Keeping Kids in the Dark: U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Energy “Education”

NWF   |   October 21, 2010

This week, NWF had the opportunity to review a “teachers’ guide” developed by Scholastic in cooperation with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.  It is called Shedding Light on Energy. The guide lays out the various sources of energy and power generation in the United States, and their relative contributions to the whole.

1940 Pollution (credit: Flickr/Library of Congress)
1940 Pollution (credit: Flickr/Library of Congress)

But the teachers’ guide has a definite oily feel around its eerie silence on the effect that today’s energy profile has on global climate change.  The institute’s guide, which is mostly silent on where we might be headed on the national energy front, reads more like a 20th or even 19th century illumination.

This program is not exactly giving our kids the complete picture, and students deserve the best training and information on this important subject that we as educators can possibly give them.  Today’s youth would have to shoulder the many problems we may leave them if we were to maintain the country’s current energy profile.

The real story is that America is steadily moving toward more wind, solar and geothermal power production.  This country is becoming more energy efficient and is moving toward new, lower carbon transportation fuels.  We need to keep going for our kids’ sake.

Children in the United States need to know about these changes and understand their implications—both the pros and the cons.   I can’t help but wonder if the U.S. Chamber of Commerce might want to support the status quo and keep these clean energy trends under wraps, with the wool pulled over our children’s eyes.  Perhaps the guide should be renamed Keeping Children in the Dark.

The guide contains some educational questions and scenario exercises.  Quite disturbingly, one of these asks students to assess what might happen if the “government” “curbed” production of one of these energy sources.  It seems to be over-reaching here, posing something pretty scary if you are a kid.

The guide fails to adhere to basic guidelines that more than 3,000 organizations, including some major businesses, have endorsed for fair, accurate and complete education on the environment.  These are the Guidelines for Excellence developed by the North American Association for Environmental Education.  The recommendations were worked out with great care over several years for a reason: so many organizations, public agencies and businesses were too promotional and not educational enough in their so-called educational teachers’ guides and curricula.

The Bottom Line
The guide has a definite point of view based on what it fails to say rather than what it actually says.  The Shedding Light on Energy program puts forward the idea that America’s children should have limited knowledge of energy.  The guide offers the opportunity to learn about existing energy sources but, oddly, it stops there.  It ignores future alternative energy trends and fails to paint a true picture of environmental consequences.  This is just wrong.

We need to provide our classrooms with a full picture, and shed the real light of knowledge by not permitting purveyors of partial information to keep students in the dark.