When you think about the concept of public education, does the word religion even cross your mind? It seems that in the modern era, the relationship between schooling and religion has no correlation; however, this wasn’t always the case. The origin of humanity is a subject that has inflicted immense debate, dating back to the 1920’s, and is still discussed in the present.
Specifically, when it comes to public education, the ideology of what should be taught has changed drastically. Darwin’s theory of evolution challenged the teachings of the Bible, which was, and is still considered, as a sinful action. “Inherit in the Wind,” released in 1960, is a fictional movie that is based on the “Scopes Monkey Trial” that took place in 1925. While there are several aspects incorporated into the film, the role of public education is strikingly relevant. The clash of religion and education is explored through this film, which is what makes it relevant, as these ideas are still debated today. The film still resonates with American citizens, as the separation of church and state has changed drastically, and is debated amongst radical Christians.
The film emphasizes the idea that public education and the teachings and stories in the Bible essentially go hand in hand. The teacher put on trial, Cates, is arrested for teaching students that man descended from apes. The small, radical town in Tennessee finds this ideology outrageous, and sinful. Cates fails to abide by the Butler Law, which prohibits teaching evolutionary theory in public schools in Tennessee.
In 2018, teachers rarely, and are often times instructed not to mention religious opinion while teaching, let alone imply to students that mankind originated from God. It’s interesting to consider how much the teachings in public schools have shifted in comparison to 1925 and 2018. Today, it is almost considered incorrect or wrong, for that matter to teach students that humankind was created by God.
America is considered a melting pot, that welcomes those of different religions, including those that do not believe in the same God that is referred to in the Bible. Therefore, in 2018 teaching students that the Bible is the sole reason that humanity exists is almost blasphemy now. So, it is almost incomprehensible to think that a teacher was put on trial for attempting to instill scientific methods into student’s minds.
In fact, in 2008, a teacher who worked for Mount Vernon Middle School in Ohio was fired for his refusal to take his personal Bible off of his desk in his classroom. In 1920, a teacher would have been required to keep a Bible in their classroom and now you will be terminated from your position if you have one in your possession where it is visible to students.
Another interesting factor to consider in public education are the rules that are implemented regarding even speaking about religion. From personal experience, my middle school and high school encouraged students and faculty to refer to Christmas time as the "holiday season." Decorations put up in the hallways and classrooms did not incorporate the term Merry Christmas or anything in relation to Jesus or any biblical characters. Other schools around the country follow these procedures as well, because it may offend someone who is not Christian.
Due to some of these changes within the public education system, some Christians who are faithful followers choose to homeschool their students, for the sake of not exposing their children to scientific ideas, as they wish to mold their child’s mind on the idea of God and creationism. The recent political election has also increased tensions with this as some of President Trump’s supporters are often considered to be radical Christians.
Referring back to the "Inherit the Wind" film, governor Brady states that teachers are required to be servants of the Bible in their teachings. Henry Drummond challenges him, in debating that God created individuals, and provided them with different minds in order to be creative individuals with different thoughts and ideas.
We live in a society that has evolved into encouraging students to develop a free-thinking and independent mindset, which completely challenges and goes against the ideals expressed in the film. The thought of a teacher going to prison for teaching student’s methods other than the Bible is almost incomprehensible in the structure of modern public education. It’s also interesting to note that Darwinism is now a part of most public’s school’s curriculum. Personally, I was introduced to this theory in middle school, and then again during my freshman year biology class.
Freedom of expression with the idea of modernism has drastically altered the way teachers teach and the way students think as well. Yes, students are given material from teacher’s and tested on it, but in comparison to 1925 when the Scopes Trial took place, the aspects of public education are much different. Student’s and, more generally, people in society are encouraged to listen to what they are being taught, but process information they are given in whichever way they please.