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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth in the Classroom: Olbermann's "Worst Person in the World" Declined to Distribute Gore's Movie to Teachers


With the final line "Linda Froschauer, president of the National Science Teachers Association, available at the right price," Keith Olbermann of MSNBC Monday named Froschauer "worst person in the world."

How did Ms. Froschauer get labeled a policy prostitute on MSNBC? The organization she heads declined a donation of 50,000 DVD copies of Al Gore's documentary-editorial "An Inconvenient Truth."

Yep. Apparently that movie is so good, people have to be paid to turn down 50,000 copies of it.

As movie producer Laurie David said in an indignant op-ed in the Washington Post (one of four pro-global warming theory articles the Post ran over the last two-day weekend, by my count), the movie's producers donated the 50,000 DVDs "for educators to use in their classrooms."

David called the producers' offer a "no brainer," and she was probably right, just not in the manner she thought. Distributing the movie would have harmed the National Science Teachers Association's reputation.

David described the National Science Teachers Association's reasoning this way:
In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that other "special interests" might ask to distribute materials, too; they said they didn't want to offer "political" endorsement of the film; and they saw "little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members" in accepting the free DVDs.
Fair enough. Despite David's denials ("Gore... is not running for office") Gore's movie is political. "Political will is a renewable resource," the movie's website says, and it goes on to urge people to take actions it recommends, some of which are legislative. We can assume not all these legislative recommendations are endorsed by the students' parents.

An Inconvenient Truth also is a bit hysterical. Consider the first paragraph of the first section on the movie's website:
Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb. If the vast majority of the world's scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that even most believers in the global warming theory would call this misleading at best. "The vast majority of the world's scientists" don't even work on climate. Among those scientists who do, "the vast majority" DO NOT claim "we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe."

An Inconvenient Truth also provides an "AIT [An Inconvenient Truth] in the Classroom" educator's guide that includes such assertions (pdf) as "If the warming continues, we can expect catastrophic consequences. Deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years -- to 300,000 people a year."

Perhaps "AIT in the Classroom" can direct us to a list of names of the 150,000 people who are currently dying annually because of global warming? Or any other specific information about the unfortunate 150,000, to permit the thorough verification of this rather dramatic claim?

That the National Science Teachers Association, a group that appears to take its work seriously, doesn't want 50,000 copies of this movie to distribute at (apparently) its own expense makes sense to me, but not to Laurie David, Keith Olbermann or MSNBC.

But then, Laurie David, Keith Olbermann and MSNBC are after something other than the National Science Teachers Association. They're after the usual culprit in these tedious envirodramas: ExxonMobil.

You see, according to David, ExxonMobil, Shell Oil and the American Petroleum Institute have donated to the the National Science Teachers Association. So, in a move reminiscent of the ill-grounded assertions of Britain's Royal Society and Senators Rockefeller and Snowe, Laurie David, Keith Olbermann and MSNBC assume the oil industry is ultimately responsible for the decisions and positions of the the NSTA.

Al Gore's movie, like it or lump it, is a movie expressing strong opinions and political content. Are we to assume that the only NSTA donors who might question distributing 50,000 copies of such a film to teachers for classroom use are oil companies?

Furthermore, do we really want education associations distributing to teachers copies of everything they are given for free?

Should money trump judgment?

P.S. Note in the graphic reproduced above how MSNBC's website misleadingly described the Froschauer-led National Science Teachers Association's decision not to accept and distribute a movie with political content. Not quite accurate, is it?

Addendum: Pat Cleary has more on the NAM blog, as does Noel Sheppard on Newsbusters, where I cross-posted most of this.

Addendum 2, 11/30/06: Husband David comments:
If the NSTA accepted Gore's movie and distributed it without exercising content control, it would be guilty of what Olbermann accuses it of -- letting money determine policy.

What Olbermann is saying is essentially this: If an organization engages in a program BECAUSE it receives resources from ExxonMobil, this would be unethical. But if an organization engages in a program BECAUSE it it receives resources from another special interest (one which he approved of), that would be ethical.

Bottom line here is that it is the responsibility of every organization to maintain control over its programs. Olbermann apparently thinks otherwise.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:40 AM

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