This investigation of the Scopes Trial encourages students to think about historical context. Historical events are shaped by and reflect the world that surrounds them. In this module, students will learn to ask: What else was happening at that time? What was the political, economic, social, and cultural climate? How was the event shaped by the personalities and interests of the people involved?

The Scopes Trial has become synonymous with the debate over evolution. It has been understood as a clash between religion and science over the origins of man. Few people recognize that the Scopes trial was a product of the 1920s, a sign of its times. The trial became a flashpoint for preexisting tensions between rural and urban culture, between agnostics and fundamentalists, between traditionalism and modernity. The trial further reflected the recent expansion of public high schools and the rise of popular culture. Students cannot understand the Scopes trial without understanding its historical context.

Use this module to teach students that the Scopes trial was not a simple debate between evolutionists and creationists; rather, it reflected the larger social and cultural tensions of the 1920s.

On this teacher page, you will find lessons, worksheets, alternative source versions, samples of student work, and an annotated webography to help you teach this unit.