main article image
Volt Collection/Shutterstock.com

Yes! Alabama Public Schools Now Have to Teach Evolution And Climate Change

15 SEPTEMBER 2015

The US state of Alabama has just updated its science standards for the first time in a decade, and the new rules state that public schools will have to teach students evolution and climate change.

 

It's a pretty big deal for the 'Bible Belt' state, where the topics are controversial and have never been taught in detail as part of the state education standards. Right now disclaimer stickers are required on the front of all Alabama science textbooks stating that evolution is a "controversial theory" - which clearly couldn't be further from the truth.

The current Alabama science standards were set in 2005, and state that students "should understand the nature of evolutionary theories", but emphasise that such knowledge isn't required. Climate change isn't mentioned at all, as the Associated Press reports.

The new standard, which will take effect in 2016 after being approved on Thursday night, requires that climate change is taught, and the position on evolution is a lot stronger:

"The theory of evolution has a role in explaining unity and diversity of life on earth. This theory is substantiated with much direct and indirect evidence. Therefore, this course of study requires our students to understand the principles of the theory of evolution from the perspective of established scientific knowledge. The committee recognises and appreciates the diverse views associated with the theory of evolution."

It's up to each public school to set their own curriculum, but they'll be forced to meet these standards as a minimum requirement.

"We still have to teach what the science is," science specialist for the state education agency, Michal Robinson, told Jay Reeves from the Associated Press. "If students want to go into a science field in college or beyond, they have to have a foundation."

Alabama isn't the only state with some pretty backwards science standards - it was recently revealed that teachers in Louisiana are using the Bible to teach creationism in science classrooms, and Missouri has introduced a bill that would let students 'opt out' of evolution lessons. 

But things are slowly changing. Last year the UK banned state-funded schools from teaching creationism, and now Alabama is also ensuring that its public schools are teaching real science.

Another big change in the new standards is the fact that they will force schools for the first time to teach students using observation and experiments, just like real scientists, rather than simply relying on textbooks and memorising facts.

"I don't see how students would be able to learn this material without doing the science," said Steve Ricks, director of the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative. "We are trying to teach kids to reason and solve problems."

Unfortunately these new standards don't require those "controversial theory" stickers to be peeled off the front of textbooks, but a committee that could get rid of them for good will meet on November 9 for a public hearing.

Fingers crossed that those will be the next outdated legislations to go and students are finally allowed to learn real science, without religion getting in the way.