I was reminded of this while reading Adam Shapiro’s fine book, Trying Biology: The Scopes Trial, Textbooks, and the Antievolution Movement in American Schools. Central to Trying Biology is the argument that the Scopes Trial was not the inevitable result of an eternal conflict between science and religion, but instead grew out of "debates over American education that had little to do with either science or religion" (12). As Shapiro nicely articulates, the school antievolution movement that emerged in the early 1920s was a backlash against schools teaching evolution "in a politically charged way" and "to a new population of students" (65). Three developments fueled this backlash. First, there was "a new generation of biology textbooks that … intertwined applications of biology promoting certain cultural and economic worldviews" — an approach known as "civic biology" — and that had as their target audience students in the urban North. The second was a move (particularly in the South and West) "away from local textbook adoption in favor of state-level regulation," a shift driven by intense frustration with monopolistic publishing firms and corrupt textbook salesmen. Finally, there was the "expansion of compulsory high school into the rural South … which brought civic biology textbooks to students for whom other approaches to the life sciences were intended" (66).
Copyright © 2015, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht
Trollinger, William Vance, "Biology Textbooks and the Decentering of the Scopes Trial" (2015). History Faculty Publications. 43.