Online education nonprofit PragerU has started to produce content specifically for children. Named PREP (PragerU Resources for Educators and Parents), the materials are designed to be not only entertaining, but also teach traditional American values in counter to what they see as damaging political indoctrination in schools, several members of the production team said.
“There are shows and resources and digital magazines that celebrate our American values, what American was built on: equality of opportunity, honesty, respect, hard work. Those are all values that are quite frankly pro-American values, which a lot of our kids are not getting at school now because of the injection of far-left directives—such as DEI [Diversity, Equity, Inclusion], Critical Race Theory—we’re seeing all of these directives being injected in our public or private schools,” said Jill Simonian, former television host and current PREP outreach director.
“What PREP is seeking to do is to pretty much offset those so that we can inoculate our kids, so to speak, and teach them our American values so that when they’re confronted with these leftist agendas, politicized agendas in our school, they know the difference.”
Critical Race Theory is part of a quasi-Marxist ideology that divides society into “oppressors” and the “oppressed” based on characteristics such as race, sex, class, or sexual proclivities. CRT is often used as shorthand for the entire ideology.
The theory has for years been spreading through the school system, academia, media, entertainment, government, and the corporate world, often under other names like “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” “anti-racism,” “cultural responsiveness,” or “cultural competence.”
Many parents were taken by surprise after discovering what schools were teaching their children in remote learning sessions during the pandemic lockdowns and are now looking for alternatives. Many have turned to homeschooling or pod schools, where several parents get their children together and hire a private tutor for them.
The PREP materials are “meant to be supplemental” to such efforts as well as to parents and teachers in general, Simonian told The Epoch Times.
She has encountered issues with CRT in schools attended by her two elementary school children in California, she said.
“I noticed a lot of compromising and, frankly, alarming material and directives that were happening at my own children’s schools and in my own school district. I started opening my eyes and learning how our education system is now functioning and many of the state-run directives that are being implemented into our curriculums are very biased, very politicized, and it concerned me,” she said.
Justin Kite, PREP’s content manager for certain grade 3-7 materials, saw the issue from the inside, working for 10 years as a public school teacher in Texas.
Teaching grades 5-12, he said he applied in the classroom what he did to coaching basketball teams for seven years.
“I believed very strongly in learning from failure, personal accountability, creating discipline, and really getting out of a classroom experience what you put in,” he told The Epoch Times.
Yet such values “went from at first being whispered about” in the first several years to a situation where “that type of approach was outright vilified” in his last few years in the system.
“Instead of an environment where students learned that hard work, studying, discipline, and achievement was the way to success, … students during my tenure were taught that their way out or their way up—however you want to phrase it—was more determined by their victimhood,” he said. “And students were taught how to best identify ways in which they could be aggrieved and then use their grievances for promotion instead of academic success. And that type of environment was very much a turnoff to everything that I stand for.”
Upon leaving the job, he started a learning pod. That’s when he first found PragerU.
The nonprofit doesn’t operate as a university. It’s best known for producing short videos that provide a center-right perspective on various historical, economic, and political topics.
A Democrat at the time, Kite wasn’t “the kind of person who watches the type of programming that PragerU advertises on,” he said, and the videos he found weren’t quite suitable for his pod class of eight sixth-grade boys.
“A lot of the material in the PragerU videos is over their head,” he said.
But he was able to take concepts from the videos, “break them down and use them.”
The PragerU approach to education was close to the ideals with which he entered the field himself, he said.
“When I learned of their PREP team and what the goals of the PREP team were going to be, I wrote to the company and told them that not only do I think I match the qualifications for the role of content manager because of my unique experience inside public schools, but because of my role as a really kind of a director of a learning pod,” he said.
So far, PREP has a handful of videos and other materials online, including several storytime book readings by Simonian as well as biographies of Abigail Adams, the second first lady of the United States, and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
The first episode of “Leo & Layla’s History Adventures,” an animated show for grades 3-5, should premier soon, Kite said. In the story, the main characters travel through time to meet with President Ronald Reagan to learn about his role in the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.
Kite is also on a team for grades 6-12 programming, working on a show called “TBH History,” which will combine live action, animation, graphics, and other media with the aim of making historical topics “entertaining and educational” for children, he said.
PREP plans to release at least one episode for one of the shows every week now, Simonian said, and ultimately produce weekly episodes for each show.
Aside from history, the materials will focus on social studies and geopolitical issues.
“We try to present them in the truest and most historically accurate form as possible without taking any kind of political stance,” Kite said. “And we just want to be a very useful resource for people out there who are worried and/or fed up with the material that their children are learning in public and private schools right now.”
The materials will have a perspective of their own, Simonian acknowledged, but added that the aim is to encourage children to find out more.
“It promotes freedom of thought, freedom of discovery, freedom of expression, freedom to find out more should you want to find out more,” she said. “And that’s really our goal here at PragerU—to not teach children what to think, but to teach them how to think, to get interested, to find out a little bit about something that they maybe have never heard about before and to encourage them to dive deeper into learning more so that they can eventually formulate their own opinions and make their own assessments.”
The videos will be free, though viewers are encouraged to donate at least $25 a year to PragerU to become a member.
Such donors get access to monthly virtual events such as book readings with authors and “Q&As with thought leaders about the state of our schools,” as well as a private Facebook group where parents and teachers discuss school issues, solutions, and advice, such as how to counter the “leftist agenda” in their children’s schools, she said.
There are over 12,000 members since the project launched in the fall.
“There’s a whole army of parents and teachers who want to celebrate America with our kids,” Simonian said. “They’re becoming members of PREP, they’re finding each other, and they’re finding kindred spirits and courage and celebration in what America was founded on.”