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Coal
The New York Times, May 12, 2011

Scholastic’s Big Coal Mistake
Editorial

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.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton