American Federation of Teachers' Statement (Full Text)

Head Note: The American Federation of Teachers released a statement in support of John Scopes. As you read, think about their reasons for supporting him.

The American Federation of Teachers is deeply concerned about the effect of the Tennessee anti-evolution law on the development of enlightenment in teaching in this country.

In certain states of the union teaching as a constructive social function has been menaced, and may be menaced again, by misguided legislative authority that fears to trust the intelligence, the public spirit and the devotion to duty of the profession whose obligation it is, and whose desire it is, to serve the people by training the children for intelligent citizenship. The reactionary Lusk school laws in the state of New York, abolished in 1923 after a trial of two years, the Green Bill of California proposed in 1921 and also dealing with the matter of controlling the opinions of teachers, as well as the numerous bills in several states that have been designed to censor the writing and the teaching of history in the schools -- all reflect the same unfortunate suspicion and mistrust of educational intelligence which the Tennessee anti-evolution law betrays. As public school teachers, and other teachers, representing many states, east, west, north and south, we, the delegates to the Ninth Annual Convention of the American Federation of Teachers, in convention assembled, deplore the continuance in our national life of the spirit of unenlightened legislative dictatorship.

As public-spirited members of our profession, we raise no objection to legislative or other inquiry into the prevailing customs, the aims and the qualifications of teachers anywhere. On the contrary, we welcome from all quarters investigations of teachers and of school systems. But we insist that attention be given to the conditions that relate for good or ill to the improvment, nay, to the very life, of teaching as a necessary activity of organized society. Ineffective as teaching may have been in much of our educational work, progress is to be expected only where there is freedom not only to think, but also to follow with the understanding and development of thought in every field of human endeavor....

As teachers we especially fear the effect of the present wave of intolerance in education on the task of providing the schools with enlightened teachers. Without freedom in the intellectual life, and without the inspiration of uncensored discovery and discussion, there could ultimately be no scholarship, no schools at all and no education. The minds that now seek an outlet in education would be driven off into other fields, if, indeed they could find a reason for existence anywhere.

Source: Excerpt from resolution adopted by the American Federation of Teachers on July 18, 1925.