“The vast majority of our programs are not controversial,” says the CEO of the world’s largest publisher of children’s educational material, “but once in a while there is a slip up in editorial judgment.”

I’ll say! Like taking big bucks from Big Coal to produce a curriculum packet for fourth-grade teachers that was a shameless propaganda piece for – guess who – Big Coal. That “slip up” by Scholastic Inc. precipitated an avalanche of anger from parents, children’s advocacy groups, and environmentalists. The $2-billion-a-year corporation was buried in bad publicity and stung with fundamental questions about the integrity of its classroom materials.

It turns out that this was not Scholastic’s first trip down the slippery slope of corporate-financed “education.” It has also taken cash to produce books and lesson plans that served the self-interests of such brand-name outfits as Brita, Disney, Microsoft, Nestlé, and Shell. Publishing the biased content of these funders matters, for Scholastic is able to get its materials into 90 percent of U.S. classrooms – which, of course, is why corporate giants want to buy-in. Indeed, Scholastic brags that it reaches young minds with curriculum-connected programs that can influence behavior and affect “brand awareness and consumer loyalty.”

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Now, however, Scholastic’s behavior is being influenced. The publics outcry forced it to terminate some of its industry puff pieces and announce a partial retreat on accepting corporate funds, while also setting up a quasi-independent review board to vet all materials produced in “partnerships” with industry.

To be worthy of its name, Scholastic needs to sever all corporate connections, which is why We the People must stay on their case. To keep up and speak up, go to www.commercialfreechildhood.org.

“Children’s Publisher Backing Off Its Corporate Ties,” The New York Times, August 1, 2011

“Big Coal Buys Access to 4th Graders,” http://www.jimhightower.com/node/7477, June 26, 2011.

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