Sunday, February 21, 2016

Teach Inherit the Wind - It's Important

**This post is a reprint from my English blog**

English teachers are more than teachers of reading, writing, and grammar - they are purveyors of culture.  Much of the "character education" that is desired and promoted by people seeking to reform education can be served through the stories that have defined our society.  From the darkness in man's heart of pieces like Lord of the Flies to the breaking down of prejudice in To Kill a Mockingbird, the stories that we tell define our civilization.

Thus, I was intrigued - and of course baffled by Senator Marco Rubio's recent comments to GQ Magazine in which he claimed to have no knowledge of the age of the earth because he's "not a scientist, man."  Beyond that Rubio - in a conflicted conservative's troubled attempt to have his feet in both camps on the science vs. faith divide - claimed that the age of the earth is "one of life's great mysteries."  Actually, Senator, it's not.  And while many people rushed to defend Rubio's comments as simply "politician speak," it is troubling that the issue of evolution, climate change, and the relevance of science is not a big deal to one of our senators who may aspire to the office of the Presidency soon.

Thus, I dusted off my copy of the classic Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee play Inherit the Wind.  Perhaps no work of literature better addresses the issue of politics and religion messing with education and freedom of thought than this fictionalized work based on the historical Scopes Monkey Trial.  We often learn much more through stories and drama than through simple informational texts, and for that reason I like to promote the teaching of Inherit the Wind.  In the words of Henry Drummond (playing a thinly veiled Clarence Darrow), it's all about one "man's right to think."  In the past I have taught this to high school students, and I am always amazed at how enlightening it is for kids.  It doesn't destroy their faith, but it does get them to think.  And that should be our goal.

So, in an era where the War on Christmas makes the headlines, but the War on Science is more troubling, it's worth taking a week and examining Inherit the Wind.

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