11.25.2006

The Most Disturbing Thing I've Read In a Long Time

I haven't posted in over a month, as things have been rather crazy at work. But today I read this article that, apparently, is going to appear in tomorrow's Washington Post, and I had to share. It is really, really disturbing.

It is written by Laurie David, a producer of Al Gore's global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth (which, if you haven't seen it, you really ought to. It's on DVD now, and it's fantastic).


[T]he company that made the documentary decided to offer 50,000 free DVDs to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) for educators to use in their classrooms. It seemed like a no-brainer.

The teachers had a different idea: Thanks but no thanks, they said.

In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that other "special interests" might ask to distribute materials, too; they said they didn't want to offer "political" endorsement of the film; and they saw "little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members" in accepting the free DVDs.

Gore, however, is not running for office, and the film's theatrical run is long since over. As for classroom benefits, the movie has been enthusiastically endorsed by leading climate scientists worldwide, and is required viewing for all students in Norway and Sweden.

Still, maybe the NSTA just being extra cautious. But there was one more curious argument in the e-mail: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters." One of those supporters, it turns out, is the Exxon Mobil Corp. (emphasis added)

Exxon Mobil, as it turns out, isn't the only big corporation involved. Shell, API and Monsanto (among others) all give money to the NSTA, and so all of them are able to influence what American children are taught in science class. The details, which David describes, are really disgusting.

You can read about it here.

4 Comments:

Blogger Talmida said...

Wow! That's scary stuff, Pear.

Thanks for letting us know!

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Constance Reader said...

I think the most disturbing thing about this article is that does not seem to occur to the NSTA that, becauseof this disproportionate influence and because these target donors are exposed in this film, perhaps these donors are not the kind of corporate sponsors that they should associating with? Or certainly, they are not the kind of sponsor who they should be allowing any sort of influence whatsoever on students and curriculum?

3:45 PM  
Blogger goatchurch said...

It's all about pet programs, and not wanting to throw a spanner at them when they depend on the support of terribly sensitive organizations.

National Science Teachers Association wikipedia

Anyways, they put all the funders up on their webpage, and advertise lunchtime meetings with the "ExxonMobil Teachers Academy", so it would be rude not to take any notice of it.

I guess if there's too much noise, this whole program will come crashing down, lots of people will lose their jobs, children will no longer get educated, all because some stupid childish people like us had scruples. What a hard life it is getting anything good done.

9:59 PM  
Blogger PrickliestPear said...

It's distressing to see that there are teachers, who tend to be well-educated people, willing to let this happen. Why do these kind of people even become teachers? It's not exactly a profession you go into for the money, believe me!

Thanks for the link, goatchurch. I think your assessment of the danger is a somewhat exaggerated. These kinds of organisations don't fund education per se, but are mainly about proliferating educational materials and such. Their influence is proportionate to the extent that their members actually use the material. And there is nothing preventing a NSTA member from showing "An Inconvenient Truth" in their classroom -- they'll just have to get a copy from somewhere else.

4:59 PM  

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