Exxon approved science teaching

Laurie David, one of the producers of An Inconvenient Truth writes about what happened when she tried to donate copies of the movie to schools:

So the company that made the documentary decided to offer 50,000 free DVDs to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) for educators to use in their classrooms. It seemed like a no-brainer.

The teachers had a different idea: Thanks but no thanks, they said.

In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that other “special interests” might ask to distribute materials, too; they said they didn’t want to offer “political” endorsement of the film; and they saw “little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members” in accepting the free DVDs. …

Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place “unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters.” One of those supporters, it turns out, is the Exxon Mobil Corp. …

“The materials from the American Petroleum Institute and the other corporate interests are the worst form of a lie: omission,” Borowski says. “The oil and coal guys won’t address global warming, and the timber industry papers over clear-cuts.”

An API memo leaked to the media as long ago as 1998 succinctly explains why the association is angling to infiltrate the classroom: “Informing teachers/students about uncertainties in climate science will begin to erect barriers against further efforts to impose Kyoto-like measures in the future.”

See also coturnix, PZ Myers and Phil Plait and Sara Robinson


  1. #1 Ellen
    November 28, 2006

    Probably only fair to post the NSTA response:


  2. #2 Jeff Harvey
    November 29, 2006

    Ellen, the NSTA response by Dr. Gerald Wheeler is totally toothless. Wheeler writes, “We are very proud of the work we do on behalf of science education”. Really? How does he explain the fact that the level of understanding of basic science in the U.S. is appalling and that the country ranks amongst the very lowest in this regard amongst developed countries? In my opinion Exxon-Mobil and Shell could not give a damn about ‘sound science’ since, like their other ‘sisters’ in the fossil fuel lobby, they have been expending many millions of dollars to debunk the science (on AGW) that they hate. Irrespective of what Wheeler says, corporations are psychopathic entities that valorize self worth (read Joel Bakan’s excellent book “Corporation” to learn more) and I believe that they fund science programs because they expect these programs to reflect their own political agenda, regardless of any pressures they may or may not exert on science programs. I am sure that if the NSTA pushed the broad scientific consensus on AGW then much of their corporate their funding would evaporate. Similarly, I wonder how much money logging and pulp and paper companies are going to donate to the NSTA when they learn that the curriculum is highly critical of clear cutting and extensive deforestation?

    In her book, ‘Global Spin’, Sharon Beder presents some pretty alarming evidence showing how multinational corporations are funding school science programs with a definite bias towards downplaying global environmental change. Seeing Wheeler trying to be diplomatic is cringe-inducing.

  3. #3 Paul Crowley
    November 29, 2006

    Ellen – thanks for the link to the NSTA report, it’s always good to get two sides of such a story. Is it just me, or does it completely fail to address any of the allegations made in the Washington Post article, besides the bald assertion that they didn’t allow Exxon and Shell to lean on them, and an assertion about “You Can’t Be Cool Without Fuel” that doesn’t quite contradict what the Post alledges?

  4. #4 Drake Milton
    November 29, 2006

    “NSTA policy states that the association cannot endorse any outside organization’s products and/or messages to its members. Therefore, we do not send any such products and/or messages directly to our members, regardless of the source.”

    This is no longer in the press release. What happened to it?

  5. #5 Ragout
    November 30, 2006

    So let me get this straight: the NSTA refuses to pay for distributing Al Gore’s film, but offers him every other courtesy, including their mailing list! Gore & his producer respond by sliming the NSTA and accusing them of distributing an oil company video (which doesn’t seem to be true). Further, Gore and his producer decide to let their DVDs sit in a warehouse, rather than taking advantage of the numerous channels available for distributing them. I would limit my criticism to Gore’s producer, except that I just saw Gore on the Tonite Show, repeating the same story. And somehow I’m supposed to think badly of the NSTA for this incident?

    Not to mention that Gore’s DVD seems awfully inappropriate for a public school to me. After all, a large portion of the movie could basically serve as a campaign commercial: Al Gore talking about how he loved his son, Gore striding through the tobacco fields of home, Gore discussion his difficulties in getting Congress to listen to him, etc.

    This whole incident really lowers my opinion of Gore a lot. I hope he apologizes.

  6. #6 John A
    November 30, 2006

    I’d like to help but I’m struggling with the following question:

    Q: What product does most of Al Gore’s family fortune derive from?

    and the answer is a seven letter word:

    T _ B _ C C _

    Can you work it out? I’m stuck.

  7. #7 Carl Christensen
    November 30, 2006

    HAHAHA, you think Gore should apologize, yet I’m sure you think the genocidal maniacs in the Repuke party shouldn’t! The right-wing “faux outrage” is so beautiful to watch!

  8. #8 John Cross
    November 30, 2006

    John A: general tip, whenever stuck, first ask yourself “is it a NON-THERMODYNAMIC system”?


  9. #9 Marlowe Johnson
    November 30, 2006

    IMO neither side looks particularly good in this situation. On the one hand I agree with Ragout that Gore et al. are a little bit too outraged considering they didn’t offer to pay mailing costs. And his movie certainly has some partisan/political elements to it (if only by virtue of the fact that Gore as a central figure throughout is himself a politician), so its not inconceivable to me that the NSTA would reject distribution on those grounds alone.

    On the other side the NSTA certainly looks bad for the bit about “Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place “unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters.” …

  10. #10 Eli Rabett
    November 30, 2006

    What Gore family fortune?

  11. #11 Danø
    November 30, 2006

    Poor widdle Johnny A has the dreaded dupe disease. Probably from all that physics research.

    Of course, Gore got his fortune from inventing The Internets.



  12. #12 Norm de Plume
    November 30, 2006

    John A: “T _ B _ C C _

    Can you work it out? I’m stuck.”

    Let me guess. Is it Titanpoint?

  13. #13 Robert P.
    November 30, 2006

    John A., I’m still trying to understand what you meant when you claimed that temperature is a vector field. How many components does the temperature vector have ?

  14. #14 Stephen Berg
    December 3, 2006

    John A, you’ve really swung below the belt on that one. If you actually argued in a dignified manner and quit using ad-homs so much, people would actually listen to you. However, as you act like such as jack@$$ so often, you deserve to be ignored and demonised by those who wish to discuss issues in a polite fashion.

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