Study Guide

Inherit the Wind Education

By Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee

Education

MEEKER. […] Seems kinda queer havin' a schoolteacher in our jail. (Shrugs) Might improve the writin' on the walls. (I, I, 92-94)

The bailiff's comment reminds us of the position a schoolteacher is supposed to have in a community: teachers are supposed to be respectable, law-abiding, and good at grammar and spelling. How does Bert live up to, or not live up to, these stereotypes? Do you think teachers are still widely respected today?

BRADY. I'm sure you teach according to the precepts of the Lord.

RACHEL. I try. My pupils are only second-graders. (I, I, 534-35)

Both Brady and Rachel believe in bringing religion right into the classroom, even in public schools. But what about the separation between church and state?

RACHEL. You make it sound as if Bert is a hero. I'd like to think that, but I can't. A schoolteacher is a public servant: I think he should do what the law and the school-board want him to. If the superintendent says, "Miss Brown, you're to teach from Whitley's Second Reader," I don't feel I have to give him an argument. (I, I, 756-61)

Where do you think that the rules for what is taught in schools should come from? Students? Teachers? Administrators? Politicians? This is a thorny issue, Shmoopers.

HORNBECK. Ever give your pupils a snap-quiz on existence?

RACHEL. What?

HORNBECK. Where we came from, where we are, where we're going?

RACHEL. All the answers to those questions are in the Bible.

HORNBECK. (With a genuine incredulity) All?! You feed the youth of Hillsboro

From the little truck-garden of your mind?

Hornbeck is pushing Rachel to see whether she ever thinks for herself. He's upset to find out that not only does she not think too much, but she doesn't want her students to, either. This moment will become very important at the end of the play, when Rachel shows a real change in her attitude. Even "old dogs" can learn new tricks, eh?

BRADY. If you had a son, Mr. Sillers, or a daughter, what would you think if that sweet child came home from school and told you that a Godless teacher— (I, II, 158-60)

What does this line tell us about the way children are considered to be fundamentally innocent, no matter what they do? Is this how you view kids? Why or why not? Do you think this view stems from certain readings of the Bible? Why or why not?

BRADY. […] I tell you, if this law is not upheld, this boy will become one of a generation, shorn of its faith by the teachings of Godless science! (II, II, 56-58)

Wowzers, Brady is really taking this trial to an extreme place. But he does that because he understands the influence education can have on an entire generation of children. At least Drummond and Brady can agree on that point, even if they don't agree on the particulars of what should be taught in schools.

BRADY. […] The people of this state have made it very clear that they do not want this zoo-ological hogwash slobbered around the schoolrooms! (II, II, 309-10)

This line makes an interesting point about our educational system in the U.S.: states are supposed to make decisions about their students' educations, not the federal government. What do you think about the fact that each state makes its own decisions regarding school curricula? Do you think this is a good system or a bad one?

BRADY. The Bible satisfies me, it is enough.

DRUMMOND. It frightens me to imagine the state of learning in this world if everyone had your driving curiosity. (II, II, 525-27)

Drummond is "driving" at the idea that education isn't just the teacher's job… the students have to be curious and want to learn, too. At the same time, he's leveling a punch at Mr. Brady for not being "curious" enough to look for answers outside of what the Bible can provide him.

BRADY. […] Is it possible that something is holy to the celebrated agnostic?

DRUMMOND. Yes! (His voice drops, intensely) The individual human mind. In a child's power to master the multiplication table there is more sanctity than in all your shouted "Amens!", "Holy, Holies!" and "Hosannahs!" An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral. And the advance of man's knowledge is more of a miracle than any sticks turned to snakes, or the parting of waters! But are we now to halt the march of progress because Mr. Brady frightens us with a fable? (II, II, 570-80)

Bet you never thought about what a miracle it is to learn the times tables. Here, Drummond is revealing that he is not just a hard-nosed atheist who has no time for miracles. He is showing that he is able to marvel at the world, which he considers a spiritual act. His spirituality is just cut from a different mold than Brady's, you know?

BRADY. I'll tell you what he's trying to do! He wants to destroy everybody's belief in the Bible, and in God!

DRUMMOND. You know that's not true. I'm trying to stop you bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the education of the United States! And you know it! (II, II, 702-06)

If you didn't think that education was a hot political topic, then you should reread this exchange between Brady and Drummond a few times. Yikes. Trust us; things aren't so different today, Shmoopers. People never stop being concerned about who's "controlling the education of the United States," and for good reason, too.

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