Desperate to retain its stranglehold on the American energy economy, Big Coal has taken a page from the fast-food and toy industry playbooks: they’re going after your kids.
In Illinois, teachers are bound by law to teach their students that coal is a safe, affordable source of energy. It’s called the Illinois Coal Technology Development Assistance Act, which is a fancy way of saying “we’re going to bring pro-coal propaganda into our schools so that Big Coal can count on our tax dollars for generations to come.”
Using a curriculum specifically designed to insert pro-coal content (via that cute little lump of coal shaped like the state) into everything from math lessons to art and essay contests, Illinois teachers are required to perpetuate Big Coal’s lies, brainwashing the next generation into thinking that coal is their friend.
In reality, air pollution from coal-fired power kills thousands of Americans each year. Countless more experience illnesses and health problems. That doesn’t even include the many more who must deal with water supplies tainted by coal wastewater.
Shocking as it may be, this isn’t the first time the fossil fuel industry has used its political clout to infiltrate the public school system. In 2009, Care2 reported on an astoundingly scary pro-coal coloring book for kids released by the group Families Organized to Represent the Coal Economy–a group that doesn’t actually allow families to join. Then in 2011, there were the fourth-grade curriculum materials about coal, paid for by the American Coal Foundation and promoted nationally by Scholastic Inc., and a pro-fracking coloring book from Talisman Energy that used a cartoon called “Terry the Fracosaurus” who taught kids that natural gas is “one of the cleanest, safest, and most useful of all energy sources.”
At least in Illinois, this insanity seems to be on its way out. According to Grist, the state’s Commerce Department, which oversees the coal education program, recently released a 400-page evaluation that recommends a reevaluation of the curriculum.
From Midwest Energy News:
“Science content experts, teachers and stakeholders found the (curriculum’s) scientific content to be outdated, biased towards a positive image of coal, light on natural science content, and lacking discussion of potential environmental and social impacts of coal use.”
The evaluators recommended that the curriculum should be expanded to focus more on the impact and pros and cons of coal use and its context “within a U.S. and global energy portfolio which includes alternative energy sources.” The evaluators also said the curriculum used an “outdated” pedagogical approach pushing students to provide the “right” answer rather than fostering critical thinking.
Disappointingly, this is the same bogus “all of the above” energy policy we’ve heard from the Obama Administration, but at least they’re acknowledging the fact that this curriculum is really thinly-veiled propaganda that has no business in a public classroom. Hopefully, Illinois school kids–and school kids around the country–will experience science-based lessons that present only the facts and allow kids to make up their own minds about which type of energy is best for them and the environment.
Image via Thinkstock