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Prager U, a far-right group, announced jointly with Oklahoma State Superintendent for Public Instruction Ryan Walters that they are partnering in a statement posted to X, formerly known as Twitter.
“I am thrilled to announce this partnership with Prager U,” Walters said. “This expansion of our available resources will help ensure high quality materials rich in American history and values is available to our students and teachers.”
Walters went on to say he intends to “partner with Prager U” to create content for Oklahoma schools.
Prager U is a political organization which seeks to spread right-wing philosophy. The organization is funded primarily by a few large, conservative donors. These donors include the Wilks brothers, fracking tycoons who bankrolled Ted Cruz’s 2016 campaign. They also include the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a Wisconsin-based organization known for funding anti-Muslim causes.
Prager U is currently in use by the DeSantis administration for education across Florida’s public schools. Since Florida’s adaptation of the curriculum, the organization has faced backlash for its controversial lessons about slavery.
Prager U curriculum chosen by Walters includes lessons calling slavery “no big deal”
The lessons use several cartoon videos which seem to diminish the horrors of enslavement.
One video features a White ship captain seemingly sailing a ship carrying enslaved people across the Atlantic.
“Slavery is as old as time and has taken place in every corner of the world – even among the people I just left,” the cartoon ship captain says. “Being taken as a slave is better than being killed, no?”
The Prager U character then tells students not to judge enslavers because slavery was common and “no big deal” at the time.
“Before you judge, you must ask yourself: what did the culture and society at the time treat as no big deal?” the captain says.
Another Prager U video shows a cartoon version of Frederick Douglass calling the preservation of slavery a necessary evil to create America.
“The Southern colonies were dependent on slave labor and they wouldn’t have joined a union that had banned it,” the cartoon Douglass tells two children.
“Are you okay with that?” one child asks.
“I’m certainly not okay with slavery,” the character depicted as Douglass says. “But the founding fathers made a compromise to achieve something great: The United States of America.”
The cartoon goes on to show Douglass disparaging other abolitionists who demanded the Constitution be re-written to outlaw slavery.
Push for curriculum comes amid low achievement scores for Oklahoma students
The introduction of Prager U opens the state to potential further implementation, although teachers are not currently required to use the curriculum.Walters’ decision to partner with the unaccredited organization to push untested content comes weeks after the state superintendent insinuated he would consider it “critical race theory” to teach students that racism was a key factor in the Tulsa Race Massacre.
The move also comes at a time Walters claims improving student achievement is his top priority. According to 2022 NAEP scores, Oklahoma has some of the lowest math and reading scores in the nation. The latest lesson currently on the Prager U site teaches students how to make first responder friendship bracelets.