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NSTA

A National debate that began to challenge Big Oil's infiltration of public education. This story is big. Don't let it die. "The scandal at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) just keeps getting worse.
Since the Washington Post published an op-ed I wrote asking if NSTA's puzzling decision to reject 50,000 free DVDs of Al Gore's global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth might - just might - have had anything to do with more than six million dollars the organization has accepted from ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, ConocoPhillips and the American Petroleum Institute, the muck keeps piling up." Laurie David "
"In fact, Gerry Wheeler (Executive Director of NSTA) himself is listed as executive producer of the film series, alongside a ConocoPhillips corporate PR man named Ron Stanley. His interest in cinema apparently didn't extend to An Inconvenient Truth, however. At least not until it landed him in the paper."

"Wheeler says this is OK because NSTA had editorial control of the project. If that's true, then maybe he can explain why the only scientist cited in the largely dismissive global warming section appearing in chapters six, nine and ten of the teaching guides is Dr. Robert Balling - a well known global warming skeptic who has acknowledged taking more than $400,000 from the fossil fuel industry (others say the figure is higher)."
NSTA: Climate & Corporations

Published on Monday, November 27, 2006 by CommonDreams.org:
Would the World's Largest Science Teacher's Organization Ignore Climate
Change Education?
(Why did the NSTA say no to free "An Inconvenient Truth" DVDs?)

by John Borowski

The National Teachers Association (NSTA) has spurned 50,000 free DVDs of Al
Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" and is squandering a golden opportunity to educate tens of millions of youth in the United States! Why? This 55,000- member organization of teachers and scientists could use Al Gore's film to orchestrate the single most influential educational goal in human history: the awareness and subsequent solving of climate change. There is no denying the escalating list of climate change evidence: from the potential extinction of Polar bears and retreating glacial environments to the increase of global temperatures in unison with increased carbon dioxide levels.

Laurie David, a producer on the film 'An Inconvenient Truth', helped to broker a "sweet deal" for the NSTA. Sitting in an LA warehouse are 50,000 free DVDs just waiting to be given out to every member of the NSTA. No strings, no catches, just a clear and simple agenda: provide teachers with a spectacular and scientifically acclaimed production to engage millions of students nationwide. And the NSTA states, "No?"

Is the NSTA placing economic expediency over "true science education"; do they fear the alienation of funders such as Exxon and the fossil powerhouse the American Petroleum Institute? Laurie David, who is also the founder of StopGlobalWarming.org received an email refusal of the free teaching materials from the NSTA that is ominous and foreboding.

The NSTA wrote that acceptance of the DVDs would place an "unnecessary risk upon the (NSTA) capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters." Also, in the email, NSTA claimed that they didn't want to offer "political" endorsement of the film and they saw "little, if any benefit to NSTA or its members" in accepting the free DVDs. No benefit to teachers? Science teachers across the country are under-funded, overworked and often grab on to free lessons and materials as a matter of "educational survival 101." What I find despicable is that the NSTA is fully aware of that need and sadly, often aids and abets the "Fossil fuel cartels." They often deny or mislead on climate change and provide teachers with everything from "coal coloring books" to misleading videos such as "Fuel-less-You Can't Be Cool Without Fuel." Simply stated, the NSTA's refusal to distribute Al Gore's film is an unmitigated disaster that will tarnish their reputation as "brokers" of credible science materials, while squandering a prolific moment in educational history: the chance to allow students to become energy pioneers.

I wrote in Commondreams.org about this dilemma and three special sentences comes to mind from a July 7th, 2005 piece in which I write an open letter to NSTA Executive Director about the distribution of corporate sponsored materials via the NSTA: In a recent NSTA annual report document, Exxon Mobil Foundation President Edward Ahnert explains its "partnership" with the NSTA clearly. "NSTA is such a natural partner for us. No other organization has the ability to reach thousands of teachers who share Exxon Mobil's commitment to improving science education." The question that begs to be answered Mr. Wheeler is this: can you trust Exxon Mobil?

