Scholastic Pushes Big Coal Agenda with Industry-Funded ‘Curriculum’
Publishing-giant Scholastic has come under fire recently for publishing pro-coal educational materials that were packaged as a curriculum and distributed to tens of thousands of 4th grade classrooms around the country.
The American Coal Foundation hired Scholastic to produce The United States of Energy, thinly-veiled PR materials designed to put a friendly spin on the coal industry’s dirty reputation.
“The United States of Energy is designed to paste a smiley face on the dirtiest form of energy in the world,” said Bill Bigelow, Curriculum Editor of Rethinking Schools magazine, and author of Scholastic, Inc. Pushing Coal: A 4th Grade Curriculum Lies Through Omission. “It’s more important than ever that schools teach fully and honestly about coal and other forms of energy. These materials teach children only the story the coal industry has paid Scholastic to tell.”
The materials, which bear a striking resemblance to political propaganda, teach that coal is abundant and mined and burned for energy, but contain nothing about its impact on the environment and human health.
Educators to whom the “curriculum” is distributed are told that it teaches children “that different types of energy (e.g., solar, fossil fuels) have different advantages and disadvantages.” While the lessons extol the advantages of coal, but they fail to mention a single disadvantage.
The materials contain no information about the hundreds of Appalachian mountains leveled during mountain top removal mining. And nothing about the poisons released when coal is burned—like sulfur dioxide, mercury, and arsenic—which the American Lung Association says kill thousands of people every year.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that Scholastic has offered their position as a publisher of educational materials to the highest bidder.
For years, Scholastic has exploited its reputation as an educational publisher to serve as a Trojan horse for all sorts of inappropriate marketing in schools—from the highly commercialized content of its Book Clubs, to marketing the over-the-counter drug Claritin in elementary schools, to urging teachers to throw parties for the sugar-laden beverage SunnyD in their classrooms.
Scholastic claims that its InSchool Marketing division is designed “to promote client objectives” and “make a difference by influencing attitudes and behaviors.” Critics see this program for what it is, a predatory campaign that brings commercial advertisements into elementary school classrooms–a place where kids assume they are learning facts, not marketing slogans.
Earlier this week, Rethinking Schools, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, and Friends of the Earth launched a letter-writing campaign demanding that Scholastic immediately stop distributing the curriculum.