Wednesday, February 10 , 2016, 11:05 am | Fair 74º

Jim Hightower: Nothing Merry About Old King Coal Brainwashing Our Students

Industry giants pay big bucks to Scholastic to promote their propaganda in fourth-grade classrooms

By Jim Hightower |

If some predator were stalking fourth-graders in your community, there would be a mighty uproar to make the predator get away and stay away from your schools.

But what if the stalker is the coal industry, dressed in an academic outfit in order to get into fourth-grade classrooms and brainwash the kids? Unbeknownst to most Americans, grade-schoolers are being targeted by the American Coal Foundation with a propaganda package stealthily titled, “The United States of Energy.”

It’s not mentioned in the materials, but Big Coal paid big bucks to Scholastic Inc. to develop this shamelessly distorted promotion of the dirtiest fuel on Earth. The package fills little minds with the joys of having 600 friendly, coal-fueled utilities generating electricity 24 hours a day. Not a peep is made about any of coal’s long litany of negatives — including toxic waste, air and water pollution, mine explosions, black lung deaths, mountaintop destruction, greenhouse gas emissions, political corruption and other decidedly unfriendly aspects of what industry propagandists simply tout as “black gold.”

This printed “educational package” has been distributed to 66,000 fourth-grade teachers, potentially putting its perverted view into the heads of more than a million children. Another 82,000 teachers of fourth-graders were asked to download the package online.

Of course, the coal giants could not have entered so many schools on their own, so they bought access to our kids through Scholastic, a $2-billion-a-year corporation that says it places its books and materials in nine out of 10 U.S. classrooms. Indeed, Scholastic’s InSchool marketing division brags of its ability to “promote client objectives” by targeting teachers and students with classroom packages that “make a difference by influencing attitudes and behavior.”

How sweet. Friends of the Earth calls Scholastic’s coal whitewash the “worst kind of corporate brainwashing.”

For a less saccharin take on the industry, check out a West Virginia report issued last month on Massey Energy, a $3.4 billion coal giant that is the most dominant in Appalachia. It is also among the most reckless of corporations, earning hundreds of mine safety citations every year.

In 2010, its notoriously unsafe Upper Big Branch Mine exploded, killing 29 miners. Massey’s careless honchos rushed out to declare total innocence: couldn’t have been predicted, much less prevented, they insisted.

Even the Brothers Grimm could not have come up with a fairy tale as fanciful — or as grim — as the one concocted by these executives. According to them, the blast was caused by a giant ball of methane that mysteriously bubbled from the ground and blew up the men. Goodness gracious, great balls of fire!

What a fantasy.

Now for the grim reality. In an unusually blunt report commissioned by the state, an independent team of mining experts puts the blame for the West Virginia disaster directly on Massey Energy’s bosses and investors.

“An accident waiting to happen,” says the report, showing that the corporation “operated in a profoundly reckless manner.” By disregarding safety in the pursuit of another almighty dollar, executives illegally allowed an intolerable level of explosive coal dust to accumulate, carrying the blast through the mine to kill men far from the first detonation.

Massey also built “a culture in which wrongdoing became acceptable,” the investigators say. Worker safety complaints were met with intimidation, safety inspectors were cast as “enemies” and Massey used campaign contributions to keep public officials from cracking down.

Meanwhile — more than a year after the 29 men were killed — congressional Republicans and a few coal-state Democrats are still blocking reforms to stop the murderous malfeasance of corporate powers like Massey. To help break their stranglehold, and to honor those men who paid with their lives for coalfield greed, click here to contact the Council for Occupational Safety and Health.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him.

» on 06.02.11 @ 02:00 PM

I don’t think this guy will be happy until all of society is free of any private business or enterprise.  It is all about greed and has nothing to do with providing energy, jobs or anything else.  when we all live within our little cubicle, growing our own organic vegies, wearing all the same clothing, never traveling further than you can walk or ride a wooden wheeled cart, he may finally be satisfied with the country he now hates.  I still can’t figure out why I torture myself reading what he has to say.
Maybe because I usually like what Petry and AN50 respond about!

» on 06.02.11 @ 02:39 PM

Coastal Local - perhaps you forgot that the beaches are clear of oil derricks - here’s a picture of what it used to look like in Summerland <> circa 1930.

The coal industry (much like the oil industry) doesn’t care about the future costs of pollution, they just care about exploiting the earth’s minerals for profit.

People like you are eager to point out the “inalienable” rights of “big business” to produce toxic waste that future generations have to deal with - without a sense of forethought.

