It is Camus-level absurdity that evolution is a controversial subject in the U.S., but that is the world in which we live. Because we live in that saddest of all possible worlds, Alabama deserves a round of applause for deciding that it is important that its students at least understand the ideas and science behind evolution and climate change, even if they do not necessarily believe in them.
According to the Associated Press, The Republican-controlled Alabama State Board of Education voted last Thursday to bring its educational standards into the 19th century and require that students in public schools be taught about evolution. That’s a pretty important thing to cover if Alabama wants any of its students to proceed into STEM fields in college or their professional careers.
“We still have to teach what the science is,” said Michal Robinson, science specialist for the state education agency.”If students want to go into a science field in college or beyond, they have to have a foundation.”
Additionally, teachers are now encouraged to use more hands-on learning through observation and experimentation, rather than merely asking students to memorize facts from a textbook.
“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.”
These sound like good changes, and they’re set to go into effect in 2016. Things are obviously not perfect for the future scientists of Alabama, however. High school science textbooks in Alabama have apparently for years been marked with stickers warning students that evolution is a “controversial theory,” and the new educational standards do nothing to take those stickers away. The fate of the stickers will be addressed in another vote in November when a state science text book committee will vote on whether or not to dispense with them. In the meantime, we will just have to hope that the students of Alabama are smart enough to not get their science information from a sticker. Maybe the state’s new hands-on learning guidelines and emphasis on teaching reason and problem-solving will help with that.
(Photo: iStockPhoto/GettyImages/ Martin Wimmer)