Image: Screenshot via Scholastic
The United States of Energy is an educational curriculum that the American Coal Foundation hired Scholastic to put together and distribute to its well-established, trusting network of teachers. It looks great: it's colorful, has interactive activities, totally an easy sell for kids, and it's now reached more than 100,000 teachers around the country.
ACF says that the program teaches about the variety of energy sources that power the country, but it happens to also tout the advantages of coal while leaving out all the environmental destruction and health impacts that are so directly associated with coal mining and burning.In a reaction to this partnership, Rethinking Schools said, "Simply put, the coal industry is renting Scholastic's credibility and recognition."
ACF, which is a coal industry-funded nonprofit created specifically to distribute coal-related educational materials, is celebrating the growing number of teachers and students that the curriculum is reaching. Alma Hale Paty, ACF executive director, wrote in a blog post last year:
In total, 66,000 4th grade teachers received the print program directly in October to build into their classroom lesson plans. Another 82,000 teachers received emails from Scholastic regarding the availability of the program online, with an open rate of 10.22% and a click-through rate of 3%. This is tremendous progress compared to the 5,000 - 7,000 sets of print materials ACF typically distributed annually prior to the Scholastic partnership.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is calling on Scholastic to stop selling itself out to the coal industry in order to influence our country's kids:
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.
Ben Schreiber, climate and energy tax analyst for Friends of the Earth, said, "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."