Florida has banned a lot of books, movies, and ideas under Gov. Ron DeSantis. Here’s something it hasn’t banned: historically inaccurate, frankly racist videos from far-right advocacy group PragerU. This is explicitly right-wing content from an organization founded by a right-wing talk radio host that has promoted climate denial and, in defense of the Electoral College, the line, “pure democracies do not work.”
Dennis Prager, a founder of PragerU, told Moms for Liberty, “I really wanted to hear what evidence do you have that I am despicable? And all I heard was, ‘Well, because you indoctrinate kids.’ Which is true. We bring doctrines to children. That is a very fair statement. I said, ‘But what is the bad of our indoctrination?’”
That’s a valid question. How about this?
The video shows time-traveling kids Leo and Layla wondering why their teachers are so opposed to Christopher Columbus. Leo is “just doing some research,” finding out that, on the one hand, Columbus “was a really mean guy who spread slavery, disease, and violence to people who would have been better off if he’d never gone to the New World.” But on the other hand, “he was a really courageous guy who loved exploring, inspired generations, and spread Christianity and Western civilization to people who really benefited from new ways of thinking and doing things.” Unable to decide when “both sides are just giving their opinions,” they visit Columbus himself … for the unbiased view of whether Columbus was good or bad. That makes sense.
Columbus, with a variety of accents coming and going as he sometimes says things like “caramba” and sounds downright Russian at other points, tells them that “what I just accomplished was insane” before launching into a brief self-hagiography.
Then they get to the controversy Leo and Layla were concerned about. Not to worry, Columbus tells them, the New World was not a peaceful paradise that he ruined. There was already violence there. (The natives had it coming, apparently.)
“Slavery is as old as time and has taken place in every corner of the world, even among the people I just left,” he tells them. “Being taken as a slave is better than being killed, no? I don’t see the problem.” When he learns that “in our time, we view slavery as being evil and terrible,” he’s thrilled, “but, you said you’re from 500 years in the future? How can you come here to the 15th century and judge me by your standards from the 21st century? For those in the future to look back and do this is, well, estúpido.”
No need to get into Columbus’ record of torture and murder. That would be estúpido!
Then there’s this one:
PragerU doesn’t just concern itself with downplaying slavery, though. It also does climate denial. In one video:
... teenager Ania is concerned about climate change because of what she learned at school. The fossil fuel industry’s climate-denial talking points are introduced almost verbatim in the trusted voice of Ania’s mother and father.
Ania’s parents tell her that the climate has always cooled and warmed — “long before carbon emissions were a factor” — and that climate action is pointless until China and India cut their emissions. Ania also hears that renewable energy is unreliable and too expensive.
Ania repeats her parent’s claims in class and is shunned by her teacher and classmates. Her sadness lifts, however, when her grandfather tells her about life under Nazism in World War II. Ania feels empowered because her grandfather says “fighting oppression always takes courage.”
Yes, rolling coal is just like fighting the Nazis.
The Florida Department of Education recently said it had “reviewed PragerU Kids and determined the material aligns to Florida’s revised civics and government standards. PragerU Kids is no different than many other resources, which can be used as supplemental materials in Florida schools at district discretion.” Florida schools are scared to teach Shakespeare, banning Disney movies about the Civil Rights Movement, and tried to ban AP Psychology over sex and gender content until an outcry forced the state to reverse itself. But the state is not just approving PragerU content downplaying and justifying slavery, it’s creating its own pro-slavery curriculum.
Can you imagine the outcry if the Democratic governor of a major state put equivalently extreme, dishonest, historically and scientifically flawed left-wing content explicitly intended to indoctrinate kids into schools while banning classics of the Western canon?
Sign the petition: Say no to DeSantis’ war on education.
It’s a joyous week in Wisconsin, where Janet Protasiewicz’s swearing-in means that the state Supreme Court now has its first liberal majority in 15 years. We’re talking about that monumental transition on this week’s episode of “The Downballot,” including a brand-new suit that voting rights advocates filed on Protasiewicz’s first full day on the job that asks the court to strike down the GOP’s legislative maps as illegal partisan gerrymanders.