A cartoon Booker T. Washington distorting the history of the Civil War. A narrator explaining that embracing climate denialism is akin to participating in the Warsaw Uprising. An instructional video telling girls that conforming to gender stereotypes is a great way to embrace their femininity. A dramatization of the supposedly civilizing, benevolent era of British colonial rule in India.
These are just some of the episodes of PragerU Kids — an offshoot of right-wing propaganda organization PragerU — that Florida has just approved for use in its public school classrooms, reflecting and potentially accelerating the state’s hard conservative turn.
“The state of Florida just announced that we are now becoming an official vendor,” said PragerU CEO Marissa Streit in a video heralding the news. She claimed that schools have “been hijacked by the left” and “used by union bosses” to pursue an agenda “not for our children.”
“We are just getting started — additional states are signing up,” Streit added.
In a Meta ad, PragerU Kids highlighted that teachers can use its materials “without repercussions,” signaling that the organization likely fears parents outside of conservative echo chambers could find the videos offensive and inappropriate for the classroom.
PragerU’s infiltration of school curriculum comes as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wages a statewide offensive against public education at every level. Florida recently adopted new classroom guidelines that mandate teachers tell students that enslaved people “developed skills” that “could be applied for their personal benefit.” Earlier this year, DeSantis staged a hostile takeover of public liberal arts school New College, installing anti-civil rights activist Christopher Rufo on the board of trustees; the college has recently seen a “ridiculously high” number of faculty members leave the school.
Here’s what Florida’s latest salvo against public education actually looks like.
PragerU Kids curriculum
PragerU Kids videos are a mix of animated and live-action shorts, broken up into different recurring series. Some are more overtly political than others, but the roughly 350 videos on the outlet’s YouTube channel seem largely intended to push a right-wing agenda to one extent or another. Now, any of them could be shown in public school classrooms throughout Florida.
Around the World or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the status quo
In “Poland: Ania’s Energy Crisis,” — part of PragerU Kids’ “Around the World” series — the titular character learns about climate change in school, only to have her eyes opened by her parents, who are helpfully equipped with decades of climate denialist talking points. Ania soon becomes a denialist herself and is ostracized by her peers, who “barely talk to her any more.”
She finds comfort in history, however, as the video analogizes her situation with one of the most famous antifascist acts of resistance in memory. “Grandfather Jakub tells her about the Warsaw Uprising, when the city’s Jews fought back against the Nazis,” the narrator says.
“Through her family’s stories, Ania is realizing that fighting oppression is risky, and that it always takes courage,” the narrator concludes.
Closer to home, “Los Angeles: Mateo Backs the Blue” is anti-Black Lives Matter, pro-cop propaganda. The video describes a Mexican immigrant family that moved to Los Angeles and had their lives upended by the death of George Floyd, whom the narrator characterizes as “a Black man who resisted arrest.”
“Activists claimed that police were targeting the Black community and purposefully killing unarmed Black men,” the narrator says. “As the false claims of racial targeting spread, so did the anger and violence.”
Mateo develops fondness for his school’s “resource officer” — a euphemism, though one not unique to PragerU Kids — and comes to view the cop as “as a guide, a mentor, and a protector, not how he has seen police characterized in the news, as mean-spirited bullies.”
PragerU Kids has other lessons to teach about the world, often steeped in colonialist apologia and market fundamentalism. In “India: Priya Overcomes Adversity” a narrator explains that under Britain’s colonial rule, “Western influence helped transform the country in many positive ways, but some ancient customs are harder to change than others,” referring to the county’s caste system. The video frames India as a backwards land that benefited from the British, who “spread the influence of Christianity and Western values through India” and “discouraged or even outlawed harmful traditions.” The narrator describes India being “given its independence,” rendering the country the beneficiary of British benevolence, rather than the victor in a struggle to overthrow colonial rule.
The video’s description further reveals the purpose of the narrative — to downplay existing oppression by contrasting it with a distorted version of history. “Young people may think that discrimination is worse than ever, but they'll gain perspective,” the caption promises.
PragerU Kids also finds much to praise in the settler-colonialist state of Israel. In “Israel: Shira Prays for Peace,” the country is presented as “the only country in the Middle East that does not oppress its minority populations.” In fact, multiple human rights organizations and experts have determined that Israel is an apartheid state that systematically oppresses and dispossess Palestinians as a matter of practice and law.
Another entry, “Canada: Marcel Makes a Sacrifice,” is an eight-minute hagiography of the for-profit U.S. health care system, and it repeats the same conservative talking points about the dangers of so-called socialized medicine that have been used for decades.
Leo & Layla: Lessons in collective forgetting
Another series sees animated characters Leo and Layla traveling back in time to learn from historical figures. In one episode, the pair discuss slavery with a fictionalized Booker T. Washington.
“I hate that our country had slavery,” Layla says. “Mr. Washington, sometimes do you ever wish you could have lived somewhere else? Like a different country?”
“That’s a great question, and I hate slavery too, but it’s been a reality everywhere in the world,” Washington responds.
The fictional Washington then elides the reality of the U.S. Civil War by adopting the passive voice. This flattens the process through which enslaved people freed themselves — alongside the Union Army — into an undifferentiated joint venture of the entire country.
“America was one of the first places on earth to outlaw slavery,” Washington says, getting the timeline completely reversed. “And hundreds of thousands of men gave their lives in a war that resulted in my freedom.”
“When you put it that way, it totally makes sense,” Leo responds.
Washington’s comforting account of history adds up to a conclusion squarely in line with DeSantis’ anti-critical race theory agenda. “Future generations are never responsible for sins of the past,” Washington reassures the children.
