Gloria Johnson joins the race, PragerU in Oklahoma schools

Oklahoma's Ryan Walters brings conservative politics into public classrooms.


Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has some new competition for her 2024 race: Tennessee state Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) said on Tuesday that she will be seeking to unseat Blackburn. Johnson is a part of the so-called “Tennessee Three,” a group of Democratic lawmakers that Republicans attempted to expel after Johnson and two other state representatives joined gun control activists in a protest outside the state capitol this summer. Their participation in the protest violated decorum rules, and this technical statute was weaponized by Tennessee Republicans as grounds for expulsion — though the effort ultimately failed to permanently disbar the two that were expelled (Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were reappointed and then won special elections.) Johnson, who is white, did not meet the same fate as her two Black colleagues, as her expulsion attempt surprisingly failed by one vote.

The primary for the Democratic ticket will be on March 5 of next year. The only other Democratic candidate to have declared is Marquita Bradshaw, who was the party’s nominee in Tennessee’s 2020 Senate race. Bradshaw was defeated by private equity scumbag and former Trump appointee Bill Hagerty (R) by 27 percentage points.

The Senate returned from its summer vacation on Tuesday, and some of the usual suspects were up to their usual bullshit. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) opposed President Joe Biden’s FCC nominee, Anna M. Gomez, by comparing her support for net neutrality — which stipulates that Internet providers aren’t allowed to grant faster web browsing to preferred sites — to the Affordable Care Act.

Cruz asserted that net neutrality was “investment killing and job-killing” and should be “otherwise known as ‘Obamacare for the Internet.’”

Meanwhile, Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH), who is really just two kids in a trenchcoat trying to sneak into an R-rated movie, introduced legislation that would ban mask mandates for 15 months. Vance falsely claimed that masking was ineffective (and even harmful to small children) and that the newest COVID-19 variant that is spreading is “"nothing to worry about."

And Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) declared that it is “easier to get a fentanyl tablet and cheaper to get a fentanyl tablet delivered to your home than it is to order a piece of pizza."

Oklahoma to collaborate with far-right media organization to provide public school curriculum

Earlier this week, Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters said that the state’s Department of Education would be working with PragerU, a right-wing propaganda outfit to provide “additional resources” that “will help ensure quality instruction in American history and values.”

“I am thrilled to announce this partnership with PragerU,” Walters said in a statement. “This expansion of our available resources will help ensure high-quality materials rich in American history and values will be available to our teachers and students.”

While the outlet mainly provides YouTube videos and podcasts for adults, in recent years PragerU began producing children’s cartoons and curriculum to tap into the budding homeschooling market — an option that has become more common amongst conservative families.

PragerU, which was founded by conservative talk-radio host Dennis Prager, is notorious for creating digital media content that bends and contorts historical facts to suit reactionary narratives around race, class, gender and socio-political issues. For example, one cartoon features abolitionist Fredic Douglas telling two animated children that slavery was, in essence, a necessary evil for the founding of the United States.

“I’m certainly not OK with slavery, but the founding fathers made a compromise to achieve something great, the making of the United States,” the fictitious Douglas proclaims. “It was America that began the conversation to end it.”

The company seems to be positioning itself to make the jump to lucrative government contracts, with Oklahoma now being the second state (after Florida) to integrate PragerU content into state-wide school curriculum. This campaign has been underway since the fall of 2021, according to The American Prospect (TAP), “when PragerU began its first massive initiative to concertedly push its content into schools. Known as “PREP,” the educational program already has over 6,000 educators and parents signed up,” wrote TAP contributor Amelia Pollard.

“An annual donation of $25 gives users access to the program’s materials and a private Facebook group with over 1,400 members.”

And while the content designed by PragerU for Oklahoma schools will be an optional resource made available for parents — the state’s largest school district has opted out — the slow creep of right-wing propaganda into the public education standards of red states is incredibly disconcerting. It seems more and more likely that it’s not the future civil war we need to worry about, so much as the social and cultural cleavage that seems to be unfolding across state lines and geographic boundaries.

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Jamie Larson