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.
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.