Prager University Review

   Originally written and posted on Quora, Dec. 19, 2017. See link.

Prager University is an up-and-coming and presumably popular website that targets Millennials and touts freedom of thought and speech. The site is confusing a lot of people who think it is a real school (it’s just a website), and folks are beginning to ask questions.

My first run-in with PragerU was a commercial that made my jaw drop, in which a poised young lady announced confidently that she had learned more from working at McDonald’s than the traditional brick-and-mortar university (a real school) she had attended. She further encouraged everyone to follow her path, in order to leave college debt and liberal indoctrination behind…

This ad is on PragerU’s site. “Stop giving to your Alma Mater (and give to us!)”

PragerU was founded by Dennis Prager, a sixty-nine-year-old, ultra-conservative, Jewish radio talk-show host and author/public speaker with an established agenda for converting people to American conservatism. Dennis Prager – Wikipedia

And that pretty much explains PragerU in a nutshell, too. It’s sole purpose is to convert young people to conservatism through short, easily sharable videos. The biggest issue with PragerU is that the videos present opinions (all of which are actually really old arguments that young people in particular-PragerU’s target audience-may not have heard yet) on provocative questions many people have, as if those opinions were facts.


Cite Your Sources

For example, Crowder’s video, “Democratic Socialism is Still Socialism,” (FreeToThink | PragerU) claims that adding the word “democratic” to “democratic socialism” does not change the meaning at all. The phrase is still equal to “socialism.” Which is an illogical and untrue argument. Adding “un” to “untrue” changes the meaning of “true” entirely, adding “baritone” to “saxophone” specifies an entirely different instrument from a “soprano saxophone,” and adding “jerk” to “chicken” connotes a Jamaican recipe, not a mean bird. jerk chicken – Google Search

Later in that same video, Crowder, talking a mile a minute, shoves together several examples of countries that are neither democratic nor socialist to “prove” his point that democratic socialism is bad, then skips quickly over to Denmark and Sweden, using quotes out of context to confuse the issue. This article from CNN does a fairer job of explaining the terms and ideas, I think. Bernie Sanders’ American Dream is in Denmark – CNNPolitics

If/when you watch PragerU’s “Free to Think” videos (I have not seen all the videos, and am aware that some are done by professors), notice that rarely are facts cited or sources given*, and there are never references at the end or clickable links to research more. Many videos are either confidently-presented misinformation (like the Crowder video above) or simply testimonials/anecdotes with relatable scenarios, like this one by Jay Stephens (FreeToThink | PragerU) about college debt, “College Made Me a Conservative”.


Free to Think Like Us

Another issue is the use of certain words like, “Trigger Warning”, “Snowflakes”, “The Left”, etc. in a subtly derogatory and not informational way. There is clear bias in the way these words and many others are used. Take for example the fascinating video, Gun Rights Are Women’s Rights, in which Katie Pavlich asserts that “men being stronger than women is controversial these days,” (is it?) and ends with a snarky, “it’s called, ‘biology.’”

There are other subtle problems too, like the video, The Biggest Issues in the World Today: Why Do People Become Islamic Extremists, which implies in pictures, text, and speech that only Muslims (especially those outside of the USA) can become religious extremists who kill people. And once again, even though the presenter is an adjunct professor at Georgetown U, he only uses his own stories to prove his points, instead of using verifiable evidence outside of his own experiences.


Conspiracy Theories

PragerU videos and PragerU sponsored speakers’ videos, reveal a general theme of victimization, conspiracy, and persecution against conservatives. This narrative allows PragerU fans to reasonably “fight back in self-defense” (just like Jesus didn’t say), and continue to express moral outrage over events that are not as they seem.

Take for example, the several banners on PragerU’s site that claim YouTube has discriminatorily targeted PragerU for Restricted Access on a host of PragerU’s videos, which they outline here:   PragerU has gone so far as to launch a lawsuit, garner signatures for petitions, and (of course) ask for donations to “help free the videos.” But when I visited YouTube via a private browser of which I was not signed in, I was able to access several of the videos (I did not test all 40) PragerU claimed could not be accessed by children “for educational purposes.”

Furthermore, it looks as if PragerU took down several videos in their own list themselves; YouTube’s stated policy regarding Restricted Access includes political videos; and finally, yes, some of the videos are meant to be downright inflammatory (and if you have a problem with it, you’re clearly a liberal snowflake).

Gee, I wonder why this one is deemed offensive by some?

Education or Bust

If you investigate the folks who speak in the videos or write articles (for other conservative organizations with close ties to PragerU), you will find some interesting trends including a surprising lack of credentials among the “Free to Think” videos presenters, many adjunct professors or research analysts from private universities (most with a current strong religious leaning like Georgetown and Duke), and the same few websites featuring the same people again and again like TownHall.com and the Cato Institute.

Matt Walsh is one such person I’ve investigated before, who has run his own controversial opinion blog for years (Militant Christianity and Matt Walsh’s Misinterpretation of the Gospel of Peace). I have never been able to learn if he has a college degree or what he majored in, and citation of facts (or even Biblical concepts) is something consistently lacking in his writing. But he is bombastic and gets attention, so people follow along.

