The state of Alabama has updated its science standards in a unanimous vote by the state school board, and now requires public school students to study evolution and climate change.
Students in the state will not be required to believe in either the theory of evolution or climate change, but they will be asked to demonstrate knowledge pertaining to the subject matter and make their own informed decisions on the topics. Local school officials will be in charge of creating the curriculum, which will not be affiliated with the Common Core, known in Alabama as the College and Career Ready Standards, writes Cliff Sims for the Yellowhammer News.
"The Common Core is only in two subjects: ELA (English Language Arts) and Math, not Science," explained state school board member Mary Scott Hunter. "There is no âCommon Core Science.'"
The science standards were last updated in 2005 and did not require that either subject be included in the curriculum.
"The new standards take effect in 2016 after being unanimously approved by the Republican-controlled Alabama State Board of Education on Thursday," according to Al.com. "No one spoke against the new standards when they were discussed at a board meeting in August, but supporters praised them as a step forward for the state."
The changes will also update the way science is taught in the state. Teachers will no longer rely solely on lectures and memorization of facts. Students will be required to come to their own conclusions on topics learnt through observation and experimentation, "just like real scientists."
Evolution has previously created controversy in Alabama, as textbooks were accented with disclaimer stickers stating that evolution is a "controversial theory some scientists present." The stickers were included after a vote from the board. A committee will meet to determine whether or not to remove the stickers, with a public hearing on the topic set for November 9 in Montgomery, writes Nicole Gorman for Education World.
While the 2001 version of the standards was prefaced by referring to evolution as natural selection that was controversial and discussed skepticism at its ability to produce "large" evolutionary changes, the 2005 version included the skepticism discussion but removed the part about being controversial.
Meanwhile, the new version states: "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 updates are set to go into effect next year.