Leftist ideology is becoming more pervasive in schools across the country. To counter the trend, Prager University, an organization committed to furthering American values through digital media, has launched PragerU Resources for Educators and Parents, or PREP for short.
The goal of PREP is to provide parents and teachers with creative resources to teach students American history and values. Jill Simonian, director of outreach for PREP, joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss the new program and how families are beginning to use it.
To join PragerU Resources for Educators and Parents (PREP) visit PragerU.com//PREP. You also can connect on Instagram @prageru and @jillsimonian.
Also on today’s show, we read your letters to the editor and share a good news story about a moving company that decided to help local food banks when it realized how much food goes to waste when people move.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
“The Daily Signal Podcast” is available on Ricochet, Apple Podcasts, Pippa, Google Play, and Stitcher. All of our podcasts can be found at DailySignal.com/podcasts. If you like what you hear, please leave a review. You also can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Virginia Allen: Well, education is becoming more and more progressive and parents are looking for alternative curriculum options. And Prager University is providing some practical tools to help. I am so pleased to be joined by Jill Simonian, director of outreach for PragerU Resources for Educators & Parents, also known as PREP. Jill, welcome to the show.
Jill Simonian: Thank you. I’m so happy to be here talking with you.
Allen: So you are leading this new curriculum initiative for PragerU. For anyone, first, who is not familiar with Prager University, could you just explain a little bit of your mission?
Simonian: Absolutely. The mission is to encourage people to think critically and to examine the world around us and to appreciate the country that we live in and celebrate our American values of hard work and individual responsibility and integrity and equality under God. And that’s the mission.
Allen: I love it. And you all do that in so many creative ways. I’ve personally learned so much from the videos that PragerU produces. I’m so, so thankful that we have you all as a resource, especially right now.
Simonian: I know. Thank you. I’ve learned a lot too. I cannot tell you how much I’ve learned.
Allen: Oh, it’s so great. And you do those videos and you deliver information, I think, in such a digestible way. So truly, truly appreciate that. But one of the ways that you are continuing to further your mission is through this new resource, PragerU Resources for Educators & Parents. So just explain what exactly that is and why you all felt like this was something you had to do and that it fits so closely with your mission.
Simonian: Well, first of all, I commend you for getting [the name right]. It is a mouthful: PragerU Resources for Educators & Parents. That’s why we call it PREP. And what that means is we have essentially formed, I like to say a club–it’s an easy way to say it–of parents and teachers from around the country who believe that our American education system is currently being hijacked by leftist indoctrination.
And I hate to sound dramatic and alarmist, but unfortunately that’s what we’re seeing in our public schools across the country, in our private schools across the country. We have this philosophy being shoved down so many of our throats about programs that are being called diversity, equity, and inclusion. But really, these are politicized, agenda-driven narratives that are teaching kids and families to hate America.
And again, I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, but when you look at what so many of our school districts are proposing that institutions and schools adopt, it’s really alarming and it should be scary for all of us. Whether I’m a parent of elementary school kids, it’s scary to me, it’s scary to teachers who happen to share pro-American values, But worst of all, it’s scary for the future of our communities and our country. And so here at PragerU, especially the last year with the veil being lifted and us parents getting a window into our kids’ classrooms via Zoom instruction, we’ve seen what has been taught, what hasn’t been taught, and we needed a call to action.
And so what we’ve done here at PREP is we’re launching this program to provide two things. One is to provide a support group for parents of like-minded values to be able to discuss issues, propose solutions for each other, [and] offer insight and advice on a peer-to-peer level.
But then the second part of it is that we’re creating content, resources, [and] videos appropriate for kids ages kindergarten to 12th grade, because everyone knows PragerU videos are for adults or young adults. But what we haven’t done yet is really celebrate American values through a child’s eyes. So that’s what we’re doing here and that’s what PREP is seeking to do, and we’ve got so many fun things planned.
Allen: And how did you get involved in the initiative?