Exxon recognizes the incredible power of distributing its materials to teachers. Exxon Mobil makes no apologies for their anti-climate change stance, funds "misinformation campaigns" like the American Petroleum Institutes' (API) 1998 "Science Education Task Force" created to debunk climate change and publishes ads in newspapers to cast doubt on climate change. The NSTA has the brazen nerve to state concern over taking Al Gore's movie because of "special interests?"

The NSTA's own admittance about refusing the Gore DVD because it would place "unnecessary risk" upon their own capital campaign speaks volumes to the mess we are in and must correct. Big oil and climate despoilers own the airways and advertising sections of magazines with their "half-truths" about climate and continued demand for using coal, oil and gas. Look at the Scientific American magazine's first seven pages (December 2006): it shamelessly has a Chevron spread that pushes use of oil tar sands and states "Oil, natural gas and coal have been the energy workhorses for the last 100 years, and will continue to play a crucial role in the next 100 years." Or how about BalancedEnergy.org with their teenage television actors claiming "Learn about coal!" Go to the site and see the proverbial cool teenager holding a skateboard named Adam stating, that he is "pretty stoked" and that he "learned more about American coal" and lastly, "thankfully we can have it all" with coal! Will 10,000- 14,000 teachers return home after attending the NSTA national conference March 29 -April 1st (St.Louis), 2007 with more oil and coal propaganda? Know this, teachers go to these conferences for ideas and materials. The ongoing joke about attending a NSTA conference is this, "Bring two suitcases: one for your clothes and one for all the freebies!"

I am an environmental science teacher of 26 years and I have a steamer trunk of materials from NSTA's past conferences:

Project Learning Tree's Energy module, supported by API's Red Cavaney who wants ANWR opened, opposes the Kyoto Treaty and wants more public land opened to energy exploration;


Lesson plans, coloring books, free coal samples from the American Coal
Foundation: minus any substantive discussion let alone mention of climate change.


Lessons and videos from a group that was called the "Greening Earth Society" funded by the Western Fuels Association. The message of the film was firm and academically clear: there is no human induced climate change. Our youngest teachers need help to plan and write lesson plans, engage students in critical, scientific scenarios like climate change and help those students face those challenges with facts in hand. The NSTA is the logical leader on this front with their prestige and deep pockets. Will the NSTA tacitly sit back and conspire with the likes of Exxon-Mobil to fill this void? Exxon Mobil and Monsanto and the American Petroleum Institute have little interest in providing science data: instead, they see flooding our schools with their "dubious science" as the last component of a major PR effort to continue profits and damn the consequences.

Climate change is an environmental challenge of epic proportions. Humans have never faced a dilemma that could so radically change the face of the planet: not just ecologically, but economically and culturally. Students, as our youngest citizens, have always been the targets of our civically minded democracy that is fostered by our public education system in the United States. Our free public education system is bound by law and moral compass to provide students (via their teachers) with a world- class education that bestows the tools of critical thinking and access to factual data. The hope is that those tools grow our democracy and equip our children to be ecologically fluent as well as become civic-minded voters who can read, write and invest in our political system.

It is not too late for Gerald Wheeler and the NSTA to find the courage and educational moral high ground by accepting those 50,000 free DVDs sitting in an LA warehouse. If you are a teacher, student, parent or citizen: please email Gerald Wheeler at  gwheeler@nsta.org and tell him that the special interests that would benefit from those DVDs would be our children! Ask the NSTA via Mr. Wheeler to reconsider their alliances with the American Petroleum Institute, Exxon-Mobil and Project Learning Tree. How can it be educationally sound to allow big industry at your conferences and receive your "education awards", but not to discuss climate change? Find the email address to your favorite "Big Green organization" (from the Sierra Club to Audubon to Defenders of Wildlife) and ask them: "why aren't you in the schools giving out sound, ecological data and why aren't you at the NSTA conferences?"

Folks like Al Gore and Laurie David are providing an invaluable tool that could be used not just in science, but also in health, economics, history and English classes. Learning about the current state of the climate should be akin to learning the A, B, Cs or basic math. 'An Inconvenient Truth' has the hard data all American kids need to know and act on. Just like recycling became a national mindset through the lessons taught by teachers and brought home by children, climate change can be solved. Doesn't the world's largest science teachers' organization owe this to our children?

