Jumping to Conclusions about the NSTA

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Sandra Porter

One of my favorite books, "The Phantom Tollbooth," by Norton Juster, has a wonderful description of the penalties for making decisions without carefully evaluating the facts. Whenever the characters in the book arrive at a decision too quickly, they end up, literally, "jumping to Conclusions," an island far off the shore.

The penalty for quick blog posts isn't so high. And, I'm pretty certain that no blogger has been stranded on a distant island for writing something without having all the facts. Still, it seems that the story of the offered "An Inconvenient Truth" DVDs, wasn't as straightforward as others have described here and here.

It is true that the NSTA (National Science Teachers' Association) did refuse to distribute the DVDs.

Consider though, mailing 50,000 DVDs isn't cheap, in fact if we guess 60 cents per DVD, that would be $30,000, which I think is quite a lot to ask from a non-profit organization. So far, no one has mentioned if Ms. David's group offered to pick up the bill.

Apparently the NSTA did offer to spread the word to teachers and let them know how to get a copy of the DVD.

According to the NSTA:

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 the environment.

This is not true.

[snip]

The NSTA does recieve funding from corporations, one of them is Exxon, and they don't try to deny or hide this.

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%).

What have Exxon and Shell Oil done for science teachers?

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 his or her 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.

You can read the complete rebuttal from the NSTA here.

To be completely upfront about this, I was very impressed the movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," and I have blogged about global warming. I belong to the NSTA and I won an award once from Exxon for innovative teaching and they sponsored the best genetics education conferences I ever went attended (The Genetics Revolution, 1996).

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