Coalition Asks Scholastic to Stop Using Fossil-Fuel & U.S. Chamber Sponsored Materials in Classrooms

Scholastic Corporation, the global book publishing company that provides many of the educational materials used in schools in the United States today, came under scrutiny earlier this month when it became apparent that the company was using propaganda sponsored by the American Coal Foundation (ACF) in 4th-grade classrooms. Thanks to the efforts of Greenpeace USA, Center for Commercial-Free Childhood, Rethinking Schools, and Friends of the Earth, Scholastic has admitted that they ‘were not vigilant enough as to the effect of sponsorship…’, and over the weekend pulled the ACF materials off its website.

As Greenpeace USA stated in a recent blog about this Victory for Coal-Free Education, the battle has been won, but there is more work to be done. Scholastic Corporation is still using corporate and fossil fuel industry sponsored educational materials, including the Chamber-of-Commerce-funded “Shedding Light on Energy,” in classrooms around the country.

That’s why a coalition of 15 organizations have written a letter to Richard Robinson, President and CEO of Scholastic Corporation, asking that his company stop distributing fossil fuel and other industry propaganda labeled as educational materials in schools. To read the full letter, click the link below.

24 May 2011

Richard Robinson
President and Chief Executive Officer
Scholastic Inc.
557 Broadway
New York, NY 10012

Dear Mr. Robinson,

On behalf of our millions of members and activists we are writing to urge Scholastic to stop
distributing fossil fuel and other industry propaganda labeled as educational materials in schools.
We appreciate your acknowledgment that partnering with the American Coal Foundation (ACF)
was a mistake and that you have agreed to stop distributing the 4th-grade curriculum “The United
States of Energy,” but we remain concerned that teaching materials sponsored by for-profit
corporations and industry—including with the US Chamber of Commerce—endanger children’s

Scholastic’s sponsored materials teach a captive audience of students only what industry has paid
Scholastic to teach. Your InSchool Marketing program’s aim “to promote client objectives” is
not education; it is predatory marketing.

In your May 13 statement, you indicate that you will be “undertaking a thorough review of
[y]our policy and editorial procedures on sponsored content …” We believe that this review is
much needed. We request that you set a firm date for the completion of this review and that, once
completed, you make public your policy on sponsored content. We reiterate our demand that
Scholastic abandon its current practice of developing curriculum-for-hire in order “to promote
client objectives” and “make a difference by influencing attitudes and behaviors.” This practice
turns schools into marketplaces, children into consumers, and is patently unethical. As you
conduct this review, we ask that you stop distributing any fossil fuel or other industry funded
teaching materials, including the Chamber of Commerce-funded “Shedding Light on Energy.”

With the threat of global warming looming, it is more important than ever that schools teach
fully and honestly about coal and other forms of energy. Mining and burning coal threatens
public health, imperils species, and causes irreversible environmental harm. Coal mining is
dangerous to workers, causes air and water pollution, and negatively affects the health of
communities in mining areas. Throughout Appalachia, hundreds of mountains have been leveled
to reach coal seams, with terrible effects on the environment and people’s health. Burning coal
releases pollutants and toxins like sulfur dioxide and mercury that contribute to asthma and

cancer. Burning coal is the number one stationary source of global warming pollution. Global
climate change threatens 35 percent of all species with extinction by 2050 if current emissions
are not reduced. The 110 million tons of ash produced annually from coal combustion is toxic,
and also threatens public health and the environment. Any curriculum that discusses energy
should mention these, and other, impacts of coal use. But the coal-industry curriculum that
Scholastic has distributed is one-sided and fails to present any of the negative realities of the coal

We appreciate that Scholastic has removed the ACF materials from its website, but your recent
statement misrepresents your work on behalf of the coal industry to minimize it as merely “an
11” x 16” poster map which displays different sources of energy—coal, nuclear, hydroelectric,
solar, wind and natural gas …” In fact, the curriculum features three lessons for children, and an
additional take-home “family activity.” And the guide prominently touts “Alignment with
National Standards for Grade 4.” Clearly, you promoted these materials to teachers as more than
a simple map.

According to the ACF, Scholastic’s biased materials were sent to at least 66,000 elementary
teachers throughout the country, and you promoted the materials to an additional 82,000 teachers
and made them available at your website for anyone to read and download for use with children.
Because these materials will continue to be used in schools, Scholastic must take affirmative
measures to reach out to teachers who have — or may have — received your “The United States
of Energy” curriculum and explain its inaccuracies, urge that it not be used, and encourage
teachers to find more detailed and accurate resources to teach about coal and our country’s
energy and environmental challenges. Scholastic has produced the equivalent of a defective
product, and must take steps to ensure that this product is no longer used with children.

We look forward to your prompt response outlining the measures you plan to take to address
these concerns.


-Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood
-Center for Biological Diversity
-Climate Change, Sustainability, and Psychology Program of Psychologists for Social Responsibility
-Conservation Law Foundation
-Eco-Justice Collaborative
-Environmental and Energy Study Institute
-Friends of the Earth
-Greenpeace USA
-Ocean Conservation Research
-Oil Change International
-Public Citizen
-Rethinking Schools
-Sierra Club