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Far-right PragerU signs agreement with Arizona schools chief on curriculum

Marissa Streit, CEO of PragerU, explains Wednesday in Phoenix why her organization is making its materials available to Arizona schools to provide an alternative to the "left-wing, Marxist domination of our educational market." With her is state schools chief Tom Horne who said he agrees that current teachings in many schools have a liberal slant.
Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer.
Marissa Streit, CEO of PragerU, explains Wednesday in Phoenix why her organization is making its materials available to Arizona schools to provide an alternative to the "left-wing, Marxist domination of our educational market." With her is state schools chief Tom Horne who said he agrees that current teachings in many schools have a liberal slant.

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- Arizona schools could soon be providing lessons that have an animated video of Christoper Columbus saying that "being taken as a slave is better than being killed.''
But the the head of PragerU, the organization that says it "creates free educational content promoting American values'' that now is going to become available in classrooms here, admitted she actually has no evidence that the Italian explorer ever said such a thing. Still, Marissa Streit said, it is justified.
"If you made a movie about Christopher Columbus and you had to portray what he would say, what would you have had him say?'' she said. "Would you not have him say what he was likely going to say?''
Streit said it's no different than if someone were creating a movie.
"Would you expect Hollywood to have Christopher Columbus say, 'I believe that slavery is bad,' ''?
And she brushed aside the fact this video -- and hundreds of others prepared by PragerU -- is not being just made available online to parents.
Instead, it would be among those that state schools chief Tom Horne will place on the Department of Education website for schools to offer as part of their curriculum. And he saw nothing wrong with that.
"They were having him say what he believed,'' Horne said of the Columbus video.
More to the point, he said he believes it would provide balance in classrooms.
"For too long, the Left has dominated, both in the universities and in K-12 and we need some alternate viewpoints,'' Horne said. "All you have to do is look and see what's going on in the universities or look and see what's going on in Tucson Unified or Balsz (elementary) district that adopted the 1619 Project which is total mythology.''
The first refers to an ethnic studies program offered at TUSD; the second is about the New York Times series about the legacy of slavery in America.
Nothing actually requires school districts to use this or any other video. But Streit she said it is available "so that parents who are showing up in our hearings that there's been a left wing, Marxist domination of our educational market, they have an option for something else for our kids.''
Central to the debate is PragerU. Despite its name, it not an actual university but a nonprofit that produces free videos of an "alternative to the dominant left-wind ideology in culture, media and understanding.''
Many of those videos are specifically aimed at children, using a fictional brother and sister who time travel and "converse'' with historical figures like John Adams and Frederick Douglass. But they also include interviews with those who seek to debunk "climate change'' as well as videos about how Europe is "committing suicide'' with illegal immigration, how Jews are "the indigenous people'' of what was called Palestine, and, in particular, economic issues including lectures on why socialism is bad and why people should oppose federal legislation to create a $15 minimum wage.
"Yes, we do have an ideological viewpoint,'' said Streit.
"And that is a patriotic, wholesome viewpoint,'' she said. "We don't support a political agenda. We support an ideological agenda.''
Gov. Katie Hobbs said Wednesday she just learned about Horne's plans to offer the materials to schools on the Department of Education website.
"I can say that when I talked to parents and teachers, looking for alternative history in their schools is not what they're interested in,'' she said.
"I don't think we need to be looking at some alternative that teaches fake history,'' the governor said. "It's not a real issue that we're hearing from folks in our schools.''
The Democratic governor acknowledged she has not seen any of the videos or other materials produced by PragerU. But the governor said that curriculum should be left up to school boards.
Horne said that remains the case. And he said nothing in this plan imposes new standards.
"We don't certify curricula,'' said Horne who is a Republican.
"What we do at the state level is we establish standards: what students need to know and be able to do at a given grade level,'' he said. "And we leave it up to the schools to teach their curricula as a way to teach those standards.''
What this agreement does, Horne said, is "add to that choice by making Prager University materials available to the schools and also to the parents who may want to show them to their children.''
And he put it in an us-versus-them perspective.
"My adversaries don't want parents to have those choices,'' Horne said. "They want choices for themselves. They don't want choices for other people.''
The schools chief never explained who he believes are his "adversaries.'' He also defended what will be made available.
"Prager materials are rich in content and have a commitment to presenting facts for students to better understand American history,'' Horne said. More to the point, he said they are necessary.
"Unlike some people, I think it's unprofessional conduct for a teacher to use a captive audience to push their own ideology,'' Horne said. But he also acknowledged he has no "good evidence'' that actually is occurring, saying if he did he would asked the State Board of Education to discipline that teacher.
Horne also said the Prager materials are "objective.''
And what of that cartoon video of Columbus defending slavery as a better alternative to death?
"That's what he believed,'' Horne said. "And you wouldn't want to put words in his mouth that he didn't believe.''
Yet after Wednesday's press conference, Horne dodged questions about whether Prager was, in fact, putting words into Columbus' mouth about whether he said slavery is better than death.
The animated video has the younger child telling Columbus he was taught that he had "spoiled paradise and he had brought slavery and had brought slavery and murder to peaceful people.'' Columbus responds that there were some tribes that were not peaceful, including some who were cannibals.''
"All the things that are bad in the world I come from, jealousy, lying, murder, war, it all exists in the land I just found, too,'' he says. "In Europe, we draw the line on eating people and human sacrifice.''
As to slavery, Columbus calls it "as old as time'' which existed everywhere, including in the New World.
"Being taken as a slave is better than being killed, no?'' he said. "I don't see the problem.''
Streit said the lessons PragerU prepared are no different than a Hollywood movie.
"What would you have had him say?'' she asked. "Would you have him say what he was likely going to say?''
She also said it's historically defensible.
"When we created the script of what he said, we relied on original documents of what his opinion would likely be,'' Streit said, with the kids who represented "our modern-times view'' that slavery is bad.
So where in any original documents did Columbus say that slavery is preferable to death?
"This is so absurd,'' she responded. "Do you want me to lie to children and tell children that Christoper Columbus would have said that slavery is bad?
And Streit rejected the idea that PragerU could have made the video without having Columbus say that slavery is preferable to death.
"That's what you really want me to do, is make no videos at all,'' she said.
Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva released his own statement Wednesday saying that PragerU and its materials do not belong in Arizona scools.
"It's masquerading as a serious educational resource when itn reality it's unaccredited right-wing propaganda,'' he said. "Just as congressional Republicans want to ban books and eliminate diverse points of view, PragerU's intent is to indoctrinate our children with disinformation, mistruths and whitewash history.''
On X and Threads: @azcapmedia

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