Why Are The Energy Companies Promoting Education? Exxon Mobil Kid Friendly?

Has anyone else been puzzled by the recent bevy of ads from Exxon Mobil touting the need for better education in science and mathematics? Exxon Mobil is a founding partner in the National Initiative for Science and Math Education (website HERE). I guess they had a huge wake up call when they couldn’t find enough engineers to fill jobs and they realized they need some research into clean energy production. I guess. Exxon is now on the bandwagon to right the wrong of the US falling behind in achievement in math and science.

I don’t want to criticize a good thing. Exxon is not a leading company in scientific research, in my humble opinion.  They exist for commercial enterprise–they have a product that supplies a need. They do give a lot to philanthropic causes and have been a leader in promoting the arts, but this is mostly image related.  Encouraging students and developing ability in math and science is a really good thing. Yes, it should have been done for years, but I will take “better late than never.” I have watched these well-done ads in recent weeks and yes, there are other energy (euphemism for oil) companies joining them. All of a sudden the bad guys are becoming good Samaritans. The ads are clever. You can view them HERE.

I found myself feeling good about the bad guys and really happy with the colorful, cute and intriguing ads. Then, I started to think about what’s up? Exxon would not be the first company I think of when I think of companies who endorse good science and promote quality education. The ad campaign serves to enlighten viewers that “Its not just U.S. leadership in energy that’s at risk—it’s also our leadership in medicine, research, technology and other pillars of the American economy.”  True, yes?

So, okay, Exxon Mobil is motivated by the fact they (and the world) need many scientists, engineers and technicians to do the work they know the world will demand. They have jobs and no one to fill them. The United States has massive unemployment. We do need to help to educate the next generation to fill these jobs. There is talent out there no one may find.  Students are so far behind in science and teachers don’t have the support and skills to stay current. Science is taught the same way as it was many years ago (my affinity for politeness won’t allow me to say how many years ago). Students are not motivated and teachers are not doing a good job. We need help. We need community partners and industry professionals to light the fire–for both students and teachers.

We need to imagine what will be or where we could go. We need to think about our world and clean air and clean water and preserving energy. We need to value science and discovery. It seems to me that science is getting put on the back burner in favor of allowing whatever to happen. States are not encouraging the bettering of ourselves as a society, but rather leaving the future in the hands of fate. Quality education concerns everyone. It is not political. At the same time, I will not allow those who want to undermine science to prevail. States are passing laws that denounce science. So if Exxon Mobil promotes science for their own commercial gain, I say, so be it.  We can’t just drill or do fracking and expect everything to be okay. There is science needed to glean information. We need to do this right.  The next generation of scientists and engineers is waiting. You don’t know who they are or what they will discover. But  they will if you give them the tools.

The US is clearly behind in math and science. It may not be as bad as the statistics indicate. After all, we are a much bigger and more diverse country than most of the ones who are ahead, so the numbers need that perspective. They have figured it out so we should figure it out. We were always on top and we should be again.

The fire needs to be lit.

Categories: 21st Century Education, blended learning, Common Core Standards, critical thinking, foster workforce readiness, math, Mathematics eduction, mentors, motivation, STEAM, STEM education, teachers, technology, Uncategorized


  1. I was reading the following blog a short while ago. It gives some numbers and perspective on the lack of math and science people: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/04/53-of-recent-college-grads-are-jobless-or-underemployed-how/256237/
    I think you are totally right about the skills are more important than the degree. And, as the economy has struggled, that has become more and more true. I read another article recently that said part of the problem is universities and colleges that do not educate their students about the reality of real-world jobs and economics. They get $40,000 in debt for a literature degree only to find out that it is worthless.
    Also, part of the number problem about the unemployed is that it doesn’t include people whose unemployment has run out and/or people who have stopped looking for a job due to the economy. And, that number is growing every day.
    Thank you for your perspective on this crisis.

    • Thank you Tracy for your thoughtful and interesting feedback. One of the important components of a 21st century education is workforce readiness, whether it be college or vocational school. The universities do not have a vested interest in supporting this track as they get money from all of those students with easy to obtain and useless degrees. By bringing real life jobs into the classroom from a young age that demonstrate the possibilities in math and science, students will begin to focus more on these areas. I believe that the involvement of large companies helps, but this mentorship must be more frequent than a scicene fair or career day here and there. In addition, the unemployment crisis effects many, so the outcome may be that the next generation will do things differently. As a professional who works largely as an independent contractor in the education world, I understand the reality of the situation you describe. I have three degrees, two graduate degrees, so what is it like for those who don’t? There seems to me to be something innately UnAmerican about those who want to work, are hard-working and can’t get jobs.

      • It is a sad state of affairs currently for the job market. I am getting my first master’s degree right now and am wondering if I’m wasting my time and money. But, I also know I couldn’t find a job to earn enough in my area, so I rely on student loan checks and my partner. It’s not fun, but that’s the way it is.

