I went down a PragerU Kids rabbit hole, and JFC, it’s even worse than I thought.
After Oklahoma’s Department of Education recently announced it would be following in Florida’s footsteps by partnering with the conservative online media organization, PragerU, I felt compelled to take a deeper look at some of the content they’ll be supplying to some of America’s public schools. (New Hampshire—the “Live Free or Die” state—also approved PragerU’s “financial literacy” for use in its schools.)
“This will be fun. Gruesome, but fun,” I thought. Sure, I’d seen some of the viral clips online. They were plainly ridiculous and an insult to the intelligence of children.
There’s the one with Christopher Columbus selling slavery as “better than being killed,” the one with Frederick Douglass empathizing with our slave owning founding fathers because he understood that ending slavery was on their “to do” list, just not quite at the top, and the one where former slave Booker T. Washington inaccurately claims that “America was one of the ﬁrst places on Earth to outlaw slavery.”
I felt like I had a handle on the historical material—however batshit it might be—but nothing could have prepared me for PragerU Kids’ foray into culture and identity.
Less than a minute into some dude telling me how to “Embrace My Femininity” by “smiling more”—followed by a young girl “tweensplaining” that gender stereotypes exist because they reflect how men and women are “naturally different” and that I should “master the art of makeup”—I realized that their content could in fact, get worse. Much worse.
I’ve now watched more PragerU Kids videos than any human being should ever consume, and I gotta say it feels like how I imagine spending 48 hours straight belly-up at an all-you-can-eat-buffet of spoiled shellfish would feel.
Let’s start with a video from their “Around the World” series.
What are kids supposed to learn about Los Angeles from the 13 year-old son of Mexican immigrants in “Mateo Backs the Blue”? That racial bias in policing is non-existent, that BLM protests brought crime which threatened his family’s store and destroyed property, and that George Floyd was just a “black man who resisted arrest.”
Later, I struggled to get through a whole eight minutes and 38 seconds of “Patriotism in the Midst of Persecution”—as it was explained to children by an animated Sadao Munemori, the first Japanese American to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
The patronizing and painfully flat dialogue coupled with the obnoxiously inquisitive main character, Leo, was bad enough, but upon realizing the lesson being delivered to kids was essentially, “Yes, my Japanese parents were placed in internment camps by this country, but I don’t have any hard feelings about it,” I contemplated launching my laptop straight toward the hardest surface available.
The world tour of crackpottery continued with “Poland: Ania’s Energy Crisis,” in which a young girl is ostracized and isolated by her classmates and teachers because after doing her own research (yes, really), she concludes that climate change is not actually happening. Her grandfather even compares climate denialism to the Warsaw Uprising (yes, really really).
And the whole thing is wrapped up in a pretty little disinformation package with dual revelations that climate change is not a “real threat,” and efforts to stop it from happening are the true existential danger for humans.
Not only did I get to travel all over the world, I got to travel back in time, too, with siblings Layla and Leo (the latter previously seen conversing with Sadao Munemori), as they seek to answer present-day kid quandaries with the advice of long since dead historical figures, like Booker T. Washington.
When asked by Leo if “slavery was hard” Washington answered “yes, but…” he had been lucky to be a slave here in America, rather than in some other country. Before the kids depart, Washington assures them that they shouldn’t feel bad about their ancestors enslaving him and that “slavery is not their fault.” This comes as a great relief to the youngins.
In another video, when Leo doesn’t handle winning graciously, big sister Layla knows just which historical figure to call! Enter Ulysses S. Grant—winner of a little thing called the Civil War.
The late general and ex-president tells Leo that while he could have boasted and “danced around” after winning the war, he didn’t want the guy who fought to protect slavery to feel bad. He describes Robert E. Lee as “a good man” and that when it came to the fight over slavery, they “just got caught on the opposite side of things.”
Things got really weird in cartoon historyland when an animated Candace Owens and a kiddie version of Dennis Prager explain “The National Anthem and The Pledge of Allegiance”—with a very special emphasis on the importance of the inclusion of the words “under God.” In fact, their entire explanation of the Pledge begins in the year 1954, when those words were added by President Eisenhower.
If you’ve somehow dodged this lunacy up until now, and haven’t yet heard of PragerU Kids—allow me to illuminate. The Prager University Foundation, commonly known as PragerU, is a nonprofit advocacy group and media organization founded in 2009 which creates infamously fact-adjacent content promoting conservative perspectives and opinions on a whole host of subjects, ranging from African American history to “How to Make Your Kids Listen.”
Named for one of its founders, the venerable conservative talk radio host Dennis Prager, its intention was to provide an alternative to what they saw as a left-leaning bias in college education. Through short videos laden with graphics, PragerU seeks to create a cocoon of conservatism (a safe-space, so to speak), to shield students from the “woke mind virus” which is, to their minds, the pervasive progressive agenda currently corroding higher education. (The organization boasts that its videos have accrued more than seven billion views.)
“Redrawing historical events and people in ways so inside out and backwards, so divorced from reality, it makes you think you’re either in the middle of a terrifying nightmare or lost your damn mind entirely.”
In 2021 it expanded its target audience, now aiming to reach students in grades K-6 with a children’s division called, PragerU Kids, whose videos are touted as “teaching classic American values.” Claiming to be an alternative to progressive “indoctrination” and “woke agendas”—these “educational videos” are designed to be used in elementary and middle school classrooms.
In reality, it’s unabashed right-wing propaganda packaged into colorfully cartoonish videos geared for children. So, in technical terms, it’s a bunch of Republican indoctrination hooey.
But don’t take my word for it, just ask its co-founder, Dennis Prager: “We bring doctrines to children. That is a very fair statement. But what is the bad of our indoctrination?’”
What is the bad, he asks?
Assuming you want lil’ Bobby to come home from school boasting, “Our country was the best at slavery, Mom!” maybe you’ll be less horrified by the whole project than I am.
And it’s not just the blatant indoctrination, trying to find even one single PragerU Kids video that isn’t rife with disinformation and outright lies is like trying to find an actual journalist on Newsmax.
What becomes abundantly clear as you watch these videos is that for all of the hair on fire fear mongering, crisis manufacturing, and “anything I don’t like is woke” propagandizing Republicans have relentlessly pushed—this content is, by design, doing what people like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis insist the left is doing to kids: indoctrinating them (which Dennis Prager freely admits).
In their videos, they have taken the very lies they’ve created and turned them into the villains in stories with very simple plot lines kids can easily understand. “Climate activists were mean to me because I didn’t agree with them” is messaging a kid can understand.
Throughout all of it is an undercurrent in which facts and truth become blurry, at best. Redrawing historical events and people in ways so inside out and backwards, so divorced from reality, it makes you think you’re either in the middle of a terrifying nightmare or lost your damn mind entirely.
While it is, at the moment, unclear as to exactly which content will be shown to school children and in which schools, what we do know is that all of the videos in the PragerU Kids library have been approved as supplemental curriculum both in the state of Florida and now, Oklahoma. They could be used in classrooms or sent as homework at any time.
There may be one silver lining in all of this—the videos are so comically awful from an artistic standpoint and so preposterously pathetic creatively, that they’re unlikely to hold the attention of any child raised on a diet of Disney Jr. for long.