State officials in Alabama have announced that students will now be required to learn about both evolution and climate change as part of the school curriculum. Before now, teachers were not required to teach anything that could be deemed controversial, regardless of the science behind the issue.

However, textbooks will still carry a warning stating that evolution is a controversial theory rather than a scientific principle.

The new standards are the state’s attempts to bring students up to the national level, as only 21% of tenth graders in the state of Alabama meet the national average for scientific knowledge for their grade. The state also currently ranks 37th in ACT scores.

The Republican-controlled legislature in Alabama approved the new standards, which marks the first time in a decade that the state’s education curriculum has been updated, and teachers in the state are optimistic that the new standards will help pull the state out of the educational abyss that they’ve been falling into for far too long.

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Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine and a contributing writer at DeSmogBlog.com. He also hosts the weekly DeSmogCAST and serves as co-host for Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV. His writings have appeared on Alternet, Truthout, and The Huffington Post. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009. Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced