Thursday, August 29, 2013

School district climbs in bed with oil industry

What a surprise to find, on my way back from lunch, that HISD's new Energy Institute High School is practically just around the corner from my new office.

The Energy Institute is a partnership between the IPAA (Independent Petroleum Association of America) and HISD and is designed to train students for careers in the energy industry.


This latest magnet school in Houston is just another example of the abdication of government responsibility in providing an education to our nation. We can spend billions of dollars a year killing innocent men, women and children in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen - but we can't provide adequate funding for education. We can spend millions of dollars to build shiny new playpens for billionaire owners of professional sports franchises - but we can't provide adequate funding for education. We can subsidize entire industries to "protect" them from foreign competition - but we can't provide adequate funding for education.

Local school districts are left to beg for money from local industry to make up for shortages in funding. Those industries - in this case the energy industry - then helps plan a curriculum that (and let's not be naive here, folks) puts themselves in the best light.

Don't believe me? Just listen to Houston's NPR station, KUHF and listen to the number of commercials mentions of donors that are in the energy industry. Then listen carefully to whether or not the local reporters ever cover a story that is critical of the oil or gas industry. Actually, listen carefully and you'll find that very few of the local stories the station broadcasts during its hourly news updates are anything more than reworded press releases from government agencies or local industry.

(And, what do you know, here's a reworked press release turned into a "news" story from KUHF about the opening of the school.)

So just how do you think a high school funded by the energy industry will cover major oil spills such as the Deepwater Horizon explosion? What about the dreadful environmental record of the nuclear industry? How about the ways in which the US government has carried out foreign policy directives aimed at making life easier for the oil companies? And how exactly would the practice of fracking be covered in science class?

The school district even provided a listing of what oil companies make up the Advisory Board for the new school on its blog:
To kick off the grand opening, Energy Institute High School hosted its first Advisory Board meeting at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center. The board, which consists of executives from Halliburton, Shell, Apache, and other top energy companies, is charged with providing HISD and Energy Institute staff insight into the field and how to prepare for energy careers. They will collaborate with the district to develop and continually update the institute’s curriculum.
Energy Institute students will explore the energy field through guest speakers, mentoring, field trips, summer camps, paid externships, and scholarships. All classrooms will utilize state-of-the-art technology, and teachers will receive training and real-world insight from industry leaders. The institute will begin with ninth-graders and add a grade level each year, eventually serving grades 9-12. 
So the oil companies will "collaborate" on the curriculum with the district. Is that we call it these days. These are companies that have an agenda. They have a mission - to maximize profits. That's not what public schools are about.

But what does Superintendent Terry Grier care? He's already gotten plenty of money from the IPAA to fund indoctrination efforts at two other high schools. As the old adage goes, we aren't discussing what you are, we're just negotiating a price.

1 comment:

Steven Vanasse said...

And the school has a waiting list... go figure? HISD offers a program that actually makes their students employable and skilled. And, students are enthused and compete to enroll. Sounds like free market capitalism invades and overruns the education monopoly. I did enjoy the Winston Churchill reference!