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Fossil fuels can ignite educational progress

Caricature of SteveThe Center for Public Integrity (CPI) has published an investigative report about the influence the fossil fuel industry is having on public schools as energy companies funnel money and lesson plans into Americas classroom

Implicit, of course, is that this is a bad thing because the energy industry is making fossil fuels look good and downplaying the impact of coal and oil emissions on climate change.

Let’s pause for a moment

There is no doubt about the dramatic impact of humans on our environment. And I believe that we as a species have contributed to climate change.

But as educators face dwindling financial support from local and state legislators, it’s understandable why many teachers and administrators would look elsewhere for badly needed money and welcome the energy industry’s largesse.

Take the money

I certainly would—but with this caveat. Schools must retain their educational autonomy. Take the money, use the educational materials, but supplement industry content with material that exposes children to the full range of opinions on energy and climate.

After all, good schools at all levels should be teaching critical thinking. That means giving pupils lots of information and the tools to analyze it. And develop a thorough understanding of the issues and why there are conflicting views.

But if schools reject funds from the energy industry—or other businesses—because companies have controversial positions on important issues, then educators are making dumb decisions.

Be smart about where the money is coming from and how to use it wisely for the benefit of your schools, students and society.

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