Ohio Kids Watch PragerU Videos, Get Extra Credit For High School, Ruined For College
A high school history teacher in Ohio had a great idea: Give kids extra credit for watching some YouTube videos on important topics and then writing about them. And that might have been fine, except the videos were all rightwing propaganda from "PragerU," home of such "educational" lies as "Democrats Did The KKK And History Ended in 1964" and "There was no Southern Strategy." Rebecca Klein explains at HuffPo:
The PragerU videos — with titles such as "Build the Wall," "Why the Right Was Right" and "The Left Ruins Everything" — were assigned to a 10th-grade history class at Maumee High School, along with a series of questions about the videos' "most important messages."
The whole wonderful exercise in saving children from reality and leftwing indoctrination was going just fine until one mommy in Maumee (about 10 miles outside Toledo) complained about the wingnut talking points masquerading as education. Andrea Cutway pulled her 16-year-old daughter Avery Lewis, from the history class after the girl told her about the videos. Cutway met with school administrators, and at her daughter's suggestion, the administrators said it would be OK for Lewis to also watch and write about videos from a different political perspective. But that alternative was only offered to Lewis, not the rest of the class.
Then, after Klein asked the school district for comment, Maumee City Schools Superintendent Todd Cramer got back to her and said the entire extra credit assignment would be scrapped. See, the Left and journalists really DO ruin everything.
Klein seems to enjoy reminding readers that PragerU isn't exactly a leader in objective education, what with videos titled "There Is No Gender Wage Gap," "How to Steal an Election: Mail-In Ballots," and "Is Islam a Religion of Peace?" (Spoiler alert: No, sir, it is not!) She also notes that the teacher's class website indicates she used the videos for extra credit last year as well. The extra credit assignment asked students to write about how the videos "challenged" students' beliefs, which we suppose was intended as a stab at "critical thinking," although a better way to do that would be to ask students to identify logical fallacies in the videos.
Although Cutway wasn't especially worried that her daughter, a pretty smart cookie, would fall for the hokum in PragerU videos, she was concerned that they had any place at all in a history class, where students are allegedly supposed to learn to think about the real world. She said her phone meeting with the administrators wasn't very reassuring, either.
"When I talked to the principal and vice principal, they acted like this was just another assignment," said Cutway. [...]
"This really is some scary stuff," Cutway said of PragerU. "I do feel like they have found a way to get into the public school system."
Asked about whether he thought PragerU materials belonged in the school system, Cramer replied with a lot of bafflegab, proving that he really has found his career niche:
"We believe that students deserve a balanced presentation of content. [...] We expect our educators to exercise good judgment and trust our students, parents and community to engage our staff in conversations about our instructional methods and the materials being used if they feel the need to do so."
The incident, he said, "has also led to internal conversations focused on ensuring we are presenting content through a variety of balanced materials."
Beyond the fun times at one Ohio school, Klein notes that PragerU is taking advantage of the pandemic to start pushing its materials into schools with a new project called "PragerU Resources for Educators and Parents" or PREP, get it? It launched just a few weeks ago, and offers
study guides with sections such as "Conservatives Are the Real Environmentalists" and "The Ferguson Lie," based on a HuffPost review of the materials.
Well then, guess Yr Wonkette needs to get a subscription, if only to spy on the members-only Facebook group! We'll balance the $25 cost with a donation to something nice. It sure looks like a very legitimate educational program, and doesn't sound at all like the very same culture war crap the Right has been peddling since the Reagan years. Or an attempt to hop on the grifty "patriotic education" bandwagon Donald Trump was pushing before COVID-19 harshed his mellow.
Craig Strazzeri, PragerU's chief marketing officer, explained in an email to HuffPo that
We constantly hear from educators and teachers who use our videos in the classroom. [...] Ideally, every school in America would show PragerU videos in the classroom on a regular basis to help educate the next generation.
Presumably, he then added that it's much better than Cats, and students and parents will watch the videos again and again. In an interview/sales pitch on One America News Network, another PragerU shill, Adrienne Johnson, insisted that children need to be rescued from the parts of history that make America look bad, because "America is not being fairly portrayed. Many schools are implementing anti-racist Black Lives Matter curriculum and The 1619 Project."
That special issue of the New York Times Magazine won a Pulitzer and has been adapted into supplementary educational materials for schools, so clearly someone needs to step up with five minute correctives like "They Say Scandinavia But They Mean Venezuela," "Leftism Has Become A Religion," and "BLM Has No Interest In Helping Black People."
Klein also reviewed some of the very informational true-false quizzes from PREP, with indisputable facts like
"nearly all the major 19th- and 20th- century breakthroughs in health care were made by Western Europeans and North Americans." (The study guide says the answer is true.) Another true-false question asks students to evaluate the following statement: "Big Tech with its control of search algorithms, its shadowbanning, and deboosting supports political correctness and the resulting limitations of freedom."
Thank heaven someone is finally bringing some intellectual rigor to homeschooling, and possibly to your child's classroom in the very near future.
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