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In the Vegetarian & Vegan News...
   John F. Borowski | Letter to the Editor

Free Speech: Not an Exhibit
at NSTA Conference?
by John F. Borowski

The National Science Teachers Convention in San Diego (March 27-30th), will host some of most powerful instruments for providing democracy, knowledge and liberty in this nation: science teachers. But one delivery system to enlighten the stewards of our 55 million children maybe in absentia, it is called free speech.

The Native Forest Council’s “Children for an HONEST Education Campaign” fights for open dialogue on environmental issues and constructive criticism to improve educational materials. HONEST EC, which protests the distortion of science by certain corporate interests and deplores commercialism in schools, recently received a chilling memo from the NSTA’s Executive Director.

My reason for writing however, is that NSTA has received complaints from other exhibitors about the Native Forest Council exhibit and remarks made by your colleague, Mr. John Borowski. As a result, we want you to be aware of the following NSTA exhibit rules: 1) exhibitors are prohibited from making adverse comments to convention registrants about other exhibitors on our exhibit floor, and 2) distribution of literature that criticizes other exhibitor in a negative fashion.


 



Mind you, despite requests, we have not been told “who” made complaints or what the specific complaints were or on what topics.

The NSTA exhibition hall will be filled with multinational corporations giving away professionally created, teacher-friendly free materials on issues ranging from GM foods and the benefits of meat to the magic of timber reforestation and the foolishness of worrying about issues such as global warming or the use of more and more pesticides.

However, students need to hear all viewpoints it is incumbent that science teachers explain the complexities of environmental issues.

While these corporate interests have the right to distribute their take on environmental concerns, it is naïve to think that certain corporations, some with dubious environmental histories, are not using dubious facts or misleading data to push their own self-interested agendas. Here is their chance to sell their message for free, in the most respected arena of learning: the classroom.

Why would NSTA refuse those who peaceably gather to be permitted to agree to disagree with certain corporations?

Our campaign questions certain “industry science” not just as myths, but as overt bias or even downright lies. Sharon Beder writes in the book, "Global Spin,": “The ascendancy of the PR industry and the collapse of American participatory democracy are the same phenomenon.”

Beder has inspired me to take questions to the NSTA, and to ask teachers, “Do you know all sides of the issue? Or do you only know the version you are carrying in that free curriculum guide, video or poster you just received for free from Corporation X?"

Free speech is the foundation of education as well as the foundation of democracy. Without free speech, citizens are refused the opportunity to "hear all sides" -- especially in our growing list of environmental challenges.

The likes of Beder, Sheila Harty, Ralph Nader, Alex Molnar, Gary Ruskin and others (all opponents of the flood of corporate sponsored materials in schools) share a similar philosophy that the Native Forest Council’s “HONEST Education Campaign” seeks to bring to San Diego. Pervasive advertising in schools, specially crafted into slick educational materials, too often carry misleading or flawed science. Too often these materials bypass any screening systems in schools, blurring the line between education and marketing.

While this corporate agenda is transparent to many, it is gathering momentum. Their strategy is well defined. Future generations will be ultimate consumers, future voters. It behooves these corporations to downplay environmental concerns, assert they're all exaggerated, and corporations are unfairly being portrayed as villains by “chicken little” environmental organizations.

The most critical piece of this coporate agenda is selling the notion that social and environmental problems can be solved by purchasing corporate services and products;“corporate science” will guide us to a sustainable future. With their coporate warchests multinationals have unlimited ability to produce slick ads on television, and to give free materials to schools. As we have always see and are seeing to an even greater degree today, they often have unlimited access to members of Congress or the White House, so they present a formidable foe.

How can one challenge the growing corporate influence in schools? How can one have a debate on these subjects with other teachers? How can David, with only a small rock in his sack, challenge Goliath when the NSTA declares that speech which questions their corporate backers will not be permitted at their events? In other words, what do we do with the NSTA opposes free speech?

Some people have told me that we will be “drowned” out in San Diego. The corporations have too much money, too much access and too much power.But the question I ask in return is always the same. “ Who will challenge the tobacco industry-type lies Who will help teachers access credible and objective science, data which comes with no financial interest or strings attached?Who will stand up for the children?"

Jefferson wrote, “One man with courage is a majority.” the Children for an HONEST Educational Campaign is building a team with courage, of concerned teachers, parents and citizens who will speak out against the manipulation of children. Children deserve sound environmental education, not overt commercialism in our schools.

Martin Luther King once said:

“Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?'Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, “'s it popular?'But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right.'And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right.”

The “Children for an HONEST Education Campaign” and the Native Forest Council knows the time is right: the truth must be discussed and in the end:

“restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that can most easily defeat us.”

We will carry this powerful message of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas to San Diego. We will take his thoughts, the best interests of children and teachers and the comfort of the first amendment -- free speech -- to San Diego. It is this free speech certain corporate polluters -- who flood schools with their propaganda -- fear most.



John Borowski

John F. Borowski has been teaching Marine Science, Environmental Biology and Earth Science for 21 years at North Salem High in Salem, Oregon. John F. Borowski 541-929-5224 jenjill@proaxis.com

John Borowski and Tim Hermach of the Native Forest Council and their education program: Children for an HONEST Education Campaign.

Call 541-929-5224 or email jenjill@proaxis.com to reach John F. Borowski. Call 541-688-2600 or www.forestcouncil.org to reach Tim Hermach. Tim Hermach has been fighting to protect our nation’s public lands for over 20 years and John Borowski has been teaching environmental education for over 23 years. And their goals are one in the same: a livable planet for our children, access to honest education materials and an ecologically caring and knowledgeable citizenry.

Also by John Borowski:

 
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