14 March 2014

Alberta, oil, and indoctrinating children

"Give us a child till he’s seven and we’ll have him for life"—a maxim some claim comes from St. Ignatius Loyola himself, founder of the Jesuits. Somewhat hackneyed but nonetheless true, the Alberta government and the oil industry seem to be taking it seriously.

The government is engaged in a major overhaul of Alberta's school curriculum and, to the surprise of some, it is bringing in major oil companies as consultants on the changes. Syncrude Canada and Suncor Energy are listed under a working group led by the Edmonton Public School Board in the redesign of the kindergarten to grade three curriculum. Cenovus Energy will consult on the grades four to twelve curriculum. That industry would be involved in education in the higher grades when kids are starting to consider career paths makes sense, but in kindergarten?

The idea that the oil industry can be an impartial conveyor of knowledge is risible. It is one side of a fierce debate regarding fossil fuels and the environment, a debate that will affect the future of humanity, and it vigorously promotes its side. It is by far the biggest lobbyist in Ottawa, its efforts dwarfing those of other industries. And with great success—they have seen the Conservative government rewrite or repeal a host of laws governing environmental assessments, navigable waterways and other measures, and shut down or hamstring environmental research.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) inundates the airwaves with ads, aided and abetted by the federal government which has spent millions on major TV campaigns pitching Canadians on its biased version of “responsible resource development.” CAPP is already making forays into schools with its Energy in Action program designed to teach grade four and five students about "oil and natural gas resources and the importance of environmental stewardship," for which it won the Alberta School Board Association's Friends of Education award in 2011. This is ironic indeed considering that elements in the oil industry have been complicit in undermining climate science. (At least Exxon hasn't been invited to consult on the new curriculum.)

Considering the massive propaganda effort by the oil industry to hype fossil fuels, including the infamous tar sands, inviting them to participate in curriculum development for children in their most formative and vulnerable years is inviting indoctrination. Not that the children will be asked to recite "the oil sands are my friend" every morning at start of class. The government and the industry will be quite satisfied if an instinctive association between "oil industry" and "environmental stewardship" is firmly planted in young minds. The fact that the two concepts are in major ways incompatible is, I suspect, a truth that won't be included in the curricula.

1 comment:

  1. I have been rereading The shock Doctrine. Everyone should. There are many ways of reaching the same goal so we had better watch out with our rich supply of resources.