The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

December 16, 2009

Coal in the classroom

Battle lines drawn in education process

In October, the Friends of Coal Ladies Auxiliary took Stratton Elementary's fourth-graders on a field trip to the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine.

In addition, each of the elementary students was given a coloring book, compliments of the auxiliary, illustrating how coal is mined and how it is burned for energy.

Harmless enough? Apparently not.

Environmental groups are calling the Coal in the Classroom program a pro-coal curriculum and are arguing that public classrooms aren't a place for politics.

"It's upsetting. Whoever controls our children's education controls our future,"ù said Bo Webb with Coal River Mountain Watch.

"No way should a business be able to enter a classroom of young children and indoctrinate them into their industry. Coal is not the future of West Virginia and we all need to come to that realization. If we don't make a transition from coal to clean energy, we're not going to be here.”

The auxiliary piloted the program at the St. Frances De Sales Catholic School in Raleigh County last year.

Stratton Elementary was the first public school in the state to host the program.

Regina Fairchild, chair of the auxiliary, says the organization’s goal is to take the program to public schools statewide.

“It’s going to be a controversy for people who are not for coal, who are not pro-coal,” Fairchild said.

“Coal is one of our minerals. It’s the way of life here in West Virginia. We simply tell them where coal comes from. When you go to a light switch and flip on a light switch, that’s where our power comes from,” she continued.

The group also talks about the different ways coal is mined, Fairchild said.

“We keep it very simple because it has to stay on a fourth-grade level. We’re just trying to give back to the state and community we love,” she added.

Text Only
Local News