      • I wish you luck Tracy. Just keep your mind open to all possibilities. Your facility with ipad/iphone apps and possible social/emotional wellness programs may find an avenue. Education is never wasted in my opinion. The world of work doesn’t always look like what you expect. I think one has to carve out their own niche. Good luck and don’t give up your dream. 🙂

      • Thank you Ruth. I will try to do that! I interviewed an LCPC who said the same exact thing about carving out a niche. She said it was the most important thing she did. Thanks again, Tracy

  2. These adds are an attempt to get teachers to stop their liberal, anti-business, anti- oil teaching practices. Can’t blame the oil companies, frankly. But the problem with our educational system is not a lack of funding…its the lack of accountability.for teachers…unions which protect poor teachers, and tenure which keeps a teacher from being fired. Anyone who denies this isn’t paying attention. The fact is some of the best funded public schools in the nation have the lowest test scores and graduation rates. Tenure needs to go, and so do public unions. “We demand….Free education for all children in public schools.” Karl Marx: The Communist Manifesto.

    • Demonizing teachers and unions does nothing to resolve this problem, which results more from the treatment of teacher education as a commodity by large state universities than it does from over-protection of poor teachers once they have jobs. When you populate the employment pool with large numbers of mass-produced and poorly educated teachers who underperformed in a less-than-rigorous curriculum, what exactly do you expect?

      What if you could easily fire them? Who would you replace them with? After all, it was the same administrators who hired that lousy teacher in the first place. What is it about the elimination of tenure that would suddenly make administrators able to pick out and hire the high quality teachers they failed to hire in the first place?

      Teachers don’t turn into to dead wood of their own volition. I don’t know a single teacher who starts the year saying to themselves, “You know, this year I think I’ll really work on mailing it in.” But they work in a stultifying system with inadequate opportunities for their own development and training. Ask every teacher you can find when the last time was that their district paid the full cost for them to attend a national-level professional meeting in their discipline, or even a regional meeting. Ask them how often they get to sit down with colleagues and talk about new strategies, then ask how often they use meetings to fill out yet another set of paperwork for the central office because they have no secretarial support. Ask science teachers how often they have to go to inservice workshops taught by English teachers.

      I’m not a teacher, I don’t have tenure, my high-quality work is my only job security, and that’s good enough for me, but that’s because my boss’s boss isn’t some demagogic half-wit elected solely to cut taxes and payroll. I would never take a job in public education without the protection of tenure, because I’m not going to move away from doing what I know is effective whenever some dim bulb on the Board sees a piece on Fox “News” about the value of direct instruction (which has happened to teachers I know).

  3. Ruth, I’m no friend of Exxon when it comes to their environmental record, nor when it comes to their record of actually moving forward alternatives to fossil fuels, but it should be noted that the Exxon-Mobil Foundation has a really remarkable record of consistent and effective funding of educational innovation. For years they were focused on K-3 mathematics and many of the outstanding primary mathematics programs, rich in manipulatives, owe their underpinnings to the work of the Foundation. They have also done excellent work in higher education. I have been privilege to participate in Project Kaleidoscope, a leadership program for STEM faculty, which they helped support. Through PKAL, I made the acquaintance of some of the Foundation’s leaders. They are exemplary educators and researchers, not corporate flacks, and they work very hard to identify programs where their dollars will have maximum impact.

    As a corporation, Exxon also does some amazing basic research. Their corporate research lab in Texas is one of the leading research labs in the field of geology. Of course, this research is focused on their strategic goals, and much of their data remains proprietary, but it is high quality work. Notable results include the Vail curve of sea level fluctuations over time (sometimes known as the Exxon curve), which has to be one of the most widely reproduced graphs in the history of geology.

    And you are quite right that companies are feeling the pinch of technically skilled workers, even small companies. There is less of a jobs shortage right now than there is a skills gap between the unemployed and the unfilled jobs. Test-prep teaching anchored in a curriculum and scheduled developed to train the factory workers of the 1890’s is doing nothing to change this situation.

    • Thanks David for the great information. I am happy that there is training and support available for teachers. We need more! It is difficult to reconcile the environmental record of Exxon with philanthropic pursuits. I do think we need to take whatever good is offered and say it like it is as you did. Thanks again for your comment.

  4. I just saw your add on TV that says that STAR teachers have a DEEPER knowledge so the students will learn more. I don’t care how much a teacher knows. If there are 47 teenagers in a classroom, it doesn’t matter how much a teacher knows. What matters is whether the teacher is good a crowd control.
    Judi, Teacher, LAUSD, 25 years.

  5. These ADs are nothing more than “feel good” ploys to make you forget the harm that Exxon has done.
    If you make it to tenure you did something right and you deserve to have it. Tenure is is place so that districts cannot replace someone who has busted their bum and brains teaching their overly bloated classrooms by a first year teacher who makes a piddling 10,000 a year.
    It doesn’t matter, in 10 years your children won’t need teachers, they will need hazmat suits. Thanks to companies like Exxon.

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