Oily lollipops, carbonized brains
October 5, 2004 8:04 AM   Subscribe

Pederasts of the mind: Of kids, lies and Oil. The American Petroleum Institute partners (in 2004) with The National Science Teacher's Association (NSTA) and Scholastic (see: Scholastic's creedo) to provide K-12 lesson plans, on energy and oil, which resemble the API's own "Teacher Lesson Plans" and snappy flash presentations such as Progress Through Petroleum! which are bundled with fun stuff and cool facts. The NSTA/API lessons teach all about energy and oil except the global environmental impacts. Didactic bonus from NSTA's oil-friendly curriculum : a surrealistic gallery of oil industry imagery for kids to download.

Recent glacial melt speedup in Greenland and Antarctica shocks researchers, while the Pentagon games scenarios of Abrupt Climate Change : Don't worry, says the DOE's Energy Ant - oil's good, like cows, m'kay ? . Extra credit : Play the Oil and natural Gas Crossword Puzzle, or the "Industry Lesson Plan Game" (that, and more, inside)
posted by troutfishing (21 comments total)
The Industry Lesson Plan game - Type the name of a major corporation, and then various adjunct terms such as "lesson plan", "K-12", "Educational Resources", etc., into Google as search terms! : BP, Chevron, Monsanto, and so on.

Industry scripted lesson plans! Collect 'em all - Trade 'em with your friends!

In this newest front in the disinformation wars - API/NSTA partnership website is one of an evolving constellation of sites which provide industry-friendly lesson plans extolling the indispensible role of oil and lumber in our modern industrial lifestyle, or advance an industry agenda by selective omission : such efforts lure tempt cash hungry institution into lending their imprimatur to industry scripted propaganda that targets America's children and advances, at best, scientific ignorance and myopia : so, the NSTA sliding down the API's greasy slope, sloughs off it's integrity while sliding away from truth.

The American Petroleum Institute is not even counted, by some, as among the top 10 worst greenwashers of 2003. But if the Greenwashing expenditures of the fossil fuel industry are anywhere close to their expenditures on politicians, political parties and lobbyists over the last six years ($440 Million) Ooverall outlays for bland, syrupy K-12 education education plans that extoll the glories of fossil fuels while neglecting to many the environmental impacts must be considerable indeed.
posted by troutfishing at 8:17 AM on October 5, 2004

Dang - that last sentence should be ".....extoll the glories of fossil fuels, while neglecting to mention the environmental impacts, must be considerable indeed."

I think I've been overeducamated on oil. It's coming out my ears and dribbling out my nose, down my chin, and pooling on the floor. In fact, I just I slipped on the slick and bashed my head on a stout, lugubrious paean to petrol.

Ouch. My brain hurts.
posted by troutfishing at 8:24 AM on October 5, 2004

Wow. So much good stuff here. Troutfishing: I don't think it is said enough, the thought and effort you put into your posts is remarkable and much appreciated!
posted by limitedpie at 8:27 AM on October 5, 2004

posted by troutfishing at 8:33 AM on October 5, 2004

"Pederasts of the mind" was a brilliant opening line for this post. I bow deeply to your superior work exposing these mind fucking corporatists.
posted by nofundy at 8:40 AM on October 5, 2004

It's always fun seeing the oil industry putting on its jolly uncle mask. A bit like having Sauron presenting childrens television.
The odd thing is that they (ie. the big oil companies, the bigger service companies and the shoals of tiddlers that swim around them) present the same image within the industry itself. To people like me, who have been around the industry for well over a decade and know damm well that its just a form of enabling fantasy.
The fact is that even the (apparently) cuddliest of the oil companies will do anything they can get away with for short term advantage. Strict local laws and stringent enforcement are the only things that even slow them down.
The odd thing is that none of this is really a conscious policy on the part of any one person (except possibly Halliburton, where I always had a feeling that the genial incompetence demonstrated by every level of management I encountered was a cover for something. And Schlumberger who's management style is precisely based on that of the Borg). It just arises, as it does in most big industries, from a sense of diffused responsibility. The results, of course, are much much worse from oil than most other industries.
Great post anyway (and if my kids school starts using these lesson plans I shall be most upset).
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:52 AM on October 5, 2004

Even back-to-nature catalogues feature some petroleum products: polycarbonate sunglasses, polyester-filled sleeping bags, nylon tents, and polyethylene canoes.

Boy, I was a grade-A moron!

Thanks troutfishing, this is painfully thorough - in a good way . . .
posted by petebest at 9:13 AM on October 5, 2004

will nobody think of Reddy Kilowatt?
posted by quonsar at 9:18 AM on October 5, 2004

watt watt watt !?

nofundy - drop me a line sometimes, wontcha.

petebest - Yr. welcome. I guess I'm just an unnatural sort of green hypocrite though. I've got goddamn oil oozing out the pores of my nose as I type this. ;/

thatwhichfalls - "It just arises, as it does in most big industries, from a sense of diffused responsibility" - hive amorality ?

manomanoman, did I run into some bizarre stuff researching this post. You'll see.
posted by troutfishing at 9:26 AM on October 5, 2004

posted by quonsar at 9:26 AM on October 5, 2004

Watt, Watt!! -

""We have every mixture you can have. I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent." -- James Watt, describing his staff to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on September 21, 1983; this comment led directly to his forced resignation"
posted by troutfishing at 9:35 AM on October 5, 2004

This sort of education has been going on for so long. This might not seem the best of sources, but I saw a short from the 1960s on Mystery Science Theater 3000 about the 'Chicken of Tomorrow.' It all seemed rather innocuous, about how chickens are mass-farmed, until it got to the point where it discussed the valuable contribution the petroleum industry makes to getting the eggs and such to the store freshly. As the credits rolled you found out that the entire short had been funded by Shell Oil.
posted by sciurus at 9:51 AM on October 5, 2004

sciurus - very true, and it's hard to gauge whether it's getting worse or not except in very broad terms.

