Who’s Indoctrinating?

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.

Florida has just proved my point:

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….


  1. Republicans have noticed a trend over the last 50 years about how successful Democrats have been over the last 50 years enshrining civil rights into law, Constitutionally I might add. As they see every thing as merely political they are retaliating, unconstitutionally I might add. As they are not particularly informed about nor care much for the Constitution as it is written they’ve stacked the Supreme Court with Justices branded Conservative, who put passions in front of the law.

  2. I receive “news” items on my cell phone; often questionable even for the least intelligent voter or non-voter. One recently from something called “The Wrap” reported by Clay Travis stated that if President Biden is reelected he may pardon Donald Trump. Clay Travis has been referred to as the replacement for Rush Limbaugh; I’m not sure even Rush would agree to that conservative view of the current presidential election chaos. But it does appear that the Freedom Caucus is indoctrinating their followers to “keep the faith” that Trump will come through his current increasing list of indictments unscathed, one way or another. Nothing coming from the current self-proclaimed “Republican” party passes the sniff test with their current course of action.

    Rightwing advocacy groups are proliferating the media and social media with indoctrination; IF there are any “conservatives” intelligent enough to refuse to be indoctrinated, they need to speak now or will forced to forever hold their peace. Beginning with those in the House and the Senate at local, state levels and primarily at the federal level or we are all headed for going to hell with Hillary’s “hand basket of deplorables”. She should never have been forced by her own party to apologize for that comment; she was being kind to Trump and his minions; they have reached a level too low to ever rise again to being called “deplorable” with their indoctrination campaign foundation.

  3. Please. Will the media and everyone else STOP labelling these subversive lunatics “conservative”? They are anything BUT conservative. These oil-funded creatures are right-wing extremist reactionaries. There is NOTHING conservative about them.

    Gosh, another oil mogul-funded entity involved with indoctrinating our children with lies and falsehoods. Imagine that. The Koch Foundation isn’t enough of a carbuncle on the ass of humanity. Harken back to the infamous Lewis Powell memorandum to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce calling for the purchase of America by business/banking. “Fund colleges. Fund think tanks. Fund subversive op-eds” it said.

    And, Republicans being closeted fascists all along, finally kicked the door from their fetid closet open. And here we are… on the brink of lurching from a democracy where half the eligible voters stay home because they rightly see their votes not counting due to gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics. These anti-democratic actions are strictly assigned to Republican initiatives because Republicans are also funded by corporate/banking America to the extent of gaining enough power to give the silk suits the power of oligarchy.

    Okay. Rant over. Most people – not all – on this blog understand these things perfectly. The salvation lies with rational, thinking, caring people getting off their butts to become active dispensers of truth and facts… and to promote VOTING. VOTE like your country’s future depends on it – because it most certainly does. VOTE while you still can, or those children being groomed by reactionary schools and churches won’t be able to.

  4. Just yesterday, “Then and Now”, a podcast done by historians Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman, had a detailed discussion of how Florida’s new curriculum distorts the history of slavery in particular.

    The Indiana State Museum had an exhibit about Indiana’s environment a few decades ago. It was sponsored (funded) by a fossil fuel company. Walking through it, I was very aware that the fossil fuel industry had much to gain by the selective presentation of “facts” and the future of the state depending on fossil fuel to prosper, touting the benefits to communities in jobs and progress in growth. No mention of the impacts of the waste output, resource depletion and certainly no counter presentation that jobs in green energy would be just as likely and measurably cleaner. Children were walking through in school groups, taking this all in as gospel.

    The real damage is done when children grow up and discover they have been lied to all along. If they are lucky enough to be exposed to a wider worldview before they are faced with the real effects of fossil fuel corporations’ waste in the air, water and soil in their own lives and the lives of those they love, they either become cynical and withdraw from the civil discourse, deny the poor decisions made on skewed information or become dedicated activists pushing back.

    Distrust and cynicism seem to be part of the extreme rights’ position as they fight to make themselves the truth warriors all in the name of patriotism. In true propagandists’ style, they go for the children, to “protect” them and their futures.
    The strategy has worked for centuries, almost always resulting in authoritarian rule, revolution and the death and destruction associated with both conditions.

    Facing facts that refute long held beliefs is never easy and often painful, to be avoided at all costs. We see it every day in the projections being shouted by politicians, their financial backers and those embracing the lies out of fear and grievance. I am sad that I am old and will not be available to fight back alongside the next generation when they are faced with the realities of the lies they have been taught. Forearmed is forewarned if history is presented in truth. Not so much if it has been propagandized as we all have come to find out for our own generation.

