On Friday, May 13, Scholastic announced that it would stop distributing “The United States of Energy,” a controversial fourth grade curriculum paid for by the American Coal Foundation. The materials were also removed from Scholastic’s website. Thanks to all of you who participated in this imortant campaign -- your emails made a difference. To read CCFC's statement, click here. To read our email to members, click here.
Why is Scholastic promoting coal to 4th graders?
Because the coal industry, through the American Coal Foundation, hired Scholastic to produce The United States of Energy, a slick, full-color curriculum designed to paste a smiley face on the dirtiest form of energy in the world. Scholastic has distributed tens of thousands of these materials to 4th grade classrooms around the country. Teachers are told that the curriculum aligns with national standards because the lessons teach children “that different types of energy (e.g., solar, fossil fuels) have different advantages and disadvantages.” The lessons do extol the advantages of coal, but they fail to mention a single disadvantage.
Scholastic’s materials teach that coal is abundant and mined and burned for energy, but contain nothing about its impact on the environment and human health. Nothing about the hundreds of Appalachian mountains leveled to get at coal seams. 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. And nothing about the fact that burning coal is the single greatest contributor to human-created, climate-altering greenhouse gases.
Whatever you think about mining and burning coal, there’s a clear difference between industry PR and teaching materials that are objective and genuinely educational. That’s why CCFC, Rethinking Schools, and Friends of the Earth have launched a campaign demanding that Scholastic stop promoting coal in the guise of an educational curriculum. Please read Rethinking School’s critique of Scholastic’s curriculum and visit http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/621/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=6657 to tell Scholastic to stop promoting coal in elementary school classrooms.
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 over-the-counter drug Claritin in elementary school classes, to urging teachers to throw sugar-laden beverage SunnyD parties in their classrooms. Scholastic’s InSchool Marketing division offers its services as curriculum producer for hire. The program is designed “to promote client objectives” and “make a difference by influencing attitudes and behaviors.” According to the Executive Director of the American Coal Foundation, hiring Scholastic allowed ACF to dramatically increase its presence in schools—from about 7,000 to 70,000 classrooms. “Four out of five parents know and trust the Scholastic brand,” she explained. But by working for the coal industry, Scholastic clearly is abusing that trust. Promoting “client objectives” to a captive student audience isn’t education; it’s predatory marketing. So let’s tell Scholastic to stop selling kids on Big Coal.What Environmental Activists Are Saying“The United States of Energy is designed to paste a smiley face on the dirtiest form of energy in the world. 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.” - Bill Bigelow, Curriculum Editor of Rethinking Schools magazine, and author of “Scholastic, Inc. Pushing Coal: A 4th Grade Curriculum Lies Through Omission.”“What's frightening is remembering my excitement about the Scholastic book fair when I was in grade school. A partnership between Scholastic and ACF, a coal-industry front group based in Washington, is more than nauseating and unethical, it is a pockmark on the US education system. It is clear that the coal industry intends to systematically undermine long term political support for energy policy that is sustainable and economic." - Kyle Ash, Senior Legislative Representative for Greenpeace USA
“Pure and simple, this is an example of the worst kind of corporate brainwashing. It is unconscionable that Scholastic would lend its name to legitimize American Coal Foundation propaganda. Coal continues to kill thousands of Americans every year and it is particularly harmful to children.” - Ben Schreiber, Friends of the Earth Climate and Energy Tax Analyst Take Action! Tell Scholastic: Stop selling kids on coal.