The state Board of Education has wisely supported its textbook-review panel in insisting that publishers fully explore evolution in junior high school textbooks. The immediate decision was significant both for its resistance to pressure from those who want to see controversial questions glossed over and for its nationwide effect on the quality of textbooks. California, which accounts for a $100-million annual share of the textbook market, has in effect said that it won't settle for books that talk down to students.
The state board rejected every proposed seventh- and eighth-grade science textbook and gave publishers until February to revise them if they want them adopted for use in California schools. The unanimous vote by the state board was especially praiseworthy because it involved human reproduction as well as evolution--both subjects that regularly are made controversial by groups that favor either ignorance or their own particular interpretation of scientific data.
Publishers now have been cautioned that the California textbook market will be closed to them if they fail to meet rigorous standards of content in these important areas. This was no surprise. Bob Douglas, a school administrator from Plumas County who headed the science review panel, said that publishers were sent guidelines three years ago on what was expected.