An Inconvenient DVD
Goring Gore from Schools
Linda Sexauer/Candide’s Notebooks, December 13, 2006
The National Science Teachers’ Association (NSTA) is refusing to distribute 50,000 copies of “An Inconvenient Truth,” donated by the movie’s producers to public school science curriculums, because it is concerned about the risk that acceptance of these DVDs might result in the loss of NSTA funding by ExxonMobil, Monsanto, the American Coal Foundation, the Western Fuels Association, the euphemistic Project Learning Tree and Greening Earth Society, and the American Petroleum Institute. The NSTA told the movie’s producers that it saw “little, if any benefit to NSTA or its members” by providing these DVDs to science teachers, and that it felt the movie was a political endorsement of Al Gore (who is not, by the way, running for any office). And the clincher is this: It’s concerned that this might open a door for other “special interests” to distribute educational materials through the NSTA. [See the NSTA’s response here .]
While it is certainly comforting to learn that the Exxon cartel is so deeply concerned about the quality of science materials being provided to our nation’s science teachers, I’m wondering if they’ve taken a good hard look at their own materials being provided at no charge by the truckload at NSTA-funded science education “fairs” all over the country.
Ever since Exxon witnessed the impact of the consumer-driven campaign to get rid of CFCs in the 1960s, they’ve dedicated an enormous amount of industry marketing resources (through the nonprofit Competitive Enterprise Institute) to discredit the science behind global climate change. As a young adult in the 70s, I recall easily the abundance of ads in the Sunday newspapers, casually referring to scientists and others who were beginning to recognize and discuss global warming as “environmental extremists,” and linking them with other labels such as “tree-huggers,” “owl-lovers,” and “job-haters.” You gotta admire these advertising companies that know how to tweak our emotions to buy, buy, buy.
Are “coal coloring books” (I kid you not) and free coal samples useful science teaching aids for our youngest students? Do actual lesson plans that promote drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the dismissal of the Kyoto treaty promote critical scientific inquiry by students? Does the website BalancedEnergy.org, with its cool, trendy, hip teenaged Hollywood actors reading scripts that urge us to use coal, foster the educational climate that will produce the scientists our president tells us we need in order to remain competitive globally? Give me a break.
So the powers-that-be at the NSTA have determined that the energy industry-funded Science Education Task Force campaign (specifically intended to convince the public that global climate change is a farce) is OK, but anything coming out of the Stop Global Warming organization is not OK. The movie “Fuel-less: You Can’t Be Cool Without Fuel” is OK, but “An Inconvenient Truth” is not OK.
Advertising to our children within the context of our schools is warping the educations they might be otherwise receiving. America has the ability to take the lead and develop the scientists in our public school system who will end up conducting the research that will determine our ability to develop the energy industries of the future. Instead, we’re allowing special interest industry bullies to promote their propaganda to our most vulnerable young, for their personal enrichment.
If you think it’s disturbing that a car dealer would influence how a newspaper columnist portrays its employees, just think how you’ll feel when the petroleum industry acquires enough clout, through corporate media mergers, to influence how you write about “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” in the words of Sen. James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who has received in excess of $1 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas and electricity industry.
Linda Sexauer is the parent of a public school student in the San FranciscoBay Area. One of her current projects is working to elevate the child to the status of being one of the special interest groups whose needs are discussed and addressed in our national education debate. Please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.