Air Date: Week of May 13, 2011
Media attention to the coal industry’s influence in classrooms—including Living on Earth’s story—brought a quick response. (Image: Scholastic, Inc.)
Media attention to the coal industry’s influence in classrooms—including Living on Earth’s story—brought a quick response. An industry program pledged to review its classroom materials and a major children’s book publisher ended its relationship with coal.
Living on Earth’s story singled out the Coal Education Development and Resources
(CEDAR) program in eastern Kentucky, which uses taxpayer money to distribute
material to classes. Some of the offered material includes information about climate
change that is widely dismissed by climate scientists. Cedar Director John Justice
said in an email that in response to Living on Earth’s story he is planning a review of
the materials offered to classes:
“It has led me to the decision to have a complete review of the content of all our
material. Although the reviewers will be either neutral or friendly to coal, they will
be individuals of expertise and integrity that will be able to advise us concerning the
Living on Earth and other media outlets also reported on the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s effort to draw attention to one-sided materials
sponsored by the American Coal Foundation and distributed by Scholastic, Inc., the
largest children’s book publisher. Scholastic, Inc., has since backed away from its
partnership with the American Coal Foundation. In a statement, Scholastic said:
“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.”
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood called it:
“(A) significant victory for anyone who believes that schools should be free of
industry PR and teach fully and honestly about coal and other forms of energy.”
Also, some alert listeners point out that Illinois has a taxpayer-supported coal education program that raises similar questions about balance. The state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity sponsors a “Coal Education and Marketing Program”
that includes an annual art and essay contest for students and offers classroom materials. A brochure suggests topics for the art and essay
contest, such as “How the coal industry contributed to my town’s development”
and “Illinois coal and the environment: Working together for cleaner air and abundant energy.” Winners receive a $100 US savings bond.
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