Monday, October 13, 2008

Ringside, 1925: Views From the Scopes Trial

I heard one of the OEA-endorsed candidates for Ohio's State School Board (Kristin McKinley -- District 6) speak last week. (All candidates for Ohio State School Board here. If you don't live in Ohio, check the website for your state's Board of Elections.)

As a person running in one of the "small" races on the November ballot, she encouraged us to "Vote up." Start at the bottom of the ballot and make sure you vote for all of the "small" races and issues before you get to the presidential race at the top of the ticket. Good advice for all voters. Pass it on, please. Let's not get so caught up in the "big" race that we forget to help decide all the issues and races that might effect us on a more daily basis.

As educators, we were interested to hear Ms. McKinley's positions on such issues as licensure fees and a more publicly responsive State School Board.

Ms. McKinley reported that so far, the ONLY question she had been asked in phone calls from the voting public at large was to determine her position on teaching creationism/intelligent design in the public schools.

Seems like a perfect time to read Jen Bryant's new book:

Ringside, 1925: Views from the Scopes Trial
by Jen Bryant
Random House, 2008
review copy provided by the publisher

This novel in verse is told through the voices of several of the students at Rhea County High School in Dayton, TN, where J.T. Scopes happened to substitute in a biology class on the day the evolution chapter was covered, and then agree to be arrested for violating the Butler Act. Other voices include adults from the community who represent a variety of positions on religion and science.

The students are shown thinking through the issues and finding ways to both believe in religion and study science:
"Our state lawmakers passed the Butler Act

because they think science will poison our minds.
Well, I don't feel poisoned. I still believe in the divine.
Why should a bigger mind need a smaller God?"
Here's another example:
"I really don't think Mr. Scopes had any
intention of replacing the Holy Book.
I think he just wanted to teach science,
which is not the same as religion,
and I think what everyone at Rhea County High
likes about Mr. Scopes
is that he trusts us to learn both
and know the difference."
Through the poems, we learn of the friendship between Clarence Darrow and W.J. Bryan, and how, by the end of the trial, that friendship had dissolved when their differences of belief became too great to overcome.

The poems show that, for some of the fictional characters at least, the Scopes Trial was a life-changing event. In the Epilogue we learn that especially up until the 1960's, but continuing today, teachers are nervous and/or under attack for teaching about evolution.

And where does Kristin McKinley stand on this issue? She believes that as long as the US Constitution says that there is a separation of church and state, we don't even need to waste our breath arguing about it, and we certainly don't need to waste money that could be used educating our children to argue about it in the courts.

1 comment:

  1. I'm flustered by this craze of teaching creationism in schools. In my day--I'm only 28 so it's still fairly recent-- there was a place to teach these kind of religious ideas; it was called sunday school.


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