A Historical Spotlight from Issues & Controversies in History:
SCOPES TRIAL: Can a State Bar Evolution from Being Taught in Public Schools?
Can the state of Tennessee keep evolution from being taught in public schools? Be sure to check out Issues & Controversies in History’s complete and unbiased coverage of this issue. Learn more about the issue and check out a sample of the pro/con arguments on both sides below.
In March 1925, Tennessee passed the Butler Act, a law that prohibited the teaching of evolution in its public schools and tax-supported universities. The Butler Act made it illegal “to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of Man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” Four months later, John T. Scopes, a 24-year-old high school teacher, was put on trial for teaching evolution. Did the Butler Act violate both the separation of church and state and Scopes’s intellectual freedom by forbidding him from teaching the scientific basis of evolution? Or did Tennessee have the right to determine what was taught in its classrooms, whether it be the theory of evolution or the biblical story of creation?
Arguments for Intellectual Freedom in Tennessee Schools:
Arguments for State Control of Tennessee Schools:
Through the Butler Act, which prohibits the teaching of evolution in Tennessee schools, the state is trying to redefine science in its schools. Scopes should be allowed the intellectual freedom to teach the scientific truth, rather than be forced by the state to teach religious doctrine. In fact, the Butler Act should be repealed because it is an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state.
States have the right to set the curriculum in public schools; thus, the Butler Act is constitutional. As a state employee, Scopes must obey the statute, so the only issue to consider is whether he broke the law by teaching evolution. Evidence shows that Scopes did in fact teach evolution, so he should be punished accordingly. If Scopes wants to teach evolution, he can simply move to another state where its teaching is not prohibited.
Issues & Controversies in History links this pro/con article to rich related resources that enhance the debate. Students and researchers can delve into primary sources that provide context, a topic-specific timeline, and a bibliography. Plus, discussion questions are provided to inspire critical thinking and analysis.
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Issues & Controversies in History places students at the center of the great debates and conflicts in U.S. and world history, exploring the issues as the key players saw them or, in some cases, as historians have interpreted them. This comprehensive reference database delivers dynamic, concise, and balanced coverage of a broad range of topics, from slavery, empire, and revolution to race, gender, economy, and disease, all over the globe. By building a deeper understanding of how historical events and conflicts have influenced U.S. and world history over the past 5,000 years, Issues & Controversies in History is a powerful tool for helping researchers analyze primary sources, answer document-based questions, and prepare for history debates and research projects.
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