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Oklahoma helps PragerU sink its claws deeper into Southern schools


Oklahoma on Tuesday became the second state, after Florida, to approve the use of materials from the right-wing propaganda group PragerU in the state’s public schools.

The organization, which is not a real university despite what its name suggests, came under fire in August after one of its videos went viral for the wrong reasons. The video used a cartoon version of abolitionist Frederick Douglass to downplay the devastation wrought by slavery – and the role of the United States in perpetuating it.

Civil rights watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center has published in-depth reports on PragerU’s influence, finding that it has promoted videos with hosts who speak out against immigration, challenge the existence of systemic racism and deny links between violent right-wing extremists and the conservative movement. The SPLC also discovered that some PragerU presenters had ties to white nationalists.

Dennis Prager, co-founder of PragerU, is a former conservative radio host who has openly admitted that his organization tries to indoctrinate children with a conservative ideology.

But Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters said he “excited” about the partnership with PragerU. “These additional resources will help ensure quality instruction in American history and values, and enrich educational opportunities for our students,” he tweeted Tuesday.

Walters developed a reputation for his right-wing positions. In a viral video earlier this year, he was seen arguing with an event attendee after Walters suggested the Tulsa race massacre – one of the worst incidents of racist violence in history of the United States – was not a question of race. (He later attempted to backtrack on those remarks.)

More recently, he was accused of planning bomb threats against an Oklahoma librarian whom he and a popular right-wing conspiracy theorist accused of promoting “woke ideology” in schools.

The librarian’s alleged misbehavior, according to Walters, was a caption she posted on one of her TikTok videos: “My radical liberal agenda is to teach kids to love books and be nice – huh? ?

Oklahoma helps PragerU sink its claws deeper into Southern schools
Oklahoma school principal Ryan Walters at a meeting in Oklahoma City on August 24.Christopher Creese for NBC News

Florida and Oklahoma are just the first two states to welcome PragerU propaganda into classrooms, and the organization is taking action in a third. In Texas, Democratic members of the state Board of Education joined experts and activists in speaking out against PragerU after the organization announced its partnership with the Lone Star State last month. (The Texas Board of Education refuted this claim, saying instead that PragerU had just taken steps to become an approved provider in Texas.)

As I have said previously on MSNBC, we must view these right-wing efforts to whitewash social inequality as part of a campaign to recreate this disparity now and in the future.

Conservative leaders nationwide are rolling back the civil rights of marginalized groups — destroying affirmative action in favor of racial minorities and overriding abortion rights, for example. Meanwhile, the right systematically seeks to clean up the oppression these minority communities have faced to gain these civil rights.

And PragerU is becoming an appendage of the conservative movement to do just that – a tentacle it can use to penetrate classrooms and grip American school children with right-wing propaganda.