Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

Saturday, August 7, 2021

History Repeats Itself

Currently, controversy is brewing in State and Local governments across the U.S. over whether Critical Race Theory should be taught in public schools. According to Wikipedia, "Critical race theory (CRT) is a body of legal scholarship and an academic movement of civil-rights scholars and activists in the United States who seek to critically examine the intersection of race and U.S. law and to challenge mainstream American liberal approaches to racial justice. CRT examines social, cultural, and legal issues primarily as they relate to race and racism in the United States." Also, according to Wikipedia, "As of 2002, over 20 American law schools and at least three non-American law schools offered critical race theory courses or classes that covered the issue."

This would not be the first time governments have attempted to prevent the teaching of subjects of which they disapprove. 

On March 25,  1925, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed what would be known as the Butler Act. Introduced by member John Washington Butler, this legislation prohibited public school teachers from denying the Biblical account of humankind's origin. The law also prevented teaching that humans evolved from what it referred to as lower orders of animals in place of the Biblical account.

The law was challenged by the ACLU in the famed Scopes Trial, in which John Scopes, a high school science teacher, agreed to be arrested on a charge of having taught evolution. Scopes was served a warrant on May 5, 1925. Scopes was found guilty during the trial, and the law was found to be constitutional by the Tennessee Supreme Court on the grounds that it didn't establish a "preference to any religious establishment or mode of worship." However, Scopes's conviction was reversed on a technicality. 

John Scopes
The Tennessee Legislature finally repealed the Butler Act on May 18, 1967.

In 1955, The Scopes Monkey Trial was turned into a play and later, in 1960, a major motion picture titled Inherit the Wind. The film was directed by Stanley Kramer and starred Spencer Tracy as lawyer Henry Drummond and Fredric March as his friend and rival Matthew Harrison Brady. It also features Gene Kelly, Dick York, Harry Morgan, Donna Anderson, Claude Akins, Noah Beery Jr., Florence Eldridge, and Jimmy Boyd.

Scene from the movie Inherit the Wind

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