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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Playing the long game

Minnesotans should beware the spread of PragerU’s myths to the nation’s classrooms


The conservative movement’s battle for power has descended on the nation’s classrooms and Minnesota isn’t immune, despite the DFL’s current dominance in state government. Conservatives and their various political projects are typically flush with billionaire dollars and they’re always willing to play the long game.
Take the emergence of Prager University, or PragerU, as it is most commonly known. It’s not a university despite its name. The right-wing advocacy organization, led by Dennis Prager, openly acknowledges it’s an “indoctrination” machine, best known for pumping out slickly produced five-minute videos that provide an unabashedly rightwing spin on virtually every political subject of the day.
Think slavery was bad? Well, it had its good points, too, according to PragerU. Think the burning of fossil fuels is polluting the air and contributing to our rapidly warming climate? “Why You Should Love Fossil Fuels,” is PragerU’s astonishingly dishonest response to that question. Think the Democratic Party backs civil rights? PragerU will set you straight with a lesson that conveniently leaves out the last 60 years of American history.
The videos are misleading at best, yet are well-produced, with plain spoken narrators and effective graphics that can make a hard right revisionist history lesson go down like that proverbial spoonful of sugar. They are pure partisan propaganda, designed to encapsulate complex issues into simple, short videos developed precisely to turn young minds toward rightwing political views.
One might think that such material would have no place in the classrooms of a state like Florida, where the current governor, Ron DeSantis, has spent the past few years ranting about the supposed indoctrination of young people in schools regarding race relations and gender issues.
It turns out, DeSantis has no problem with indoctrination. He just wants to make sure it’s the kind he likes. It, therefore, came as little surprise recently when the state of Florida announced it was partnering with PragerU to make its propaganda shorts available to every classroom in the state. Ron DeSantis is nothing if not a hypocrite.
But he is not alone. The state of Oklahoma recently announced it would be using PragerU’s fractured fairy tales (apologies to Rocky and Bullwinkle) in its schools as well.
While the spread of PragerU material into schools has, to date, been limited to a few deep red states, we can expect to see this propaganda spread more widely in the near future. The conservative movement draws energy and a national agenda from the nightly parade of grievance presented on Fox News and other conservative media, which means what begins in places like Florida or Oklahoma will soon be knocking down the doors of reality in other states.
Minnesotans, in other words, can hardly be complacent. While DFL dominance of state government here will undoubtedly keep PragerU’s garbage out of Minnesota classrooms for now, that’s only a guarantee until the next election. Put Republicans in charge here again and our school kids could well be force fed rightwing propaganda on a daily basis.
As we noted earlier, the American right is more than happy to invest in the long game, and it’s a multi-faceted effort. Conservatives recognize that their agenda of tax cuts for the wealthy, restrictions on individual liberty (except when it comes to guns), dismantling health care access, and dismissing climate change as a hoax, is unlikely to play well with voters.
Yet, rather than adopt more popular policies, conservatives have turned to voter restrictions, intense gerrymandering, and other methods to make it harder for certain groups to vote or to dilute their votes to limit their political power.
Distributing misleading rightwing videos throughout the nation’s schools is just another means of making the conservative agenda more palatable to the public and they’re clearly interested in the opportunity to mold young minds to their way of thinking. Minnesotans would do well to avoid the thought that it can’t happen here. It’s only an election away.