The San Francisco Chronicle had an opinion essay from New Scientist editor James Randerson yesterday. See “80 years later, Scopes trial debate still alive”. Yesterday, notably, was the 80th Anniversiary of the Scopes Trial, which still informs discussion of all modern battles over evolution education – and rightly so in my opinion. The modern situation cannot be understood without William Jennings Bryan and his 1921-1925 anti-evolution crusade. You think “theory, not fact” policies are new? Well, Bryan got his crusade going a few years before the 1925 Scopes Trial. The first antievolution law was passed in Oklahoma in 1923, followed by Bryan’s home state of Florida. 1924 was a legislative off-year, but in the Scopes era some states took nonlegislative actions. According to Ed Larson, Trial and Error (2003, p. 75):
Supplementing this legislative activity, some state and local educational boards took the initiative in moving against evolutionary teaching. A year before the Scopes trial, the state Board of Education in California had directed teachers to present Darwinism “as a theory only”….
(Other action was subsequently taken by the North Carolina Board of Education, the Texas Textbook Commission (sound familiar?), and the Louisiana Superintendent of Education.)
NPR’s On the Media did a story, “Evolving Coverage” yesterday on the Scopes media coverage – one interesting factoid is that they rolled wire all the way down to Dayton to pipe the audio out to national radio stations. And All Things Considered has a timeline, photo series, and story collection on Scopes then and now.