Ryan Walters, Oklahoma’s superintendent of public instruction, is apparently eager to make a name for himself as the most far-right education official of them all. On Tuesday, he announced that the Oklahoma State Department of Education was entering into a partnership with PragerU Kids. These right-wing indoctrination materials were approved in August for use in Florida classrooms.
Where Florida said the PragerU Kids content could be used as supplemental material, Oklahoma is actively promoting it, describing it as “engaging, educationally sound, and classroom-friendly while being grounded in traditional American values that inspire self-reliance, patriotism, and resiliency while teaching core knowledge in subjects ranging from civics to financial literacy.” (Raise your hand if you don’t think anyone who wrote, edited, or approved that sentence should be involved in educating children.)
Here’s the motivation for the material going into Oklahoma classrooms: Dennis Prager, a founder of PragerU, recently told Moms for Liberty, “I really wanted to hear what evidence do you have that I am despicable? And all I heard was, ‘Well, because you indoctrinate kids.’ Which is true. We bring doctrines to children. That is a very fair statement. I said, ‘But what is the bad of our indoctrination?’”
A favorite right-wing attack on teachers is that they are “indoctrinating” children into evil things like not hating LGBTQ+ people. Meanwhile, Republican education officials are formally bringing confirmed indoctrination material into Florida and Oklahoma schools. It’s yet another example of how every Republican attack on their opponents is a projection of what they themselves are doing.
What Oklahoma is calling “educationally sound” curriculums include climate denial and some extremely interesting takes on slavery. For instance, in one video, PragerU Kids’ recurring time-traveling characters, Leo and Layla, talk to Christopher Columbus to get an unbiased view of whether Columbus was “a really mean guy” or “a really courageous guy.” He tells them: “Slavery is as old as time and has taken place in every corner of the world, even among the people I just left. Being taken as a slave is better than being killed, no? I don’t see the problem.” In another, Frederick Douglass describes the Constitution as a “glorious liberty document” while taking a thinly veiled dig at Black Lives Matter.
It’s not all history lessons over at PragerU Kids, though. There are also life lessons like, “How to embrace your masculinity,” and, “How to handle getting pulled over.” The former video mocks the idea that such a thing as toxic masculinity exists. It claims that “[i]t took masculinity to defeat Nazi Germany in World War II. It took masculinity to mine coal and keep America’s homes warm.” The latter video explains at great length that it is up to you, the person being pulled over, to protect the safety of the police officer pulling you over. If you just have a good attitude, everything will be peachy. That chipper explanation is delivered by a Black man.
This is what Oklahoma education officials consider “educationally sound.” Then again, back in July, Walters—who is the top education official in the state—tried to take race out of the Tulsa Race Massacre. PragerU Kids content is worse, educationally speaking, than what would come directly from Walters because it’s more insidiously dangerous. PragerU Kids is slickly packaged, easily digestible indoctrination material, and now both Florida and Oklahoma have established it as a cheap and easy resource for schools in Republican-controlled states.
Sign the petition: Say no to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ war on education.
The far-right justices on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court just can’t handle the fact that liberals now have the majority for the first time in 15 years, so they’re in the throes of an ongoing meltdown—and their tears are delicious. On this week’s episode of “The Downballot,” co-hosts David Nir and David Beard drink up all the schadenfreude they can handle as they puncture conservative claims that their progressive colleagues are “partisan hacks” (try looking in the mirror) or are breaking the law (try reading the state constitution). Elections do indeed have consequences!