“A little warming might be a good thing,” according to a national school education program sponsored by oil companies including BP and Shell, when confronting the issue of global warming. A similar petroleum-sponsored program in Ohio teaches students how to “frack” Twinkies using straws to pump for cream. In Oklahoma, oil and gas companies have spent $40 million similarly “educating” students through their state agency, the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board.
In Oklahoma, the petroleum industry gets tax breaks while educational budget cuts force many schools to adopt four-day weeks. “The state government of Oklahoma, in its wisdom, has decided that oil and gas companies should have a whole lot of money and schools should have hardly any money,” said Professor Charles Anderson of Michigan State, who environmental literacy and develops school curriculums. “That’s a social decision that values oil and gas extraction over the public good of public schools.”
The oil and gas company-sponsored Board of Energy Resources provides free educational tools and curricula from kindergarten through high school to the underfunded Oklahoma schools. Though the Board claims to have developed the curricula in “a collaborative effort” with the state’s education department, the department has “not reviewed, endorsed or had any oversight” over the materials in two decades, according to education department spokeswoman Anne Price.
“We value curricula that align to our state standards and are at no cost to educators, but ultimately we encourage educators to investigate further to choose what is best for their classrooms,” according to Price.
High schoolers are instructed to create 30-second commercials on how “oil and natural gas will help America be energy independent,” while elementary school curricula include this rhyme: “We need oil. We need gas. Where are the oil products in our class?”
Stories like “Petro Pete’s Big Bad Dream” conclude with the lesson that “having no petroleum is like a nightmare!” Petro Pete’s proponents claim that these programs help spur an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects, but the materials promote only the benefits of oil and gas, leaving out climate change, air pollution, and other negative scientific consequences of the industry—such as Oklahoma’s recent swarms of fracking-induced earthquakes.
“The children of Oklahoma are getting a raw deal – they are getting educationally ineffective materials teaching content that will be of little use to them if they want to leave the state,” according to Anderson. And with 98% of Oklahoma school districts using the curricula in their classrooms, that leaves an entire U.S. state of students unprepared for a future that includes anything but the oil and gas industry.
Read more about this amazing story at the Center for Public Integrity.
Source: The Guardian