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Scholastic is Selling Coal Power — to Children

posted by Nell Minow

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood reports that esteemed publisher Scholastic is sending out “teaching materials” to schools that amounts to a commercial for coal power.  The coal industry, through the American Coal Foundation, has hired Scholastic to produce The United States of Energy, sent to tens of thousands of 4th grade classrooms around the country.  CCFC says:

Teachers are told that the curriculum aligns with national standards because it teaches children the advantages and disadvantages of different types of energy.  But while the lessons do extol the advantages of coal, they fail to mention a single disadvantage.  Nothing about the Appalachian mountains chopped down to get at coal seams.  Nothing about the poisons released when coal is burned.  Nothing about the fact that burning coal is the single biggest contributor to human-created greenhouse gases.

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Schools should teach fully and honestly about coal and other forms of energy.  However, the materials produced by Scholastic are not genuinely educational; they are industry PR.

With budget cuts and inadequate resources, it is tempting to take advantage of these kinds of “free” materials created with industry support.  But schools should not present commercial material as a part of the curriculum — unless it is to teach children how to separate advocacy from objective, balanced information.  To protest this slanted information masquerading as a book and degradation of the Scholastic imprint, write to Scholastic CEO Richard Robinson.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Scholastic

    STATEMENT FROM SCHOLASTIC:
    Scholastic’s children’s books, magazines, reading programs and website content are used in most American classrooms – a responsibility and trust that we built through painstaking work through 90 years of service to teachers and schools. A tiny percentage of this material is produced with sponsors, including government agencies, non-profit associations and some corporations. This week, Scholastic came under criticism for an 11” x 16” poster map which displays different sources of energy –coal, nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, wind and natural gas – not so much for the content of the poster but primarily its sponsorship by the American Coal Foundation. 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. Because we have always been guided by our belief that we can do better, we are undertaking a thorough review of our policy and editorial procedures on sponsored content, and we will publish only those materials which are worthy of our reputation as “the most trusted name in learning.”

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks to Scholastic for this prompt and accountable response, though I would like to disagree that the criticism was about the sponsorship and not about the content of the material. I very much hope it will stop all partnering with for-profit corporations in the production and distribution of curriculum support as there will inevitably be bias in favor of maximizing revenue and that is inappropriate for the classroom.

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