Governor Ron DeSantis is making it possible for Florida children to be indoctrinated by far right propaganda by PragerU, which includes a cartoon video supposedly portraying abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass praising the Constitution as a “glorious liberty document” and taking a dig at Black Lives Matter activism.
In real life, Douglass criticized those who boasted about American “liberty” and called celebrations of freedom on July 4th a sham.
PragerU admits its material ‘indoctrinate(s) kids.’ But they ask, “‘But what is the bad of our indoctrination?’”
Florida Republicans are straight up doing what they falsely accuse teachers of doing; they are pushing Republican propaganda to children. “PragerU, founded by conservative talk radio host Dennis Prager, showcases content framed through the lens of conservative pundits, conservative activists, and Republican National Committee members.”
Here’s one of the videos that will be available in Florida schools. But first, for context, Frederick Douglass was so against compromise (for what “compromise” can there be with the right to live freely?) that he remained unsure about Abe Lincoln, even after his assassination.
This was not a man given to equivocation and appeasement. He knew better.
Watch the lies:
Of all the PragerU propaganda you’ve seen, this might be the worst.
Frederick Douglass takes a dig at BLM while praising the founding fathers as abolitionists and calling the Constitution a “glorious liberty document.”
Florida is letting schools play this stuff. pic.twitter.com/WbS3CDBeNE
— David Heath (@davidhth) August 7, 2023
In other videos, the kids “meet” Christopher Columbus, who, as summarized by the Miami Herald), “tells them that he should not be judged for enslaving people because the practice was ‘no big deal’ in his time. Columbus argued to the kids that he did not see a problem with it because ‘being taken as a slave is better than being killed.’”
Yikes. In real life, which apparently will soon not be taught in schools at all if Republicans get their way, Frederick Douglass was a former slave who became a national leader of the abolitionist movement. Douglass was jailed when he attempted to get free as a young boy.
Douglass had scathing words for hypocrites who praised America’s “liberty,” in his famous speech “What To the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” (my bold, and by the way, this link is from “Teaching American history”):
“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.
Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival …”
He called for fire and action, “The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be denounced.”
At 16 years old, young Douglass had a battle with a man known to be a “slavebreaker,” where he was starved and whipped daily. Douglass was “broken in body, soul, and spirit.”
Let’s see what he wrote about his experience: “This battle with Mr. Covey was the turning-point in my career as a slave. It rekindled the few expiring embers of freedom, and revived within me a sense of my own manhood. It recalled the departed self-confidence, and inspired me again with a determination to be free.”
As a slave, he was not allowed to learn to read and write. Somehow he managed to teach himself, which is an extraordinary accomplishment but one which does not scream “deep glory in liberty!” In his autobiography, he describes trading pieces of bread with white children so they would teach him to read.
Conservatives make a lot of noise about “free speech.” Guess what happened to Douglass when he used his free speech to talk about the need for abolition after he escaped slavery? He was attacked. Douglass fled to Britain and Ireland to avoid re-enslavement in this land of “liberty.” It was there, across the ocean, that he eventually bought his freedom.
The Florida Republican Governor has long wailed about indoctrination, but is now making sure it happens in Florida schools. “Starting this fall, students throughout Florida will have the opportunity to watch these videos in their classrooms. This recognition is a significant milestone for the nonprofit organization,” the Miami Herald wrote.
The videos they are allowing kids to watch do not list resources or admit who was involved in creating them. But a political supporter of DeSantis is involved with PragerU, as are Candace Owens (who once raised money for a businessman who called George Floyd a “thug” after he was murdered by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer) and Charlie Kirk (not known for his grasp on history or knowledge, to put it as kindly as possible). These are the folks Ron DeSantis and his wife Casey think your kids should be taught by.
But wait. It’s not that they are force-feeding your kids far-right propaganda with no relationship to actual history as history, it’s that the materials are approved to be used in Florida schools. “It does not mean that PragerU will be writing the curriculum at a school, but that if a school approved the use of the material, a teacher could use it as an aid to teach a class,” the Miami Herald reported.
This is what they mean by “choice.” Teachers can “choose” to indoctrinate your kids, if the indoctrination is far-right. They may not “choose,” however, to teach the truth. So it’s not really choice. It’s just a pretty word slapped on a very ugly and dangerous policy.
Sure, Prager U is not accredited, but Casey DeSantis uses PragerU videos for her kids, according to Melissa Streit, the chief executive officer of PragerU, so PragerU says they must be good enough for yours.
“Before the initiative was launched in Florida, Streit said she also crossed paths with Florida’s first lady, Casey DeSantis. Streit did not specify when or where, but she said that is how she learned that the DeSantis family showed PragerU videos to their young kids,” the Miami Herald wrote.
Experts call PragerU propaganda and one expert even called it in the same above article a “gateway” to far right extremism, which if you’ve been reading the news doesn’t end well for some people who are now in jail and might not be the sort of life you envisioned for your young Handmaid, but this is perfect “pro-America” content for your kids…
According to the DeSantis family, if PragerU is to be believed.
Starting this fall, your kids will have the “opportunity” to be propagandized to by people who just passed a bunch of laws and rules claiming to be against indoctrination.
Florida under Ron DeSantis: If it’s not leprosy and malaria, it’s straight up indoctrination.
The PragerU stuff won’t be the only indoctrination your kids get in Florida. That menu is full already. This is just “supplemental.” An extra dash of indoctrination, perhaps, in case the first efforts aren’t successful.
Do listen to Douglass’ speech read by Ossie Davis: