The Scopes Trial
William Jennings Bryan addressing the court

The Scopes trial of 1925 reflected the numerous cultural clashes occurring across America at the time. But, even more than Prohibition and the rise of the Second Ku Klux Klan, "the trial of the century" has endured in the American culture. One reason is that the trial (and its appeal) did not decide the two key issues at stake: (1) whether so-called rural values associated with religious fundamentalism or so-called urban values associated with science and modernism was to be the main basis of American culture, and (2) whether academic freedom should give way to the right of the state legislature to determine what the state's children learned in school. Darrow addressing the juryThe debates over fundamentalism and modernism and over who controls the content taught in public schools continued throughout the rest of the 20th century. The trial, along with other cultural clashes in the 1920s, was a keen indication that Americans had begun in a more intense manner than ever before--even during the Revolutionary War period--to debate the basic values of their civilization. In large measure because of the cultural issues involved and the fact that the trial did not resolve them, some of the historical facts have given way to legend.

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