But I'd chance saying that industry agendas were not so opposed, in prior decades, to positions of the scientific mainstream.

thatwhichfalls pegged the problem - the diffusion of personal responsibility in the modern corporation. Exxon Mobil execs get briefed on Global Warming - most likely are convinced of it too - but acknowledging the problem would be bad for the bottom line.

But I would be hard pressed to say that the problem is worse now in than in the US during the 1930's : "Employees of Curtiss-Wright taught dive-bombing to Hitler's Luftwaffe....When Hitler's bombers terrorized Europe, they were using American bombing techniques. The U.S. Navy invented dive-bombing several years before Hitler came to power, but managed to keep it a secret from the rest of the world by expressly prohibiting U.S. aircraft manufacturers from mentioning the technique to other countries. However, in 1934, Curtiss-Wright, hoping to increase sales of airplanes to Nazi Germany, found a way around the restrictions: instead of telling the Nazis about dive-bombing, it demonstrated the technique in air shows. A U.S. Senate investigation concluded, "It is apparent that American aviation companies did their part to assist Germany's air armament."

More : "Without help from U.S. industrialists, Hitler might never have been able to wage World War II.

While most Americans were appalled by the Nazis and the rearming of Germany in the 1930s, some of America's most powerful corporations were more concerned about making a buck from their German investments. Here are a few examples of how U.S. industrialists supported Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany."


I feel like a broken record on that, but US corporate amorality in that era was the most extreme I'm aware of.

That said, I think the overall stakes may now be higher, even, than then.
posted by troutfishing at 11:17 AM on October 5, 2004

Great post trout!

"When I grow up, I'm going to Bovine Univeristy!"
posted by zpousman at 11:19 AM on October 5, 2004

will nobody think of Reddy Kilowatt?

Every now and then I get a vigorous reminder of why I love the q.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:33 AM on October 5, 2004

its some serious shit - ive posted this link before but its worth another one - a friend who is a leading geolgist at the University of Minnesota studying global warming says all his research supports the woods hole study.
posted by specialk420 at 12:10 PM on October 5, 2004

I'm taking an introductory molecular biology class, and I swear that the chapter on genetically modified organisms was taken verbatim from some PR skeeze at Monsanto, with an in-depth look at the research put into "golden rice", and an entire chapter section devoted to "The Risks and Rewards of Biotechnology". Of course, according to the book, there aren't any risks, only rewards, and anyone who questions this is a "Chicken Little".

This doesn't suprise me one bit, because the publisher of my textbook, McGraw-Hill, also runs Standard and Poor's and publishes BusinessWeek.

Oh, also... KIDS LOVE OIL

Signal Hill Petroleum is owned by the family of a girl I went to High School with. *sigh*
posted by LimePi at 2:57 PM on October 5, 2004

LimePi - You wouldn't be taking that class at Bovine University, would you. If so, how many legs/udders do the cows have ?

Kids sure do love oil! - Like the way they love rocks, or dirt, or gravel......bits of trash.......lint.

But they can be trained to really love oil, with sufficient PR $ expenditures. With enough money, they can - I'm sure - be trained to bark and perform better than trained seals.


The phenomenon of industry flaks writing textbook copy is pretty pervasive, I think.
posted by troutfishing at 4:22 PM on October 5, 2004

Yeah - this isn't something new. When I was a science teacher for seventh and eighth graders, I was given a unit by the district which was all about plastics and polymers - a unit developed by the plastics industry.

What I found most insidious about it was that it matched the kind of dodge that creationists have tried to pull with evolution - the "this is controversial and complicated, so no one can really know the truth" approach. The unit had some good points in terms of encouraging kids to actually raise and debate environmental issues - it wasn't wholly abhorrent. But in the end, I decided that the unit's aims were more to obscure truth than to promote the search for it, and so I didn't feel I could teach it as designed. I'd already done lots of environmental science with my class, so I cannibalized the hands-on materials from the unit and used it as an Intro to Chemistry unit. That's more basic and useful anyway, I think, than a unit on plastics.
posted by Chanther at 6:36 PM on October 5, 2004

How curious! I am preparing a presentation about "The end of cheap oil" and yesterday I was browsing some of these pages, BTW, thatwhichfalls, as an insider of the industry, what are your thoughts on peak oil and such?

Congratulations troutfishing for a great post!
posted by samelborp at 11:28 PM on October 5, 2004

samelborp - sadly I'm very far down the food chain in the industry. I go to strange places, help drill extraordinarily deep holes in the ground and go home. troutfishing (and you also, I suspect) is far more informed on this topic than I am, although I will say that the last ten years or so have seen a rapid increase in the average cost of drilling a well. As people keep saying out here, "all the easy fields have been done".

Non-mefite Sara sent me this link to a powerpoint presentation made to the board of ExxonMobil on "Future Challenges to the Energy Industry" by some futurist or other.
I really want to be a futurist when I grow up. "Everything you know is wrong! The future will be like today, except different in profound yet unpredictable ways! The past cannot predict the future, although its the only guide we have, so here goes! That will be 50,000 paradigm shifting dollars please!".
posted by thatwhichfalls at 10:53 PM on October 6, 2004

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