Good news, everybody. Notoriously conservative U.S. state Alabama has just updated its science standards for schools, and they now require teachers to educate children about both evolution and climate change. Hooray!
It should be noted that many schools in the state were already teaching both topics, so it’s not like students were stuck in the dark ages. But now it's compulsory it will affect any schools that refused to teach it before.
Interestingly, students will not just be taught about these subjects; they will be tasked with coming to conclusions themselves about how animals evolved and how humans are causing global warming when presented with the science. "I don't see how students would be able to learn this material without doing the science," Steve Ricks, director of the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative, told the Associated Press. "We are trying to teach kids to reason and solve problems."
The changes were approved by a 40-strong committee at the Republican-controlled Alabama State Board of Education last week. The new standards take effect in 2016, and update existing science standards that have stood since 2005. The students are not required to believe both scientifically proven theories, just to understand them, although that’s true of school systems in most countries.
"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," the new guidelines state, according to the Associated Press. "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."
Sadly, textbooks in Alabama science classes will continue to carry a warning that says evolution is a "controversial theory". But it’s a step in the right direction, at least.