Tuesday, November 28, 2006

NSTA Responds To Their Inconvenient Truth

As most have now read, Laurie David - producer of An Inconvenient Truth - authored an editorial appearing in the Washington Post stating that the National Science Teachers Association refused to accept 50,000 free copies of the movie. In response, the NSTA has issued a press release stating that:

  • NSTA policy states that the association cannot endorse any outside organization's products and/or messages to its members.
  • The NSTA 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.).

Their statement, however, did not address the quote cited in the Post article stating
"Accepting the DVDs would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters," and this is the issue that has inflamed so many Americans.

While the NSTA readily accepts financial support from special interest businesses, it draws the line at accepting reputable, scientifically endorsed content free of charge. The problem is that while teachers and educators can have 100% control over the way a film is presented in a lesson plan, ongoing financial support as supplied by corporations will always be subject to political pressures. The public is rightfully wary of this and the NSTA, though well meaning and reputable, is no more immune to financial pressure than any other large organization.

True, the NSTA did offer another way of potentially distributing the films, but they did so while hiding behind policy. A policy that obstructs the ready acceptance of a valuable educational resource, while at the same time allows them to receive corporate dollars from organizations like Exxon Mobil who are infamous for funding disinformation on global warming. A fact which was pointed out clearly by the Royal Society - one of the world's leading scientific bodies - earlier this year.

If the NSTA is to be trusted to engage in responsible relationships with active deniers of climate change science, should it not also be trusted to faithfully and objectively distribute information that is consistent with the best science in the world, and that addresses the biggest environmental problem facing all citizens and all students?

I think so.

For more response on the debate visit the comments to the article on Digg.com.


EX-NDIP said...

Another interesting read . . . electrical prices could double in Europe!!


Anonymous said...

I agree with your conclusion, well stated.

As a Board Member of a couple of 501(c) Charities, we have faced similar pressures from corporate donors.

Fortunately, we were able to respond; "Thanks, but no thanks" to those donors who attempted to apply leverage with their dollars to further their own interests.

We just went back to the well of the other Donors who respected our Standards and Code of Conduct.

They reached out to other like-minded and respectful Corporate Donors in their Networks and our Charitable Charters and Financial Goals have always been met; and without having to compromise our standards.

While this approach may not work in all like situations, it is an option that should be explored when the circumstances present themselves.

-Dave Dragon

Diganta said...

What I would suggest is the following.

Why not give the movie away for free on iTunes. By pass the NSTA teachers and let the
students download it onto their computers or video enabled iPods. Al Gore is on the
board of directors of Apple, I'm sure he can work something out with Steve Jobs. All
Apple has to do is foot the bill for storage and download bandwidth. If Paramount
isn't happy about giving away the movie for free to the public at large, then restrict
it to people who qualify as students. This eliminates the cost of producing and
distributing DVDs.

My 2 cents

anysara said...

I think what is lost here is that the NSTA is a professional association of educators - kind of like the AMA or the ADA. It's not tied in AT ALL to national education funding. Teachers can pay to join and get the magazine/attend meetings, but are in no way required to.

A far smarter way for An Inconvenient Truth to make their donation would be to a) contact individual school districts, or b) advertise in education publications.

Also, while many of us (myself included) see the reality of human-caused global warming, it, nevertheless remains a politically charged issue. If the NSTA sent the DVD to schools across America, their other funders would also want their own material distributed. Do we really want our kids seeing "documentaries" by Exxon?

I think the NSTA did the right thing here to protect their own organization.

Liborio said...

Interessante :-)

Harry Keller said...

Laurie David can rent a booth ($3000+) at national (and regional) NSTA meetings and hand out the DVDs to attendees.

How about an ad in the NSTA newsletter? Ship to school addresses only.

NSTA should not accept any propaganda for distribution, even accurate propaganda.

To anysara: Marketing to individual schools or districts is obscenely expensive.

Steve Koehler said...

In response to anysara:
The whole point is that NSTA does distribute oil industry "educational materials materials. A case in point is the video "Fuel-less: You Can't Be Cool Without Fuel" produced by the American Petroleum Institute. The first line of “Fuel-less”: “You’re absolutely not going to believe this, but almost everything I have that’s really cool comes from oil!”

This is a typical case of not biting the hand that feeds, while hiding behind a (albeit thin) smokescreen of "political" neutrality. It happens all the time in science. Like Deepthroat said,"Follow the money."

Manami Ochi said...

"The whole point is that NSTA does distribute oil industry "educational materials materials. A case in point is the video "Fuel-less: You Can't Be Cool Without Fuel" produced by the American Petroleum Institute. The first line of “Fuel-less”: “You’re absolutely not going to believe this, but almost everything I have that’s really cool comes from oil!”"

Where did you find this video on the NSTA website? I tried to find it, but I couldn't. Could someone cite sources here, or would that be too tough to do?

laura said...

I thought this was a cool response from a teacher who is actually using the film in his classroom: