AAS ACTION ALERT #2001-1 (Released in Collaboration with AGU)
[Mailed to members in Alabama from aas.org at 1:15pm, 5 February 2001]
Alabama Board of Education Slated to Vote on New Science Curriculum
This Action Alert provides background information on an upcoming vote of interest to AAS members in Alabama. It provides resources for more information and advocates action on the part of AAS members.
The Alabama Board of Education will vote on the state's new science curriculum next Thursday, February 8. The proposed Course of Study provides the framework for the K-12 science education program in Alabama's public schools. Five years ago Alabama's science curriculum attracted national attention because the Board adopted a disclaimer on the theory of evolution that was inserted in all biology textbooks. The disclaimer stated that evolution was a "controversial theory" presented by "some scientists" as a "scientific explanation for the origin of living things."
The disclaimer went on to state that: "No one was present when life first appeared an earth. Therefore, any statement about life's origins should be considered as theory, not fact."
According to observers, the new Course of Study presents a framework for the teaching of evolution that is better than the current curriculum. In a recently-released report from the Fordham Foundation, authored by Lawrence Lerner, Alabama's current treatment of evolution in K-12 schools rates an "F", meaning that the state guidelines are useless or absent. The Fordham Foundation report is available on-line at http://www.edexcellence.net/ .
Despite the improved curriculum, many scientists are still troubled by a preface to the proposed Course of Study that labels evolution as a controversial theory. The preface goes on to explain why: "It is controversial because it states that natural selection provides the basis for the modern scientific explanation for the diversity of living things." The preface also seems to reduce the role of Earth history and paleontology to the study of "artifacts" in the modern understanding of evolution: "Since natural selection has been observed to play a role in influencing small changes in the population, it is assumed, based on the study of artifacts, that it produces large changes, even though this has not been directly observed."
It is not clear at this point whether the preface will replace or supplement the textbook disclaimer, or be modified when the Board takes up the Course of Study next Thursday.
The AGU has a position statement on the teaching of evolution as a scientific theory available at this web page: http://www.agu.org/sci_soc/policy/evolution.html .
The AAS adopted a position statement on creationism, which is available at this web site: http://www.aas.org/governance/council/resolutions.html#evolution
A version of the Alabama proposed Course of Study is available on the Geological Society of Alabama web site http://www.westga.edu/~geology/algs_web/ala_gs.html .
AAS members concerned with these issues should write to
Governor Don Siegelman, President of the State Board of Education, State Capitol Room N-104 600 Dexter Avenue Montgomery, AL 36130.
Letters to Education Board members will also be of use. The names and addresses of the Alabama Education Board members are also available on line at http://www.alsde.edu/ver1/boe.asp .
Source: AGU provided much of the content of the action alert Alabama Department of Education, Geological Society of Alabama, National Center for Science Education Questions or comments about ASLA? Need to change your e-mail address? Contact mailto:email@example.com
For further information on Astronomy Pubic Policy see the AAS Public Policy web site or contact Kevin Marvel, AAS Associate Executive Officer for Policy Programs.
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