For three years, kids around the country have been learning about where their electricity originates from a book called The United States of Energy, published by Scholastic with sponsorship from the unbiased people at the American Coal Foundation. Yesterday, after the book’s contents became the object of some public ridicule and scorn, Scholastic announced it would no longer be offering the title.
The book was criticized in a recent NY Times article for pushing a litany of positive-sounding coal facts without bringing up any of the down sides:
What they do not mention are the negative effects of mining and burning coal: the removal of Appalachian mountaintops; the release of sulfur dioxide, mercury and arsenic; the toxic wastes; the mining accidents; the lung disease.
Yesterday, the CEO of Scholastic responded to the Times piece with a letter saying that his company would no longer be publishing the title.
“We acknowledge that the mere fact of sponsorship may call into question the authenticity of the information, and therefore conclude that we were not vigilant enough as to the effect of sponsorship in this instance,” he writes. “We have no plans to further distribute this particular program.”
He added that the publisher is undertaking a thorough review of its policy and editorial procedures on sponsored content.
The Chairman of the American Coal Foundation also responded with a letter of his own:
Contrary to the claim in your editorial, “The United States of Energy” educational program is not “a treatise on coal” but offers instructional materials on all forms of energy that generate electricity — wind and solar energy as well as coal and nuclear power. Steps have been taken to ensure the review and acceptance of the program by the education community…
Children who are informed about the types of coal used to generate their electricity, where in the country coal is mined and the men and women who mine it are more likely to make informed decisions about coal’s use and question the occasional criticism of it.
Regardless, Scholastic has already removed the title from its website and pulled down the page it had previously dedicated to its partnership with the ACF.
This Lesson Plan Is Brought to You by … [NY Times]