“…there is more sanctity…in a child’s power to master multiplication…an idea is a greater monument than a cathedral…and the advancement of man’s knowledge is more of a miracle….”
Henry Drummond – “Inherit the Wind”
These lines are from the 1955 Jerome Lawrence/Robert Lee play, “Inherit the Wind”, the fictionalized account of the real life 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial”. John Scopes, a Tennessee science teacher, went on trial, for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution. Contemporaries Williams Jennings Bryant and Clarence Darrow faced each other at the trial and Scopes was ultimately found guilty and fined $100.
The film version of “Inherit the Wind”, released in 1960, is a ‘who’s who’ of Hollywood talent most notably, Spencer Tracy who portrayed Henry Drummond (nee Clarence Darrow). It is Spencer Tracy who gives the above speech with the kind of power and passion a viewer would expect from the acting legend.
The film and play have long been heralded a testament to the seemingly never-ending conflict between challenging established ideas and the power that comes from accepting new ones, But I for one, find more hope and deliverance in Spencer Tracy’s speech on learning than in any of the veiled socio-political messages the film and play are said to posses.
For, my fellow TEACHERS, despite the long, paper-pushing, hoop-jumping, nose-wiping, direction-repeating, parent-comforting, ADMINISTRATOR-comforting, lunch-guzzling, nerve-wracking, school day (..and night…and early morning…) Spencer Tracy is on to something. That flash of recognition when a student “GETS IT!”…the girl who NEVER LOOKED UP during the writing lesson but on her way out to recess hands you a note using ALL the strategies you just gave… the young man in the hall helping move something who you hear apply the use of a lever, the lesson the class did in lab a week before… those moments, my fellow teachers are sacred and powerful and miraculous…
….and you helped make them…
It’s pretty clear that Lights! Camera! Literature! promotes the use of film in the study of literature, but we also truly believe that cross-curriuluar consideration and interdisciplinary use makes it possible to use film to explore, enrich, and elevate almost anything.
Dear teachers…in this case it’s YOU and all you do…but don’t thank me…
…thank Spencer Tracy!
edWords – Great Words on Education from Great Minds
Take a look at our piece on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and in March look for edWords from Louisa May Alcott and Emma Watson as we celebrate Women’s History Month!