Our education system is at great risk. Not by defunding or an influx of bad teachers, but rather by major figures and organizations seeking to reform education classrooms across the nation according to their political motives. Trump, as president, now seeks to tamper with education through his “1776 Commission”, which in summary says that students shouldn’t be taught anything that would cause them to have dissenting opinions about the U.S. (i.e. slavery, redlining, socialism, etc). The transparency with which our president has been willing to endorse fascist notions of propaganda and historical revisionism is largely due to the fact that he knows he appeals more and more to a smaller, more extreme minority. Most disconcerting is the ease with which our very own youth can be drawn into these beliefs. So of course, it is no surprise that Trump is aiming to take advantage of this. Don’t be so quick to assume, however, that Trump is alone in his endeavors to sabotage the US education system. Next in line is PragerU, a propagandist media company famous for being funded by fracking billionaires. The problem is not just that they are politically motivated, but rather that they produce content dangerous to impressionable students through omission of fact and general dishonesty.
A few weeks back, Trump held a conference at the White House mainly covering a national commission that would promote “patriotic education”. What he was endorsing would pull the US closer to a fascist state than ever before. To start, fascism is more or less when a single figure has total power, and any dissent is extinguished to preserve the facade of legitimacy the government portrays to its people. Additionally, fascist states rely on a shared, singular identity so that the most eccentric of moves by the government are uncontested by the population. With this in mind, Trump’s introduction for his speech includes him saying “Our mission is to defend the legacy of America’s founding, the virtue of America’s heroes, and the nobility of the American character.” Here, Trump is suggesting that America and her legacy are to be revered and that Americans should share in the “noble American character”. He continues with “We must clear away the twisted web of lies in our schools and classrooms, and teach our children the magnificent truth about our country. We want our sons and daughters to know that they are the citizens of the most exceptional nation in the history of the world.” It should be rather obvious what Trump is doing here, proposing the blatant indoctrination of our youth by preventing any information that would sully the image of the US in the their minds from being taught at schools. Whether or not this comes to fruition is irrelevant to the overall evidence that Trump is fully in support of following in the steps of fascist rulers. Later on, Trump says how “Our children are instructed from propaganda tracts, like those of Howard Zinn, that try to make students ashamed of their own history.” Trump is saying that we should not teach our youth anything that would cause them to dislike the US, such as slavery, systematic racism, critiques of capitalism and our military, etc., and not be proud, full blood, American patriots. Trump needs a base of people who are wholeheartedly nationalistic and doubtless, who believe that they reside in the best nation the world has ever been given the opportunity to gaze upon.
Trump is hardly alone in his goals, with the organization PragerU seeking to vastly increase their influence in classrooms K-12 through their “PREP” program. The core of the problem is that PragerU produces political propaganda pieces, completely unfit for education. They aren’t some humble grassroots startup either, PragerU is a massive, astroturfed NPO funded and puppeteered by fracking billionaires and politically charged funds. They have a new program called “PREP” aimed “to give you the resources, support, and tools to teach your children about America’s blessings and limitless opportunities”. But why exactly is this program so dangerous? Well, PragerU, as an NPO, must serve the interest of its donors, much like how a corporation must serve the interest of its shareholders. Their largest early donors, Dan and Farris Wilks, made their billions off of fracking. Their influence renders any fracking or big oil related content produced by PragerU uncredible. Their second largest donor is the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation which advocates for things like low immigration and denial of human-induced climate change. That’s quite a few large, pressing things that PragerU will have a serious bias on. Secondly, if you look at any PragerU video, there is little to no sourcing at all, which says enough on its own. Thirdly, PragerU’s intent, evident in any and all of their videos, is not to give people the full scope of an issue, but rather to coax them into believing the conclusion that the video states.
Overall, whether it be the Trump Administration or PragerU, there is an increasing amount of corrupted and propagandist organizations that seek to reform the education system in their favor, and have the capital to do so. As students, by spreading the word about this threat to our learning, and doing the most we can within our means, we can fight to thwart their efforts to invade education.