Good news for those of us who support accurate science education! The state of Alabama has recently unanimously voted to require students to learn not only about evolutionary theory, but the facts behind climate change as well.
These changes, which will take effect in 2016, represent a major change compared to Alabama’s previous teaching requirements, which were last updated in 2005. The previous curriculum mentioned that students in the state “should” understand the theory of evolution through natural selection, but was careful to stress that such knowledge was not required and made no steps to mandate such education. Climate change was not mentioned anywhere in the 2005 curriculum plan.
The 2016 plan creates a minimum standard that all schools are required to follow, but the nature of how they execute the plan is the prerogative of each individual school district. The guidelines for how climate change will be taught have stricter guidelines than evolution.
There are currently still several debates around this topic in the state. A public hearing will be held in November in hopes of addressing as many of these issues as possible, including whether or not to remove the stickers on current science textbooks that warn that evolution is “a controversial theory.” At the moment, the new curriculum guidelines would allow the stickers to remain.
The primary question left to be answered is not what is going to be taught in the state of Alabama, but how. Alabama is planning on moving away from a purely lecture-based method of teaching science, to one that lines up more with the scientific theories of observation and discovery of facts. Although this is a promising change, little is discussed about how the state plans to train these teachers for this new pedagogy and if they will be able to carry out the information effectively.
Most teachers have advanced degrees in education, which make them invaluable to the education of their students. However, the proper teaching of evolution is often deemphasized in these programs, leaving many science teachers at a disadvantage when the sensitive topic becomes introduced into the curriculum.
It is for this reason and several others that the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science has launched their Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES), a program designed to help educate the educators and help them teach as many students as possible scientifically accurate evolutionary theory. The program, overseen by Bertha Vazquez, a 24-year veteran of the Miami-Dade County Public School system, provides teachers with reading assignments, exams, and laboratory activities that would line up with Alabama new “hands-on” goals for teaching science.
If there are any teachers who are interested in TIES resources, please contact Bertha at firstname.lastname@example.org