Superintendent Ryan Walters announced a partnership with the conservative media entity PragerU to provide free "pro-America" content and lesson plans to schools. (Photo by Brent Fuchs/For Oklahoma Voice)
The Oklahoma State Department of Education now offers “pro-America kids content” on its website through a partnership with PragerU Kids, the agency announced Tuesday.
Oklahoma follows Florida as one of the first states to encourage use of the content in public school classrooms. A self-described “conservative nonprofit,” PragerU bills itself as a “free alternative to the dominant left-wing ideology in culture, media, and education.”
“This expansion of our available resources will help ensure high quality materials rich in American history and values will be available to our teachers and students,” Superintendent Ryan Walters said in a press release. “We will work together to find ways for PragerU to create content that will enrich the education of Oklahoma students.”
Some of PragerU’s lessons, though, have drawn criticism for depictions of history that many found to be problematic. A video featuring an animated Christopher Columbus states that “being taken as a slave is better than being killed” as the explorer tells two children why he enslaved Indigenous people.
Some critics warned that PragerU’s videos “downplay” the horrors of slavery and are not factually based.
Rep. Melissa Provenzano, a former teacher and school administrator, said PragerU’s “whitewashing and dumbing-down of American History” serves to promote values that Walters and his funders share. The Tulsa Democrat said teaching values should be left to parents.
“It presents, cartoon-style, the idea that slavery wasn’t ‘all that bad,’” Provenzano said.
The state department website describes PragerU lessons as engaging and educationally sound while promoting “American values that inspire self-reliance, patriotism, and resiliency.”
Links on the department’s website to PragerU’s page also lead to videos teaching Biblical lessons.
Another lawmaker, Rep. John Waldron, taught social studies for 20 years.
“I’m very concerned that we’ll use state resources for educational materials that come with a definite political agenda,” said Waldron, D-Tulsa. “The state superintendent often accuses others of that which he wishes to do himself.”
The agency did not respond to questions before deadline about how much it paid to host PragerU Kids content and whether it would try to develop Oklahoma-specific materials through the partnership. Free PragerU Kids videos, lesson plans, worksheets and other materials are available on the Education Department’s social studies page.
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