Rhode Island teacher says DHS ‘media literacy’ program targets conservatives as dangerous extremists

A teacher in Rhode Island is crying foul about a federal program teaching students to report those who express conservative ideas as potential “extremists.”

The “media literacy” program…

A teacher in Rhode Island is crying foul about a federal program teaching students to report those who express conservative ideas as potential “extremists.”

The “media literacy” program by the Department of Homeland Security, called Courageous RI, is supposed to “prevent rising violence and extremism in Rhode Island with authentic and respectful conversation.”

But teacher Ramona Bessinger warned that the “media literacy” training by DHS is a surveillance program aimed at conservatives. 

Bessinger, a public school English teacher for nearly 25 years, allegedly was previously targeted by the Providence Public School District (PPSD) for speaking out about radical, race-based curriculum in the district. 

Bessinger said the goal of the new DHS training is to make K-12 students express only state-approved ideology, with conservative school children and teachers becoming targets of  progressives for merely expressing their point of view. 

“They will be manipulated and weaponized by partisan teachers and student informers, they will be targeted, isolated, silenced and perhaps falsely reported to the authorities,” wrote Bessinger at Legal Insurrection. “In the end, no child, teacher or community member will be safe as media literacy initiatives will create a surveillance and punishment culture.” 

In January, the Daily Wire reported the Biden administration used a $700,000 federal grant given to the University of Rhode Island’s Media Education Lab (RIMEL) for “socially beneficial purposes,” including the creation of “propaganda.” 

The purpose of the propaganda was to combat “misinformation concerning topics including immigration [and] racial justice.” 

The Courageous RI program was an outgrowth of RIMEL’s self-styled “propaganda” efforts. 

Bessinger outlined five propaganda strategies in the Courageous RI training: 

  1. Guide kids to approved progressive sources of information, such as the liberal education content provider NewsELA, so they can combat dissent; 
  1. Use reporting apps and other resources to warn authorities when they identify dissenting opinion; 
  1. Stay hyper focused on Donald Trump and so-called MAGA Republicans as sources of disinformation; 
  1. Learn to identify conservative extremism, such as the cartoon character Captain America, the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood and “Insurrectionists and January 6th“; 
  1. Teach students how to engage in “performative protests” such as walkouts, to shame students and teachers who have dissenting opinions.

Not coincidently, Bessinger herself was the target of performative protests when students at her school, Classical High School, staged a walkout against Bessinger after she blew the whistle on the radical race curriculum at PPSD.

“The PPSD is protecting Ramona Bessinger, as well as other teachers… [T]hese teachers are not safe for students, and need to be fired,” wrote an anonymous walkout organizer, according to Go Local Prov. 

Bessinger responded on Facebook, writing: “Our schools have shifted from political neutral places of learning, to government-sponsored indoctrination centers driven by radical progressive ideologies. When teachers like me speak up, they are threatened and harassed. That’s not education, it’s sanctioned violence.”

Courageous RI is just one of a number of federally funded entities engaged in social activism under the guise of anti-violence/anti-extremism programs through DHS’s “Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention” (TVTP).

Real Clear Investigations reports the Biden administration has doubled the TVTP program budget to $20 million, which includes grant money to arts cooperatives and educational initiatives that carry social justice messages that ostensibly combat terrorism with progressive propaganda.

When deciding on grants, TVTP uses keywords in applications such as “raising societal awareness,” “bystander training” and media literacy, said Real Clear.

“Media literacy involves the critical evaluation of media messages, as well as their authors and audiences, and it includes the ability to differentiate between original, evidence-based reporting and commentary or propaganda,” said Seth Ashley, a communications professor at Boise State University, which has received nearly $400,000 from TVTP, according to Real Clear.

The approach has its roots in the Global War on Terror (GWOT), when DHS and other U.S. agencies began pushing in to Islamic communities domestically to identify and combat radical extremist before they had the opportunity to recruit young people. 

But in the hands of the government the original mission has been extended and abused.  

The news comes even as Congress debates the renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), another outgrowth of the GWOT. 

Critics have said that the FISA powers have been abused to justify spying on political opponents and ordinary Americans.   

Bessinger has the same worries about Courageous RI. 

“The Courageous RI curriculum does not align with any academic goals, it does not serve children, and no child will ever benefit from the content,” the teacher warned. “Media literacy courses will be expressly used to create a network of students and teachers who will surveille other students and teachers.”