Scopes Trial

Contributor: Sarah Lerdal. Lesson ID: 11109

The Scopes Trial fueled a battle that continues today about who decides what is taught in public schools. Join, and write about, the battle!


United States

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Who has the right to decide what should be taught in public schools in America? Do you believe this should be a local, state, or national decision? Discuss your thoughts with your teacher.

In the 1920s, both religious fundamentalism and the numbers of high school graduates were growing.

Devout Christians in America were concerned about the athiestic communists taking over the Soviet Union. At home, with the passage of Prohibition, Christians saw a rise in violent crime, a growth in materialism, and the changing role of women. This led to a rise in fundamentalism, an approach that emphasizes the idea that every word in the Bible is literal truth. (Explore the Elephango lessons found under Additional Resources in the right-hand sidebar for more on the 1920s.)

Important questions could be answered by the Bible, like the origin of the world. Fundamentalism grew most in rural America. At the same time, the U.S. Census Bureau notes that in 1910, 8.6% of all 17-year-olds graduated from high school, and by 1930, that percentage had grown to 28.8. School and religion would come to a head in one of the most famous trials of all time.

Watch the Scopes Trial (Historical Thinking Matters):


Read Scopes "Monkey" Trial (1925) (Douglas O. Linder, Professor of Law) for a more thorough explanation of the trial.

Visit and scroll down the Key Events Surrounding the Scopes Trial (Historical Thinking Matters) timeline.

Take some time to summarize this case to your teacher.

This debate over the teaching of evolution in schools became known as a debate between creationists and evolutionists. Alhtough the trial ended with the teacher, John Scopes, being found guilty of teaching evolution, the debate over the origin of life continues today.

Read the Pew Research Center's article, On Darwin's 200th Birthday, Americans Still Divided About Evolution.

  • Why do you think the conflict over evolution continues today?

Discuss the article and polls with your teacher, then continue on to the Got It? section to uncover some background to the trial and its times.

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