Graphic from National Academy of Sciences: What You Need to Know About Energy
The US Chamber of Commerce and Scholastic, Inc. have teamed up to develop and deploy an energy curriculum to 100,000 schools, with the aim of reaching six million students. And environmental blogs like Pete Altman’s NRDC Swithboard blog are, well, heating up:
Actually, the fact that Scholastic is using its wholesome name to traffic the US Chamber of Commerce’s pollution-friendly propaganda should be alarming to anyone with kids in the public school system (I have two.) In fact, the hypocrisy embedded in the US Chamber’s involvement in producing education materials on energy for kids is downright shocking.
What makes the US Chamber such an inappropriate partner in child education?
One reason is that the Chamber’s information is extremely one-sided. It neglects to mention the public health, environmental and national security consequences of our reliance on dirty energy sources. The coal and oil which supplies a great deal of our energy also creates extraordinary amounts of air, water and soil pollution, and of course are primarily responsible for the warming of our planet. Our addiction to oil makes the US vulnerable to oil-producing nations that wish us harm. These are consequences that today’s kids will have to deal with as tomorrow’s leaders.
Over at National Wildlife Federation, Kevin Coyle in a post titled “Keeping Kids in the Dark: U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Energy “Education””writes about the teachers’ guide “Shedding Light on Energy” that he previewed:
The guide has a definite point of view based on what it fails to say rather than what it actually says. The Shedding Light on Energy program puts forward the idea that America’s children should have limited knowledge of energy. The guide offers the opportunity to learn about existing energy sources but, oddly, it stops there. It ignores future alternative energy trends and fails to paint a true picture of environmental consequences. This is just wrong.
The sample Shedding Light lesson plan, which will be followed up with new lessons in 2011, is mainly a fact sheet on sources of energy for electricity and transportation and is not nearly as informative or engaging as the National Academies’ website and booklet What You Need to Know About Energy (which frankly would benefit from lesson plans and a teachers’ guide.) Just because there isn’t language about climate and other environmental impacts of our reliance on fossil fuels in this first lesson plan, is that necessarily problematic in an introductory lesson?
The Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy which is behind the program lists four goals: Increase and Diversity Energy Supplies, Improve Energy Efficiency, Modernize and Protect Energy Infrastucture, and Promote Environmental Stewardship. Under the later topic, they state:
The United States must improve environmental stewardship at home and abroad without sacrificing jobs and growth.
We must address the impact of our growing energy consumption on the environment and climate. However, climate change should be addressed as part of an integrated agenda that enhances energy security, maintains economic prosperity, reduces pollution, and mitigates greenhouse gas emissions. Energy efficiency is central to our approach, and advanced technologies—for example, carbon capture and storage, advanced nuclear power, renewables, and smart grid—will be needed on a vast scale to eventually reduce emissions significantly.
Should the Chamber and Scholastic be given the benefit of the doubt since the first lesson plan is little more than an FAQ about sources of energy? Maybe the next lesson will encourage students to consider the challenges of decarbonizing our economy and lifestyles. Or have students examine why ~60% of the energy we consume is “unused” or wasted, mostly as heat.
Clearly, there is an enormous need for energy (and climate) literacy and education. We’ll give the Chamber and Scholastic the benefit of the doubt for now since this is just the first in their Shedding Light series.