If you’re a parent or student in America this fall, watch out: “edutainment” could be coming to your school.
It’s what PragerU, a business that is not a university at all but a media shop run by right-wing talk-show host Dennis Prager, calls its videos and curriculum materials for school-age kids. In Florida and Oklahoma, PragerU materials are now approved for public school curricula, and Texas could be next.
It’s no exaggeration that these products are propaganda of the most aggressive kind.
Glance at the catalog and you’ll see videos scorning climate “alarmism” while offering other titles like “How to Embrace Your Masculinity” for boys and “How to Embrace Your Femininity” for girls. (“Try smiling,” the narrator urges, because “one of the most beautiful things God has created is a woman’s smile.”)
But the real gems are the depictions of historical figures like Christopher Columbus and the abolitionist Frederick Douglass rationalizing and defending slavery.
In one video, Douglass is portrayed as downplaying slavery by calling it a “compromise” that benefited the early United States. In another piece, a cartoon Christopher Columbus shrugs off the enslavement of Indigenous Americans, declaring: “Slavery is as old as time, and has taken place in every corner of the world, even amongst the people I just left… I don’t see the problem.”
And PragerU is not alone. Earlier this month a Pennsylvania public school district adopted Hillsdale College’s “1776 Curriculum.”
The 1776 Curriculum was invented in a spasm of backlash against the New York Times’s 1619 Project, which looked at how racism and the movement against it had shaped our country. The 1776 version, by contrast, downplays the history of slavery in the United States and omits key facts about slave-holding Founding Fathers. For good measure, it also suggests they had some very “logical” reasons for denying women the vote.
If these whitewashing and propagandizing efforts are affronts to core principles of education, PragerU doesn’t really care. Dennis Prager freely admits that his goal is “indoctrination.” But the rest of us need to care, because the victims here are our kids.
Students who are taught a subpar, silly, and inaccurate curriculum are at a serious disadvantage in life. Their futures are being compromised.
Students’ personal growth is stunted when they’re force-fed false ideas. And they’re unlikely to succeed or even win admission at selective universities. Admissions officers know an “A+” in history means nothing if the student believes the firebrand Frederick Douglass had a relaxed attitude toward slavery.
It’s up to those of us who see the problem to fix it.
The organization I lead, People For the American Way, recently founded a “Grandparents for Truth” campaign to mobilize family members of all generations to fight book bans, censorship, and propaganda in schools.
This means speaking up at school board meetings, voting in school board elections, and running for school board as well. It means paying attention to what’s happening in classrooms and libraries and communicating with school administrators — whatever it takes to be an advocate for kids.
The good news is the levers of power in this fight are local and accessible. We’re not talking about influencing a presidential campaign. Critical decisions about our kids’ education are being made right down the street. We can reach those decision makers. We can become those decision makers.
As a dad, I don’t want to trust kids’ futures to the agendas of censors or “edutainment.” It’s time to stop these trends in their tracks.
This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.