When the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools to in-person learning in the spring of 2020, parents across America began to see firsthand what their kids were learning via Zoom meetings and other virtual platforms. One of those parents, Jill Simonian of California, didn’t like what she saw.
Simonian decided to speak out. She began posting on social media and raising awareness among other parents about what she calls “the radicalization in our schools.” Her outspokenness eventually led to a job at PragerU, the educational organization founded by author and commentator Dennis Prager.
Last year, The Daily Signal interviewed Simonian about PragerU’s Resources for Educators and Parents. Since then, she’s helped launch PragerU Kids, which offers even more content for family and children—material many of them probably aren’t seeing in school, including a new monthly children’s book series.
“We do not want to radicalize our children. We don’t want to indoctrinate our children,” Simonian says. “We don’t want to do anything that’s political. We merely want to present families and educators with resources that unite us as Americans, that provide the rightful telling of who we are as Americans.”
Read a lightly edited transcript below or listen to the interview on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
Rob Bluey: It’s great to have you back on “The Daily Signal Podcast.” You joined my colleague Virginia Allen and I last year, as you were launching this new exciting initiative. You’ve grown so much in just the past year. Tell us about PragerU Kids—what it is, what your offerings are, and who some of the target audiences are that you’re trying to reach.
Jill Simonian: PragerU Kids is perhaps one of the most special—I’m just going to speak personally—it’s one of the most special endeavors that I’ve ever been a part of, because it is kids content, videos, digital magazines, books for very young learners that really celebrate and teach our American values for kindergartners through 12th grade.
And it’s all free content. It’s on our website, prageru.com/kids. You can find all of the kids programming there.
But it’s unique in that our schools are essentially teaching kids to hate America. And every single one of our videos wants to do the exact opposite. We want to celebrate America and we want our kids to be proud, to love and celebrate America, and of course, learn our history in an unbiased way.
Bluey: Jill, if you could, this is quite personal for you, if you don’t mind sharing the story with our audience. You yourself are a mom, you saw this firsthand with your own kids, what was it that led you to this particular role and the work that you’re doing now?
Simonian: It’s interesting because I’ve been with PragerU for about one year, and I did not go out looking for this job to work with PragerU Kids or our membership program for parents and teachers. We call our membership program PREP, PragerU Resources for Educators and Parents. I did not go out looking to work specifically with them, but the job kind of really rather found me …
And I shouldn’t laugh, I should be very, very proud and truthful about this, but the job found me because I started becoming very unexpectedly outspoken on social media, about how so many things in our educational system are compromised inside the classroom.
There are politicized curriculums and lessons and perspectives that, unfortunately, a lot of educators think is their responsibility to tell our kids about or teach our kids or, as weighted as this word is, indoctrinate our kids.
And I started seeing things firsthand during the school shutdowns, when my two kids were on Zoom learning. And I started seeing sort of a lack of providing lessons. And one of my daughter’s teachers wasn’t saying the Pledge of Allegiance with the class, and there wasn’t a lesson about September 11th and what September 11th did to our country and how it essentially united Americans very much after that tragedy.
But I started noticing that things were really slanted and it bothered me a lot as a parent. And it was very, also, confusing at the same time because I come from a family of educators. My sister’s a public school teacher. My mom was a public school teacher. My grandma was a public school teacher. I’ve always had respect and appreciation for our public schools. And my kids at that time were in public school. And once I started addressing certain problems that I saw arising, I realized that the radicalization in our schools goes very, very deep.
It was then that I started speaking up, particularly on social media, saying that certain things weren’t right, and the team at PragerU found me and said, “Hey, we notice that you feel this way about kids in education. How about you come work with us in this new endeavor we’re trying to launch, PREP and PragerU Kids?”
And so I just said “yes,” and we’ve sort of been the last year working and working and working very, very hard as a nonprofit to create short videos and resources that parents and teachers can use to help educate our kids in a very positive way that unites us.
Bluey: And we are so glad that you ended up there and the work that you are doing. For having such a small team that you do, you produce an incredible amount of content. I want you to share with our listeners some of your favorite offerings that PragerU Kids makes available to parents and educators for kids.
Simonian: So, we have one, two, three, four, five, six, seven—I’m counting on my fingers right now—eight, nine different content lines for kids, kindergarten through 12th grade.
We have our “Otto’s Tales” storytime, which is a storytime series. And all of this, of course, is free on our website. It’s a storytime series for kindergarten through second graders telling folk tales that always offer a lesson about our American values, like hard work, integrity, equality under God, all of those things that our kids, frankly, aren’t getting in schools now.
It’s a storytime series that also, I should mention, is called “Otto’s Tales.” So if you follow PragerU, you know that Otto is Dennis Prager’s bulldog that is beside him on all of his “Fireside Chats” that he does every week. And so our Otto is a costumed puppy, a character that I interact with that plays tricks on me.
We also have a series called “Craftory,” “crafts” plus “history” equals “craftory,” where I do a DIY craft and also inject history lessons about that craft. Like, for instance, there’s a “Craftory” about our American flag and the history of our flag. And you learn fun facts about the history of our flag while I am painting an American flag on a bulletin board. And kids can do it or just watch and learn.
We have an animated series called “Leo & Layla,” that’s for third through fifth graders, with a brother and sister team that travel back in time to meet figures in history like Adam Smith, Neil Armstrong, we have one coming up about Desi Arnaz, all people who love America and loved our American dream.
We have a history series called “TBH,” to be honest, that stands for “to be honest history,” for the older kids, teaching about different times in history—the American Revolution, the French Revolution—in a very fun, hip, snappy way that sixth graders and up can really relate to.
And then we also have our books and digital magazines. Our digital magazines are free, but our books are centered on teaching children the history of America through our holidays. And those books are called “Otto’s Tales.” And they’re for kindergarten through second graders.
And they tackle topics—Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, our American flag, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, all of these things that used to be standardized, taught in schools that really are compromised now with a radical perspective. We have offerings for every age group.
So it’s a lot of fun and we release new content one to two times a week, and it’s a small team of about six of us.
Bluey: I can tell you have a lot of fun putting it together. You can really see that in the end product.
Now, let me ask you this, because you yourself told your story, but so many other moms and dads were feeling that same frustration over the course of 2020 and 2021 when schools shut down. They saw firsthand what was actually being taught in the classroom. So I would expect that those are prime consumers of the material you’re creating. But have you also found that teachers, whether in public or private school, or even homeschoolers, are also turning to it as maybe a curriculum or information that they can share with their own kids?
Simonian: They are. And it’s really comforting because our PREP membership group essentially acts as the foundational support to keep our PragerU Kids shows free online. So the PREP group, it’s a $25 donation, if you would like to support our kids shows and the continued production of our kids shows so that we can do more and more different variety.
But in that PREP membership group, there are almost 20,000 members. And about one-third of them are teachers, which is really, really great and encouraging to know. Because it’s easy now for parents to say, “Oh … the education is ruining our children and teachers are compromised and teachers are this.”
Please know there are countless teachers with integrity who know that the things that are happening in schools with critical race theory and gender identity lessons and systemic racism and all these things that are being shoved down our children’s throat teaching them to hate America—there are teachers with integrity who know that it’s wrong, who know that it is not truthful, and who want to really reset their classrooms or their schools to teach kids what they should all be learning, what all of our kids should be learning.
So when it comes to parents, we have a split of homeschool parents, parents who have their kids in public school, and then also private school parents. And our resources and our shows and our magazines, they’re really meant for parents to engage and interact with our children to supplement what’s happening in schools, to correct what’s happening in schools.
But it is encouraging because our teachers were finding, when they send us notes, they’ll … buy one of our “Otto’s Tales” books, either through Amazon—you can find our books on Amazon—but they’ll buy it and they’ll read it in their kindergarten classroom, or they’ll use one of our digital magazines as a supplemental worksheet to go along with a history lesson that they’re doing.
For instance, our very first digital magazine was “Abigail Adams.” And a teacher sent us a note saying, “You know what? I was doing a lesson for fifth graders about the Founding Fathers. And under the umbrella of academic freedom, I just thought it’d be interesting to give a little worksheet about Abigail Adams. Because when do you ever learn about Abigail Adams?”
I mean, she was such a figure in history. “Remember the ladies,” she told John. “Remember the ladies,” to recognize women in history. And hearing stories that teachers are trying to really, really grasp and use our materials as they’re able in their classrooms, it’s really, really great to know because it is making an impact in that way.
Bluey: You’ve talked about the importance of sharing this information, and that’s one of the things that’s so impressed me always about PragerU, even just the ‘5-Minute Videos’ that Dennis Prager made so famous. How can parents, aside from making a financial donation, help make sure that your work continues to be seen by more and more parents across this country?
