Teacher sounds alarm on DHS-funded ‘media literacy’ program set to ‘indoctrinate children’

A high school teacher in Rhode Island is sounding the alarm over a so-called “media literacy” program funded by the Department of Homeland Security.

In a revealing report published Monday, Ramona Bessinger pulled back the curtain on a training session she and other educators underwent by the University of Rhode Island’s Media Education Lab which she warns will “indoctrinate children.”

“You may remember me from when I blew the whistle in July 2021 on how a new Critical Race Curriculum was creating racial hostility in the Middle School where I taught at the time, and the subsequent retaliation and harassment,” Bessinger wrote in a piece for Legal Insurrection.

“I’m blowing the whistle again, this time as to Department of Homeland Security funding for training of teachers on combatting so-called ‘disinformation’ as part of supposed ‘media literacy’ programming through the University of Rhode Island, called Courageous RI,” she added.

“The training is not what it purports to be. It’s all about training teachers to teach students to become ‘disinformation’ informers. I know. I took the training,” Bessinger continued.

She explained that she took the 12-week online training starting in September 2023 which was “funded by a DHS grant of over $700,000.”

“The program is for K-12 teachers and is promoted as ‘media literacy.’ But it’s so much more than media literacy, and the impact of the training turned to teacher interaction with students and how students could be utilized as reporting sources,” the Providence educator described.

She went on to preface her “long, but necessary” report by explaining how the training is “a direct track from media literacy theory to DHS goals and objectives to URI training to teachers to students, and back again up the chain in a feedback loop.”

The website for Courageous RI notes that it receives “support from the Department of Homeland Security,” and “works to prevent rising violence and extremism in Rhode Island with authentic and respectful conversation.”

The “Courageous Conversations” curriculum aims to “Confront the many forms of disinformation, hoaxes, and propaganda that are part of everyday life” as well as “Consider the power of media literacy as a civic skill and examine how people of all ages learn to spot disinformation and hoaxes.”

“According to one of the Courageous RI facilitators during the course, ‘disinformation’ oversight is justified; and comes in the form of classroom lesson plans and classroom activities intended to reduce media influence over children who may become future ‘domestic terrorists,'” Bessinger wrote, adding that the program was “hyper-focused” on former President Trump, alleging he was the “root cause of all social media and media disinformation.”

“In the breakout sessions and project sessions, some teachers complained about their students with opposing views. According to one facilitator, these students were part of the ‘outer-group’ and would need to be brought back into the ‘inner-group’ specifically conservative students that may have outwardly expressed support for Trump,” Bessinger wrote.

“These students were considered ‘violent extremist MAGA Republicans’ in the making.  At every juncture, Trump was attacked and used to make the point that ‘violent extremism’ and “disinformation” were a result of ‘influencing entrepreneurs’ like Trump.  When I asked for specific examples illustrating their point, none were forthcoming,” she recounted.

According to Bessinger:

Courageous RI claims their program aligns with standards, but in fact, the school standards recently written are not measurable and so media literacy can not be academically justified and fairly implemented. These media literacy courses and training means students and teachers would be open to subjective mob-like attacks from overzealous politically motivated individuals. This is dangerous as children will become unknowing targets of potentially dangerous leftist ideologues

It appeared from the training, Courageous RI allegedly believes students can be politically manipulated by the media to commit acts of “violent extremism” and therefore seeks to use teachers to detect and re-educate students who may be extremist and express dangerous thoughts and actions.


“DHS previously had to shut down its Disinformation Governance Board after public outrage. Yet similar ‘disinformation’ tactics are being implemented under the guise of media literacy training. I call on the House of Representatives to investigate this DHS program,” William Jacobson, Cornell law professor and founder of the Legal Insurrection blog told Fox News Digital.

“Whether that was the intent or simply the implication, it raises substantial questions as to why the federal government is paying for and implementing such a program,” Jacobson said.

But according to a DHS spokesperson, the Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Grant Program, which awarded the funds to Courageous RI, aims to “ensure safe and secure communities through prevention of violence.”

“Violence prevention is non-partisan and ideologically agnostic. The TVTP Grant Program and grant recipients are legally and ethically required to adhere to policies and procedures that prohibit discrimination based on any protected class or belief,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The TVTP program’s purpose is to provide communities with educational, technical, and financial support to help them establish and expand networks and resources that prevent targeted violence and terrorism of any kind, for any reason.”

Frieda Powers


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