By Samantha Kaddis, The CLEO Institute
Florida’s classrooms are no longer just places of learning. They have become political battlegrounds where accurate information is under siege. It started with recent book bans, removing critical race theory from the curriculum and attacks on LGBTQA+ rights in schools. Now, climate science is under attack.
The Florida Department of Education recently approved the K-5 curriculum created by Prager University Foundation (PragerU), a big-oil-funded conservative group known for producing biased content littered with misinformation and climate denialism. One video falsely claims that wind and solar energy pollute the planet, while another shamefully compares climate activists to Nazis.
This decision by the agency to allow this propaganda to be presented to children as an educational curriculum threatens the impressionable minds of Florida’s youth and the integrity of our statewide educational system. By becoming the first state to endorse PragerU materials in public schools, Florida sends a distressing message to other states that manipulating facts and promoting climate denial has a place in classrooms.
Adding fuel to this fire is the clear political motivation behind these “educational” materials. Dennis Prager, the founder of PragerU, is an American conservative writer and radio talk show host with an agenda that has no place in our classrooms. Why are we allowing politics to infiltrate our children’s education?
Moreover, PragerU’s financial backers include billionaire brothers Dan and Farris Wilks, who amassed their wealth through hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking. Their investment into PragerU serves to underscore the connection between the university’s narrative and a vested interest in the fossil fuel industry.
PragerU advertises on its website that the foundation “offers a free alternative to the dominant left-wing ideology in culture, media, and education.” It endorses a political agenda supported only by the fringes of society and carbon-polluting corporations.
A study conducted by Yale University, “Global Warming’s Six Americas,” found that a mere 9% of the American population is categorized as “dismissive,” believing that global warming is not happening, human-caused or a threat. The overwhelming scientific consensus unequivocally states that human activity is driving unprecedented climate change. The Florida Department of Education must distinguish between legitimate, evidence-based perspectives and PragerU’s thinly veiled attempts to delegitimize established science and undermine global efforts to combat climate change.
Despite the small percentage, PragerU wields a compelling and echoing influence. Tailored for a younger audience, their video titles, such as “Your Life Depends on Fossil Fuels,” “Is There Really a Climate Emergency” and “Climate Activists Use Kids to Fuel Hysteria,” not only downplay the foundation of science but also promote numerous inaccurate narratives encompassing climate advocacy.
The battle over education is a battle for the future. It is a battle for the well-being of our planet and the prosperity of generations to come. Let us firmly reject the intrusion of climate denial propaganda into our classrooms and instead cultivate a learning environment that empowers students with accurate information, encourages critical thinking, and equips them to address the complex challenges of our time with honesty and empathy.
We cannot deny the realities of climate change, we are feeling the effects every day. Just last week, an National Weather Service Tallahassee meteorologist, Wright Dobbs, issued another excessive heat warning as it could feel as hot as 115 degrees in Tallahassee in the coming days. NWS Tallahassee has issued more excessive heat warnings in 2023 than any other past year.
I encourage Leon County school board members to emulate the wise decisions of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Broward counties by banning PragerU’s content in our schools. Allowing this propaganda to take root in Leon County schools could potentially suppress the growth of future youth-led climate movements in Florida.
I urge everyone to stand alongside The CLEO Institute in demanding that Florida’s students be taught facts, not climate change misinformation.
Samantha Kaddis is a recent graduate from Florida State University and has taken on the role of the Tallahassee Youth Advocacy Lead of The CLEO Institute. The organization is a non-profit dedicated to climate education and advocacy. This opinion piece was originally published by the Tallahassee Democrat, which is a media partner of The Invading Sea.