For first time, Alabama schools required to teach climate change, evolution

For the first time, Alabama students will be required to learn about evolution and climate change after the State Board of Education unanimously voted to update the science standard for 2016. The last time the science standards was updated was a decade ago.

The 40-member committee included people with self-described strong religious beliefs. Michael Robinson, a science specialist with the state educational agency, told the Associated Press that the members took into account Alabama’s faith-based traditions when developing the new guidelines.

“We still have to teach what the science is,” Robinson said, according to the AP. “If students want to go into a science field in college or beyond, they have to have a foundation.”

The new guidelines, which have been under construction for the past three years, support the teaching of evolution and the idea that climate change is happening. Instructors will use scientific evidence to support the evolutionary hypothesis and will analyze human’s impact on the environment.

Another big change in the guidelines is how the information will be taught in the classroom. Students will learn more through observation, experimentation and data analysis, rather than with lectures and textbooks.

Since 1995, Alabama textbooks had a disclaimer around evolutionary teachings, saying the ideas were controversial.

The new standards do not require these warnings to be removed; however, a committee will review the use of the disclaimer with a public hearing on Nov. 9.

Although set for next year, Steve Ricks, the director of the Alabama Department of Education’s math and science initiative, told The Huffington Post the state is being “extremely proactive” and rolling out the guidelines immediately.