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Florida is first state to approve PragerU Kids 'history and blessings' videos for schools

A screenshot of a video showing cartoon character children, a girl with pink hair and a boy with blue hair, talking to Frederick Douglass
One video features cartoon children, Layla and Leo, talking to a re-creation of Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist. The video conveys inaccuracies about the history of slavery worldwide.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeatedly said Florida stands for "education, not indoctrination," while PragerU's founder admits the videos are meant to indoctrinate youths with Judeo-Christian values.

Florida is the first state to approve videos made by PragerU Kids for use in public schools for grades K-6. The content is geared toward conservative values, and includes videos animated in a way that is appealing to children. Teachers can now use PragerU Kids videos at their own discretion.

PragerU is not an accredited university. It presents itself as educational but it’s primarily an online media organization.

"PragerU Kids is dedicated to teaching what most schools aren't: our American values, history and blessings," says a narrator named Jill in the introduction to one video.

In anothervideo, slavery is portrayed as just something normal for its time. It even shows a re-creation of Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery and became an abolitionist in the 1800s.

In the video, the animated character of Douglass welcomes them to 1852, and says: "There was no real movement anywhere in the world to abolish slavery before the American founding. Slavery was part of life all over the world. It was America that began the conversation to end it."

But the video ignores that Denmark, Britain and France had already outlawed the trading of slaves.

According to Vice News, two of the main funders of PragerU are fracking industry billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks. And PragerU Kids has a video questioning the origin of climate change, and likening the fight against climate activism to Poland's fight against the Nazis.

A cartoon image of a blonde girl and adult male standing near a bag of coal
PragerU Kids has a video that says energy poverty is a bigger issue than climate change.

Here's an excerpt, in which a narrator sets up a conversation between a girl and her parents:

"But when her anxiety gets high, and she tells them that fossil fuels will soon lead to a climate disaster, they challenge her with some thought-provoking questions. They encourage her to consider how the planet has been warming and cooling since prehistoric times, long before carbon emissions were a factor. Can she explain that?"

The science of greenhouse gas emissions is not mentioned at all. The next line in the video is this:

"They asked her if everyone in Poland stops using coal, will that lower Earth's temperature especially when countries like China and India burn many times the amount of coal as Poland and are not cutting back?"

The videos have elements that are accurate, but sometimes, they mix in opinions, and skip over important facts, said Jessica Wright, vice president of the Florida Freedom to Read Project.

"I think that a lot of educators who have a traditional education background or they've been in the profession for a long time, they're going to be able to recognize in those materials, that PragerU is representing what we would refer to as a logical fallacy, meaning the material that you're reading or listening to might sound like it makes sense," said Wright.

"But if you are educated on that topic, you would know that they came to a conclusion that's not based on fact," she added.

Woman in black blazer sits near microphone in radio studio
Kerry Sheridan
/
WUSF Public Media
Jessica Wright is the vice president of the Florida Freedom to Read Project

Florida's endorsement of PragerU Kids means this content could easily make its way into classrooms, because it’s free, easily accessible and teachers don't have to ask permission.

Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis, has made parental rights in education a pillar of his administration, and has touted on the presidential campaign trail that Florida is "proud to stand for education, not indoctrination in our schools."

The Florida Department of Education gave the green light for PragerU Kids in July, the same month its founder, conservative radio host Dennis Prager, admitted that his videos are meant to indoctrinate.

"We bring doctrines to children. That's a very fair statement," he said in Philadelphia, at the Moms for Liberty annual conference.

"But what is the bad of our indoctrination?" Prager asked.

A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education, Cassandra Palelis, said in an email to WUSF that they have “reviewed PragerU Kids and determined the material aligns to Florida’s revised civics and government standards.”

She described PragerU Kids as “no different than many other resources.”

Some parents, like Michelle Pozzie, a Republican and self-described activist who is running for the state house, said PragerU videos are just a counterforce to what she called a liberal agenda in schools.

”I used them as a tool in homeschooling my children. I have a right as the parent to drive that education as I see fit. It should line up with what I believe,” said Pozzie.

No Florida school district has yet announced plans to use PragerU Kids videos. But given the state education department's approval, it's unlikely a district could stop teachers from showing them, either.

“I do not want my kids exposed to this, absolutely not,” said Liz Barker, a stay-at-home mother of four and former educator who is also president of her elementary school's parent-teacher organization.

"I think it’s great when children see multiple perspectives but if you are pushing one perspective as being fact, that is problematic,” said Barker.

Some public school advocates are urging parents to submit an opt-out form, letting teachers know they don't want their children to watch the videos.

I cover health and K-12 education – two topics that have overlapped a lot since the pandemic began.
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