A lengthy article in the East Bay Express today questions whether Berkeley High’s new Green Academy is an exercise in greenwashing because of support from utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric. The Green Academy, which will open in September, will be BHS’s seventh “small learning community”. It’s one of several green initiatives in California high schools, with funding from the state and PG&E.

PG&E’s involvement excites particular ire among environmentalists at the moment, since it is funding Proposition 16, which would make alternatives to PG&E — including ones that emphasize the use of alternative energy — much harder to establish.

The Express suggests that PG&E has a deep role in the curriculum for the Green Academy, but that allegation is dismissed by BHS vice-principal Kristin Glenchur: “PG&E is not dictating to us what our curriculum is; they are one of our partners.”

Should BHS spurn PG&E’s funds? That would be short sighted. If the idea of a Green Academy is a good one, and if there are appropriate boundaries to sponsor meddling in curriculum, why not take the money on offer? Many years ago I was taught the story of the Egyptian gold. When the Jews fled Egypt, they brought with them some of the pharaoh’s gold. Surely such lucre was tainted? No, it was still useful.

School board member John Selawsky, a Green Party member, is quoted in the Express basically saying the same thing. He finds PG&E’s role “distasteful”, but, “I won’t stand in the way of the academy.”

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...