After 10 Years, Alabama Students Must Learn About Climate Change Again

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By Ben Guarino

After a 10-year hiatus, climate change is back in Alabama public schools. Evolution, too, raises its mutant fuzzy head. Alabamian youth will not have to believe these things, but they will need to know, for instance, that the globe is warming and the data indicate it’s humanity’s fault. The other big change, and the one that’s excited teachers across the state, is that students will have to learn not only through reading textbooks but also through verbs like “investigate” and “analyze” and, well, “mix vinegar and baking soda.” Frankly, it sounds as fun as a broad overview of grade school science can be — which is to say now’s as good a time as any to be a science nerd in the Heart of Dixie.

The new course of study, set to go into effect summer 2016, is a smart approach to a subject the bottom end of the Bible Belt has infamously wrestled with. It is no secret that Alabama public school students do not rank well in math and science. A Republican-led Board of Education unanimously agreed to the new course of study last Thursday. It remains to be seen if the evolution disclaimers will remain on the front of the books.

Inverse chatted with Steve Ricks, the director of the state Department of Education’s Alabama Math Science and Technology Initiative. Ricks was not a member of the 40-person committee — which included teachers, engineers, professors, and, as he puts it, some “very strongly religious folks” — though he helped shepherd the group through the three-year process. Ricks loves the prospect of students performing experiments.

“They have to be involved in investigations,” he says, “just like scientists do every day.” The —> Read More