Caroline Kitchens is another writer/speaker who appears to have gone to college at Duke U, but never states that she graduated or in what area. Yet these people are deriding college and higher education when they’ve seemingly never been or completed a degree!

No one can “get educated” from a series of 5-minute videos. Take it from me, a highschool reading tutor: education takes a lot of work, reading, study, and guidance, no matter your field. There are no shortcuts.


Mission: Engage!

To put it bluntly, PragerU is not about education but political and even religious indoctrination. The people behind PragerU want young, relatable-sounding and looking spokespeople who will say what PragerU wants them to say, to convince other young people to follow conservatism. Many other Christian churches and groups seek to “reclaim” the “lost Millennials” who have been leaving ultra-conservative churches in droves in the past few years as well. how to reclaim millennials for god

Ironically, many of the pertinent questions and important issues PragerU addresses were created or aggravated by…(wait for it)…conservatism. I’m a living, breathing example of the damage such ideas can cause:

Bringing Back Child Labor?
The Ideology of Underage Marriages in Conservative Christianity
Loura Lawrence’s answer to What is the most frightening moment you have ever experienced?

We absolutely need to talk about all the different issues and problems plaguing our country. We absolutely need to hear different viewpoints (hint: there are more than just 2 sides). But we also must absolutely have our opinions informed by facts, not just pretty/handsome faces, “nice” people, confident people, slick videos, or fast talkers.

Note:

*I tried to look up the quote and study by David Kopel of Denver U cited in the video, “Gun Rights are Women’s Rights,” but could not find the study. I also learned that he was an adjunct professor at Denver U, that he is a member of the NRA, and a long-time gun rights advocate. Gun Rights Are Women’s Rights

Advertisements

The Truth About the Opioid Crises

I’m resharing this article I wrote 3 years ago. 3 years and things have only gotten worse. The facts need to come out now, more than ever before. People are dying!

The Rambling Soapbox

Previously titled, “On Opioids: America’s Drug Addictions and the Wacky Laws that Perpetuate Them.”vintage heroinTwo years ago, a little silver car sat parked outside our home. As the sun was going down an ambulance, police cruiser, and firetruck suddenly arrived to pull an unconscious young woman with a bobbing ponytail out from the driver side of the car. A bottle of heroin had been found next to her. I never saw that young woman again, and the police came to impound her car a few days later.

Last July, I sat in the small chapel at a local funeral home staring at the body of my husband’s cousin. Only 29 years old, living less than a mile from our house, married and a daddy-to-be, and there he lay in an open coffin looking sound asleep. After months of staying clean he had found a dealer in the apartment complex he…

View original post 1,438 more words

The Box

To Elizabeth, on her 14th birthday

 

In a box under my bed, lies my baby.

In this box, a pink ribbon and hat.

In this box is a lock of her downy blond hair,

And her name carved in wood, painted black.

In this box are her finger and feet prints,

And a picture of her with my nose.

In the box are too few scraps of memory,

And the dried petals of a sweet rose.

 

IMG_8778
Photography by Loura Lawrence

In a different box under the ground, lies my baby,

With a stuffed toy and some warm clothes.

She is there, in the ground, my poor baby,

Safe now from the chill wind that blows.

There in the ground lies my baby,

Overtopped by a grey-stone rose.

Choosing Sides? In the Aftermath of Violence, there are no Winners

In the wake of the Charlottesville, VA protests, one thing has become crystal clear:

  • 14596954857_9eb1e2905d_zOne side is motivated by fear, which leads to anger, anger to hate.
  • One side throws around emotionally-charged language, calling the other side traitors to America.
  • One side refuses to give any ground, refuses to honestly hear the other side out.
  • One side sees the other as everything that’s wrong with this country. If only that side would leave America, she would be truly great again.
  • One side has been trying to “white-wash” history for years.
  • One side is just itching for another Civil War.
  • One side is on a witch hunt, ready to destroy complicated people over voicing their opinions and utilizing their civil right as Americans to freely speak out without fear of repercussions.
  • One side can’t or won’t see that where and how the other side lives plays a big role in that side’s opinions on politics, etc.
  • One side’s idealism is the most important thing to them, higher than the people who make America great (i.e. Americans), higher than the laws that make America safe, higher than any religious precepts of peace. The idea, and not the reality, is the number one thing.
  • One side resembles fascism in it’s complete devotion to the idea, and the utter destruction (so far verbally, reputation-wise, financially) of anyone who even appears to question it. There is no neutrality in this side’s eyes, how much less room is there for all sides?
  • One side is more than willing to resort to violence as a catalyst for change, “if necessary.”
  • Will one side stop at nothing for their ideal America to be realized? That remains to be seen.

Which side am I talking about? If you only see one side or the other, you are part of the problem. United we stand, divided we fall.

IMG_9200_1a_watermark
The grave is never satisfied.