Anyone who as a child looked forward to ordering new books from a colorful brochure handed out in school, or who eagerly thumbed through the "Harry Potter" series, has a soft spot for Scholastic Inc., the venerable educational publisher and purveyor of children's titles. Sad to say, the company has of late been abusing the trust it built over decades as a beloved presence in U.S. schools.
A division of Scholastic partnered with a coal industry trade group to produce an energy curriculum for fourth-graders — a poster and related materials — that extols the virtues of coal but neglects to mention the strip mining that degrades the landscape and removes entire mountaintops, the pollution of air and water associated with coal, or its role in global warming. The American Coal Foundation posted an online announcement about its joint project with Scholastic, which sent the "United States of Energy" package, free and unsolicited, to 66,000 teachers on its mailing list, including many in California, and emailed it to 82,000 more.
In this case, schools got what they paid for — a biased, incomplete and frankly embarrassing promotional product parading as education. We're reminded of the glossy lunch menus some school districts sent home with children in the late 1990s that showed colorful cartoons of dancing M&M candies extolling the virtues of healthful eating. Of course, no one knows how many teachers actually used the Scholastic/American Coal Foundation materials. It's quite possible that the vast majority of them tossed the freebie.