Getting PBS Hate Out of the Classroom

Sesame Street. Masterpiece Theater. Hamas.

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.

Every time that there is any talk of cutting the PBS budget, the massive organization rolls out Sesame Street as its puppet shield. Cutting the PBS budget is tantamount to killing Grover, Elmo, and Big Bird.

Except it isn’t Republicans who have been killing Big Bird. The greed of PBS executives was doing that.

While PBS has plenty of money to throw at its top executives and its lefty causes, its licensing payments only covered 10% of Sesame Street’s production costs. That’s why the Sesame Workshop took first episodes of its iconic series to HBO. Meanwhile the PBS leadership got another in a series of huge raises.

PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger just signed a 5-year contract extension. The 2017 tax filing suggested that she was earning over $1 million a year. Or 10% of what Sesame Street was losing a year.

But the most toxic element of PBS by far is little known to anyone except some educators and parents.

And that’s PBS LearningMedia.

You can choose not to watch PBS. But PBS LearningMedia embeds its agendas into school curriculums. The horrifying PBS documentary that you skip past isn’t just used to sell flammable tote bags and DVDs for three months. It also ends up in the educational system where it’s inflicted on countless students.

When PBS aired The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, David Horowitz and the Freedom Center vigorously condemned the move. Reviews noted that PBS had enlisted murderers, torturers and racist monsters in promoting and whitewashing a terrorist group and a vicious cult. But the protests faded and the documentary endures as a PBS LearningMedia page with lessons meant for teenagers.

One of the lessons asks students to apply the “work of the Black Panther Party” to social justice activism today. It even includes a hashtag for promoting the violent hate group. #DoNowPanthers.

There’s no similar lesson plan for applying the work of the KKK today with #DoNowKlan.

The PBS LearningMedia materials deny that the Black Panthers were racists or terrorists. They blame the collapse of the hate group on a government conspiracy. They don’t mention murders by the hate group, especially of civilians and black people, but only note that, “More than 20 Panthers remain in prison today, and others live in exile, sentenced for crimes associated with violent confrontations with police officers. Whether or not these Panthers received fair trials remains an issue of dispute.”

Unfortunately, PBS LearningMedia managed to top even this by transforming Suicide Bombers, its documentary episode on Islamic terrorism, into classroom learning materials with the Dying to be a Martyr lesson plan. While the 2004 episode has long since become a distant memory, the lesson plan continues to cause harm by promoting Islamic terrorists in Israel while ignoring their Jewish victims.

That’s not just a critique made by pro-Israel groups.

In 2017, the PBS ombudsman noted that, “My own reading of the lesson plan was that the overall tone it projected was more tilted toward understanding the plight of the Palestinians… than to the impact, and especially the immorality, of suicide bombings.”

Two years later, Dying to be a Martyr is still providing its one-sided view of Islamic terrorism.

Teachers are encouraged to play a video of Mohanned Abu Tayyoun, a failed suicide bomber, and to, “ask your students why Mohanned may feel that way (Answers may include: Palestinians have less land, fewer privileges, cannot come and go as they please.)”

Teaching children to identify with Islamic terrorists is the very definition of radicalization. And it doesn’t just happen covertly, as a result of ISIS brainwashing, but through taxpayer-funded lesson plans.

Follow-up questions include, “Summarize the reasons Mohanned gave for deciding to conduct a martyr operation” and “to what extent is Mohanned's reasoning rooted in the inability to make choices?”

As CAMERA, a pro-Israel fact checking organization, noted, “They are not instructed to ask students to identify how a survivor of a terror attack feels nor the feelings of family members whose loved one was killed in a terror attack.” Instead the lesson plans encourage identifying with the grievances of the terrorists, even while occasionally decrying the extremity of the methods that they choose to use.

PBS and PBS Learning Media often serve as repositories of pro-terrorist propaganda.

After three Jewish teenagers (two of them United States citizens) were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas, PBS Learning Media featured a Voices from Gaza segment of teens from the Hamas territory complaining of Israeli bombings and justifying violence against Israel. “I want everyone in the world to know that we are not terrorists. We defend our country. We, here in Gaza,” one of these read.

Indeed, PBS LearningMedia’s lesson plans which whitewash or ignore terrorism against Jews, distort the history of the conflict, and erase the Jewish presence in Israel form a large part of last year’s CAMERA report, Indoctrinating Our Youth. The report noted that problematic curriculums in schools, including the Newton scandals, were linked to educational materials from PBS that distorted Israeli history.

But, beyond the classroom, PBS LearningMedia is widely used by homeschoolers, enabling pro-terrorist propaganda to be embedded not only in classrooms in the system, but even in homes outside it.

All of this is funded, generously, by taxpayers, through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Unlike normal organizations, the CPB gets a two-year advance appropriation. This time around it’s requesting a $495 million appropriation for 2020. An extra $50 million. Such chutzpah is typical.

PBS execs earn more than the President of the United States, while promoting terror and hate.

But, while cutting funding to PBS at the federal level may be an uphill battle while the Democrats hold the House, PBS LearningMedia gets funding from state budgets. In 2015, Florida’s budget cut $1 million in funding for PBS LearningMedia which made it harder to get its hateful propaganda into classrooms.

PBS LearningMedia benefits from educational standardization. When states, like Florida, opt out of those standards and choose not to fund its efforts to adapt to state standards, PBS suffers setbacks.

PBS claims that it’s “America’s largest classroom.” But the lessons that it’s teaching are hateful and dangerous. PBS LearningMedia allows it to transplant the toxic materials that it broadcasts weekly to an aging audience into the classroom where it finds captive audiences of vulnerable children.

Getting PBS out of the classroom is a battle that begins at the state level.

Anti-Semitism doesn’t come out of thin air. Neither does any other bigotry. PBS LearningMedia is helping spread and normalize bigotry in the classroom. State budgets can clean its hate away.

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