11 April 2002
EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS OR CORPORATE PROPAGANDA?
Here's a science teacher just back from a national convention of NSTA, and his concerns about corporate PR materials being distributed in the schools...
What did I learn at the National Science Teachers Association convention? ...and what are teachers now giving out to their students?
--by John Borowski-- <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>
Here's what corporate PR posing as educational material says:
GM food producers want to produce more productive and more nutritious crops for the third world. That genetic manipulation has been going on for 1000's of years. (Did Mendel put salmon genes in tomatoes?)
Organic farming CANNOT feed the planet. Organic farming could only feed 3 billion. And: "The problem is that certified organic farming is driven by ideology, not by sound science or even a "love of the land." Page 8, Foods from GM crops, produced by the San Diego Center for Molecular Agriculture (SDCMA). The above "facts" also come from the same booklet.
On page 9, these scientists claim that the true benefits from organic food go to grocery food chains. "They also fund the colorful anti-GM food demonstrations when children dress up as monarch butterflies."
THE TAKES A TREE: Forest Education Unit 9-12, provided by the Pacific Logging Congress has some interesting points and omissions:
No comparison of native forests and tree farms. On page 9, "Because pioneer species grow well in only full sunlight, foresters favor growing them by creating openings, clearcuts, that mimic the natural effects of fire". Why no discussion of spraying 2,4 D on alders? And when did a clearcut ever mimic a fire? Fires leave debris, snags and nurselogs.
On page 10 the teacher's lesson discusses the INTANGIBLE benefits that the forests supply. It includes four lines, with items such as: "Places of beauty and serenity in nature." On page 11 the booklet provides "ecological benefits". Four items. Are those tangible or intangible? YET: UNDER, Tangible benefits, the teacher's guide provides over 23 items. More incredible is the statement on page 15: "Roads built by forest resource companies provide access to camp sites, ski sites and trailheads." "Grazing of commercial stock, harvesting, and mining are allowed under federal guidelines that mandate that harvest and growth be balanced 'for the harmonious and coordinated management' of national forests."
And like all "good" timber management teachers' packets, they must cover the need to fix "sick" forests with chainsaws. Page 15: Insects, fire, and disease destroy an estimated 4.5 billion cubic feet of timber nationally in the U.S. each year. (Don't those same disturbances create natural selection, new soil, and habitat?)
Lesson 3 discusses how fish are protected. Maybe they should review the Tobe Creek timber sale (BLM) that slid into the creek after harvest. THIS PACKAGE IS NOT EDUCATIONAL, IT IS PROMOTIONAL and is nothing more than one side of the story. Like PLT, big on facts, bigger on omissions.
NAAA (National Agricultural Aviation Association) provides children's packets:
Happiness is high yield farming! "To grow more food on each acre farmers must use echnology". In a box titled: PESTICIDES: it reads, Saves lives, save land, save wildlife, save water, save trees PLUS they make our lives a whole lot more comfortable."
This package states, "There has never been one human death caused by a properly applied and handled pesticide. Nor has there ever been a case of human cancer caused by a synthetic esticide." I seem to remember a fungicide (for cotton) endorsed and approved by the EPA that caused cancer?
Under Who Uses Pesticides: "Moms use pesticides to kill molds in showers and kill germs on kitchen surfaces. Dads use them to kill lawn weeds and garden pests."
FARM PESTICIDES ARE MEDICINE FOR PLANTS: "Without pesticides food production
would drop by half and we would have to farm more than twice as much land
to produce the same amount of food."
The Minerals Management Service: they have a big poster with happy fish swimming along oilrigs.
In their "The Ocean's Sand, A Natural Resource, they have omitted key data.
They fail to discuss the billions of dollars used to replace sand annually from high-risk erosion areas. They discuss subsidized sand (minus dollar costs) they call it Beach Nourishment.
So, here we have it. The American Farm Bureau, PLT, Weyerhaeuser, Temperate Forest Foundation, Aerosol Council peddling package after package. When are we going to (as responsible and knowledgeable teachers and parents) demand the full picture? Fill in the omissions? Call certain industries on data that are blatant lies or fabrications? Don't our children deserve better? Or will school become the advertising ground for those who seek to pawn kids for profit? Why are we so fearful to challenge the claims of PLT or the Farm Bureau? Lastly, why does the established big green team put so little emphasis on education? I may be wrong but the combined assets of Audubon and the National Wildlife Federation is over $60 million dollars! Where was their hard-hitting materials and free lesson plans at the NSTA? Audubon had a bird-a-thon booth? Just two years ago Audubon claimed to be on the cutting edge of an "Environmental Education Campaign." What happened?
Please know that all sides of all issues are welcomed in a good classroom. Yet, with teachers walking away with armfuls of skillfully crafted corporate PR masquerading as "educational materials", we all should be nervous. Time to challenge your local school board to filter these materials. It is time for parents to challenge schools, to be a place of learning and not for corporate advertisement. And....will the big green team either lead the environmental education campaign or simply fund those who will provide sound science, reasoned debate and show no fear over challenging the oil, timber and chemical propaganda for what it is.
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