The Sacramento Bee reports:
BP, the energy giant responsible for the largest offshore oil spill in history, helped develop the state's framework for teaching more than 6 million students about the environment.Despite a mixed environmental record even before the Gulf of Mexico disaster, state officials included BP on the technical team for its soon-to-be-completed environmental education curriculum, which will be used in kindergarten through 12th-grade classes in more than 1,000 school districts statewide.
It turns out that BP was involved in the Education and the Environment Initiative, a 7-year, 13,000 page project designed to update the state's environmental science education curriculum. A number of environmental groups and other corporations, including PG&E and Sempra Energy, also helped guide the curriculum's creation.
State officials evidently approached BP to help in the planning stages, though the California EPA maintains that the oil giant played only a "minor role" in the development of the curriculum. A spokesperson says that the "the bulk of work on the curriculum was done by specialists whose content was peer reviewed by outside experts." BP already had an egregious safety record at that point -- long before the Gulf spill disaster -- and the state claims it was aware of that fact. It included the company in the process to "get all sides of the environmental debate."
But media watchdog groups and progressive blogs are crying foul anyway, citing the extent of BP's dishonesty over the course of the Gulf spill as a reason to be concerned about the company's influence over the curriculum.
It's not exactly shocking that BP had a role in the development of this curriculum -- bringing corporations on board to assist in such endeavors is common practice. That BP was enlisted 7 years ago for this project shouldn't raise too many eyebrows in and of itself. But it should perhaps grant us an opportunity to examine the wider practice: Should corporations, whose aims are to generate profits from a specific interest, be shaping the curriculum intended to foster critical thinking and open-mindedness on a subject?