Dennis Prager is best known as a nationally syndicated radio host and columnist, but he is also a Jew who teaches the Torah. His views are conservative and supportive of Judeo-Christian values. Prager is well-known for his intelligent conversations with some of the most knowledgeable people in the world on all of the above topics. A comment Prager often makes on his radio show is that he is seeking clarity rather than agreement. Consequently, his discussions with guests often help his listeners understand the worldviews behind ideas and positions. Prager’s desire for clarity regarding the beliefs that underlie particular views or ideas carries over into Prager University.
Prager University offers free five-minute, video “courses” on vitally important topics. Prager University does not offer degrees or course credits that transfer elsewhere. Although designed primarily for an adult audience, many of the courses would be great to use with teens. If you download their “curriculum” printout, you’ll see all of the courses planned under these topics: economics, policy, foreign affairs, left/right divide, government, culture, environmental studies, United States, Constitution, Europe, religion, character, and male/female. (Click on “about the curriculum” under the “About” heading.) If you, instead, access the course listings under tabs on the website, you will see the course headings: economics, history, life studies, political science, and religion/philosophy, and you will then see listed only the courses that are available at this time.
Because liberal views tend to dominate both the media and academia, Prager created Prager University to present “alternative” views in the most concise and engaging way possible. To that end, he invited knowledgeable and articulate people, most of whom are very well known, to help create many of these courses. For example, George Gilder presents “Why Capitalism Works,” “Iran and the Bomb” is taught by Bret Stephens who is the foreign affairs columnist for the Wall Street Journal, “What is Social Justice” is presented by Jonah Goldberg of the American Enterprise Institute, and Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, teaches “God vs. Atheism: Which is More Rational?” Prager himself presents topics such as, “Are People Born Good?” and “Is Evil Rational?” As you can see, the topics themselves address vitally important questions.
Each video presentation distills the information into the most important points, presenting them with graphics and occasional illustrations. Videos move quickly and the presentations are very easy to understand.
For each course, there is an optional, five-question quiz. You can watch videos through the Prager University site as well as on YouTube, but quizzes are only available at Prager University. If you register (at no cost), Prager University will keep track of which videos you’ve watched as well as your scores. There's also an "Academic Partnership" feature for parents to sign up for to track the progress of multiple students. By signing up you also get weekly emails with links to new video courses as they become available.
On the Prager University site you will also find printable transcripts for the courses that might be very helpful for review or for a follow-up discussion. Also on the site, some courses have a “Related Books” button that takes you to Amazon lists of recommended books for further reading.
At this point, there are at least 60 courses available, but many more are in the works. I think they plan to add at least one per week. These courses make excellent supplements for homeschooling teens to use for government, economics, history, and religion.
For example, right now there are at least four courses that would likely be useful as supplements for an economic course. “The Promise of Free Enterprise” by Arthur Brooks explains what our Founding Fathers meant by the “pursuit of happiness” and how true happiness comes from personal achievements. A Free Enterprise economic system generally provides more opportunities for personal achievement in the economic and business realm than do other systems. Closely tied to this course is “Why Capitalism Works” by George Gilder. Gilder explains how profit-making businesses survive best as they serve the needs and desires of their customers. A business’s pursuit of self-serving goals generally reduces profitability. In “America’s Debt Crisis Explained,” Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute explains the looming problem of U.S. debt as well as a strategy for paying it off. “Lower Taxes, Higher Revenue” helps budding economists understand the Laffer Curve.
Some courses, especially those under “Life Studies,” might not fit into your curriculum, but are well worth watching anyway. For example, Prager’s brilliant course, “Why Be Happy?” explains why Prager views happiness as a moral obligation rather than a selfish pursuit.
Prager University also has an excellent 11-course series on "The Ten Commandments" that I reviewed separately.
Eventually, Prager University plans to have lesson plans/study guides as well as additional resources for homeschoolers. Lesson plans are likely to have discussion questions and follow up activities.
At the end of 2014, Prager University has collected 24 of these courses onto a single DVD, calling it "Prager University - 2014 First Semester." Courses range across the spectrum, including many of what I consider the most important topics such as, "Why Be Happy?", "Does God Exist?", "The Middle East Problem," and "Are People Born Good?" Cost for this DVD collection is $19.95. Yes, you can watch all of these for free, but the convenience of the DVD, and being able to put it in the hands of someone who needs to watch these, is well worth the price.
Prager University is already a valuable resource as it is, but it promises to grow into something that will become increasingly useful to homeschoolers. So be sure to check their site from time to time to see what new courses have been added.