The case for media literacy education in public schools has never been more clear

It turns out the American Coal Foundation has been teaming up with Scholastic, a supposed educational publishing company, to insert its message into elementary schools by way of fourth grade lesson plans. Scholastic enjoys a reputation among parents as a trustworthy educational resources. The ACF used Scholastic’s credibility among schools and parents to lend a stamp of legitimacy to its propaganda.

Environmental groups and Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood fought back and as a result the project was canned last week, when Scholastic suddenly seemed to come to its senses, after a three-year partnership, and released this statement (quoted on the CNN Money site): “We acknowledge that the mere fact of sponsorship may call into question the authenticity of the information, and therefore conclude that we were not vigilant enough as to the effect of sponsorship in this instance.”

For some reason, Scholastic seems more than willing to sell its good name to the highest bidder. Ironically, Scholastic was heavily involved in the government’s media literacy education effort launched about a year ago – Admongo.

In other corporate PR news, there are now apparently three public relations types for every journalist in the US. While news outlets are underfunded and understaffed, industry publicity, marketing and lobbying groups are well-funded and willing to use any available avenue to get their message out, whether through school lesson plans or media such as this magazine produced by Red Bull, a product that is targeted to teens.

With emaciated newsrooms and beefed up industry PR on the prowl, the case for media literacy education in public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade has never been more clear. It’s just critical that those media literacy curricula aren’t written by major corporations.

Coal/Scholastic links:
New York Times

Mother Jones

CNN Money

Rethinking Schools blog

Here’s a blog post by Alma Hale Paty, executive director of the American Coal Foundation, describing the success of the program.


  1. Not only the PR folks are pushing clean coal.

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