They were selling
lies, and the teachers were buying -- quickly filling their bags
with curricula as corrosive as the pesticides that the Farm Bureau
the largest environmental groups to counter this frontal assault
on environmental education? Where was the outcry of the educational
community? Most Americans consider our public schools to be hallowed
ground, where young people learn about the world through carefully
chosen curriculum. Yet corporations now view schools as convenient
locations for the dissemination of propaganda "debunking"
education is under assault on two fronts. First, multinational corporations
are designing and distributing environmental curricula that are
professionally produced, easy to use, often free, and incredibly
biased in favor of industry. Second, some of the most prominent
conservative think tanks in America are mounting a well-funded attack
on genuine environmental education.
is simple: protect industries that despoil the planet and put the
brakes on the emergence of environmental awareness among young people.
The spectrum of curricula is breathtaking and its shamelessness
is overt. The American Nuclear Society provides "Let's Color
and Do Activities with the Atoms Family." Materials I received
from Exxon portray the Prince William Sound cleanup as a victory
of technology, brushing over the cause of the disaster: the Exxon
But the most
brazen miseducation campaign is carried out by the timber industry.
timber spends millions on so-called educational programs (which,
of course, they generously donate to public schools). They offer
hikes, presentations, and paid workshops for teachers. They distribute
books, posters, videos, lesson plans, and other materials. Through
the looking glass of big timber, old-growth forests become biological
problems that require clear-cutting in order to survive. Logging
companies are not cutting the forests, the propaganda explains,
it is "managing" them, acting as their stewards - even
Oregon, where I teach science, Starker Forests offers a guided hike
in a small section of their forest, an outing that resonates strongly
with the kids, and can shrewdly confuse the most earnest educator.
Classes are instructed to play a game in which the largest child
in the group pretends to be the big tree. The other children stand
closely to the big tree and crowd it. The company guide asks them
to choose three words that describe how they, the little trees,
feel when you are crowded together under the big tree. Then all
the little trees scatter out, providing more space. The purpose
of the exercise is to help them visualize the benefits of thinning
the forest. (For full realism, perhaps some of the children should
be asked to visualize the feeling of being chopped down and processed
into end tables.)
very organizations that preach the gospel of environmental education
are actually industry shills. They have earthy names but clandestine
roots. The American Forest Foundation (AFF) has a list of co-sponsors,
cooperators, and partners that includes some of the most egregious
despoilers of our forests: Sierra Pacific Industries, champion of
clear-cuts in California; The Pacific Lumber Company, loggers of
the redwoods; MacMillan Bloedel Packaging; Willamette Industries;
Boise Cascade Corporation. One AFF project, Project Learning Tree,
which works to promote logging and industrial management of our
nation's forest, has reached more than 500,000 teachers and some
25 million students from prekindergarten to 12th grade.
public relations campaigns and deceptive advertising are battling
today for the hearts and minds of our children. And they're winning.
The North America Association of Environmental Education (the largest
environmental education group in the world) has endorsed Project
citizens in general must assume the role of frontline warriors if
environmental education is to remain meaningful. They must demand
that any curricula provided by corporate sources be reviewed --
as textbooks must be -- prior to being adopted. They must challenge
their local boards of education to keep schools free of corporate
propaganda. They must study the materials children receive at school.
Corporate PR campaigns in classrooms are reminiscent of tobacco
companies' secretive strategy of peddling cigarettes to teens. Their
effort must be brought into the full light of day.
John F. Borowski has been teaching Marine Science, Environmental
Biology and Earth Science for 21 years at North Salem High in Salem,
This is a story that most people are not aware of, and it grows
worse each year. Sitting next to my desk is a stack of corporate
sponsored materials I have received...from Exxon, Monsanto, Plastics
Industry, Mining Industry, Global Warming Society...it is endless.
The pesticide industry is making giant inroads into schools, as
well. The American Farm Bureau proclaims that atrazine and 2,4 D
concerns are "blown out of proportion." It is very sad,
but many teachers know very little about pesticides, and the corporations
are brainwashing those teachers. And, of course, the Bureau pushes
the meat agenda in a big way.
An interesting note: the National Science Teachers' Convention
will be in San Diego, this March 27-30th, 2002. Over 25,000 science
teachers are expected. And...corporate interests will be there
in force! Real environmental organizations should consider doing a booth
-- it is a great way to reach teachers and their students. I will
be there, with the Native Forest Council. We plan to start our campaign
to expose these corporate interests in our schools. Teachers and
the general public need to know what is going on in our schools.
You can contact John Borowski at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was written for PR NewsWatch.
Also by John