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Why Is the American Coal Foundation Setting the Curriculum at Elementary Schools?

Big Coal has worked its way into the classroom.

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"Every time you go to the Family Dollar or Wal-Mart, probably 70 percent of the stuff there was made in China," Nowak says. "A lot of people know about the terrible working conditions, but most people are so removed from the fact that those plants are powered through electricity from coal. We are ourselves attached to each and every one of these (mining) disasters through the clothes we wear, the things we purchase."

Explicitly in the curriculum and implicitly in the testimony and news reports included in the book are cost-benefit analyses. One page quotes the curriculum "assessment" of the cookie mining: "What costs or possibilities for profit were not included in this exercise?" The facing page quotes a Sago rescuer who, shaking the dead miners, says he tries "to holler at them, tell them to wake up." He remembers they had taken the time to lay out a curtain on the floor of what became their death chamber.

"You know, coal miners don’t just sit on the mine floor, they always lay something out. And that’s one of the things that stuck in my mind is, they had done that."

Kari Lydersen , a regular contributor to AlterNet, also writes for the Washington Post and is an instructor for the Urban Youth International Journalism Program in Chicago.

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