John F. Borowski is a science teacher of 26 years; his pieces have appeared
in the N.Y. Times, UTNE Reader, Counterpunch, the Washington Post, Commondreams and many other sites. He can be contacted at  jenjill@peak.org and urges you to email Gerald Wheeler.


Science a la Joe Camel
By Laurie David
Washington Post
Sunday, November 26, 2006; B01
At hundreds of screenings this year of "An Inconvenient Truth," the first thing many viewers said after the lights came up was that every student in every school in the United States needed to see this movie.
The producers of former vice president Al Gore's film about global warming, myself included, certainly agreed. So the company that made the documentary decided to offer 50,000 free DVDs to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) for educators to use in their classrooms. It seemed like a no-brainer.
The teachers had a different idea: Thanks but no thanks, they said.
In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that other "special interests" might ask to distribute materials, too; they said they didn't want to offer "political" endorsement of the film; and they saw "little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members" in accepting the free DVDs.
Gore, however, is not running for office, and the film's theatrical run is long since over. As for classroom benefits, the movie has been enthusiastically endorsed by leading climate scientists worldwide, and is required viewing for all students in Norway and Sweden.
Still, maybe the NSTA is just being extra cautious. But there was one more curious argument in the e-mail: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters." One of those supporters, it turns out, is the Exxon Mobil Corp.
That's the same Exxon Mobil that for more than a decade has done everything possible to muddle public understanding of global warming and stifle any serious effort to solve it. It has run ads in leading newspapers (including this one) questioning the role of manmade emissions in global warming, and financed the work of a small band of scientific skeptics who have tried to challenge the consensus that heat-trapping pollution is drastically altering our atmosphere. The company spends millions to support groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute that aggressively pressure lawmakers to oppose emission limits.
It's bad enough when a company tries to sell junk science to a bunch of grown-ups. But, like a tobacco company using cartoons to peddle cigarettes, Exxon Mobil is going after our kids, too.
And it has been doing so for longer than you may think. NSTA says it has received $6 million from the company since 1996, mostly for the association's "Building a Presence for Science" program, an electronic networking initiative intended to "bring standards-based teaching and learning" into schools, according to the NSTA Web site. Exxon Mobil has a representative on the group's corporate advisory board. And in 2003, NSTA gave the company an award for its commitment to science education.
So much for special interests and implicit endorsements.
In the past year alone, according to its Website, Exxon Mobil's foundation gave $42 million to key organizations that influence the way children learn about science, from kindergarten until they graduate from high school.
And Exxon Mobil isn't the only one getting in on the action. Through textbooks, classroom posters and teacher seminars, the oil industry, the coal industry and other corporate interests are exploiting shortfalls in education funding by using a small slice of their record profits to buy themselves a classroom soapbox.
NSTA's list of corporate donors also includes Shell Oil and the American Petroleum Institute (API), which funds NSTA's Web site on the science of energy. There, students can find a section called "Running on Oil" and read a page that touts the industry's environmental track record -- citing improvements mostly attributable to laws that the companies fought tooth and nail, by the way -- but makes only vague references to spills or pollution. NSTA has distributed a video produced by API called "You Can't Be Cool Without Fuel," a shameless pitch for oil dependence.
The education organization also hosts an annual convention -- which is described on Exxon Mobil's Website as featuring "more than 450 companies and organizations displaying the most current textbooks, lab equipment, computer hardware and software, and teaching enhancements." The company "regularly displays" its "many . . . education materials" at the exhibition. John Borowski, a science teacher at North Salem High School in Salem, Ore., was dismayed by NSTA's partnerships with industrial polluters when he attended the association's annual convention this year and witnessed hundreds of teachers and school administrators walk away with armloads of free corporate lesson plans.
Along with propaganda challenging global warming from Exxon Mobil, the curricular offerings included lessons on forestry provided by Weyerhaeuser and International Paper, Borowski says, and the benefits of genetic engineering courtesy of biotech giant Monsanto.
"The materials from the American Petroleum Institute and the other corporate interests are the worst form of a lie: omission," Borowski says. "The oil and coal guys won't address global warming, and the timber industry papers over clear-cuts."
An API memo leaked to the media as long ago as 1998 succinctly explains why the association is angling to infiltrate the classroom: "Informing teachers/students about uncertainties in climate science will begin to erect barriers against further efforts to impose Kyoto-like measures in the future."
So, how is any of this different from showing Gore's movie in the classroom? The answer is that neither Gore nor Participant Productions, which made the movie, stands to profit a nickel from giving away DVDs, and we aren't facing millions of dollars in lost business from limits on global-warming pollution and a shift to cleaner, renewable energy.
It's hard to say whether NSTA is a bad guy here or just a sorry victim of tight education budgets. And we don't pretend that a two-hour movie is a substitute for a rigorous science curriculum. Students should expect, and parents should demand, that educators present an honest and unbiased look at the true state of knowledge about the challenges of the day.
As for Exxon Mobil -- which just began a fuzzy advertising campaign that trumpets clean energy and low emissions -- this story shows that slapping green stripes on a corporate tiger doesn't change the beast within. The company is still playing the same cynical game it has for years.
While NSTA and Exxon Mobil ponder the moral lesson they're teaching with all this, there are 50,000 DVDs sitting in a Los Angeles warehouse, waiting to be distributed. In the meantime, Mom and Dad may want to keep a sharp eye on their kids' science homework.
 laurie@lauriedavid.com


