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Some of my fellow bloggers and I have been following the fall out from an Op Ed piece in the Washington Post on the NSTA’s refusal to mail 50,000 copies of the “An Inconvient Truth” DVD to it’s members. You can read earlier posts: here, here, and here.

Today, the NSTA confirmed that they never said David couldn’t provide the film free to NSTA members, it’s just that they don’t mail out third party materials to members without their consent or request.

From the NSTA pressroom:

On November 29, 2006, NSTA’s Board of Directors held a telephone conference to review Ms. David’s request. In an effort to accommodate her request without violating the Board’s 2001 policy prohibiting product endorsement, and to provide science educators with the opportunity to take advantage of the educational opportunities presented by films such as this, NSTA has offered to greatly expand the scope of the potential target audience identified in her initial request.

They also published a letter to David detailing some of the items in their new and expanded offer: (paraphrased below)

1. Provide a link on the NSTA website to allow middle and high school teachers to obtain a free copy of the DVD from Ms. David.

2. Provide an opportunity to purchase their mailing list.

3. Announce the availability of the DVD through the NSTA Express, the NSTA Building a Presense for Science online newsletter, and other channels.

4. Provide the opportunity to exhibit at the National Conference on Science Education in St. Louis, MO.

5. Create an online message board, open to members and non-members, focusing on global warming.

It all looks pretty standard. It will interesting to see how Ms. David responds.


  1. #1 Steve Bloom
    December 5, 2006

    Sandra, there’s something fishy going on. Drake mentioned in the previous NSTA post that this passage had been *removed* from the linked NSTA press release:

    “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.”

    I can’t find a copy of the policy anywhere on the BSTA site. I’m really starting to wonder if they have represented the policy accurately. Do you have a copy of it?

  2. #2 Sandra Porter
    December 5, 2006

    The NSTA pressroom web site says:

    The NSTA Board of Directors stood by its 2001 NSTA policy prohibiting endorsements and decided not to mass distribute the DVD to members without their consent or request because it would constitute an endorsement.

    I couldn’t find the minutes where the 2001 policy was established, but then the only minutes that I could find were for 2005, so I don’t think that says much.

    I wrote to Ms. David immediately when I first heard about the story and offered to publicize an address that teachers could use for getting the DVDs. Her group wrote back and said that I could help teachers get DVDs by purchasing them and giving them to teachers.

    Their response makes me wonder if the offer was genuine or just an attempt to gain publicity.

  3. #3 Steve Bloom
    December 5, 2006

    AFAICT the offer you refer to had already been on the web site. David clearly still wants the NSTA to do the distribution, so I don’t think she’s figured out (or at least implemented) an alternative course of action. I think the advantages of having the NSTA do the distribution are obvious enough; it would get the DVD in the hands of a lot more teachers in a manner that would make it more likely to be used. Note that the offer to sell David the mailing list would involve not being able to get the DVD to the opt-outs; I haven’t heard a number but in my experience the opt-outs could be easily half the list.

    At this point, I’d really like to see the language of that policy to see if it really did ban taking the DVDs. I’m starting to suspect not. The flopping around about the mailing expense (with the outlandish $250K figure quoted by the incoming president), the need to take a Board vote affirming the 2001 policy (why do that if it was clear to begin with?), the major relationship with ExxonMobil (see here, and note also the presence of an ExxonMobil representative on a “partner” committee advising the ED — it seems one can be promoted as a partner without being endorsed as such), and that telling email admission (irrelevant whether it’s the official reason or not) make me even more suspicious.

    I could be wrong, this could all be appearances, but I think the bloggers who attacked David have some responsibility to help get to the bottom of this.

  4. #4 Sandra Porter
    December 5, 2006


    1. Policy wording: I agree that it would be helpful to see the original wording from the NSTA policy decision. It is not on the web site, but I don’t think that is an automatic implication of guilt. The NSTA description of their policy sounds like standard stuff.

    2. The opt out list: I do not agree that David or anyone for that matter should have access to a list that includes all of the people who specifically asked not to be on the mailing list. Many people on the NSTA list serve have agreed with that stand. I opted out of the list and I don’t want to be bombarded with mail that I did not request. I appreciate the NSTA sticking by their principles.

    3. The cost of distribution: I gave a very low estimate on distribution costs before. My estimate of mailing costs per CD was so low that it was unrealistic. I wanted to point out that even with a very low cost estimate per CD, the cost of mailing was still high. I’ve priced out the costs of having a distribution center mail out CDs. It’s about $4 per CD, with at 55,000 CDs is $220,000. The NSTA does not have that much money and I did find a policy statement on their web site that said that they have a budget reserve of $100,000 but they have to get board approval for any costs over 20,000. I do not agree that the cost is neglible.

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