The Evolution of Public Education Catalyzed by The Scopes Trial

The Evolution of Public Education Catalyzed by The Scopes Trial

The 1925 Scopes Trial has drastically influenced the structure of modern education.

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.

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Stop Discourging Future Teachers

One day, you'll be thankful for us.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?" It seems like this is the question we heard from the time we were able to talk. Our answers started out as whatever movie or action figure was popular that year. I personally was going to be Cinderella and shoot spider webs out of my wrists at the same time. The next phase was spent choosing something that we read about in a book or saw in movies. We were aspiring to be actors, skydivers, and astronauts.

After we realized NASA may not necessarily be interested in every eager 10-year-old, we went through the unknown stage. This chapter of life can last a year or for some, forever. I personally did not have a long “unknown" stage. I knew I was going to be a teacher, more specifically I knew I wanted to do elementary or special education. I come from a family of educators, so it was no surprise that at all the Thanksgiving and Christmas functions I had actually figured it out. The excitement of knowing what to do with the rest of my life quickly grew and then began to dwindle just as fast.


"Well, looks like you'll be broke all your life."

“That's a lot of paperwork."

“If I could go back and do it again, I wouldn't choose this."

These are just a few replies I have received. The unfortunate part is that many of those responses were from teachers themselves. I get it, you want to warn and prepare us for the road we are about to go down. I understand the stress it can take because I have been around it. The countless hours of grading, preparing, shopping for the classroom, etc. all takes time. I can understand how it would get tiresome and seem redundant. The feeling a teacher has when the principal schedules yet another faculty meeting to talk an hour on what could've been stated in an email… the frustration they experience when a few students seem uncontrollable… the days they feel inadequate and unseen… the sadness they feel when they realize the student with no supplies comes from a broken home… I think it is safe to say that most teachers are some of the toughest, most compassionate and hardworking people in this world.

Someone has to be brave enough to sacrifice their time with their families to spend time with yours. They have to be willing to provide for the kids that go without and have a passion to spread knowledge to those who will one day be leading this country. This is the reason I encourage others to stop telling us not to go for it.

Stop saying we won't make money because we know. Stop saying we will regret it, because if we are making a difference, then we won't. Stop telling us we are wasting our time, when one day we will be touching hearts.

Tell us to be great, and then wish us good luck. Tell us that our passion to help and guide kids will not go unnoticed. Tell us that we are bold for trying, but do not tell us to change our minds.

Teachers light the path for doctors, police officers, firefighters, politicians, nurses, etc. Teachers are pillars of society. I think I speak for most of us when I say that we seek to change a life or two, so encourage us or sit back and watch us go for it anyways.

Cover Image Credit: Kathryn Huffman

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14 Honest College Things The Class Of 2023 Needs To Know ~Before~ Fall Semester

Sit down, be humble.


To The Class of 2023,

Before you start your college career, please know:

1. Nobody...and I mean nobody gives a shit about your AP Calculus scores.


" I got a 5 in Calc AB AND BC, a 5 in AP Literature, awh but I only got a 4 in AP Chem"

2. THE SAME GOES FOR YOUR SAT/ACT SCORES + nobody will know what you're talking about because they changed the test like 10 times since.


3. College 8 AMs are not the same as your 0 period orchestra class in 12th grade.


4. You're going to get rejected from a lot of clubs and that does not make you a failure.


5. If you do get into your clubs, make sure not to overwhelm or overcommit yourself.

visual representation of what it looks like when you join too many clubs


6. It's OK to realize that you don't want to be pre-med or you want to change majors.


7. There will ALWAYS ALWAYS be someone who's doing better than you at something but that doesn't mean you're behind.


8. "I'm a freshman but sophomore standin-" No, you don't have to clarify that, you'll sound like an asshole.


9. You may get your first ever B-, C+ or even D OR EVEN A W in your life. College is meant to teach you how to cope with failure.


10. Go beyond your comfort zone. Join a theatre club if you're afraid of public speaking. Join an animal rescue club if you're afraid of animals. College is learning more about yourself.


11. Scholarships do exist. APPLY APPLY APPLY.


12. Don't try to brag about all the stuff you did in high school, you'll just sound like a weenie hut jr. scout


13. Understand and be sensitive to the fact that everybody around you has a different experience and story of getting to university.


14. You're going to be exposed to people with different opinions and views, don't fight them. Instead, try to explain your perspective and listen to their reasoning as well.


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