Creation/Evolution Journal

Textbook Publishers Face Scientists and Educators

The inordinate influence of "career censors" such as the Gablers of Texas is generating some backlash efforts by scientists and educators. Thanks to the stimulus of such articles as "Censorship of Evolution in Texas" by Steven Schafersman in the Fall 1982 issue of Creation/Evolution, Dr. James Ebert, vice president of the National Academy of Sciences and president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, felt that by bringing publishers and authors of high school science texts together with educators, scientists, and book selection committee people, a fuller understanding of the dimensions of the censorship problem could be obtained.

A workshop was set up at NAS headquarters on July 21, 1983 with the stated purposes of "(1) describing the causes and extent of textbook alterations resulting from creationist pressures, (2) examining the nature of these pressures and (3) determining through discussion whether the scientific integrity of science textbooks can be maintained."

That "there has been a definite erosion in the coverage of evolution in all high school biology textbooks since the 1960s" (Skoog, 1983) was documented at the workshop by studies conducted separately by Gerald Skoog of Texas Tech and Malcolm Kotter of the University of Minnesota. While this erosion in coverage is obvious through casual observation of even the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study texts, the publishers claim it is due only to other reasons such as the overall reduction in text content.

Three of the most extreme examples of reduction in evolutionary coverage are: Life Science from Prentice-Hall, Experiences in Biology from Laidlaw and Natural Science: Bridging the Gap from Burgess. As reported in the Fall 1982 issue of Creation/Evolution, pp. 36-37, the New York City Board of Education declared those three texts unacceptable because of inadequate coverage of evolution. A quick check of the Philadelphia Public School text list showed that their textbook committee had also left those off their approved list. Probably as a result of these and similar actions in other northeastern districts, some publishers are taking a second look. Representatives of two of the three publishers in question were in attendance at the workshop and announced they were revising or supplementing their texts in regard to giving more coverage to evolution.

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Another hopeful sign of improvement was the announcement that the Texas State Board of Education would henceforth allow positive comments about textbooks up for adoption as well as the traditional negative ones.

Several participants urged The National Science Foundation and school districts to support an upgrading of science teacher training in evolution so that teachers may become more confident in presenting evolution and less inclined to give it short shrift out of fear of controversy.

It was not the stated purpose of the workshop to promulgate any formal recommendations. However, at least this participant was left with the impression that publishers in attendance received the message that if the treatment of evolution in high school texts does not improve, many scientists and educators will increase their efforts to bring about changes.


Gerald Skoog, Recent Trends in the Coverage of Evolution in High School Biology Textbooks, a Paper presented at a Workshop on Secondary School Science Textbooks, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., July 21, 1983.

By Stuart W. Hughes
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