NSTA Statement on Nov. 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.
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
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
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