There is no need for coal anymore for us to sustain the exact luxuries we’ve grown to enjoy.

Your picture of wooden carts, etc. is ridiculous to say the least. Greedy entrepreneurs can make just as much money in the “green businesses” as in the “dirty toxic businesses”.

I say make as much money as you like - just keep the earth clean and stop filling the heads of impressionable youth with lies supporting “dirty fuel”.

» on 06.02.11 @ 07:16 PM

To be fair, not even Obama has the courage to show leadership on this issue. Neither does Republican “leader” Mitch McConnell.

Who protects the families that mine the coal, and absorb the pollutants daily?

Who protects the children downwind who breathe that dust every day of their lives?

As long as K Street has high-priced lawyers and lobbyists, the answer is No One.

» on 06.02.11 @ 08:21 PM

This is 2010, not 1923!  Businesses do not pollute for profit and not one intends to do so, no matter how much you try to demonize them.  Accidents will always happen no matter what industry it is and we can always learn from it to prevent another. 
Green can only be subsidized because none of it creates the energy and you have the same problems with people that don’t want it in their back yard.
I am for oil, gas and coal industries to use a percentage to help create more green alternatives instead of subsidizing with taxpayer money and letting the private sector of those industries decide on where the money will go and not the government!  You would reach your goal in half the time, instead of the fight that is going to last for another 50 years.  Don’t forgtet that coal provides the electricity for half of the United States.  Should we just stop now and shut it all down?  And Publius…who protects us from the air and pollution on our beaches from natural seepage?  Drill and get out and use it and the second biggest air polluter in our county will not be bubbling from the ocean floor.  Cars on stopped our highway being number one.  But of course, we never needed and extra lane, did we?  Not until it costs four times as much to build.

» on 06.03.11 @ 02:38 PM

Right. When all you anti fossil fuel, “hate big corporations”, regulate the snot out of everyone except criminals and fornicators, over the top liberal progressives stop benifiting and from and biting the hand that feeds you, I will give your shallow hypocritical faux rage some credence. Until then, you’re nothing but a lot of hot air.

That coal buys you idiots your cheap power. You benefit directly from it and cry the loudest when its price is jacked up. Oh and don’t tell me how willing you personally are to pay more. Maybe you can afford to. Maybe your moms allowance or your trust fund or your parasitic business provides you with the means to pay more but the other 70% of the population not as fortunate as you can’t. So stuff your white wealthy elitist liberal phony compassion for the environment. You are the worst offenders and the biggest users of ecosphere damaging technology and energy and quite frankly the rest of us are damned sick and tired of having to pay for you to vacuum your shallow consciences.

As far as the alleged propaganda by corporations, hell those greedy ole boys are just doing what you liberals have been doing to our children for the last 40 years. If you don’t like the tactics then before you yell at the other guys you ought to take a good gander in the mirror at your own side.

Ok, enough of the hostility. We took out partisan shots. Let hypocrite Hightower and all the other pundits duke it out. What we need to do is figure out how we are going to earn our way out of this massive debt we accumulated screwing our wealth generating industry while allowing gamblers and speculators (thieves and pirates) to benefit from that destruction. That is the most important job right now.

If we don’t fix the economy there will be no environmentalism, no green industry, no welfare, Medicare or social security. Your mom’s allowance dries up along with the trust fund or the need for your services. Get the picture boys? All this partisan crap is a big distraction from our real problem and that is our ability to produce enough wealth to pay not only for what we consume now, but what we consumed on credit the last 4 decades. Get that? Party is fricken over kiddies. The debt collector is at the door. All that stupid phony BS the Harvard economists advising wall street and DC for the last few decades is exposed for the ponzi scheme it was. We allowed wall streeters to pirate wholesome companies, we allowed gamblers and speculators to run wild through our financial system while all the lunatic left pounded our wealth producing core industrial base out of existence making our creditors (China, Japan) very rich.

Now we need to stop bickering over stupid partisan crap and figure out how we are going to pay for the mess we are in and we all have to pay. One way to do that is domestic energy production and baby coal is king. We have more BTU’s of energy under our feet in the form of coal than all other sources combined, world wide. Ok, maybe some body had the idea that we burn through Arabia’s oil before we tap that coal, but we now export wealth to the tune of half a trillion dollars a year and we owe the world more than we can make, so enough with the foreign energy supplies crap. Burn that coal and send the Middle East back to the damned 7th century where they seem to be happiest and balance our books at the same time.

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