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Inherit the Wind
SUBJECTS — U.S./1913 - 1929 & Tennessee; Cinema;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Justice;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Trustworthiness.
Age: 12+; Not Rated; Drama; 1960; 128 minutes; B & W.
This drama is loosely based on the "Scopes Monkey Trial" (Dayton, Tennessee, 1925). However, the inspiring event for Inherit the Wind was the Red Scare of the late 1940s and early 1950 and the excesses of redbaiters such as Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee. Therefore the "trial" in the film departs to some extent from the historical record. The film and the play on which it was based have come to symbolize the Scopes trial in the national consciousness of the United States.
The The TeachWithMovies.com Learning Guide to Inherit the Wind will help teachers raise a crucial question that must be resolved by all democracies, i.e., the proper balance between the power of the majority and the rights of the individual. In addition, the film serves as a platform to discuss the following issues that Americans were dealing with in the 20th century or which are of importance today: "creationism" vs. the theory of evolution; fundamentalist religion; reliance on tradition vs. acceptance of the newest revelations of science; populism vs. reliance on experts; regionalism vs. nationalism; and the Red Scares. The Learning Guide to the movie describes each position on these issues in the words of the participants in the Scopes trial and suggests relevant discussion questions. The Guide also provides background information that will help teachers describe the important historical figures of William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow.
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Inherit the Wind is the classic representation of the Scopes Monkey Trial.
Learning Guide Excerpt
To demonstrate how our Learning Guides can be used by teachers to improve lesson plans, we have set out below a part of the description of William Jennings Bryan from the Learning Guide to Inherit the Wind.
William Jennings Bryan, "the Great Commoner," was a principled politician representing the agrarian wing of the progressive movement. He was the Democratic party's candidate for president three times and should have held that office (one presidential election was stolen from him). Bryan advocated many reforms which were controversial at the time but most of which have now been adopted, including: the graduated income tax, the direct election of senators by the people, women's suffrage, workman's compensation, the minimum wage, the eight hour day, and many more. While he was never elected president, history has shown that Bryan's positions on the issues of the day were, for the most part, eventually enacted into law. The two most important exceptions were his advocacy of prohibition (enacted into law but later repealed) and his leadership of the anti-evolution crusade. But Bryan's overall record of support for many progressive causes that were later adopted has assured his place in history.
The Learning Guide to the film Inherit the Wind contains sections on Benefits of the Movie, Possible Problems, Helpful Background, Discussion Questions, Links to the Internet, and Bridges to Reading. The Discussion Questions are divided into three categories: Subject Matter, Social-Emotional Learning, and Moral-Ethical Emphasis.
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