The end of the Great War ushered in the Reactionary Twenties, when Americans had less than positive reactions to controversial issues and people of the day, such as the Scopes Monkey Trial and various issues arising from the Great Depression. Discuss the issues on Mr. Scopes's (defendant) and the school system’s (plaintiff) sides that were argued in the Scopes Monkey Trial. Do you agree with the outcome? Compare the impact of the stock market crash on the American people as far as the loss of jobs, food, and housing in 1929 to what Americans are currently experiencing in the Covid-19 pandemic as far as the loss of jobs, food, and housing in 2020.  

The primary issue in the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 was the debate over the relationship between science and religion in the public school classroom; however, there are many less explored issues that can be explored productively.

The current coronavirus epidemic does not approach, in terms of scale and impact, the Great Depression; however, the crisis is not over. One can examine the Great Depression side by side with astute observations of the current crisis to make some educated predictions.

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An answer to these questions will need to be generated on the basis of the materials provided to the student; however, there are some basic ideas and issues that might be explored.

This prompt contains two questions: one is based on what is sometimes called the Scopes Monkey Trial, and the other on the current coronavirus crisis relative to the Great Depression.

The Scopes Monkey Trial involved a public-school biology teacher in Tennessee, John Scopes, who was charged with breaking the law by teaching the theory evolution, that humans evolved from lesser life forms. The defense was led by Clarence Darrow and the prosecution by William Jennings Bryan. Scopes was found guilty, but the case was later dismissed on a technicality.

The case is usually presented as "science on trial." One could approach a discussion from that perspective. Was it proper for state laws to prevent the teaching of science? Does religion belong in the classroom? There are, however, other questions: should courts uphold the law, even when the law doesn't seem fair? Was Scopes teaching in an open way, considering other theories, or was he presenting theory as fact? What was the motive of the prosecution? Was the teaching on evolution at that time consistent with today's scientific consensus on evolution? Were there local politics involved in the trial? Some of these questions can be probed by looking at the transcript and other primary sources related to the trial. See the link below.

The second question requires a degree of speculation and fortune-telling, as the coronavirus crisis has not yet fully played out and we do not yet know its full impact; however, one may rely on personal observations and published statistics and relate them to the relatively vast amount of information on the Great Depression. The economic fallout cannot be thoroughly compared yet, but one might probe things like unemployment rates as well as the economic context within which each crisis started. Are we as vulnerable today as we were then? Is the extent of the crisis the same? During the Great Depression, banks closed, people lost their homes, unemployment was rampant, homelessness grew and shantytowns sprang up across the country. Do we see this happening today? Is it likely to happen? Observers often overlook that the stock market crash was compounded by the Great Drought of 1930-31 and other natural phenomena, like the Dust Bowl. Could similar natural disasters or other challenges compound the current crisis? The Great Depression lasted for a decade or more. Is this likely to happen with the current crisis?

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