[SECOND EDIT – The portions crossed out are now missing from the current version of the NSTA’s response…]
[EDIT: Via a comment made anonymously from Ft. Worth, Texas, I am including the NSTA’s official response first, which can be found in their pressroom. –
NSTA Press Release
NSTA Statement on November 26 Washington Post Op-ed “Science à 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.
NSTA policy states that the association cannot endorse any outside organization’s products and/or messages to its members. Therefore, we do not send any such products and/or messages directly to our members, regardless of the source.
What was not mentioned in the op-ed is the fact that 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 his or her 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.
The only record of NSTA distributing it to members we found was from 1999, prior to the current endorsement policy.
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
National Science Teachers Association
Thank you for that, anonymous. It certainly sheds a different light on things. Please do come back and accept my thanks for that.]
It appears as though the National Science Teachers Association has abandoned its search for truth and is now looking for a good sugar daddy.
Laurie David, one of the producers of An Inconvenient Truth, wrote a piece for today’s Washington Post describing her efforts to make 50,000 DVD copies of that movie available to America’s science teachers through NSTA.
They said no. And, more weirdly, they explained why. First, they said, they were afraid that if they started taking information from “special interests” like David, they’d have to take them from other groups, too. As though a private organization is obligated to accept and distribute any fool thing the Flat Earth Society may send them? As though they’re not scientists, capable of sussing out the factual truth and relative educational value of any given piece of would-be curriculum? As though (as David points out) An Inconvenient Truth isn’t already part of the required science curriculum in other countries, including Sweden and Norway?