On May 2, the Alabama Senate passed House Joint Resolution (HJR) 78. This followed on an April 6 voice vote in the House. HJR 78 is an academic freedom resolution, which indicates the legislature’s support for free discussion of scientific information for and against controversial scientific theories in the curriculum.
HJR 78 states, in part:
WHEREAS, the teaching of some scientific subjects required to be taught under the curriculum framework developed by the State Board of Education may cause controversy including, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning…
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA, BOTH HOUSES THEREOF CONCURRING, That we strongly urge:
(a) The State Board of Education, public elementary and secondary school governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public elementary and secondary school principals and administrators and teachers should endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, develop critical thinking skills, analyze the scientific strengths and weaknesses of scientific explanations, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about scientific subjects required to be taught under the curriculum framework developed by the State Board of Education.
(b) The State Board of Education, public elementary or secondary school governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public elementary or secondary school principals and administrators should refrain from prohibiting any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught within the curriculum framework developed by the State Board of Education.
The resolution was sponsored by 29 representatives, and demonstrates that public school teachers and administrators have the support of the legislature in objectively exploring scientific evidence.
The Alabama lawmakers have taken a step forward for their state. Against the censors, they have stood up for excellent science education, including critical inquiry, where students are taught to think like scientists rather than just “memorizing stuff.” That means granting teachers the freedom to discuss a range of relevant evidence, without fear of reprisals.
If educators act on the encouragement they have now received, students will learn more about some vitally important issues in science, not least evolution.