Natural Gas Education or Indoctrination?
Our public school systems are meant to grow a well-rounded young adult population, freely thinking and expressing itself based upon a foundation of education that can be combined with experience as one matures. The importance of evaluating evidence is taught to children at a young age as they learn the scientific method, but it is difficult for them to form educated opinions without being presented both sides of any story. Unfortunately, we are seeing a lot of one-sided stuff happening in our school systems. A recent incident at the Vestal Central School serves to demonstrate this example pretty clearly.
The Vestal Central School initially allowed a traveling anti-natural gas art show, followed by an art contest yielding cash rewards, to take place in their school’s hallway. This art show was sponsored by a well-known anti natural gas development group called Friends of Vestal and was aimed squarely at delivering a single message – that natural gas development was bad for the area. There was no balance whatsoever. Instead, students were encouraged to take a side in a debate. The children themselves are not to be faulted – they simply weren’t given the resources to evaluate evidence and develop an opinion based on facts. They were subjected to what can only be described as indoctrination.
Friends of Vestal sponsored this art show and intended to take it to several Broome County middle and high schools. Supposedly, it was designed to show how hydraulic fracturing and the natural gas industry would change an area. The posters, of course, only yielded a negative image of the natural gas industry and proved to be disturbing to many people. By allowing one group to enter schools and present such a one-sided story, the schools are essentially condoning indoctrination on a hotly charged political issue. What is indoctrination? Well, despite the source, I found this Wikipedia description pretty accurate;
Indoctrination is the process of inculcating ideas, attitudes, cognitive strategies or a professional methodology. It is often distinguished from education by the fact that the indoctrinated person is expected not to question or critically examine the doctrine they have learned.
Locals found the displays appalling for several different reasons. The first problem was the inherent conflict in the anti-natural gas group judging the art contest. Secondly, the entire premise of the event was anti-natural gas and the display of the posters conveyed one particular message to the other schoolchildren.
One particular mother questioned the school about the art exhibits and was told the students were given a choice and could do their art projects on this topic or choose from a separate short list. However, the poster contest was to be judged by the Friends of Vestal, whose Facebook page says its purpose is “To preserve Vestal’s quality of life by providing information on the possible impacts of natural gas [development] and the ways we can protect ourselves.“
“Clearly this isn’t fair,” explained this mother. “If these kids draw anything positive they won’t stand a chance in the contest. The schools are allowing an individual private interest groups to brainwash the students.”
Well, judge for yourself. Was it fair? As a mother, would you want your young daughter, a future mother, viewing images of a child sucking on a toxic can?
Fortunately, the Superintendent of Vestal Central School, after receiving complaints about the appropriateness of such one-sided activities, decided to have the art display removed immediately after the aforementioned mother complained.
“This isn’t about natural gas, this is about political groups indoctrinating our children in our own school systems.” she said.
After viewing all the pictures, she also called every school in Broome County. Thankfully, every one of them agreed this topic did not belong in an art class. No other schools will allow for this art show or contest in their systems.
Here are some more of the pictures to help you form your own opinion. We can’t help but admire the ingenuity of the children or the quality of their work. We applaud the Vestal Central School District for their prompt action, but was it right of Friends of Vestal to promote this kind of contest on public school property? You be the judge!
Now, about that mother. You might guess I’m a little partial to her and I am, because she’s my mother, Katherine Colley. Well done, Mom!