A Civic Biology

Richard Adams at the charmingly-titled No Left Turns blog digs up some unsettling quotes from A Civic Biology, the textbook John Scopes used to teach evolution and was at issue in the Scopes Monkey Trial. The textbook hops from genetics to talk about race and eugenics and calls certain families “parasites” and suggests society do something to control their breeding.

The Remedy. — If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race. Remedies of this sort have been tried successfully in Europe and are now meeting with some success in this country.

Wow… That’s pretty awful stuff. Adams reacts:

Remember, many of the people who supported teaching this stuff denounced those who disagreed for being anti-scince, and backward. Willian Jennings Bryan defended Christianity against Darwin, but he also turned to a more basic language when he called it a “barbarous doctrine.”

Interesting bit about this textbook: it was actually the book that Tennessee required to be used in school. It was only the section on evolution that was controversial, and shortly after the trial, a new edition of the book was released with evolution mostly scrubbed from it — except it still included the quoted section, with a few edits. You can read the whole thing online.

But as long as we’re on the subject of cringe-inducing books from the early 1900s, let us reflect on The Wonder Book of Children of All Nations from England, wherein E.P. Gaston visits the American south to report:

You find yourself liking the half-wild piccaninnies best. Their great brown eyes look at you with a mixture of awe and humble respect — but that is just the time to look out for pranks. The youngsters are less to be trusted than most dogs, but they know the meaning of gratitude, and show it in a clumsy sort of way if the stranger shows them attention or speaks kindly. They are more nearly like dogs, in fact, than anything with which my young readers might be familiar.

Via The Corner.

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