Simonian: Well, let me tell you, it was quite an unexpected calling. I like to call it a calling because it really feels like that’s what it was. I discovered PragerU a little over a year ago, believe it or not. And I started watching some of the five-minute videos and they really resonated with me because they were based on logic, they were based on asking questions.
I’ve always held the same values through my life, pro-American values, in the way I was raised and attending church and being raised in a very family centric atmosphere. But watching PragerU videos really resonated with me in getting me to think about the direction that our country’s going as an individual and also as a parent of small children right now.
So I discovered them about a year ago and out of nowhere, I kid you not, I get an email last summer from the CEO saying: “I noticed that you have been posting a lot of like-minded opinions reflecting values that we share here at PragerU online.” I should give you a little bit of background. I have worked for the past 15 years in television and media, and my specialty was parenting and family lifestyle.
So I would appear on television all the time. I’ve been on “The Today Show,” I used to work for CBS [in] Los Angeles, I’ve been on KTLA in Los Angeles. All of these television programs, I was a television host. And then when I became a mother, I switched to parenting and I started a blog called thefabmom.com. So I had been writing thoughts and feelings about the direction our country was going in.
And PragerU found me and contacted me and said, “Would you be interested in doing one of our five-minute videos explaining the dangerous direction that our schools are headed in with leftist indoctrination?” And I said, “Absolutely.” And we shot the five-minute video. And then after that, project by project, I began getting involved in bits and pieces just as this PREP program was getting launched.
And finally in January, so in about a six-month period, it went from getting involved with one thing with PragerU and being hired full time to help direct the outreach for this new PREP program. And it’s been such a blessing and I’m so thankful because it really does feel like a calling.
Allen: Oh, I love that. That’s so good. Wild story. Why does it usually happen like that?
Simonian: No, it is a wild story.
Allen: So for you as a parent, have you seen this in your own kids’ schools, in your own school district, that these really progressive ideas are influencing and are being taught through the curriculum, are being adopted by school boards, so on and so forth?
Simonian: Absolutely. With COVID-19 this last year, my kids recently were able to return to school in person. And prior to that, they were both on Zoom classrooms, essentially. And I got a very unfiltered look inside what was happening in one of my daughter’s classrooms, particularly. And what was happening was … a few examples: I noticed at the very beginning of the year, the Pledge of Allegiance was not being said in one of her classrooms. I noticed that there was a very, I’m going to say lackluster, non-fact-based lesson about 9/11, Sept. 11. One of the worst times in American history was not fully explained or talked about in any sort of historical lesson type of way.
Those two things were alarming to me right at the beginning of the school year. I also noticed that friends of mine who also had kids in the school, we started talking and we started comparing notes about what some of us were seeing inside some of our kids’ classrooms. Not all of them, OK? I know a lot of wonderful, great, fantastic teachers who do their job well in a very unbiased and effective way.
But in many of the classrooms, we started seeing books that were being read to our children that had very inappropriate and progressive narratives. I’m talking books read to kindergarten and first graders that really have no business being in school at that age. We also saw in my district a very strong push by few but very loud voices to inject a diversity, equity, and inclusion program into our district. And that’s something that is very highly contentious right now that’s happening. In fact, this last week, I went to my school board meeting and I spoke with six other parents about our concerns about DEI and how it’s based in critical race theory and critical race theory is in fact racism.
And to implement programs that are based on these divisive, destructive philosophies is flat-out egregious to put into our schools and to put onto high schoolers and junior high and elementary students. And it goes far beyond my district too. I mean, I don’t know how often you keep up with education, but across California, across the country, parents are slowly realizing that these progressive narratives that are very inappropriate and divisive are being forced upon our schools through the administrations.
And it’s our job to speak up. And that’s one of the things that PREP aims to do is just to give us support and strength in numbers so that we can communicate with each other and share tactics and advice that is working, is not working, and decide what the heck are we going to do.
Allen: And Jill, you’re based in California, correct?
Simonian: I am. I’m based in California.
Allen: … It is really discouraging to see the direction that California has been, I feel like, leading the charge in so many ways in this area of introducing a lot of progressive education. But like you say, we’ve seen this popping up in a lot of other places. So could you give us some examples of where else is this happening besides the big cities like LA, New York, Chicago?
