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Student Work

Scopes Trial: Paper A

The Scopes trial is most commonly remembered as a dramatic clash between those who believed in evolution and those who believed that God created the world in seven days. However, the controversy surrounding the Scopes trial was, in fact, more complicated. How was the controversy surrounding the Scopes trial more complicated than a simple debate between evolutionists and creationists?

Student A

Another way in which the Scopes trial affected America was that it took a lasting conflict,[1] one between small towns and big cities, and brought it to a head while placing it on a pedastoll. Big cities had always regarded these small towns as inferior, calling its residents "Cranks and Freaks. . . " (NYT, 1925) and thatís putting it mildly. Meanwhile the small towns considered big cities to be the nest of evil, and den of sin, saying that big cities like New York or Chicago are where "religion is being most neglected. . . were vice and crime are most rampant" (Rev. Stratton, 1925).[2] Both sides had their strong points and both had their weaknesses, and the Scopes trial provided an excellent place for them to publicly duke it out over a familiar issue.[3]

  1. Here, the student implies that the conflict between small towns and big cities predated the Scopes trial.
  2. Here the student supports her claim with direct evidence from the documents
  3. Here the student makes the claim that the Scopes trial was a convenient place to battle this old issue. In that sense, she seems to imply that the issue of evolution was actually secondary.

Commentary

The Scopes inquiry asks: "How was the controversy surrounding the Scopes trial more complicated than a simple debate between evolution and creation?" This inquiry is about the importance and relevance of historical context. We learn from the documents that there were tensions beyond allegiances to evolution or creationism that contributed to the attention that the trial received. Among these was the tension between inhabitants of big cities and small towns. Above is one of two examples of how students responded to the inquiry question.

Student A successfully frames the trial as representing a broader conflict "between small towns and big cities." She incorporates direct quotations from the documents to support her claims. In other words, she successfully uses the documents to make the claim that the Scopes trial was more complicated than a simple debate between evolution and creation.

See Paper B for an example of a less successful answer to the inquiry question.