There’s a psychological mechanism called “projection,” — it’s when people accuse others of faults they themselves harbor. Several commenters to this blog have noted that the GOP routinely engages in projection.
Ron DeSantis’ Florida just shot down any lingering doubts about the accuracy of that observation.
Over the past few years, Republican culture warriors have become positively hysterical over the “indoctrination” of students by public schools and universities. To some extent, they’re right–after all, education imparts facts and–at best– enables critical thinking. A very expansive definition of “indoctrination” might stretch to include the broadening of a student’s frame of reference.
On the other hand, I have previously argued–and firmly believe– that what really upsets Republicans is the lack of indoctrination–the failure of educators to convey their preferred, albeit distorted, versions of history and science.
Videos that compare climate activists to Nazis, portray solar and wind energy as environmentally ruinous and claim that current global heating is part of natural long-term cycles will be made available to young schoolchildren in Florida, after the state approved their use in its public school curriculum.
Slickly-made animations by the Prager University Foundation, a conservative group that produces materials on science, history, gender and other topics widely criticized as distorting the truth, will be allowed to be shown to children in kindergarten to fifth grade after being adopted by Florida’s department of education.
Actual scientists who have reviewed these and other videos produced by PragerU have characterized them as worse than inaccurate, describing them as a form of rightwing indoctrination bearing little resemblance to reality.
“These videos target very young and impressionable kids with messages of support for fossil fuels and doubts over renewable energy resources – they are trying to grow the next generation of supporters for fossil fuels,” said Adrienne McCarthy, a researcher at Kansas State University who has studied the activities of PragerU.
“It’s propaganda 101. Equating people concerned about the climate change with Nazis can have long-term impacts on young, impressionable people. The beliefs PragerU are pushing forward overlap with far-right extremist beliefs. The fear is that they will bring this sort of extremist beliefs into mainstream society.”
Prager is not a “U,” nor is it any type of academic institution. It is one of the country’s proliferating number of rightwing advocacy groups. It produces magazines and videos about slavery that have been roundly criticized by historians, in addition to the videos emphasizing climate denial. It was originally generously funded by Dan and Farris Wilks, brothers who are petroleum industry businessmen.
One video shows two children being told by their “scientist uncle,” that “Wind and solar just aren’t powerful enough to power the modern world, the energy from them isn’t dense or robust enough,” He also tells them sadly that “windmills kill so many birds.” A climate scientist at the University of Pennsylvania said the decision by DeSantis’ administration to allow the videos “would make Goebbels himself blush”.
An essay in the Guardian ties the videos to the GOP’s goals:
PragerU’s latest annual report says that the company’s self-described “edutainment” videos racked up more than 1.2bn views in 2022, with more than 7bn since its founding. Its content has been mostly available online, particularly on Facebook and YouTube, but now it is making its way into US classrooms with the promise of fighting the so-called “woke agenda”.
PragerU makes no secret of its own agenda. Its co-founder, Dennis Prager – a conservative radio talkshow host and writer who has been attacking progressive causes since the 1980s – was recently glib in responding to claims that PragerU “indoctrinates kids”. “Which is true,” Prager said in a speech to the conservative “parental rights” group Moms for Liberty. “We bring doctrines to children. That is a very fair statement. I said, ‘But what is the bad of our indoctrination?’”
PragerU Kids’ cartoon videos for children as young as kindergarten age not only soft-pedal the history of slavery, racism, colonialism and police brutality – they show sympathy for them. In one video, Leo and Layla Meet Christopher Columbus, Columbus tells young Leo and Layla: “Slavery is as old as time and has taken place in every corner of the world … Being taken as a slave is better than being killed, no?”
The effort isn’t limited to climate change and racism. In “How to Embrace Your Femininity,” a young blond woman with what is described as perfect hair and makeup explains that “gender stereotypes exist because they reflect the way that men and women are naturally different.”
People who want to revisit the 1950s will feel very comfortable in Florida–at least, until the hot rising waters get them….