As teachers, we know that our students deserve a high-quality social studies education. So often our schools do not provide any materials or the curriculum or textbook is outdated. This means that teachers spend time searching for resources and materials to use in the classroom. One of my goals is to share high-quality social studies resources with teachers. Whether that is through resource lists of reputable social studies education websites, places to find primary sources for the classroom or virtual field trips, my focus is to make sure that teachers have the materials along with best practices to provide their students with a high-quality social studies education.
That is why I am taking a moment to discuss the recent Florida Department of Education decision to accept PragerU as an official education vendor.
1. Prager University is Not a University
It is first of all important to realize that Prager University is not a university. It is an unaccredited right-wing advocacy group founded by Dennis Prager, a conservative talk radio host. On the PragerU website, it says that it "offers a free alternative to dominant left-wing ideology in culture media, and education." In addition, the PragerU Kids is marketed as "content for your child's mind to fight the leftist lies."
2. The 5 Minute Videos are Problematic
PragerU is known for their "5 Minute Idea" videos that their CEO Marissa Strait describes as "edutainment." However, PragerU has been repeatedly rebuked by historians and political scientists for spreading disinformation, including climate change denial, and making inaccurate claims about slavery and racism in the United States. The Southern Poverty Law Center has called out PragerU's videos as an "indispensable propaganda devise for the right." The Anti-Defamation League has also called out Dennis Prager for anti-Semitic statements.
3. Where the Indoctrination is Really Happening
Politicians in Florida have been speaking out against "indoctrination," yet PragerU is being pulled into public classrooms which is a clear form of indoctrination. The PragerU website states that they believe in "economic and religious freedom, a strong military that protects our allies, and the religious values that inform Western civilization, also known as Judeo-Christian values." There is a difference between teaching about religion and teaching religion. PragerU is focused on teaching Judeo-Christian values (example, the video "Just Say Merry Christmas"), which does not align with the Constitutional separation of church and state. PragerU has been described by the Florida Freedom to Read Project as "a media arm of the fundamentalist Christian political movement." A large portion of PragerU's funding comes from two Christian fundamentalist billionaires--Dan and Farris Wilks who have been known for their anti-LGBTQ politics.
4. Long-Term Impacts of the Curriculum
Our students could leave our classroom with unfounded prejudices, biases, or misunderstandings if we aren't carefully choosing our social studies resources. If a student's first exposure to a topic is a PragerU video riddled with propaganda or misinformation, it can do great harm in the long term. For example, a video from 2017 entitled, "The Top 5 Issues Facing Black Americans" listed problem number five as "the victim mentality." Another video calls feminism a "mean-spirited, small-minded, and oppressive philosophy." The Southern Poverty Law Center has described the videos to "function as dog whistles for the extreme right." We must carefully choose curriculum because we are not just teaching content, we are teaching human beings.
Let Me Point You to Some Reputable Social Studies Resources
Check out the Best Practices section on my blog for book lists, reputable websites, history month resources, and more.