If you’re a conservative parent, you likely know that our schools are littered with leftist propaganda meant to penetrate the minds of our impressionable kids. Although it’s sometimes done subconsciously by teachers, too often it’s part of the left’s agenda to turn students against traditional American values.
We’re seeing the consequences throughout our culture. Fortunately, those who believe in unbiased education and critical thinking have a place to turn for help. PragerU’s Resources for Educators and Parents, dubbed PREP, offers more than 10,000 subscribers an opportunity to counter the leftist agenda permeating schools.
Jill Simonian, director of outreach at PREP, recently spoke with The Daily Signal’s Virginia Allen about PragerU’s newest initiative. She joins me on today’s show to provide an update about the work she’s doing and how you can join the effort.
“If we do not teach our children how to think critically, so much of what America has been built on and the values of this country, they’re all going to disappear,” Simonian says. “And we’re all going to look around and say, ‘Well, what happened? What happened?’”
Listen to the complete interview or read a lightly edited transcript below.
Rob Bluey: We are joined on “The Daily Signal Podcast” today by Jill Simonian, director of outreach for PragerU Resources for Educators and Parents, also known as PREP. Jill, we are big fans of PragerU here at The Daily Signal. It is great to have you on the show today.
Jill Simonian: Thank you so much. Well, I’m a big fan of yours too.
Bluey: Let’s start with some of the basics. What is PREP and why did PragerU create it?
Simonian: So PREP stands for—it’s a lot easier to say than the entire name of it, but PREP stands for PragerU Resources for Educators and Parents. That’s why we call it PREP.
But what it is is videos specifically made for kids ages kindergarten through 12th grade that celebrate our American values of hard work, individual responsibility, equality under God, all of those values that unite us all no matter where we come from as Americans.
And it’s been many years in the making where people have been asking PragerU, “When are you going to start making videos for children?”
Because, as you know, our five-minute videos for young adults, particularly, are very popular. And they’ve been asking, “When are you going to do videos for kids?” And we really thought that the time was now and the time was right specifically because of all of the politicized divisive narratives that we are now [seeing] injected into our schools, public and private schools.
Critical race theory, 1619 Project, gender identity directive, social-emotional learning. We’re seeing all these things injected into our school curriculums. And so we thought, why not form a group for parents and educators who really do believe in unbiased education and pro-America values that we can celebrate with our kids? So that’s what our videos are made for.
Bluey: That’s just fantastic. Jill, thank you for taking the time to explain that. And also for putting a focus both on the educational component, but also making sure that they’re entertaining as well. I think that as we know with kids, that is an important factor.
As you mentioned, you have materials for grades K through 12. Can you share some examples of the types of shows and resources that you’re offering?
Simonian: Yes. Well, full disclosure, my own daughters have served as inspiration for some of the things that I’m creating here, … or the whole team rather. I shouldn’t say myself, there is an entire team behind PREP and it really is growing and it’s fantastic.
But what we are creating are—I’ll start with the small ones. For grades kindergarten through second, we have a story time called “Otto’s Tales.” And anyone who is a fan of Dennis Prager knows about his dog Otto, who was famous for sleeping next to Dennis on the fireside chats. When Dennis gives his fireside chats, there’s Otto, our favorite bull dog. Well, we have Otto in our story time, but he is a costumed character Otto.
And I read stories, very kid-friendly stories, picture books, about responsibility, hard work. These are wonderful stories that we have created at PragerU based on folktales, as well as we’ve used different stories by various authors who love to celebrate American values like Callista Gingrich and Rachel Campos-Duffy, some of their children’s books.
So we have a story time where I read stories alongside Otto. It’s called “Otto’s Tales.” And we also have another series called “Craftory,” which my 9-year-old actually gave me the idea for. It’s DIY crafts mixed with a little bit of history, and you can find all of these shows, by the way, on Prageru.com/kidsshows. And if you go to Prageru.com/prep, you can find out more about the program.
But the craft show is family-friendly DIYs. Making a military appreciation wreath, painting a bulletin board to look like an American flag while you get a truncated history of our American flag and the different incarnations of it.
We also have an animated series in the works called “Leo and Layla,” where they travel through time to meet historical figures. We have digital magazines for third through fifth graders highlighting often overlooked historical heroes, like Abigail Adams and Ayn Rand and Margaret Thatcher and Amy Coney Barrett.
We have a how-to video series for our middle schoolers and high schoolers that builds character through humor: how to fold an American flag, how to have a real conversation with people. It’s really fun stuff. And we’ve got even more shows in the works and we’ve sort of created all of this in the last two months. So it’s really been a lot of fun and it’s exciting.