“OK I’ll keep doing my best to treat everyone well and won’t feel guilty about historical stuff,” Layla responds, now absolved and innocent.
PragerU Kids’ anti-anti-racism project includes a predictable deradicalization of Martin Luther King Jr., whom Leo and Layla travel to meet.
“My parents … taught me that racism, thinking people are better than or lesser than because of skin color, is wrong and to hate the wrong but never the wrongdoer,” the fictional King tells the kids.
“Wow. That’s so noble,” Layla responds, in an inadvertent but tellingly condescending way.
“My Christian faith directs me to love my neighbors, even when they act in ways I don’t like, and that’s always helped me remain peaceful,” King replies.
Like in the “Around the World” segments, Leo and Layla also have ample opportunities to promote Western chauvinism.
“What’s up with the face?” Layla asks her brother at the beginning of their Christopher Columbus episode. “You look stressed.”
“I’m just doing some research,” Leo responds. “Was today weird for you?”
“Yeah. How’d you guess?” Layla says.
“Columbus Day,” Leo says.
“Or Native American Day, or Indigenous People’s Day — it’s weird, right?” Layla replies.
The kids then discuss how their teachers and peers got into arguments about whether Columbus should have his own holiday.
“The side against Columbus says he was a really mean guy who spread slavery, disease, and violence to people who would’ve been better off if he’d never gone to the new world,” Leo says. “The side for him says 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.”
When the two kids meet Columbus, he assures them that he was justified in his violence against indigenous people.
“The place I discovered was beautiful, but it wasn’t exactly a paradise of civilization, and the native people were far from peaceful,” he tells them.
Like the fictional Booker T. Washington, Columbus naturalizes slavery and the slave trade as something that happened everywhere.
“Slavery is as old as time and has taken place in every corner of the world,” Columbus says.
“Well, in our time we view slavery as being evil and terrible,” Layla corrects him.
“Ah. Magnifico! That’s wonderful,” Columbus responds. “I am glad humanity has reached such a time. 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?”
As this episode shows, the overriding theme of Leo and Layla’s adventures — and PragerU Kids in general — is that schools have made white children feel uncomfortable by teaching them about racism, colonialism, and other forms of oppression, and that that anxiety must be alleviated through a rigorous disavowal that the past plays any role in ordering the present. If historical wrongs committed by white people in the United States or Europeans must be acknowledged, we must teach that those injustices were undertaken with good intentions. Even more importantly, the past must remain firmly in the past, lest Leo and Layla lose their innocence and be forced to confront continuities of domination.
How To: Instructions in conformity
Another series, called “How To,” instructs kids on the proper ways to conform to society’s expectations of them, or to repress any unease that results from a sense that power is unequally distributed.
“And those differences aren’t bad,” she continues. “Men and women complement each other and create a well-balanced family and community. So don’t let anybody tell you it’s bad to fit stereotypes.”
In “How to Be a Victor and Not a Victim,” students learn that “people all around the world who have encountered great setbacks have gone on to overcome them, whether it’s poverty, disease, discrimination, or all of it combined.”
That, PragerU Kids says, is the mentality of winners. “Victims on the other hand, don’t believe that personal growth is possible,” the presenter — who, it should be noted here, is Black — instructs the kids.
“Or, even worse, don’t believe it’s needed,” he continues. “Victims are often so busy blaming everything and everyone else for their problems that they don’t stop to think about how their own growth can make things better.”
Other outlets chase Dennis Prager’s model
Other conservative media outlets are attempting to expand their footprint to include children’s programming as well. The Daily Wire, one of the most openly pro-violence and virulently anti-LGBTQ outlets in right-wing media, last year announced a “$100 million commitment to develop entertainment for kids that parents can trust.” Also in 2022, Charlie Kirk launched Turning Point Academy, an affiliate of his extremist-aligned Turning Point USA, which similarly targets elementary school-aged children and defines itself as “an educational movement that exists to glorify God.”
PragerU Kids has a head start on these other outlets, and its curriculum reflects the far-right ideology of Dennis Prager, the organization’s founder. Prager has a long history of making offensive comments, including promoting an anti-gay conspiracy theory about the murder of Matthew Shephard, instructing married women to have sex with their husbands even if they don’t want to, and lamenting that he is socially constrained from using a racist anti-Black slur.
Prager’s recent comments about education are also instructive. “If you see a noose on a college dorm of a Black student, the odds are overwhelming that the noose was put there by a Black student,” Prager said in April 2022.
“What has any fifth-grader done to have made the world better because he or she is in it?” he asked last September.
Critics tell him, “‘You indoctrinate kids’ — which is true,” Prager said this month. “We bring doctrines to children. That’s a very fair statement.”
PragerU Kids is the newest vehicle for that indoctrination, but Prager also seeks to downplay that very project by presenting his curriculum as ideologically neutral, as he illustrated on his radio show in discussing Florida’s adoption of his product.
“To have responsible — it’s not even right-wing, it’s just responsible,” he said, describing PragerU Kids. “Look at our materials.”
Looking at those materials makes PragerU Kids’ mission clear. Discrimination? Oppression? Structural inequality? These forces either don’t exist, or they’re the fault of the individual who hasn’t sufficiently adopted the rise-and-grind mindset that their more successful peers have.
What this all amounts to is painfully obvious, though perhaps not to the Florida children who will be forced to consume this right-wing propaganda while in a public institution. The goal is to render history and its inheritances invisible, inert, and incapable of inspiring young people to seek a more equal and more just world. PragerU Kids is looking to expand that mission to more states. Now it’s the public’s turn to respond.