Scholastic’s Big Coal Mistake
Children’s books and other educational materials produced by the publisher Scholastic reach about 90 percent of the nation’s classrooms. With this enormous access to what amounts to a captive audience of children, the company has a special obligation to adhere to high educational standards.
It fell short of that when it produced a fourth-grade lesson packet called “The United States of Energy,” a treatise on coal that was paid for by the American Coal Foundation, a nonprofit group. As Tamar Lewin noted in The Times on Thursday, the lessons talked about the benefits of coal and the pervasiveness of power plants fueled by it — and omitted mention of minor things like toxic waste, mountain-top removal and greenhouse gases.
The issue came to light recently when children’s advocacy groups hammered Scholastic for giving a one-sided view of coal usage. This is not the first time that the company had come under fire. Last year, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood attacked Scholastic for encouraging schools to have classroom parties with, and to collect labels from, the sugary juice drink SunnyD as a way of winning free books.
A Scholastic representative said that the company had no intention of repeating the energy project but noted that it was never meant to serve as a comprehensive curriculum. That’s beside the point given that the lessons carried the company’s imprimatur and were misleadingly touted as complying with national fourth-grade learning standards.
If Scholastic really wants to avoid repeating this mistake, it should choose more carefully its partners in producing course materials.
© 2011 The New York Times Company
This article originally appeared here.
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