This is my review comment posted to the preface of the Alabama K-12 Science Standards. It’s in public review, so if you’re an Alabamian who thinks evolutionary theory shouldn’t be swept under the rug because politics, leave your two cents here. Feel free to share this post with anyone else (ideally from Alabama) who might be willing to share their feelings about evolution education.
I find it laudable that evolution is mentioned in the preface, and I am sympathetic to the issues raised: that the teaching of evolution in K-12 should be done with respect for students’ diverse religious beliefs. Moreover, I strongly believe that science should not seek to confront or refute religion, and that scientists have an ethical responsibility to avoid the appearance of antireligiousness. That being said, after the reasonable explication of the challenges of teaching K-12 evolution in the preface, I was distraught to learn that the word “evolution” is never mentioned again in the science standards. This is despite the fact that natural selection and evolution are described — using other terminology — in many parts of the life sciences curriculum. This is a distressing problem. Evolution is more than just “humans and apes are related”. It’s a mathematical framework for understanding the dynamics of many different kinds of systems. Evolutionary theory informs medicine, engineering, and computer science; indeed, it permeates every aspect of modern science and technology. If we want Alabama’s kids — 2 of whom are my own — to be competitive in 21st century technological job markets, we can’t play political games with terminology. Keep the caveats in the preface, but PLEASE return the word “evolution” to the science standards — throughout, from K to 12.
J. Jeffrey Morris, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology
University of Alabama at Birmingham