PragerU, a conservative nonprofit often criticized for downplaying systemic racism and promoting anti-immigrant theories, announced today that Florida is "the first state to officially approve PragerU as an educational vendor."
A press release from group states, "This fall in schools across America, students will be watching PragerU videos in their classrooms as states officially make PragerU an approved educational resource."
Despite its name, PragerU is not an accredited academic institution, nor does it issue degrees.
The group claims it is partnering with as many states as possible to provide conservative lesson plans — touted as "PragerU Kids" — in response to requests from teachers who "are sick and tired of curriculum laced with radical political agendas."
According to the press release, "In the past, teachers have been disciplined — even fired — for showing PragerU videos in their classrooms. Now, PragerU videos are not only being allowed in classrooms but superintendents and education commissioners are actively encouraging teachers to use PragerU’s content to educate their students.... PragerU supplemental curriculum offers an easy, cutting-edge way to teach core knowledge in subjects ranging from civics and history to entrepreneurship and financial literacy."
PragerU Kids is marketed as "content for your child's mind to fight the leftist lies." One advertisement features a child watching kids' programming on a tablet at the dinner table when he says, "Hey dad, did you know America is racist?"
With the camera fixed on a flabbergasted father, the voice-over is heard saying in a sing-songy tone, "Your mind goes numb, your skin turns pale, your heart aches with fear: Your child's head is being filled with lies." (George Washington then presents the child with PragerU Kids content.)
Responding to a request for comment, the Florida Department of Education says that it "reviewed PragerU Kids and determined the material aligns to Florida’s revised civics and government standards."
"PragerU Kids is no different than many other resources, which can be used as supplemental materials in Florida schools at district discretion," the department's deputy director of communications Cassie Palelis says via email.
PragerU's announcement comes as Florida adopts new academic standards for Black history classes in public schools in accordance with the state's controversial Stop WOKE Act. Signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022, the legislation restricts instruction regarding systemic racism and bars educators from teaching that people are "privileged or oppressed" solely because of their race, national origin, or sex.
Among other disputed clauses in the state's new Black history standards, students are to be taught that slaves developed skills that "in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit."
The education department maintains that PragerU did not submit a bid to be part of the 2022-23 social studies material, which includes the new Black history curriculum.
The new state standards nonetheless touch on themes featured prominently in both PragerU's content and the DeSantis administration's education agenda — including narratives that emphasize avoiding any specter of racial guilt, with a purported eye toward fostering civic unity.
Introduced in the fifth grade, the very first section on slavery in Florida's Black history curriculum closely mirrors a PragerU segment in which conservative pundit Candace Owens, who is Black, reminds viewers that "slavery was not invented by white people."
"No one, regardless of skin color, stands guiltless," Owens says.
Marvin Dunn, a professor and Black history author, says that the approval of PragerU as an educational vendor is in line with Florida's move to infuse public education in Florida with Christian nationalist themes.
In Dunn's view, Florida's new Black history standards are an "invitation to disaster in the classroom."
"We are being told that slavery wasn't that bad, that it was everyplace else, that the slaves didn't have it all that bad," Dunn tells New Times. "I just see this as being extremely chaotic going forward because Black parents are not going to stand for this."
While some PragerU Kids content consists of apolitical children's stories, several videos overtly stake political stances and inject them into the lessons. New Times has reached out to the state's education department to specify which PragerU Kids videos have been approved for use in classrooms.
In videos for PragerU Kids' animated "Leo & Layla" series, the impetus for some of the brother-and-sister duo's adventures involves watching TV and hearing about contemporary news events.
In one episode, the duo hear about riots on the news and attempts to "abolish the police," prompting the characters to travel back in time and speak with a cartoon version of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The video attempts to equate modern-day rioters with William Lloyd Garrison, an abolitionist with whom the real-life Douglass debated over how to fight slavery.
"William refuses all compromises, demands immediate change, and if he doesn't get what he wants, he likes to set things on fire," the Douglass character says, referring to Garrison's protesting slavery by burning a copy of the U.S. Constitution and the Fugitive Slave Act.
"Yeah, we've got that type in our time," Leo responds.
At one point, the Layla character appears concerned when her brother tells her that his math class is "spending a lot of time learning about the stuff they talk about in the news."
DeSantis' office has not responded to a request for comment, nor have the chairs of Miami-Dade and Broward counties' school boards.
Founded in 2009 as a nonprofit by conservative radio host Dennis Prager, PragerU posts a variety of content online: mini-documentaries, shorts, kids' shows, and five-minute videos on YouTube. The content propounds Christian conservative values, decries mainstream media narratives, and promotes capitalism.
In PragerU's universe, "there is no gender wage gap" and "the nuclear waste problem is a myth."
With titles such as "Playing the Black Card" and "Blacks in Power Don't Empower Blacks" and a roster of hosts that, in addition to Owens, features right-wing personalities Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, and Charlie Kirk, PragerU's videos have tallied more than a billion views.
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