OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — Following the State Department of Education’s announcement of a new partnership with The Prager University Foundation, known as PragerU, reactions are pouring in across the OKC metro.
OSDE now joins Florida in its adoption of the partnership with the conservative media non-profit, which offers free civics, science and history videos.
In a Tuesday release about the partnership, State Superintendent Ryan Walters, who often talks about banning “indoctrination,” said the effort will enrich Oklahoma students:
In the release, Superintendent Walters also says PragerU offers high quality materials that are rich in American history.
However, there are concerns about the non-profit’s credibility.
PragerU’s website says it’s not accredited, and it’s not an actual academic institution.
“Our students should go to school and get an education, not a woke liberal indoctrination,” Walters said in a previous interview with KFOR about the state of education in Oklahoma.
Many of the videos have already been viewed hundreds of thousands of times across the country.
However, at least one historian who checked out some of the materials said he’s concerned the lessons lack important context and details.
“Them becoming the company that provides education materials to to Oklahoma schools around history—I’m very concerned about that,” said Karlos Hill, PhD, in an interview Wednesday with the station.
Hill is Advisor to the President for Community Engagement and Regents’ Professor of African and African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma.
“I would have some deep concerns about them playing not just a role, any role in the education because of the content that I’ve seen,” he added.
While the company did not respond to KFOR’s request for comment, they say their focus is changing minds.
“PragerU shapes the narrative. We start conversations that other conservative organizations have never been able to tackle in media or culture,” PragerU claims in its 2023 Biannual Report.
PragerU claims their videos have been viewed eight billion times throughout the lifespan of the company, including almost two million times in 2022, alone.
“We drive conversations the left doesn’t want to talk about. We’ve built an industry of young, pro-America personalities and content to do it,” the company adds in the report.
Dr. Hill is concerned the conservative media may not present history as it happened, saying he reviewed a history about Frederick Douglass and slavery.
“The video almost frames Frederick Douglass as an apologist for slavery, explaining why American slavery didn’t end during the revolutionary period and why it had to exist into the 1850s. That’s a position that Frederick Douglass would have never articulated,” he said to KFOR.
“If you actually know who Frederick Douglass is, what he stood for, what he fought for, you would be very disappointed in what you with, what you what your students or what your children would be learning,” he added.
“The details, the context… that is all cast to the side…[it’s] just teaching our kids the incorrect history,” Hill continued.
It’s a sentiment reflected by CAIR-Oklahoma Executive Director Adam Soltan.
CAIR-OK is calling for the Oklahoma State Department of Education to drop PragerU, claiming it is an anti-Muslim classroom content provider that could alienate an entire population of people in the state.
“We watched a series of videos ranging from the creation of the state of Israel to the relations between Christians and Muslims in Egypt and they’re full of anti-Muslim stereotypes, Islamophobic rhetoric that does not benefit the educational experience of young Oklahoma children,” Soltan said.
“Every student, children in particular, are deserving of an environment where they not only learn what they need to learn to succeed in life but where they can do so safely,” he added.
KFOR contacted the state’s curriculum review board about PragerU’s approval but did not hear back.
It’s not clear if PragerU Kids will be required teaching, or just additional material for teacher’s who’d like to use it.
Edmond, Mustang and Oklahoma City Public School have all responded to the announcement.
“Edmond Public Schools will continue to follow our policy for selecting district adopted curriculum materials which includes a textbook committee with teachers and parents.
Pacing guides, district curriculum and teacher resources for the 23-24 school year are already in place and available for our teachers. No resources from PragerU are included in these resources.
If a teacher uses additional supplemental materials, they must review materials before they’re presented in the classroom, and the materials must be aligned with the district curriculum and support Oklahoma Academic Standards.”
- EDMOND PUBLIC SCHOOLS
“Mustang Public Schools will continue to follow our policy for selecting district-adopted curriculum materials as laid out in Board Policy #2235. Pacing guides, district curriculum, and teacher resources for the 2023-24 school year were in place well before the first day of classes; no resources from PragerU are included in these resources.
If a teacher chooses to use additional supplemental materials for their classroom, they must review those materials before they are utilized in class(es), and the materials must be aligned with the district curriculum and support Oklahoma Academic Standards.”
- MUSTANG PUBLIC SCHOOLS
“The endorsement of PragerU by our State Superintendent doesn’t change anything we are doing in the classroom. We trust our teachers to do everything they can to help our students grow. Our instructional staff uses the Oklahoma Academic Standards and we believe that our teachers are the experts. We also trust that they will use both curriculum resources provided to them by our district and any other appropriate supplemental materials needed to support student growth.”
- OKLAHOMA CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
“Moore Public Schools will continue to use its current curriculum that is aligned with state standards approved by the Oklahoma State Legislature.”
MOORE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
“I want to make it clear PragerU has not been adopted or vetted by our district.
In Norman Public Schools, all district-adopted curriculum undergoes the district’s approval process, which takes time and input. That process involves our content coordinators and teachers. This ensures that our curriculum is of high quality, accurate, and in alignment with the Oklahoma Academic Standards.”
- DR. NICK MIGLIORINO, NORMAN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
“The State Department of Education has numerous contracts with providers of curriculum that are made available to local school districts. Putnam City Schools chooses curriculum based on the Oklahoma Academic Standards. The District Academic Department and committees meet each year to update the curriculum prior to the beginning of the new school year. The State Department of Education has recently provided a new offering, Prager U. The District will continue to follow our established process to review new curriculum offerings.”
- PUTNAM CITY SCHOOLS
“Deer Creek Schools teaches to the Oklahoma State Academic Standards. PragerU Kids is not part of these academic standards and will not be addressed in our schools.”
- DEER CREEK PUBLIC SCHOOLS