Wednesday, June 28 , 2017, 3:21 pm | Fair 71º

 
 
 
 

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

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.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.



Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >