Supplemental school material causes online liberal meltdown
Ray Carter | September 7, 2023
An announcement that the state of Oklahoma has an “ongoing partnership” with PragerU to provide supplemental materials for history lessons in state schools has caused some officials and groups on the political left to have a social-media meltdown.
But many parents and teachers working on the front lines welcomed the news.
The website for PragerU says it is a nonprofit organization that promotes “American values through the creative use of educational videos that reach millions of people online,” and says its content provides “a free alternative to the dominant left-wing ideology in culture, media, and education. Whether you’re searching for a deeper understanding, a new perspective, or a way to get involved, PragerU helps people of all ages think and live better.”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters recently announced that the state is partnering with PragerU to make its materials available to teachers, which appears to primarily consist of providing a link to Prager materials on the “social studies” page on the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s website.
In a video posted to X, the social-media site formerly known as Twitter, Walters said, “What this means is classrooms across this state will have better access to great resources to teach your kids American history. We want Oklahoma students to know more about American history than any other state in the country. We want them to know about American exceptionalism, want them to know about those founding documents, want them to understand what made this country great. PragerU does a tremendous job of offering these materials to our teachers, to our students.”
The announcement that Oklahoma history teachers could use PragerU’s short, roughly 5-minute videos as supplemental material caused a meltdown among the social-media left.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, tweeted, “Politicians in Oklahoma now plan to indoctrinate kids with cartoons that teach slavery was ‘no big deal’ and equate climate change believers to Nazis. Disgusting.”
Newsom did not provide evidence to back up his assertions, and merely linked to an opinion column opposed to PragerU.
Left-wing outlets have recently criticized one PragerU video, “Leo and Layla’s History Adventures with Frederick Douglass,” because it portrays Douglas referring to the fact that slavery was allowed at the founding of the United States as a compromise to keep the 13 colonies unified against England.
However, the video also explicitly notes that Douglas sought to abolish slavery and viewed slavery as incompatible with the principles of the United States’ founding.
“The fact is slavery has existed everywhere in the world for thousands of years, but it’s especially disappointing here because America was founded on the idea of freedom, yet so many black people are not free,” Douglas says in the video.
Another PragerU video on the history of slavery notes slavery has existed in nearly all cultures throughout human history, that individuals of all races have been enslaved at different points in time, and that the effort to legally outlaw and abolish slavery began in 1833 in England, followed by France in 1848 and the United States in 1865 after the conclusion of the Civil War. The video notes that the effort to legally end slavery was often led by white individuals. The video also notes that slavery remains in existence today in some parts of the world with an estimated 700,000 individuals enslaved in parts of Africa.
The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), the state’s largest teachers’ union, responded to Walters’ announcement by declaring that PragerU is a “media organization” that works to “indoctrinate kids,” and described Prager videos as “unvetted.”
“It is important to understand that districts do not have to use this material and parents or guardians can opt-out of their children receiving PragerU content,” said OEA president Katherine Bishop.
Despite the OEA’s implied assertion, public-school teachers already can and do use “unvetted” supplemental materials from a range of sources across the political spectrum in classrooms on a routine basis.
The great distinction between PragerU materials and those from other sources is instead the ability of parents to access the Prager materials.
Walters noted the PragerU videos are “very transparent” since parents can easily review that content online. In contrast, parents are typically provided little information on other supplemental materials used in Oklahoma classrooms.
House Bill 2077, legislation filed by state Rep. Chad Caldwell this year, would have created a state transparency portal where citizens can review public-school textbooks, library books, co-curricular content and materials including any social and emotional learning or character-based curricula, and content from third-party learning applications.
However, the bill drew strong opposition from public-education entities. One Democratic lawmaker said greater transparency could cause “parents and other community members” to “get riled up, organized, and show up at school and disrupt it.”
Some teachers have already made use of PragerU videos in Oklahoma classrooms and publicly defend the program.
Julie Collier, a teacher, responded to the OEA’s statement by tweeting, “Dear OEA: The content created by @prageru for kids is amazing, factual, & no indoctrination. I shared this video in class today. Kids were engaged & loved it! Try research over fear mongering. Focus on the students’ needs, even though they don’t pay dues.”
Her tweet included a link to the PragerU video she used in class, “Street Smarts: The Legislative Branch.”
Some parents also expressed support.
In response to Walters’ announcement, Navy retiree Ray Alexander tweeted, “Why I moved my family of five from California to Oklahoma last September.”
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.