Simonian: Sure. Well, a couple of things that come to me [off] the top of my head. In Oregon recently, they were trying to overhaul their math program. Because there was a group of educators [that] said when you ask people to find a correct answer, that in itself is rooted in fear and white supremacy. That doesn’t make any sense to me and I don’t understand it. But that’s an example of something that was happening in Oregon.
There’s a group that goes by the name of #DisruptTexts that was looking to ban certain works of Shakespeare in high schools because Shakespeare furthers white supremacy values. OK, I don’t understand. …
Dr. Seuss books were requested to be canceled in a school in Virginia because they said that there were six books that furthered racist and divisive narratives. You can look them up online. I did and frankly, it’s a gross overreaction to a children’s author that had no intention of ever doing that. I mean, if you look up who Dr. Seuss was, he was in fact a liberal who was against any and all racism. So the fact that they’re canceling him is really disappointing.
The list goes on. I mean, it goes on and on and on. And every day there are more stories that we’re learning about that you can’t believe that they’re real life, but they are.
Allen: We’ve seen that at The Daily Signal, the stories do just keep coming. Explain some of the content that PREP does offer. I was reading some of your new programs. For example, your how-to series for sixth through eighth graders. But talk us through some of those practical kind of unique initiatives that you all are starting through PREP.
Simonian: This is the fun part. It’s so easy to talk about all of the frustrating and infuriating and alarming things that are happening. But this is really the goal of PREP, is to celebrate American values with our kids. And if they’re not going to get it through their schools, then guess what? We’re going to provide it and we’re going to enjoy what we have in this country, equality and our God and liberty and freedom.
And we’re going to teach our kids that America is a wonderful place. And the way that we’re doing that is through original and curated content and videos. One of the first things that we started working on, we started a story time hour that we’re calling “Otto’s Tales.” Now anyone that watches Dennis Prager’s “Fireside Chats” on PragerU knows his dog, Otto. Otto is the famous bulldog who sleeps on the bean bag as Dennis is sharing his philosophies with us.
And our story time has a costumed, very adorable and mischievous Otto next to me while I am reading a story that celebrates America in one way or another. And Otto and I host a story time for kindergartners. And it’s a really sweet, simple series featuring books that, frankly, aren’t being read in classrooms because of these progressive narratives that have hijacked our education. So we’re starting that video series, and all of this is going to be launching on our PREP website, which is going to be brand new in April, so it’s very exciting.
We’re also creating a series called Craftory, where I lead students in a craft, but then at the same time they also learn a bit of history. For instance, we’re going to be customizing and painting a bulletin board in the design of our American flag. But they’re also going to get a history of the flag, how it started with 13 stars, and how Betsy Ross created the first flag and the story behind that, and how our flag has evolved into 50 stars, and when and why.
So you get a craft with a little bit of a history lesson in a very fun, relaxed way and it’s something kids can do at home and engage in with their families and also enjoy the craft itself in their home as a reminder of our American values. Something else that we’re doing is developing an animated series called “The Magical History Tour.” Actually, I don’t even know if I was able to say that title out loud, but I just did, so surprise.
Allen: Debuted here. You heard it here first. I love it.
Simonian: You heard it here first. I hope I don’t get fired, joking. But we’re working on a lot of fun things. We also have a digital magazine planned for third through fifth graders featuring theory, important American historical figures. And the first series that we’re starting focuses on women like Abigail Adams, Margaret Thatcher, Ayn Rand. The list goes on. It’s just getting started. We just launched a few months ago and our membership has already come very, very close [to] if not exceeded 7,000.
Simonian: Yeah. And we haven’t even put out any of these videos yet. So I mean, this is a true testament of how hungry families are to celebrate what we have in this country and to teach our kids that America is a great place.
Allen: And you’re providing resources for really all age levels, right? K through 12 on the website through PREP.