NSTA Statement on November 26 Washington Post Op-ed "Science la Joe Camel"
Nov 28 2006
On November 26, the Washington Post printed an opinion piece from environmental activist Laurie David, a producer of the film "An Inconvenient Truth." In her op-ed Ms. David reports that NSTA rejected the opportunity to distribute 50,000 copies of the DVD to NSTA members.
During conversations with Ms. David's representative we suggested making the DVD available via alternative means of distribution (e.g. by providing a mailing list of our members to producers, announcing its availability in our publications, etc.). It appears that these alternative distribution mechanisms were unsatisfactory.
It was not the intent of the NSTA to restrict "An Inconvenient Truth" from its members and we are currently pursuing options to make the DVD available to teachers.

In the op-ed Ms. David goes on to characterize NSTA as a willing corporate America partner that eagerly pushes corporate messages about the environment.
This is not true.
The perception created by the op-ed that NSTA has a conflict of interest in dealing with corporate America is misleading. This is a very serious issue to NSTA and science education. Like many organizations, NSTA does receive support from corporate America and other organizations (in FY06 total corporate support received by NSTA was 16.4% and total support from energy companies was 3.77%). Before we accept any funds from outside groups (corporate or otherwise), and as a condition of any support, we make it clear that NSTA is solely responsible for developing, directing, and implementing the programs we offer to teachers.
Let me specifically address the programs outlined in the op-ed: ExxonMobil has been a long-time sponsor of the national network we call Building a Presence for Science. In this project we have identified a "point of contact" for science in over 40,000 school buildings. Originally conceived to provide a copy of the National Science Education Standards to each school, NSTA now regularly sends these points of contact useful information on science education that they share with teachers in their buildings. Not once has Exxon Mobil asked to use this network for their own purposes.
The Shell Oil Company funds national research science experts to present at our national conference, where they speak directly to science teachers about their field of research. NSTA chooses the scientists, invites the scientists, and hosts the scientists at these conferences. In addition, the Shell Oil Company sponsors the Shell Science Teaching award for K-12 science teachers who have had a positive impact on their students, school, and community through exemplary classroom teaching. This award program is administered by NSTA and the recipients are chosen by science teachers selected by NSTA.
The partnership with API, which ended 5 years ago, led to the creation of a simulation, done entirely by NSTA, on energy usage. The video in question, "You Can't Be Cool Without Fuel" was not on our website.
Global warming is a very important science/societal issue. NSTA has always supported sound environmental science education. We regret this current controversy surrounding our decision not to mass distribute the DVD to our members, and we are working to promote the availability of the film.
In response to an October 2005 report titled Rising Above the Gathering Storm, a strong consensus is emerging in the business, education, and scientific communities that our nation's future competitiveness in the global marketplace is directly tied to the ability of our schools to better prepare children in mathematics and the sciences. We should be discussing positive ways of how we can work together to strengthen the science education we provide to our nation's students.
The mission of the NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all, and for over 50 years NSTA has been a staunch supporter of quality science education. We are very proud of the work we do on behalf of science education.
Dr. Gerald Wheeler
Executive Director
National Science Teachers Association



