Jump to content

Tea Party just racist?

Recommended Posts


On the written survey, the questions were, "What was the Scopes Trial?"

Who was Clarence Darrow?

Explain his position.

Who was William Jennings Bryan?

Explain his position.

The term, 'monkey' was not mentioned.


They were allowed to answer that they did not know and it's entirely possible that some of them answered like that simply because they didn't feel like spending the time to provide a better answer. There's no way to know.

In my survey this morning, I asked the ones who raised their hands indicating they'd heard of either Darrow or Bryan if they understood what idea those men supported. Then I asked if they had ever heard of either of the men referred to as a 'redneck hick' or a 'civil libertarian'.

Mostly they just know something happened in Tennessee and it had to do with teaching evolution. That's about all. As far as most of them are concerned it is no more relevant to their lives than Belisarius's siege of Sisauranum, or the Howdy Doody show. Just have to maintain a sense of humor.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 132
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Yeap, with those questions it would have been a total.. I don't know. With the name "Clarence Darrow" I might take a second to think it sounded familure, but that is it.


It might be that school was so long ago, so I am a long time away from memorizing things like this for a quiz or test on it.. Perhaps long ago I did know it by it's name.


I do think my interpretation is that Byran was a down south country lawyer, and Darrow was a quick witted northern lawyer.. Don't think it came from school though, there was a very old black & white movie on it that I don't think I watched in full, but part of probably around the time I was in high school. That was my take away of the actors portraying those charactors, at least what I remember of a show I watched 35-40 years back.

Link to post
Share on other sites

As I recall, William Jennings Bryan was not from the south - I believe he was a rather prominent politician from Nebraska (I know he ran for President a few times) but he was perhaps the leading anti-Darwinist and anti-Evolutionist of the day and was asked by a fundamentalist church organization to act as their counsel in the Scopes trial - I think it would be pretty unusual today for there to be a private co-prosecutor in a State of vs. Someone case but the courts in Tennessee allowed it. I don't think anyone ever thought of him as a redneck southern lawyer - I always thought he was considered the bumbling northern fool in the case (thanks to Darrows questioning of him).


Clarence Darrow, on the other hand, was from Ohio, was one of the most famous lawyers in the country (he was the defense attorney for Leopold and Loeb) and was considered to be the "country lawyer" in the case - if any one would have been thought of as the redneck, I believe it would have been Darrow.


The case is probably most famous not for the finding of Scopes as guilty (hellooooo - it's Tennessee - if the case were to be tried today in front of a jury, I doubt that the result would have been any different - I think Darrow took the case knowing Scopes would be found guilty to showcase Tennessee and the other southern states as backwards cesspools of ignorance - but for William Jennings Bryan, the "Co-prosecutor" taking the stand and essentially being made to look like a fool by Darrow.


As I recall, we were taught in high school that Scopes was found guilty but the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the conviction and fine on a technicality and while not ruling the law invalid, essentially signaled that the law was silly and stupid and shouldn't be enforced.

Link to post
Share on other sites

William Jennings Bryan, the "Co-prosecutor" taking the stand and essentially being made to look like a fool by Darrow.


That is the part of the history that is false. You can read the transcript for yourself here:



Yes, Bryan is made to look foolish at points but he also exposes Darrow for the anti-Christian bigot he was. It's worth pointing out too that Bryan took the stand with the expectation that he would be able to examine Darrow, but the judge put a stop to Darrow's examination after an angry exchange between Darrow and Bryan and struck Bryan's testimony from the record.

Link to post
Share on other sites

"AZMike, I noticed the above from your post and it's not the first time I've heard those claims. So I took the opportunity to talk to our guy who teaches a course on Evolution and Religion. I asked him to let me see the results of his 'entry' surveys with regard to the Scopes trial. I also surveyed approximately 150 students this morning with regard to it. By combining both sets of results I am able to construct a sample size of greater than 1000 observations, after the international students are removed from the sample (interestingly, some of them have heard of the Scopes trial, I didn't ask further). Out of all of them, only about 47% have even heard of the Scopes trial, much less formed any strong opinions about it. Out of the total of over 1000 responses, 43 students could identify who Bryan was but could not articulate clearly what his argument was (a few actually had the two guys reversed). Only 37 of the respondents had ever heard of Darrow, much less knew what his argument was. Not a single response from my survey had ever thought about either guy in terms of being a 'redneck hick'. Not a single student in my survey identified either guy as a civil libertarian.


Now these students are college students ranging from freshmen through seniors. They come from nearly every state of the union and like I mentioned, other countries as well. So I think my informal study is a fair characterization, or at least a first cut at one, for what students who go on to college get from school. I'd like to think that the college-bound students are more likely to remember school lessons like this as well. I could be wrong about that but it makes sense at least to me.


