PragerU, a nonprofit known for producing short and often controversial videos promoting conservative viewpoints of different civic topics, had its content approved for use in Oklahoma’s public schools Tuesday—about a month after Florida adopted the use of the content in its own classrooms, prompting backlash over its presence in public classrooms.
State Superintendent Ryan Walters announced the PragerU initiative in Oklahoma on Tuesday, which will allow teachers to independently show videos produced by PragerU Kids, a division of the nonprofit that produces “pro-American kids shows for every grade” meant to combat “woke agendas,” according to its website.
Content on the PragerU Kids YouTube channel, which has received backlash, includes a video depicting a cartoon Christopher Columbus saying slavery wasn’t an issue during his time period because of its widespread use and another describing George Floyd as a “Black man who resisted arrest.”
Fracking billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks provided most of the seed money for PragerU in the platform’s early stages, according to multiple outlets.
The nonprofit’s main source of income comes from donations, with $65 million in donations raised from more than 100,000 donors in 2022, according to an annual report.
Florida and Oklahoma are both conservative states making changes to their education systems this year, pushing back on what they claim is an increasingly “woke” agenda in classrooms. Florida recently approved a K-12 curriculum that requires teachers to teach students that the skills developed by slaves could be used for their personal benefit. The change received widespread pushback, including from some Republican congress members. The Florida Department of Education told the Miami New Times the PragerU Kids material “aligns to Florida’s revised civics and government standards.” PragerU is named after one of its founders, Dennis Prager, who founded the company alongside screenwriter Allen Estrin in 2009. Prager is a conservative talk show host and a Judaism book author who initially intended for PragerU to become a real university, according to the New York Times. That was before Estrin suggested an online university that eventually materialized into popular, five-minute conservative educational videos on YouTube. From there, PragerU focused on the digital platform it had and began dumping money into marketing. In 2018, BuzzFeed News reported the company spent more than 40% of its $10 million annual budget that year on marketing.
3 million. That’s how many people are subscribed to the PragerU YouTube channel, which covers topics related to economics, race relations, politics and climate change—the latter subject of which the company has played down.
In 2018, the Southern Poverty Law Center said some of PragerU’s videos function “as dog whistles to the extreme right,” referring to videos hosted by right-wing commentators Candace Owens and Dinesh D’Souza.
We estimate Dan Wilks’ net worth at $1.5 billion and his brother’s, Farris Wilks, at $1.4 billion. The brothers received a combined $3.5 billion in pre-tax income when they sold their fracking company, Frac Tech, to Singaporean state-owned investment firm Temasek in 2011. The billionaires have also acquired more than 672,000 acres of land in six different Western states, which placed them among the U.S.’s 12-largest landowners in 2019.
“America’s education system has been hijacked by one side,” PragerU CEO Marissa Streit told Time last month, suggesting teachers are somehow “held hostage to” left-leaning education systems.
The 2022 Ranking Of Free-Market Think Tanks Measured By Social Media Impact (Forbes)
What It Means That Florida Will Allow Conservative PragerU Content in Schools (Forbes)