NSTA Press Release
NSTA Statement on the Distribution of "An Inconvenient Truth"
Nov 30 2006
Updated 12/2/06
Over the past few days, NSTA and film producer Laurie David have been discussing her offer to provide NSTA with copies of the DVD "An Inconvenient Truth" to mass distribute to our members. 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.
NSTA established its non-endorsement policy to formalize our position that the association would not send third-party materials to our members without their consent or request. NSTA looks forward to working with Ms. David to ensure that there are many options for publicizing the availability of the DVD to the national science education community, and to broaden the conversation on the important topic of global warming.
Letter from NSTA to Laurie David (PDF)
Answers to Your Questions

NSTA Statement on Nov. 26 Washington Post Op-ed "Science la Joe Camel"
Nov. 28, 2006
On November 26, the Washington Post printed an opinion piece from environmental activist Laurie David, a producer of the film "An Inconvenient Truth." In her op-ed Ms. David reports that NSTA rejected the opportunity to distribute 50,000 copies of the DVD to NSTA members.
During conversations with Ms. David's representative we suggested making the DVD available via alternative means of distribution (e.g. by providing a mailing list of our members to producers, announcing its availability in our publications, etc.). It appears that these alternative distribution mechanisms were unsatisfactory.
It was not the intent of the NSTA to restrict "An Inconvenient Truth" from its members and we are currently pursuing options to make the DVD available to teachers.

In the op-ed Ms. David goes on to characterize NSTA as a willing corporate America partner that eagerly pushes corporate messages about the environment.
This is not true.
The perception created by the op-ed that NSTA has a conflict of interest in dealing with corporate America is misleading. This is a very serious issue to NSTA and science education. Like many organizations, NSTA does receive support from corporate America and other organizations (in FY06 total corporate support received by NSTA was 16.4% and total support from energy companies was 3.77%). Before we accept any funds from outside groups (corporate or otherwise), and as a condition of any support, we make it clear that NSTA is solely responsible for developing, directing, and implementing the programs we offer to teachers.
Let me specifically address the programs outlined in the op-ed: ExxonMobil has been a long-time sponsor of the national network we call Building a Presence for Science. In this project we have identified a "point of contact" for science in over 40,000 school buildings. Originally conceived to provide a copy of the National Science Education Standards to each school, NSTA now regularly sends these points of contact useful information on science education that they share with teachers in their buildings. Not once has ExxonMobil asked to use this network for their own purposes.
The Shell Oil Company funds national research science experts to present at our national conference, where they speak directly to science teachers about their field of research. NSTA chooses the scientists, invites the scientists, and hosts the scientists at these conferences. In addition, the Shell Oil Company sponsors the Shell Science Teaching award for K-12 science teachers who have had a positive impact on their students, school, and community through exemplary classroom teaching. This award program is administered by NSTA and the recipients are chosen by science teachers selected by NSTA.
The partnership with API, which ended 5 years ago, led to the creation of a simulation, done entirely by NSTA, on energy usage. The video in question, "You Can't Be Cool Without Fuel" was not on our website.
Global warming is a very important science/societal issue. NSTA has always supported sound environmental science education. We regret this current controversy surrounding our decision not to mass distribute the DVD to our members, and we are working to promote the availability of the film.
In response to an October 2005 report titled Rising Above the Gathering Storm, a strong consensus is emerging in the business, education, and scientific communities that our nation's future competitiveness in the global marketplace is directly tied to the ability of our schools to better prepare children in mathematics and the sciences. We should be discussing positive ways of how we can work together to strengthen the science education we provide to our nation's students.
The mission of the NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all, and for over 50 years NSTA has been a staunch supporter of quality science education. We are very proud of the work we do on behalf of science education.
Dr. Gerald Wheeler
Executive Director
National Science Teachers Association

