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Educational historian looks at origins of the culture wars
Date:4/19/2010

Tenn.

In 1925, Tennessee passed the Butler Act, prohibiting the teaching of evolution in place of the Bible's account. Teacher John Scopes agreed to challenge the law by violating it in the classroom. The so-called "monkey trial" drew a firestorm of publicity and featured two leading orators William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow on opposite sides.

Scopes was convicted and the anti-evolution movement sought similar laws in other states. But fundamentalists lost the battle for public opinion. Darrow's questioning of Bryan's biblical views on the witness stand helped the media and evolutionists portray fundamentalists in stereotypical terms, such as barbarians, bigots and ignoramuses, that resonated across the nation.

The trial and its aftermath proved to be "a shock to the fundamentalist system," Laats said. Fundamentalists were especially stunned that they were not seen as having the moral high ground of the debate.

In the wake of the trial, the fundamentalist movement became a smaller group that cared little about what mainstream America said. In fact, Laats said, fundamentalists embraced the fact that they would not win over the opposition.

"If they wanted to have control over education, they had to start their own subcultural institutions," he said.

Fundamentalists did just that by founding Bob Jones University, becoming active at schools such as Wheaton College in Illinois and forming Bible schools and radio stations across the country.

"It's that environment," Laats said, "that nurtured people like Billy Graham, who re-emerged in the 1940s and 1950s and said, 'We hold our beliefs, but we need to re-engage with mainstream America.'"

Bob Jones University became instrumental in the rise of Christian day schools and home schooling when it started a series of textbooks in 1973 written from a Bible-based perspective.

These influential books brought the work of 1920s-era fundamentali
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Contact: Gail Glover
gglover@binghamton.edu
607-777-2174
Binghamton University
Source:Eurekalert  

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