Scholastic and the American Coal Foundation

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In her article “Is Scholastic Selling Elementary School Kids on Coal?” Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones looks at another example of how the energy industry slant works its way into public school curriculum. An issue we have raised concerns about.

Sheppard posted on May 13 (excerpt, see the full article here):

Environmental groups are going after the world's largest publisher of children's books for teaming up with the American Coal Foundation to produce "The United States of Energy," a lesson plan designed for fourth-graders. The foundation, online at Teachcoal.org, is devoted to creating "coal-related educational materials and programs designed for teachers and students." …

The magazine Rethinking Schools published a scathing critique of the lesson plan in its latest issue, accusing Scholastic of producing "propaganda for the coal industry." They argue that the material "lies through omission" because it doesn't include problems like warming the planet, destroying mountain ranges, killing miners, or causing respiratory problems, to name a few. …

UPDATE 2:00 PM EST FRIDAY, MAY 13: Scholastic has issued another statement, acknowledging that they "were not vigilant enough" about the effect of ACF's sponsorship. The full statement:

… We acknowledge that the mere fact of sponsorship may call into question the authenticity of the information, and therefore conclude that we were not vigilant enough as to the effect of sponsorship in this instance. We have no plans to further distribute this particular program. …

Earlier CSW posts:

Corporate funding in public education – is anyone watching?

Corporate funding in science education is widespread in California and nationwide, and in energy education specifically, a number of large energy corporations and industry associations have produced their own materials for distribution in schools.  Large corporate energy interests have made substantial investments in K-12 education programs, giving out grants, bringing teachers to conferences and workshops for training, and handing out classroom materials, all without significant oversight by environmental non-profit or watchdog organizations of the ramifications for curriculum content. …

The ramifications of corporate energy funding in academic research have been studied and written about recently, but to our knowledge the same scrutiny hasn’t been extended to the influence of corporate money in K-12 education programs, at least outside of the professional education community.  Should “gifts from Chevron” be anywhere near the classroom?  The conflict of interest involved in for-profit corporations sponsoring education programs in subject matters coinciding with their business interests is clear, but the issue hasn’t been fleshed out…

California’s new state-issued energy textbook avoids climate change, puts coal on par with solar and wind

California’s new state environmental education program will distribute an energy booklet to 6th graders that is equivocal on the greenhouse effect, downplays the impacts of burning fossil fuels, and doesn’t address climate change…

Response from California EPA to our post on new state-issued energy reader

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