NSTA Responds to Your Questions
Dec. 2, 2006, 12:10 p.m.
Q: The Washington Post recently printed an opinion piece on their op-ed page written by "An Inconvenient Truth" producer Laurie David. The op-ed states that the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) refuses to distribute the DVD of "An Inconvenient Truth" to its members. Is this true?
Ms. David approached NSTA and asked if the Association would distribute 50,000 copies of the film to members. 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.
NSTA provided Ms. David with several options to instead publicize the availability of the DVD to both our members and the wider universe of science educators worldwide via our communication channels. These options included a link on the NSTA website that would enable middle level and high school teachers to obtain a free copy; purchase of our mailing list of those members who chose to receive non-NSTA materials; announcing the availability of the DVD through our communication channels; exhibiting at our conference; and creating an online message board for teachers on global warming.
On Monday, November 27, the day after the op-ed, NSTA wrote a letter-to-the editor addressing Ms. David's opinions.
A scheduled conference call with Ms. David on December 1 was canceled at her request. We have received no further communication to date from Laurie David.
Q: Laurie David's op-ed raises some serious questions about NSTA and oil and energy companies. What is the connection between NSTA and corporate America?
Ms. David's opinion piece is inaccurate. NSTA strongly believes that the business community has an important role to play in the education of our nation's future leaders. Reforms in science education need all stakeholders involved in the improvement of our children's education. This view is reflected in the major reports that call for increased corporate involvement to raise students' performance in science and mathematics.
The total corporate support NSTA received in FY2006 is 16.4% of our operating budget. Total support from energy companies is 3.77%. As a condition of this support NSTA is solely responsible for developing, directing, and implementing the programs we offer to teachers.
NSTA has always supported sound environmental education as a way to instill environmental literacy in our nation's K-12 students
Q: What about the charges in Laurie David's op-ed that NSTA did not distribute the DVD because it was worried about the "unnecessary risk" on its capital campaign?
The NSTA executive director's decision not to mass distribute the DVD to members was based on the NSTA non-endorsement policy, not on the impact to the capital campaign.
During initial discussions about the filmmakers' request among other NSTA staff, including development and marketing staff, several preliminary ideas were raised. One such idea was the potential impact on NSTA's fundraising efforts. An NSTA employee mistakenly included these preliminary ideas, including the reference to the "capital campaign," in an e-mail exchange sent to the film's producer.
Q: What is NSTA's stance on relations with corporate America?
Like many organizations, we actively engage corporate America to support NSTA's mission to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.
Q: What is the relationship between NSTA and ExxonMobil?
ExxonMobil has been a long-time sponsor of the Building a Presence for Science national network. Through this project, NSTA has identified a "point of contact" for science in over 42,000 school buildings in 32 states and the District of Columbia. Initially the network provided a copy of the National Science Education Standards to each school. NSTA now regularly sends these points of contact useful information on science education and professional development opportunities that they may share with teachers at their schools.
Most recently this partnership was expanded to implement the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy for 200 elementary teachers nationwide. NSTA designs, develops, and implements the weeklong professional development workshop.
Q: Does a representative from ExxonMobil sit on the NSTA Board of Directors?
No. NSTA's Board of Directors, our governing board, is comprised of science educators elected by NSTA members. Board membership includes the presidential chain (consisting of a President, Retiring President, and President-elect) and 10 division directors representing the following domains:
Multicultural/equity
Professional development
High school science teaching
Middle level science teaching
Pre-school/Elementary science teaching
College science teaching
Coordination and supervision
Informal Science
Preservice Teacher Preparation
Research in Science Education
The Executive Director of NSTA, a Ph.D. physicist by training, established an informal group of corporate advisors comprising leaders of industry who advise him on the best practices in the business community that could be applied to an education nonprofit. Agenda topics such as e-commerce, IT infrastructure, international collaborations, and involvement of the private sector in STEM reforms are regularly discussed.
This group provides advice only. The group is composed of individuals from both corporations and foundations, including the ExxonMobil Foundation. This group meets once or twice a year. Individual participation changes and includes participants from both sponsors and nonsponsors of NSTA.
Q: What about the partnership with the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the video "You Can't Be Cool Without Fuel?"
NSTA no longer partners with API. The video "You Can't Be Cool Without Fuel" is not on the NSTA website.
Q: What is the relationship between NSTA and Shell Oil?
The Shell Oil Company provides funding to bring national research science experts to our national conference, where they speak directly to science teachers about their field of research. NSTA chooses the scientists, invites the scientists, and hosts the scientists at these conferences. In addition, the Shell Oil Company sponsors the Shell Science Teaching Award for K-12 science teachers. This award program is administered by NSTA.
Q: What is NSTA's position on global warming?
NSTA has long taken the issue of global warming very seriously and strongly supports sound environmental science education. The NSTA position statement on environmental education, adopted by the Board of Directors in February, 2003, is located on our website at www.nsta.org/positionstatement&psid=9.


