portions of the worlds population have been sent for rehabilitation, and Dr. Speakie's office has taken over world wide administrative duties. The story ends with even the good doctor losing it and the secretary acting as the world government.

The story is a humorous gem and manages to be a sly warning against the dangers of letting governments do things for our own good without getting bitter or overwrought.


Sounds a little bit like "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson

  • 5
    I can't think of a single concept that "The Lottery" shares with the story described. Was this supposed to be an answer to a different question?
    – Valorum
    Mar 2 '14 at 20:09
  • You don't remember the scene where the townspeople were all asked to take a short test to determine if they could throw rocks? Aug 26 '18 at 13:30

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