Documents show how tightly woven group of pro-industry organizations target impressionable schoolchildren and teachers desperate for resources
by Jie Jenny Zou
Jennifer Merritt’s first graders at Jefferson elementary school in Pryor, Oklahoma, were in for a treat. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, the students gathered for story time with two special guests, Republican lawmakers Tom Gann and Marty Quinn.
Dressed in suits, the two men read aloud from “Petro Pete’s Big Bad Dream,” a parable in which a Bob the Builder-lookalike awakens to find his toothbrush, hard hat and even the tires on his bike missing.
Abandoned by the school bus, Pete walks to Petroville elementary in his pajamas.
“It sounds like you’re missing all of your petroleum by-products today!” Pete’s teacher, Mrs Rigwell, exclaims, extolling oil’s benefits to Pete and fellow students like Sammy Shale. Before long, Pete decides that “having no petroleum is like a nightmare!”
The tale is the latest in an illustrated series by the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board, a state agency funded by oil and gas producers. The board has spent upwards of $40m over the past two decades on providing education with a pro-industry bent, including hundreds of pages of curriculums, a speaker series and an after-school program – all at no cost to educators of children from kindergarten to high school.