Joe Schmoe,
Thanks for your thoughtful response. There is no doubt corpaorate influnce in so many areas of our lives, some good and some not so good. I have several thoughts on this. For me the educational piece is teacher dependant more then corporate dependant. I have used great material from a variety of corporate sources and if you eduecate yourself about the facts and issues all along the spectrum of information you can add those to the lessons. It is interesting to note that the eco organizations often do the exact same thing as corporations with regards to including only that information that promotes their perspectives and that both sides seem to suffer from some amount of paranoid psychosis. I do indeed lean to the eco side of matters but always am wary and suspicious of information from either end of the spectrum as they are trying to convince people of a certain perspective.

Where I differ from others may be that I am a public employee (paid by the public) that is responsible to educate students from all backgrounds and perspectives. I feel I need to honor the student that comes from a home where the family believes other than I do about environmental issues (they pay me to teach their child). I take that charge seriously and try to make sure that I present information from a wide range of perspectives and don't advocate any particular philosophy. In informal settings I can provide more personal insight from what I believe but as a representative of the entire community I try to remain neutral on issues in the classroom. That's just the way I try do things although others may operate differently.

Information is an interesting thing and data can be made to support about any position and so I remain wary of organizations and people trying to advocate for extremes from the norm. That doesn't mean I can't be swayed (as I often am by scientifically documented information) but the use of that science to promote a particular point of view is an interesting thing to observe,

When all is said and done I do consider myself to be an environmentalist and try to do my part in the community to promote a particular perspective. However, the classroom for me is a different matter.

