Laurie David, a producer of Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth, has written a great article buried deep on the Washington Post website about the influence of Big Oil in American schools.
Writes David: “At hundreds of screenings this year of An Inconvenient Truth, the first thing many viewers said after the lights came up was that every student in every school in the United States needed to see this movie”.
So the film’s producers offered 50,000 DVDs free to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) for educators to use in their classrooms. “It seemed like a no-brainer”, writes David, “The teachers had a different idea: Thanks but no thanks, they said”.
In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that other “special interests” might ask to distribute materials, too; they said they didn’t want to offer “political” endorsement of the film; and they saw “little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members” in accepting the free DVDs.
There was one more curious argument in the e-mail says David: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place “unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters.” One of those supporters is Exxon that has given $42 million to key organizations that influence the way children learn in the past year.
David is outraged: “It’s bad enough when a company tries to sell junk science to a bunch of grown-ups. But, like a tobacco company using cartoons to peddle cigarettes, Exxon Mobil is going after our kids, too. And it has been doing so for longer than you may think.
NSTA says it has received $6 million from the company since 1996, mostly for the association’s “Building a Presence for Science” program, an electronic networking initiative intended to “bring standards-based teaching and learning” into schools, according to the NSTA Web site. Exxon Mobil has a representative on the group’s corporate advisory board. And in 2003, NSTA gave the company an award for its commitment to science education”.
“So much for special interests and implicit endorsements”, writes David. So much indeed.