Thursday, September 07, 2006

Pushing 9/11 Edutainment on OR Schoolkids? Hell No!

Update--putting this at the top so you see it first...
According to TPMmuckraker, Scholastic has acted to pull the guides from its offered curriculum materials:
“After a thorough review of the original guide that we offered online to about 25,000 high school teachers, we determined that the materials did not meet our high standards for dealing with controversial issues,” said Dick Robinson, Chairman, President and CEO of Scholastic, in a press release.
Excellent news. However, it's not entirely clear to me that all districts will get the message in time for tomorrow, when they were to be presented. To be on the safe side, you might still want to contact your school district and make sure that they will not be using the materials in classrooms. Further, you might request that the district stay vigilant whenever a company tries to be helpful by offering you "teaching guides" for what's coming up on primetime TV, and make sure the materials are appropriate for instruction. But in the short term, this is a tremendous victory for consumers and parents! And now that they have apparently done the right thing, you can use the contact info for Scholastic to congratulate them on being responsive and responsible. After surely being deluged with angry calls, it's always nice to get a pat on the back for making amends.

In comments to our congratulatory story on Storm Large, "anonymous" brought up the ABC muckumentary Path to 9/11 that it plans to air over the weekend, and suggests that people offended by the distortive, fabricative nature of the program should complain to their local ABC affiliate, which in Portland's case would be KATU.

While that's a good idea (and Michelle Neumann has crafted a strong directive to do just that over at Blue Oregon this morning), as the response to her from KATU indicates (they said they will "definitely" air it as of now) it may not be effective, given that ABC can hide behind the "hey, just a docuDRAMA, folks!" dodge and be correct on a fundamental level. Yes, I think they have a responsibility to disclaim that the movie is not intended to be factual, and on balance it's the wrong move to air the film, but ultimately what shows up on TV is generally never to be trusted without verification.

The thing that scares me about this event is not so much that ABC plans to air the movie, but that Scholastic Books currently intends to distribute educational materials meant to be used in conjunction with the film's airing. Make up all the shit you want and put it on TV, and I'll decide whether to watch and/or believe it. But when you start putting material in front of my kid, where he has little to no choice NOT to read it, then I start getting pissed. Schools are where we teach FACTS, not "dramatizations" and "fictional composites." And based on the work done so far fisking the material in the movie, any scholastic guide that even hints that Path to 9/11 should be taken seriously as a realistic account, is harmful garbage with no place deserved in Oregon schools.

But here's where Corporate America becomes vulnerable: Scholastic needs your kid's school to stay afloat. When districts stop buying Scholastic textbooks and other materials, Scholastic loses money. At the risk of taking a kos diarist at face value, "takeback" claims to have a cousin with senior sales experience at the company, and their advice is this:
My cousin says that the best way to force Scholastic to withdraw from the ABC partnership is to contact school districts, especially big public districts in major cities, promising to oppose all Scholastic textbook purchases for years if the company does not agree to pull out of the ABC deal immediately, and to tell Scholastic what we are doing during this process.
The diary follows up with notes from comments at Firedoglake:
Just got off the phone with Ms. Kyle Good, VP of Corporate Communications at Scholastic. They have pulled the material and are meeting shortly to discuss what to do. They know there are many materials already out there and are discussing what to do or how to deal with it. Please call their offices right now (10:55 AM - Eastern Time).

Investor Relations

Corporate Communications
(Kyle Good’s office)
This to me is the appropriate pressure point: whether you are a parent or not, call your local school district--the bigger the better--and state flatly that you don't want muckudramas being used to inform schoolkids about the largest foreign attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor...and if the Scholastic materials are used, you will lobby the district to cancel or not renew any future contracts with the company as a result. Then call or email Scholastic and let them know you did so.

To help you out, here is contact information for the bigger districts in the state:

Beaverton School District
Curriculum and Instruction 503-591-4431
Priscilla Turner, Chair:

Portland Public Schools
Board of Education Phone: 503 916-3741 - FAX: 503 916-3100

Clackamas Education Service District
Curriculum, Instruction and Evaluation Services
Connie Dickman, Director:

Lake Oswego School District
Carol Middleton, Executive Director of Schools and Educational Programs

Gresham-Barlow School District
Curriculum: Aeylin Summers (503) 618-2467

Salem-Keizer Public Schools
Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment
Phone: (503) 399-3075 FAX: (503) 391-4088
John Weeks, Director:

Eugene School District
Tom Henry, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction
(541) 687-3246

Medford School District
Curriculum Phone (541) 842-3630 Fax (541) 842-1090
Todd Bloomquist

Did we not mention your district? Here is a complete listing of online pages for each district in the state, big or small.

Be heard!