  5. It has been observed that certain colleges, such as Prager, intentionally align themselves with right-wing ideologies as a countermeasure to what is perceived as a left-leaning bias in universities. However, it is important to note that there is no formal establishment for the “Center for Left-wing Studies.” It is not a matter of indoctrination but rather a pursuit of education that promotes a holistic and inclusive perspective, with a focus on communal goals.

    Speaking of Goebbels, Socialism is the solution to Fascism. Our young populations are not being indoctrinated into Left-Wing ideology, but universities have a left-leaning bias (truth-seeking).

  6. Welcome to “1984” and “Brave New World” all wrapped up with a bow! Hello from Florida!

  7. Vernon’s first paragraph today is important. We should all keep it in mind whenever we read something about the media and book banning, etc.

  8. For the upteenthousandth time here…”THEY” are organized, funded and working hard to make “THEIR” change….”WE” argue among ourselves on what’s important. Not hard to see the outcome ahead….

  9. JD has nailed it for today, yesterday, and for posterity. Lying to children (and adults) is nothing new. The Koch machine, among others, has the resources to keep their good times humming, even while those lied to cannot breathe and water availability, like oil, will have been sold to the rich for redistribution to us proles sans Sherman Act restraint speaking of which, the first increase for the first time in a year in inflation (a mere .2) is the result of a thirty cent increase in the price of gas), suggesting that OPEC and Russia with their cuts in production are influencing our domestic politics by giving something for Republicans to whine about via their Prager and deep state propaganda tools.

    The Washington Post reports this morning that all the chip factories we are building (though a great idea) will be suffering from a shortage of labor, i.e., those with the specific skills necessary to the production process, and suggesting that we import knowledgeable migrants from Taiwan with a new visa accommodation to get us started until we can educate our own people in the process.

    I don’t know how Republicans will treat this suggestion with their Prager and Koch outlets, all in the face of the general and coming takeover of human jobs by a currently unregulated AI, but I will give odds that such responses will be calculated to keep the fossil fuel industry and its poisoning of our minds as well as our bodies intact under such DeFascist labels as “parental control” and other good-sounding covers for fascist control of our country in this Trump-led exentialist brawl for a continuation of our democracy. Time will tell.

  10. I’ve already mentioned numerous times, and even just a few days ago about how damaging Prager Propaganda Inc is.

  11. The local library board in Fishers has decided to move many books from the teen section to the adult section because of content they deem “inappropriate”. One of them being John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” because the teenagers have sex.

    As if that weren’t stupid enough. They removed a volunteer board member who disagreed with the policy who was of course a Democrat.

    This stuff has reached the point of being ridiculous.

  12. Projection has been the format of the Republicans for decades.
    Peggy’s comment about there being no “Center for “Left-Wing Studies,” is spot-on,
    because, sadly, searching for, and teaching truths brings one far from the reactionary
    idiocy of those on the right, whose perspectives are fitting for the 1950’s and earlier.
    I’m surprised they have not established a “Luddites Uber Alles” institute!

  13. Todd, you should watch some PragerU videos. Then, you won’t mistakenly suggest it’s a college. It’s not; it’s a youtube channel. (Trump University was closer to being real than PragerU.) The videos are often unintentionally hilarious, actually. They are so over-the-top ridiculous that they appear almost to be parody. I can absolutely imagine SNL people doing them. The idea that they will be used in schools is truly horrifying.

    Regarding the people living in Florida, they also have to watch out for the leprosy and malaria. I bet some long-dormant disease gets them before the rising waters.

  14. It is not just projection we are seeing. It’s denial, rationalization, minimization and other defenses too numerous to mention. But most of us use projection a great deal more than we think. Just notice the next time someone in your personal life says or does something that irritates the hell out of you. Then ask yourself whether that person is just mirroring something that is true about you that you cannot abide in yourself. That is projection.

  15. Just yesterday, Mike Pence, in Iowa, promised that, if elected (Ha!) he would abolish the U.S. Department of Education, take its funding and all grants, and distribute them to the states, so the states can decide what and how children are taught. Setting aside the matter of whether a President has the unilateral ability to abolish the DOE, I think it would be just desserts if students from Florida (and other states that insist upon teaching children lies about slavery and history) were disqualified from attending universities outside their home states because they haven’t received an appropriate basic education, and further, that they have been indoctrinated.

  16. Prager U discussed today on public radio. Scary stuff! Planting those seeds early. We just have no idea what is to come . . . Wait! Yes, we do!

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