Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Going Ape: Florida's Battles over Evolution in the Classroom

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Going Ape: Florida's Battles over Evolution in the Classroom

Article excerpt

Going Ape: Florida's Battles over Evolution in the Classroom. By Brandon Haught. (Gainesville and other cities: University Press of Florida, 2014. Pp. [xiv], 277. $24.95, ISBN 978-0-8130-4943-4.)

The politics of evolutionism were quite active in the state of Florida during the first decade of the twenty-first century. One of the most active groups campaigning against the teaching of creationism in public schools has been Florida Citizens for Science, founded in 2005. The author of this book, Brandon Haught, belongs to this organization, and as a participant in the debates, he began to ask himself about the origins of the rejection of evolutionism in Florida, including its connections with the present situation. Going Ape: Florida's Battles over Evolution in the Classroom is not an academic book, which explains the way it was researched and written. In a very clear narrative that relies mostly on evidence from public records and newspapers, Haught explains how the public debate about teaching evolution was shaped, and how arguments changed in response to the failures experienced by creationists in their attempt to control the teaching of science. This is probably the most important lesson that one can learn from reading this book. Against the typical image of religious fanaticism and dogmatism, the picture that emerges through the reading of Going Ape shows us how savvy those opposing evolution have been in their development of different strategies to bring about a science curriculum not centered on Charles Darwin's theory.

The book begins with a detailed account of William Jennings Bryan's "crusade against the teaching of evolution" that began in 1921 (p. 1). The next important wave of anti-evolutionary politics broke in 1962, with the Florida Department of Education's publication of A Guide: Teaching Moral and Spiritual Values in Florida Schools (Tallahassee, 1962). Haught provides an excellent and clear explanation of the arguments that framed the implementation of creationism in the 1980s, including the creationists' lost battle over textbooks. …

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