Republicans are currently obsessed with young kids. I don’t mean in the Matt Gaetz way, I mean as far as attacking kids’ toys, books, and programs. The GOP recently and publicly lost it over Dr. Seuss books and Mr. Potato Head. Tucker Carlson claimed that the Sesame Street character Elmo teaches kids to hate America, and he’s not the only one who hates Big Bird. Ben Shapiro wrote that Grover and Oscar are essentially Marxist propaganda because Grover eats with hippies and Oscar lives in garbage, thanks to “conflicts arising from racial and ethnic diversity.”
If they hate popular kid’s stuff, you’d think they’d just create their own entertainment. Well, they are. Some of their content for kids is hilarious, some of it is creepy, and some is downright dangerous. Worst of all, there is a serious attempt by several wealthy and powerful people to force this propaganda into your child’s classroom.
Unlike the right, which loves to condemn what they call “cancel culture” while shutting everyone out who doesn’t agree with them, I don’t have any trouble with people expressing their viewpoint—no matter how wacky. If people want to learn about conservatism, or push that nonsense on their kids in the privacy of their home, they have that right, and there’s plenty of stuff out there to serve that goal.
Take TikTok’s Republican Hype House, which has over a million followers. The account’s content stream consists mostly of reposts from a handful of young Republicans who spout right-wing ideology mixed with Trump cultism and pop music. You can learn many important things, such as how masks are a liberal conspiracy, and that you should tell Democrats to vote the day after an election.
For the much younger crowd, Eric Mataxas, a right-wing talk show host, has written several children’s books with titles like Donald Builds the Wall and Donald and the Fake News. Nothing says “hate your neighbor” like poorly drawn cartoons. If the book has too many big words for the kids (or their parents) to sound out, no problem: the author will read to you.
The point is, a quick Google search delivers all kinds of products and content to indoctrinate one’s children to right-wing beliefs. (Just please keep them away from Adventures of Snortlings Hollow.)
Yet forcing this garbage upon kids in schools is not okay. Conservatives accuse the left of indoctrination all the time, just because it’s no longer acceptable to teach the Southern Lost Cause and (completely) whitewash important elements of American history, like slavery. In reality, however, it’s the conservatives who are spending big money to push propaganda as curriculum.
There’s probably been no one who has been as effective, or harmful, as Dennis Prager. Prager is a Trump-supporting extremist and radio talk show host who, despite being in his third marriage, views himself as the arbiter of American values. He created a media company, ironically called PragerU, (short for Prager University), which puts out hundreds of five-minute videos which distort history and reality. PragerU is featured prominently on YouTube, although it has recently been permanently banned from TikTok for “multiple violations” of their community guidelines.
PragerU has been funded by two of the richest people in America, brothers Dan and Farris Wilks, who made their fortune in fracking. Coincidentally, Prager pushes videos that attack renewable energies while pushing dirty fuel, with videos entitled Why You Should Love Fossil Fuels and Fossil Fuels: The Greenest Energy.
PragerU’s videos are all designed to look like they came from an educational organization, with simple, smart graphics—even as they present right-wing belief as fact. For example, they “teach” in videos that there is no police brutality against Black men, climate change isn’t real, and any racism you see today is the fault of Democrats. Unfortunately, these videos rack up millions of views, in part through an aggressive marketing strategy, including hundreds of people called PragerForce, who commit to widely shared PragerU videos as they’re released.
PragerU also has a knack for picking the worst possible people to address topics. For example, James O’Keefe of Project Veritas—a convicted criminal with a history of doctoring videos—“lectures” about journalism. And James Damore—who got fired from Google after asserting women are biologically inferior to men, in explanation for their low representation both at the company and in the tech field writ large—leads the discussion about Big Tech.
These were all just stupid when Prager launched the channel in 2012, but by 2014, he’d launched “partnership programs” to put his opinionated crap into schools.
The development of our relationships with educators (in college, high school, middle school, and homeschools) is a major priority for Prager University. The strategy is to get our message to America’s students by providing ammunition to the educators who are on our side.
