There’s learning and then there’s “learning.” According to a report in the Huffington Post on Tuesday, students in a 10th-grade history class at Maumee High School in Ohio were offered extra credit to do a little of the latter by watching videos produced by Prager University (PragerU). That is not, in fact, a university, but a right-wing nonprofit and YouTube channel founded by talk show host Dennis Prager.
PragerU videos are often stocked with historical revisionism, xenophobic and anti-Muslim propaganda, rants decrying feminism, climate change denial, and rhetoric asserting the “left” is a pathology centered around literally destroying the U.S. It also promotes creationism and flirts with far-right rhetoric like decrying the demographic “suicide” of Europe. (Prager himself has bemoaned that it “is idiotic that you cannot say the N-word.”) PragerU videos are often littered with factual inaccuracies and tend to hype up a conservative victimization complex.
Despite this, PragerU has high production values that help bolster its desired image as a sort of academic institution rather than a right-wing content farm. Its ethos is—and Prager himself has claimed as much—that watching YouTube videos of conservative pundits relaying the kind of talking points preferred by the House Freedom Caucus constitutes an educational experience. It’s become a powerhouse of the conservative digital media ecosystem, with over 2.8 million subscribers and views in the billions on YouTube, 3.8 million likes on Facebook, and over 540,000 Twitter followers.
According to HuffPo, some of the videos assigned had titles including “Build the Wall,” “Why the Right Was Right,” and “The Left Ruins Everything.” Students were reportedly asked among other things to identify the videos’ “most important messages.” News that PragerU was being taught in the classroom comes the same month as its recent push to break into K-12 education (PragerU Educators and Parents, or PREP), though the teacher involved assigned the videos last year.
To give an idea of what kind of stuff PragerU thinks schools across the country should be teaching, course guides offered in the promotional push included sections such as “Conservatives Are the Real Environmentalists” and “The Ferguson Lie,” per HuffPo. True-false questions for test preparation offered in PREP materials include “nearly all the major 19th- and 20th-century breakthroughs in health care were made by Western Europeans and North Americans” and “Big Tech with its control of search algorithms, its shadowbanning, and deboosting supports political correctness and the resulting limitations of freedom.”
PragerU marketing exec Craig Strazzeri told HuffPost that in his nightmare vision of an ideal world, the nation’s students would have PragerU content streamed directly into their eyeballs A Clockwork Orange-style:
Already, “2,000 parents and educators have already signed up for PREP,” Craig Strazzeri, chief marketing officer of PragerU, said in an email to HuffPost.
“We constantly hear from educators and teachers who use our videos in the classroom,” Strazzeri said. He declined to disclose how many public school teachers specifically joined the new program. “Ideally, every school in America would show PragerU videos in the classroom on a regular basis to help educate the next generation.”
“When I talked to the principal and vice principal, they acted like this was just another assignment,” Andrea Cutway, the parent of a Maumee High School student who first drew attention to the course’s curriculum, told HuffPo. “This really is some scary stuff. I do feel like they have found a way to get into the public school system.”
Cutaway told HuffPo that administrators had first offered to introduce liberal content as a counterbalance, though the site reported Maumee High School had stripped PragerU from the curriculum after they reached out. PragerU responded by tweeting, “The left is terrified that teachers are using PragerU videos in the classroom.”