Simonian: We like to say, “Be brave.” And then—I’m laughing and I’m making light of it, but it is very serious, be brave. Because many times, and I speak from personal experience from a few years ago, as a conservative, it is scary to share our perspective for fear of being judged, retaliated against, wrongfully labeled with strong words that can destroy reputations and careers that are wrongfully yielded at us.
It’s very scary to be brave and to speak up and publicly speak at a school board meeting or even send the teacher an email saying, “Hey, why were you sharing this lesson on gender identity when this does not align with the state standards in our—”
It’s very scary to express an opinion, if you know that the majority of who you’re addressing does not agree with you, but at PragerU Kids, especially, we’re not aiming to be political.
We do not want to radicalize our children. We don’t want to indoctrinate our children. We don’t want to do anything that’s political. We merely want to present families and educators with resources that unite us as Americans, that provide the rightful telling of who we are as Americans.
So when we say, “Be brave, speak up,” even though it might feel scary to say, “You know what? I’m going to read this ‘Otto’s Tales’ about the history of the Pledge of Allegiance in my kid’s kindergarten class,” be brave, get the book, read the book.
There’s nothing wrong with telling our children the history of the Pledge of Allegiance or the national anthem and reading it in a story. There’s nothing harmful about that. That’s not radicalized. That’s something every kindergartner should be able to learn and ask questions about.
So be brave if a school board meeting is coming up and your child was just given a survey labeled as social-emotional learning, and that survey happened to have questions about their gender identity and if they identify as X, Y, Z, and how do they feel, and what is their family home life like, and asking your third grade child invasive questions that the parent was not aware was going to be on that survey, be brave and go to the school board and say, “I, as a parent and the primary educator of my children, why was this survey delivered to my child without my consent?”
We forget that we parents have rights. And so be brave, have courage, do it with kindness, do it with joy. The phrase “joyful fighters,” “happy warriors,” all of those phrases, we’ve heard those phrases a lot in our climate now, but it is true. Be brave through that positivity because if we’re not, it’s not going to get any better.
Bluey: Jill, finally, on that note, what gives you hope and optimism about the future?
Simonian: I’m hopeful that more and more people are waking up to what is actually happening in schools. Personally speaking, I went to public schools my whole life. Like I said, my family, mother, sister, grandmother, all public school teachers. I’ve always had a deep regard and affection for public school teachers.
And I, myself … as a parent now of two elementary school kids, I was always under this assumption that what’s going on in schools now is the same as what I experienced and what I experienced was really great. And it was really a positive, nonradicalized experience, quite frankly. But I’m hopeful that parents and teachers are waking up, that there are very invasive and wrong narratives, divisive narratives, radicalized narratives that are meant to really devastate freedom and American exceptionalism.
I’m hopeful that parents are waking up, that these things are in fact in our schools in real time through standardized curriculum, through DEI—diversity, equity, and inclusion—programs that sound great on the inside, but when you look at the nitty gritty, they’re very divisive. They’re very racist. They’re not positive for our kids. They’re very damaging.
I’m hopeful that parents are waking up and becoming less and less afraid to stand up to lies and are becoming less afraid to vocalize what is and what is not OK in our schools.
Bluey: For far too long, Jill, I think parents were just accepting of the fact that maybe their own experiences in school were happening today. When, in fact, the colleges of education have themselves been radicalized. And so the teachers who are coming into the classroom today are coming in with a completely different experience than a generation ago. So thank you for the work you’re doing at PragerU Kids. Tell our audience, again, how they can find more information and the great content you’re creating.
Simonian: Yes. Find us, find us, find us. Everything is free at prageru.com/kids—videos, digital magazines, a lot of great resources.
If you want to become part of our PREP membership group, to be connected with fellow like-minded parents and teachers that are pro-America … right now, we have almost 20,000 PREP members that are connected for group discussion in our censorship-free private app for PragerU. They’re talking about all sorts of issues, how we can combat these things collectively and how we can really raise our children in a positive, pro-America way.
Join us at prageru.com/kids and share, share, share our content. I like to say, be loud and proud about having pride in America and loving this country, and wanting to preserve the fundamentals that our country was founded upon for future generations. Because if we don’t do it, it’s going to be gone. And that’s tragic.
Bluey: That was Jill Simonian, the director of outreach for PragerU Kids. Check it out. It’s really a fantastic resource. Whether you’re a parent or a grandparent, make sure that your kids or grandkids are experiencing some of the content that they’re creating. Jill, thanks so much for being with us today.
Simonian: Thank you so much.
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