Biased high school and middle school teachers were assigning Prager’s propaganda for credit in required history, economics, and government classes, while horrified parents complained that their children were getting school credit for watching videos like “The Left Ruins Everything.”
However, Prager went beyond just providing videos, and set up a project called PREP, which provides “study guides” to go along with their videos. These so-called guides offer true-false questions such as “Big Tech with its control of search algorithms, its shadowbanning, and deboosting supports political correctness and the resulting limitations of freedom.”
Since middle and high school students have some ability to recognize (and resist) indoctrination, Prager has gone even younger. In April, he launched an effort to go after kindergarteners.
This material is meant to be shown in school or at home, and although the videos aren’t as overtly political as PragerU’s typical five-minute videos for adults, they are still suffused with right-wing propaganda.
For kindergarten through second grade, one of the new educational segments is a “storytime” that “celebrates American values of freedom, individuality, hard work, equality under God and more,” starring the head of outreach for PREP, Jill Simonian, and a mascot named Otto, modeled on the bulldog of the organization’s founder, Dennis Prager.
The first videos feature children’s books by conservative authors. The first one is Paloma Wants to Be Lady Freedom, by Rachel Campos-Duffy—a reality TV star turned Wisconsin congressman’s wife turned Fox News contributor. The book features an immigrant girl who gushingly admires the Capitol building. This is a little ironic since Campos-Duffy was a fierce defender of Trump’s child separation policies with Central American refugees, saying the detention centers they were put in were better than the projects where Black people grew up.
Campos-Duffy also helped promote the Big Lie on election fraud that caused rioters to vandalize the Capitol building little Paloma loves so much.
Youngsters can also learn about how great and popular Ronald Reagan was. Gee, did you know he was student body president and a great swimmer?
No, kid … but I do know he destroyed the middle class with trickle-down economics while he ignored the AIDS crisis.
I pity the child that is being forced to sit through that. The poor writing is only matched by the tremendous historical inaccuracy. There’s also an accompanying PREP Magazine, where readers can learn all about conservative heroes—like the godawful Ayn Rand. Kids who read this magazine are told Rand is a beloved author who inspired movements like the tea party. In reality, she was a horrible human being who held fascist beliefs on genetic superiority, and openly viewed children with special needs as “subnormal,” and not worthy of additional resources.
Republican lawmakers are fine with this kind of indoctrination, which makes their criticisms of critical race theory hard to justify. Republican lawmakers in GOP-led states, such as Tennessee and Idaho, banned programs this year that challenge the very belief systems that allow systemic racism to flourish, yet allow Prager’s brand of hateful ideology into classrooms. Recently, a school district in Southlake, Texas, with a history of racial problems was stopped from implementing cultural diversity training—after a political action committee was formed to stack the school board with Trumpists. The PAC was supported by people like former NRA TV shrieker Dana Loesch, who promoted it on Tucker Carlson’s show. PragerU “helpfully” put out a video during this time entitled “What Is Critical Race Theory?“ that was—shockingly—biased against it.
Yet if a teacher in this school district wants to assign Dennis Prager’s material, no problem. And Prager knows a thing or two about race: he openly laments that he can’t use the N-word, and thinks Black people have too many names to call themselves. Unfortunately, since there is no federal policy barring political bias in the classroom, education legislation is left to the states. Furthermore, although PragerU is unapologetically right-wing, they are established as an apolitical nonprofit organization. This allows them to claim that they are an educational entity instead of a political group, which makes it harder to eject them from schoolhouses.
It’s imperative to put qualified, non-politically biased people on school boards to guard against political propaganda infiltrating our schools—but especially when it comes to kindergarten. These right-wing propaganda outfits need to be called out and rooted out of our schools. Conservatives may rail against brainwashing, yet they openly promote it when it comes to their own failed ideology.
Pay close attention to what your kids are being taught in school. Wealthy conservatives do a lot of disgusting things to stay in power, but going after very young children is by far one of their most disgusting and insidious ploys yet.
It’s not easy to train people to vote against their own interests, but brainwashing kids early on is yet another tactic to ensure the extreme right’s future survival.