Simonian: Yes, K through 12. And one of the things I should mention are how to videos. We’ve enlisted this fantastic group of young people called Freedomists. And they’re developing these how-to videos for us that are so fun and so snappy and just really creatively done, [like] how to fold an American flag. But I say this in the most loving way, they’ve got the whole high school attitude, really cool, fun, quick, fast-paced things to really celebrate America but also resonate with the junior high and high school crowd.
And we also host a lot of live events. We just had a virtual event, I should say. We just had one of our live virtual Zoom events for PREP members, where junior high and high school kids in our PREP membership whose parents are members of PREP could watch our PragerU five-minute videos and then discuss them in a free and open way with our PragerFORCE members. And our PragerFORCE members are the college kids who are our biggest champions for conservative values in this next generation.
Allen: Oh, that’s so exciting. So as far as who these resources are targeted toward, I mean, if I’m a working mom and my kids are going to school every day, how should I be thinking about using these resources? If I’m a homeschool mom, how should I think about working them into my lesson planning and my curriculum with my kids?
Simonian: Great questions. Yeah, because there’s a wide variety. We’ve got public school parents, we’ve got working parents, we have stay-at-home parents, we’ve got homeschool, private, you name it. The spectrum is wide and this is the best way I can describe it. I myself am a working mom of public school kids, obviously. And I like to look at PREP as my go-to resource list for when I don’t know what to show my kids to explain something about America.
I’m going to go to the PREP website and I’m going to find something that I know resonates with my values and I’m going to show my kids. For instance, I’ll just use my 8-year-old daughter, for example. My 8-year-old daughter loves arts and crafts. And this is where I came up with the idea for the Craftory. She loves arts and crafts. She will make anything out of garbage. You name it, she will have a ball and make it.
But is she the biggest fan of studying history? No, not really, and that’s just her. But if I engage her in an arts and craft project that involves painting, glue, and all sorts of things, and she’s also going to get information about how and why our flag was created and the different incarnations our flag has gone through because of our fight for freedom, then that’s a win for me. And if she’s going to have fun doing her arts, but she’s going to learn to appreciate our flag and what it stands for, for freedom and for bravery and equality and our God, then that’s a win.
So for homeschool parents, we’ve got dozens of resources that are go-to wins, for lack of a better word, that parents can have faith that their kids are going to be taught things that are of value. It’s really how you want to use it.
Allen: That’s so practical. That’s what we need, is just a tool that can be used in so many different situations, and every family’s different. So it’s helpful to have something that isn’t a one-size-fits-all, but lets us just draw on the resources as we have need. So talk about that practical: How do I sign up? How much is the subscription? Where can I find more information?
Simonian: PragerU is a nonprofit. I mean, most of us know that. If you make a donation to PragerU, that grants you access to the PREP program, and then you are able to join our private Facebook group. If you are on Facebook and you want a discussion group with like-minded parents to bounce ideas and share resources, there’s a lot of resource sharing in that Facebook group as well.
For instance, there’s a lot of homeschool parents that say, oh, I use this for my kids, and everyone’s sort of sharing their own curriculums and information. And there’s a lot of teachers in that group as well who also share their information and different lesson plans that they’ve created that are useful to someone else who might be looking for something that maybe was banned at their school not too long ago.
But if you make a donation to PragerU, you are given access to the PREP membership group and you can join the Facebook forum. It is a private group. But beginning in April, all of our resources that we’re creating are going to be available on our website, and that’s something that we’re really excited about. So essentially, you can access the resources, but if you want the real experience and the value of the private discussion groups, that’s where the membership really comes into play.
Allen: Awesome. Excellent. Jill, thank you so much. We’ll be sure to leave a link in the show notes for the website so that our listeners can check it out. But we so appreciate your time, Jill.
Simonian: You’re so welcome. Thank you. I was going to say, if you want to check it out, our website is prageru.com/prep, P-R-E-P. Join us, join us, join us because if we don’t save our communities and our country for our kids, it’s gone.
Allen: Yeah. It all comes down to the next generation, and that really starts with education. So thank you for the work you’re doing, Jill.
Simonian: Thank you.