Florida schools have approved the use of “supplemental curriculum” created by PragerU, an unaccredited right-wing advocacy group that seeks to offer an alternative to “dominant left-wing ideologies,” in classrooms days after the state Department of Education approved new, controversial academic standards for Black history curriculum.
PragerU CEO Marissa Streit announced that Florida approved the nonprofit as an official vendor, allowing teachers to incorporate its educational entertainment videos, self-described as “edutainment,” as supplemental materials in classrooms.
“We have seen that our schools have been hijacked by the left. They have been politicized, they have been used by union bosses, they have been doing everything under the sun not for our children,” Streit said.
“And so we have launched PragerU Kids and we started providing great ‘edutainment,’ educational entertainment for children across America. But we didn’t just stop there. Now we’re actually making turnkey curriculum. Content for your schools. And the state of Florida just announced that we are now becoming an official vendor. This means that if you are a teacher in Florida, you cannot be fired for using PragerU content.”
The Miami New Times confirmed that the Florida Board of Education approved the materials, saying that it aligned with the state’s revised civics and government standards.
What is PragerU?
Prager University Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that creates educational videos that it says promote American values. PragerU’s website says that it “offers a free alternative to dominant left-wing ideology in culture, media and education.”
The driving force behind much of PragerU’s growing popularity stems from its series title “5-Minute Videos,” which boils down everything from economic and political science topics to life lessons and cultural topics into bite-sized, 5-minute videos.
Many of the most popular videos tackle controversial topics. As of this writing, the five videos showcased under the “Most Popular 5-Minute Videos” tag include “Do You Understand the Electoral College,” “Was the Civil War About Slavery,” “The Inconvenient Truth About the Democratic Party,” “Why I Left the Left” and “War on Boys.”
Who founded PragerU?
PragerU was founded in 2009 by Allen Estrin and conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager.
What does PragerU’s
PragerU believes that American schools are “indoctrinating” students who are being taught “radical ideas” about critical race theory, systemic racism, gender fluidity, anti-Americanism and that math is racist. It says it has designed its curriculum to provide “both sides of the argument” and help kids understand history, economics, foreign affairs and philosophy.
PragerU’s website provides users with access to its educational videos but does little to shed light on what specific key concepts it hopes to instill through its curriculum.
Examples of lesson plans can also be found on the website, but they only provide basic, surface-level views of what will be taught. A lesson plan regarding the Federalist Papers only has four learning objectives:
Identify who wrote the Federalist Papers
Explain why the Federalist Papers were written
Recognize why the framers of the Constitution created a federal government with checks and balances
Appreciate the system of government established by the Founding Fathers
The full lesson can be learned in about 50 minutes, according to the site.
Why critics push back
against PragerU curriculum
PragerU has a long history of experts rebuking ideas presented in many of its videos.
Joseph McCarthy of the Weather Channel in 2016 wrote an entire feature on PragerU’s video called “Fossil Fuels: The Greenest Energy,” which had garnered 1.5 million views at that time. McCarthy wrote that the video was presented by a proponent of fossil fuel, Alex Epstein, and that the video “flubs a major date and soberly transitions between obvious inaccuracies and out-of-context claims.”
Paul Gottfried in 2017 wrote pinned a story in The American Conservative lambasting PragerU presenter Dinesh D’Souza for claiming that fascism was a left-wing idea. D’Souza claimed that it could be proven that it was a “leftist” idea by examining the political writings of Mussolini’s court philosopher Giovanni Gentile.
Gottfried, a paleoconservative scholar, wrote that “their judgment also clashes with that of almost all scholars of Gentile’s work, from across the political spectrum, who view him, as I do in my study of fascism, as the most distinguished intellectual of the revolutionary right.”
These are just the tip of the iceberg, however. The Daily Beast points out that PragerU videos have claimed there’s no wage gap between men and women and that it has praised Confederate General Robert E. Lee for crushing an attempted slave rebellion.
And others have noted inaccuracies in videos claiming that Europe is “committing suicide” by allowing mass migration, that “whiteness and conservatism” are under attack and more.
Civic groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League have also criticized PragerU’s videos, describing some as a “dog whistle to the extreme right” and “filled with anti-immigration and anti-Muslim rhetoric.”