Bluey: And you’ve had quite a response signing up, right? Thousands of parents and educators who’ve already signed up to use these resources. How many are you up to and how can parents take the step and become a member and start receiving this content?
Simonian: So, as of last week, we hit the 10,000-member mark and we all were thrilled and elated, as you can imagine. We hit the 10,000-member mark in just a few short months.
And with a PREP membership, so to speak, anyone who donates to PragerU $25 a year can become a PREP member.
And what the PREP membership also entails is a private discussion forum via Facebook right now where parents and educators can communicate issues happening in their own corners of the country about different biased curriculums that might be happening at their school, how to address different issues at schools with administrators and between parents and teachers.
So members gain access to that forum. Members also gain access to virtual live events, where we have interviews with thought leaders or family-friendly activities.
We have a book reading coming up at the end of May in honor of Memorial Day for members that you can join and have a Q&A with the author of the children’s book “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier: 21 Steps.” And you can find out more if you go to Prageru.com/prep.
Bluey: Jill, it’s fantastic. I’m proud to be one of those more than 10,000 members. Thank you for what you are offering. It’s really, in many ways, exactly what parents need. And I think educators as well.
You talk on PREP about the importance of teaching kids to love American values, to be freethinkers, to take ownership of their own ideas and actions. One of the most important courses that I ever took was actually called “Critical Thinking.” And the things that I learned in that course have stuck with me to this day. Why is that so important for students and parents to really emphasize that with their kids?
Simonian: Well, I’m glad you talked about that because critical thinking has been a very personal theme for my family this last year. It’s always been a theme at PragerU. It’s always been something that PragerU and freethinkers everywhere, for that matter, across the country, no matter who you are, it’s always been something that we valued.
But we have seen in this last year a lacking of critical thinking with adults, with students, with children. And that really is one of the most important skills that our children can learn.
Anyone who listens to Dennis Prager, Dennis also often talks about how courage is one of the most important qualities that we can teach our children and develop as parents too. And critical thinking, in my opinion, is the next most important skill because we’re living in a world that is almost devoted to believing lies.
And it’s really scary on many levels. And I know I’m preaching to the choir here and that you feel the same way, but it is very scary.
At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, if we do not teach our children how to think critically, so much of what America has been built on and the values of this country, they’re all going to disappear. And we’re all going to look around and say, “Well, what happened, what happened?” And it’s going to be very sad. So it’s very important to teach kids how to think critically, how to think.
Bluey: I couldn’t agree with you more. That is absolutely correct. You know, as a parent myself—I have three kids, two of whom are in elementary school—I’ve seen the leftist propaganda that permeates so much of what they do.
One recent example in my son’s sixth grade class, they were working on a poetry lesson and they were given an article about Greta Thunberg and this mass extinction that she speaks of. And really, if it weren’t for my son coming to me, asking for some help with this lesson, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity to talk to him about that issue and that, no, you [don’t] have to worry about going extinct here in your lifetime. That’s an exaggeration on her part, but this was just subtly as the basis for a poetry lesson.
So, I mean, it happens in all different ways. How did the left come to dominate education this way?
Simonian: Great question, again. And full disclosure, I am just starting to learn more and more about how we got here.
You know, it’s interesting, we’re working on a mini doc right now, a mini documentary about the indoctrination within our education system. And last week I interviewed an investigative journalist and writer, Christopher Rufo.
I’m assuming your audience, most of your audience knows who he is. He’s the one that has broken wide open all of these stories about how critical race theory has permeated into our education system. And I asked him, I said, “How did we get here?”
And what he said was this has been in the making for decades. And it started with the—I’m just going to say the word indoctrination again—it started with the leftist indoctrination happening at the college level, which educated the students who then became educators and the educators then started implementing what they learned from their educational “institutions,” right?
They started implementing these lies and these very radicalized ideas and ideologies into the education system. And it’s been decades in the making.
This is one of the things also that’s frequently discussed at length and debated in our PREP membership forum on Facebook. The constant question is, how did we get here and how do we get out of it?
And the answer that continues to arise for how we get out of it is to continue to have courage and to not back down, because we are in emergency mode. If we do not face this head-on and face the potential casualties and cancellations and face the fear of being ostracized, for lack of a better word, in our own schools and communities, if we don’t face this head-on as parents, it will be lost forever.
Bluey: That’s right, Jill. And I think one of the things that is so important is for those educators out there who don’t necessarily believe those leftist lies to take advantage of what you’re offering. I imagine there’s some listening to this podcast. And so I thought it was so important that you’re not just marketing this to parents, but you’re also marketing it to teachers as a resource for them to use as well.