Jon Yoder
Crooked Curriculum: Oil Company Money Scandal at Nat'l Science Teachers Association Deepens
Laurie David
The scandal at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) just keeps getting worse.
Since the Washington Post published an op-ed I wrote asking if NSTA's puzzling decision to reject 50,000 free DVDs of Al Gore's global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth might - just might - have had anything to do with more than six million dollars the organization has accepted from ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, ConocoPhillips and the American Petroleum Institute, the muck keeps piling up.
ExxonMobil, of course, remains the standout among a large group of fossil fuel companies that have done everything in their considerable power to delay, deflect, and derail any serious effort to cut global warming emissions. Funding scientific disinformation has long been one of their favorite tactics.
New evidence flatly contradicts statements NSTA has made in defense of its suspect partnerships, and efforts appear to be underway to wipe out online evidence showing that what the oil industry got in exchange was the group's imprimatur on classroom videos, teaching guides, and other "educational" materials that play down threats like global warming and play up the glories of continued oil dependence.
We also learned that NSTA is willing to sell direct access to America's schoolteachers to any Tom, Dick or Exxon that shows up with a checkbook.
And here's the icing on the cake: NSTA Executive Director Dr. Gerry Wheeler - a top figure in the world of science education, remember - confessed to at least one reporter this week that he hadn't actually bothered to see the acclaimed film before he turned it down.
Cuddling Up to Conoco
NSTA's initial rejection e-mail included comments from a staffer worried that accepting the offer would "place unnecessary risk upon the capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters."
Now NSTA is arguing that distributing An Inconvenient Truth to teachers would violate their 2001 policy against endorsements. But that policy didn't stop them from shipping out 20,000 copies of a whopping 10-part video funded by ConocoPhillips in 2003.
In fact, Gerry Wheeler himself is listed as executive producer of the film series, alongside a ConocoPhillips corporate PR man named Ron Stanley. His interest in cinema apparently didn't extend to An Inconvenient Truth, however. At least not until it landed him in the paper.
Wheeler says this is OK because NSTA had editorial control of the project. If that's true, then maybe he can explain why the only scientist cited in the largely dismissive global warming section appearing in chapters six, nine and ten of the teaching guides is Dr. Robert Balling - a well known global warming skeptic who has acknowledged taking more than $400,000 from the fossil fuel industry (others say the figure is higher).
Shredding the Evidence
We also discovered that somebody somewhere is meticulously shredding the online evidence of NSTA's cozy corporate partnerships.
NSTA now says it is no longer partners with the American Petroleum Institute, asserting that the project ended five years ago. Yet it looks as if the curriculum was alive and well until reporters started asking about it these past few weeks.
As of November 26 - the day the Post article appeared - both NSTA and API were promoting the course materials they produced together on their web sites. Immediately after the article appeared, however, we noticed that references to the joint "Science of Energy" program were quickly disappearing from the web.
The 'Science of Energy' website itself is now gone altogether, and API has rewritten language touting their relationship with the science educators. But we captured some telling links before they started vanishing.
Falsified Promises
Last Thursday, NSTA released a statement claiming it had offered us "many options" for "publicizing such programs" as An Inconvenient Truth to their members. In fact, Wheeler had promised by phone just the day before that he would meet with his board and come back with possible ways to get the disks into teacher's hands. Instead he went straight to the press, claiming I had turned down an offer I never received.
More troubling is that their suggestions were nothing more than another set of 'For Sale' signs: Offers to sell their "commercially available member mailing list"; to sell us ads in their magazine and online newsletters; to sell us a booth at one of their conventions (hopefully not next to ExxonMobil).
And as it turns out, all of these things are already for sale on the NSTA website to anyone who shows up with the cash.
By the way, why are science teachers' names for sale at all?
Teacher Reputations on the Line
This story goes far deeper than a truckload of DVDs. What it's really about is NSTA's big money relationships with oil companies - the biggest, most powerful special interests on the planet.
It's truly a shame a group that does so many other good things has so badly undermined its own stature and credibility. What's worse is that NSTA's sleazy partnerships - 'partnership' is their word, by the way -threaten to tarnish the good reputation of science teachers all across America.
We're working on better ways to get those 50,000 DVDs into the hands of teachers who want them. Judging from hundreds of emails I've received from outraged teachers we know there will be plenty of interest.
NSTA claims that their 'Science of Energy' project with the American Petroleum Institute ended in 2001. But that's not what it looks like online. In fact it appears to have been very much alive right up until the controversy about it erupted.
In the days since the Washington Post published the op-ed questioning NSTA's lucrative oil company partnerships, material created under these partnerships has been disappearing quickly.
But we did manage to capture some of the evidence before it was gone:
You can catch a glimpse of what the NSTA 'Science of Energy' homepage looked like on this API Classroom Energy page, here. Go there now and this is all you'll find this.
As of November 18, the NSTA 'Science of Energy' sitemap still looked like this: this. That's gone, too.
The 'Running on Oil' page of the 'Science of Energy' site looked like this [pdf]. It's a dead end now, too.
API revised their main website on education resources the day after my article appeared, too. Days before, the article it looked like this. But today the NSTA name is nowhere to be found.
Evidence that NSTA was promoting the API-funded 'Science of Energy' well after Dr. Wheeler says they stopped is still out there. The group cited the program in its July/August 2005 e-newsletters [pdf]. (As of this writing, that page is still live.)
NSTA also spotlighted it in their High School Science Classrooms section in the late summer of 2005.
NSTA is scrubbing some of the oil off of other pages, too. Here [pdf] is what their 'Building a Presence for Science' donor list looked like then.
And now: (ExxonMobil is still listed but other benefactors have disappeared).