The sentence, "Most kids are taught about the Scopes Monkey Trial." does have some ambiguity. It could mean that a majority of students are confronted with something about the Scopes trial and immediately forget it or it could mean that they actually LEARN something about the trial. I am willing to concede that the first option might be true but if so, if my survey is correct, whatever it was that was taught was not effective, at least if the intent was to portray Bryan as a 'redneck hick' and Darrow as the civil libertarian.


I am willing to consider that some of these students are not from what you term, 'modern' schools, whatever those are. However, given that the students from NJ, NY, MA, MN, IL, and the west coast seemed to be as clueless about this as the Southern students, I'm inclined to wonder if ANY of them are products of a 'modern' school system, at least based on your claim. I could be wrong.


So, where do you get your evidence for the claims you made? Do you have some citations in support of those claims? I'd like to know where I went wrong. "


While I'm flattered that my comments resulted in an addition to your class syllabus (tell them Arizona Mike says, "Hey"), it sounds like what you're really saying is that your students are really, really poorly educated.


That's not a big surprise, frankly, and it's no slam on you as an educator (from your class size, I would guess you teach at a college or university level, unless you're a teacher in a high school with a totally insane student-to-teacher level). We are raising a generation of students who are quite knowledgeable within specific career fields, yet who totally lack a historical perspective or critical thinking skills.


It sounds like you have heard about the trial, and I would guess most adult posters are at least familiar with it. Did you originally learn about it at the high school level, and is it not taught anymore? We had at least a week's worth of discussion on it, and my high school wasn't that hot. Is it being skipped now?

Link to post
Share on other sites

I went to high school in the mid-80s in a semi-rural, heavily fundamentalist area. When the biology class taught the theory of evolution, students were allowed to take study hall that week.


In history, the Scopes trial was mentioned, and that was it.


So I decided to go check a history book on my shelves. I sometimes pick up older tomes, just to see how the approach to subjects changes over time. This one was published in 1966. The Scopes trial is reviewed over half of a page of a 700+ page history book.


The trial is summarized as a technical victory for fundamentalism (the drive to outlaw the teaching of evolution), but it also mentions that at the time more and more churches were no longer seeing a conflict between the theory and their faith. The passage mentions Darrow and Bryan and their roles, but draws no conclusions.


If I were teaching US History, with my limited time with the students, I am not sure how much time I would spend on Scopes given that I have a finite number of minutes each day. I would hope that they would know about the trial, but making it the subject for a week? That means you lose out on a lot of other material.

Link to post
Share on other sites

A week would seem too long on that subject. I am sure it was covered somewhere it my history class, but can't remember the school teaching. Just hitting the old black and white movie, watching a few minutes and recognizing the subject matter, then watching a few more minutes before flipping the station.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I heard about the Scopes trial from my parents. My father was fascinated by the story. That was back around 1960-61 or so, it's hard to place the year. I have no idea why he knew about that stuff. They guy was full of surprises like that.

When I brought it up in high school later on, the history teacher spent about 15 minutes on it and then returned to the subject. My most powerful memory was of my fellow students making monkey sounds and annoying the heck out of the teacher. That could be a clue as to why it's neglected I suppose.

It is completely irrelevant to science courses. I guess I should ask some of my K-12 contacts about history curricula these days. I HAVE discussed the teaching of evolution with them but Scopes never came up.


As far as current students being uneducated, I guess if knowledge of the Scopes trial is the criterion, then they must be uneducated. On the other hand, as I've mentioned previously in these forums, I was incredibly proud of them when during a lecture by an MIT-educated nuclear engineer, my students had to correct some of the mistakes in his equations, basic physics at that. The guy was supposed to be a big shot in the nuclear power industry and the stunned look of embarrassment on his face was priceless.


But that didn't answer my question, AZMike. What was the basis for your claim? If there is a study out there somewhere that I've missed, I would like to know about it.

Link to post
Share on other sites

it sounds like what you're really saying is that your students are really, really poorly educated.


Yah, hmmmm....


Well, da Scopes trial is mentioned in da recommended K-12 history content standards:


Examine the rise of religious fundamentalism and the clash between traditional moral values and changing ideas as exemplified in the controversy over Prohibition and the Scopes trial.


So that's half of one content standard out of 47. In one U.S. historical era out of 10. U.S. History being one of two or three different history content areas. History being one content area out of 5 in social studies.


Yah, so that's roughly one ten-thousandth of what students are theoretically supposed to know. Or less. ;)


Honestly, da thing was sort of silly. Kind of da OJ trial of its day.




