The coal industry, through the American Coal Foundation, has hired Scholastic to produce The United States of Energy, teaching materials designed to paste a smiley face on the world’s dirtiest form of energy. Scholastic sent the materials to tens of thousands of 4th grade classrooms around the country.
Teachers are told that the curriculum aligns with national standards because it teaches children the advantages and disadvantages of different types of energy. But while the lessons do extol the advantages of coal, they fail to mention a single disadvantage. Nothing about the Appalachian mountains chopped down to get at coal seams. Nothing about the poisons released when coal is burned. Nothing about the fact that burning coal is the single biggest contributor to human-created greenhouse gases.
Schools should teach fully and honestly about coal and other forms of energy. However, the materials produced by Scholastic are not genuinely educational; they are industry PR. Please take a moment and join CCFC and Rethinking Schools in urging Scholastic to stop promoting coal in elementary school classrooms. (For more information, please see this article from Rethinking Schools.)
Teachers, parents, and children trust Scholastic because of its reputation as an educational publisher, but you are abusing that trust. "The United States of Energy" curriculum materials, which were distributed to tens of thousands of elementary teachers, teach only what your paying client wants children to learn. They don’t encourage students to think objectively about coal—and therefore do not belong in schools.
Scholastic tells teachers that the curriculum aligns with national standards because the lessons teach children "that different types of energy (e.g., solar, fossil fuels) have different advantages and disadvantages." The lessons do extol the advantages of coal, but they fail to mention a single disadvantage.
Your materials teach that coal is abundant and that it is 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 each year. And nothing about the fact that burning coal is the single greatest contributor to human-created, climate-altering greenhouse gases.
I urge you to make a public statement that you will stop distributing "The United States of Energy" and to refrain in the future from producing marketing materials that masquerade as an educational curriculum.