Simonian: Absolutely. And that’s one thing that we always want to be clear about. We love our teachers who are true teachers of truth. We know that they’re out there.
In the PREP group more and more, we are seeing teachers join, saying, “I do not like what I’ve seen happen the last several years at my school, in my district. I don’t like it. I am feeling alone. I don’t know where to go.”
And many teachers are constantly on the defense because, of course, they’re lumped into this, “Oh, they’re a teacher. They’re a part of that leftist education system.”
But we know there are good teachers. They are in our group. They are discussing solutions. A lot of them are beginning to speak up. And us parents and teachers together who do feel so passionate about protecting our pro-American values, it is up to us. And it’s up to us parents to give the teachers strength as well.
I’m thinking of the—his name is escaping my mind right now, but I just read one of the articles about … Paul Rossi in New York, the teacher Paul Rossi, who taught at a very prestigious, I believe it was, religious school in New York, wrote a letter saying, “I refuse to allow my students to be indoctrinated and more and more teachers are standing up and it takes bravery and guts, but we’re doing it.”
Bluey: You’re starting to see a lot more of that: parents speaking out, teachers speaking out. And thank you for giving them materials that they can turn to in a positive way.
I wanted to ask you next about parents. I feel personally so fortunate to have gone to school at a time before this became such a problem in our schools. But I suspect that means that some parents might assume that things are no different today than they were when they went to school. So you’ve developed a “Parent Action Guide.” How can parents take action and learn about what their kids are being taught today?
Simonian: Well, it’s tough, but like I said, everything now takes courage. I’m not going to pretend that it’s not exhausting or depleting. It’s tough. I mean, it’s tough for a parent to stand up, but for those of us who work—this is like a full-time job for some parents. But the “Parent Action Guide” is something that we are very proud of, that we do offer on our PREP webpage at Prageru.com/prep. You can find it in the resources area.
And it’s a very basic guide just to get you started for the parents who don’t quite know how to start. We detail how the first step is often mustering the courage to send an email to your student’s teacher and or principal questioning a specific assignment, open a conversation.
We provide a few minor talking points, obviously leaving room for every parent to create their custom request when they do email, if they do email, a teacher or a parent.
But it outlines baby steps to start with, to open the communication, to make it clear that as a parent, I do not consent to this social-emotional learning survey that you are offering my child. I do not consent to this sex education curriculum that is brand new, unvetted, that does not align with my values or belief system.
And it starts with an email. It progresses with requesting an in-person meeting. And the “Parent Action Guide” is something that we’re proud of just to get parents started, to give them a nudge and a push and to say, “OK, this is how I can begin this conversation,” because it can be intimidating.
Bluey: It certainly can. And it does take a lot of courage. I know that from experience.
And I can’t say enough to the parents listening out there, the importance of taking the time to talk to your kids, to pay attention to the work they’re bringing home, to be focused on the things that they are discussing in school. And when the school provides those opportunities, to definitely take part and engage.
Parent engagement is so critical to make sure that we are sending this next generation out into the world prepared with the critical thinking skills, but also so that they don’t have a leftist propaganda and a worldview that has been dominated throughout their years learning in school. …
Simonian: You’re absolutely right. I was going to say, you’re absolutely right. And if I can just add one thing too.
It’s easy to say as a parent, “Oh, I’ve had it with this. This goes against everything I believe in,” and to check out. But the most important thing, one of the most important things we can also do is to take the initiative, to join the PTA, to join the parent group, to run for school board, to get involved at the administrative level. Because if we are involved, that gives us credibility, authority, and license to really make change from the inside out.
Bluey: Jill, you are just doing great work at PragerU, the whole team there is. We’re proud to carry Dennis Prager’s column at The Daily Signal each week. A total of 4.8 billion views on PragerU videos since it launched in 2011. What’s the magic formula? What is the secret that brings so many people to consume this great content that you’re creating?
Simonian: Rational common sense.
Bluey: Makes sense.
Simonian: Everything we do is rooted in rational common sense and facts.
Bluey: It makes sense, Jill. Thank you so much for everything. Tell us the website again, where people can learn more and sign up for PREP?
Simonian: Sure. You can find us at Prageru.com/prep. And we’d love to have you join us. We’re not alone.
Bluey: I hope our audience will check it out. As I said, I’m a member and it has great material. And if you’re a parent, make sure you take advantage of it. Jill, thank you so much for being with us on “The Daily Signal Podcast.” We appreciate it.
Simonian: Thank you so much.