Link to post
Share on other sites

""Most kids are taught about the Scopes Monkey Trial, with the idea that the noble civil libertarian Clarence Darrow represented "Good" in supporting the teaching of evolution and redneck William Jennings Bryan represented "bad" in opposing the teaching of Darwinism." and later, "Bryan wasn't the redneck hick modern schools often depict him as."


AZMike, I noticed the above from your post and it's not the first time I've heard those claims."


If kids don't know about a pivotal trial/civil liberties case in American history, I may well have been wrong when I said that kids had learned that in school. Apparently, they don't anymore. Certainly, many teenagers and young adults who are atheists are familiar with the topic and bring it up on the Internet, but that may be because they read it in Dawkins or Hitchens or a similar atheist apologetic work. It would appear that the other people who told you the same as I did were also taught about the subject in school or college (as CalicoPenn was), I suspect under similar circumstances as mine.


In my case, it was as a block of a multidisciplinary class that combined history as seen through literature - we wound up spending about a week reading through the 1955 play that was loosely based on the case ("Inherit the Wind," which had about a 2-year run in Broadway and has been periodically revived since then), saw the Academy-Award winning movie to which Moosetracker referred (starring Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, and Gene Kelly, and the husband from Bewitched as the Scopes stand-in), talked about the discrepancies between the Hollywood/Broadway version and the reality, then reviewed the legal cases that had arisen on teaching evolution over the years, and finally had both a physical anthropologist and a creationist address the class. Not a bad way to address a topic at the high school level, but as I said, we were given a somewhat erroneous view of Darrow's beliefs and reasons for opposing Social Darwinism.


I doubt that it was that unusual an experience as you suggest, as my own informal survey at work and at an adult leader meeting tonight reflected that most everyone was familiar with the basics of the trial (the issues concerned, and a majority had a sense of who the players were, and could name at least one) because they were shown the film or read the play in high school, or because the trial was discussed in their history or social studies class in highs school, or later in college. (On the other hand, I hang out with a lot of lawyers, for many of whom Darrow is considered a secular saint.) I suspect that it was so popular in high school because a teacher was one of the heroes, and teachers tend to like movies that show them in a heroic light.


Darrow did not do as well representing the cause of atheism in later public debates, incidentally. He famously got his, um, hat handed to him in a debate with G.K. Chesterton, because Darrow apparently failed to adequately prepare to debate one of one of the most quick-witted and able Catholic apologists of the last century. As a reviewer at the time said,


"At the conclusion of the debate everybody was asked to express his opinion as to the victor and slips of paper were passed around for that purpose. The award went directly to Chesterton. Darrow in comparison, seemed heavy, uninspired, slow of mind, while G.K.C. was joyous, sparkling and witty .... quite the Chesterton one had come to expect from his books. The affair was like a race between a lumbering sailing vessel and a modern steamer. Mrs. Frances Taylor Patterson also heard the Chesterton-Darrow debate, but went to the meeting with some misgivings because she was a trifle afraid that Chesterton's "gifts might seem somewhat literary in comparison with the trained scientific mind and rapier tongue of the famous trial lawyer. Instead, the trained scientific mind, the clear thinking, the lightning quickness in getting a point and hurling back an answer, turned out to belong to Chesterton. I have never heard Mr. Darrow alone, but taken relatively, when that relativity is to Chesterton, he appears positively muddle-headed."


Although the terms of the debate were determined at the outset, Darrow either could not or would not stick to the definitions, but kept going off at illogical tangents and becoming choleric over points that were not in dispute. He seemed to have an idea that all religion was a matter of accepting Jonah's whale as a sort of luxury-liner. As Chesterton summed it up, he felt as if Darrow had been arguing all afternoon with his fundamentalist aunt, and the latter kept sparring with a dummy of his own mental making. When something went wrong with the microphone, Darrow sat back until it could be fixed. Whereupon G.K.C. jumped up and carried on in his natural voice, "Science you see is not infallible!"


Whatever brilliance Darrow had in his own right, it was completely eclipsed."(This message has been edited by AZMike)

Link to post
Share on other sites

To follow up on what Beavah wrote regarding standards, I asked one of my classes today (slightly less than 100 students, mostly freshmen and sophomores) - who, if any of them, had been taught about 'prohibition' in school? The only ones who had never been taught about this event in American history were the international students. 100% of the students from this country had been taught about prohibition and most of them even knew the essential details and could articulate them.


This contrasts with the Scopes trial and I think it is heartening that the schools made the decision that a national issue like prohibition, which had huge social, economic, political, and legal impacts...is more important than the legal equivalent of a circus side show in Tennessee.

Moreover, I can breathe a sigh of relief now...knowing that my students have moved back to 'educated' status. Whew!(This message has been edited by packsaddle)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...