Egret and crab

Friday, April 6, 2012

State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes

Reprinted from today's Murfreesboro Daily News Journal

Tennessee Legislature wants Scopes trial rerun

By Staff Reports

At a time when Tennessee is becoming a national center for technological and alternative fuel research and development, it is odd — to say the least — that our state Legislature would push scientific debate back more than 85 years.

Our state was ground zero for the argument over teaching of evolution in the 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial” after a young teacher in Dayton was charged with violating state law that allowed only the biblical theory of creationism to be taught in classrooms.

John Scopes was convicted in a circus-atmosphere trial that captivated the nation, but Tennessee and numerous other states eventually changed their laws (1) to allow the teaching of biological evolution as an accepted theory of science.

With Republicans controlling the General Assembly, a spate of socially conservative legislation is rolling through the state Capitol, instead of a focus on good government, and this measure appears to be at the head of the class.

Legislation headed for the governor’s desk would encourage teachers to present scientific strengths and weaknesses of topics such as biological evolution, chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning, even though those matters are largely settled in the scientific community.

Science and teacher associations across the state and nation oppose this legislation, yet our Legislature is determined to impose its will on the classrooms of Tennessee, showing a general disrespect for scientific academia in favor of running its religious views up a flagpole.

Besides playing on people’s emotions to garner votes, this could lead to a legal battle over the First Amendment’s establishment clause.

Even more dangerously, it threatens to bog our children down in a debate that should be carried out in Sunday school and at home rather than in science classrooms where experiments and research should take priority.

At the same time this incursion could quell the intellectual curiosity of our children, education budgets would certainly increase because of the need to buy new textbooks.

If Tennessee is determined to move in this direction, it must ask this question as well: Will creationism be on the test? After all, standardized tests are the way we judge our students, schools and teachers, and if teachers start pushing creationism as scientific theory, they could damage student performance on key tests.

Our General Assembly would serve people better by keeping its hands out of the classroom and letting the Department of Education determine what should be taught. Otherwise, school curriculum will be filled with nothing but the ramblings of our elected leaders’ political whims.

—Murfreesboro Daily News Journal

(1) In 1967 - Robert

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