Is BrainPOP Promoting Paganism to Schoolchildren?

Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

We recently had a complaint from someone who works in a public school about the way BrainPOP, an animated educational site for children, is presenting material to students, particularly a video about the Mexican Day of the Dead that promotes paganism at the expense of the Church.

For those who never heard of it, BrainPOP is a digital resource that provides short, animated movies for students in grades K-12 on a variety of subjects ranging from science, English and math to engineering, health and the arts. Founded by Avraham Kadar, MD, a pediatric immunologist in 1999 to help children better understand difficult subjects, it is estimated that BrainPOP is being used in more than 25 percent of US schools and homeschools.

The problem with BrainPOP, according to some parents and school employees, is that left-wing politics may be influencing some of their material.

For example, the school employee who contacted us sent a link to a video about the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday that was riddled with inaccuracies and positive portrayals of pagan beliefs while making the Church out to be the big bully. In this video, the main characters, named Tim and Moby, describe the holiday as a time when the dead visit the living but are careful to say that these spirits aren’t out for revenge because they’re ancestors who just want to come back and spend time with loved ones – as if this contacting the dead is normal and fun.

The video goes on to explain how the roots of the celebration go back to the Aztec empire when people considered death to be just another phase of life. The people believed the dead had to make a difficult journey through the land of the dead and relied on their families for food and drink, thus inspiring the Day of the Dead customs of laying out food and provisions for their ancestors. These customs included joyous celebrations and parades to give homage to the mythological queen of the underworld, named Mictēcacihuātl. Of course, the film neglects to mention that this goddess was the victim of child sacrifice, a common practice in Aztec worship.

Enter the Spanish who arrived in 1500 and who wiped out the Aztec religion, banned their gods, burned their sacred books, and outlawed their religious holidays which the Spanish considered barbaric. All of these horrible things were in order to convert the people to Catholicism, and bring back “mucho gold.”

Day of the Dead altar

Naturally, the video mentions not a word about this so-called glorious Aztec culture that sacrificed as many as 250,000 innocent people a year to their gods – which might explain to their young listeners why the Spaniards considered their religious practices to be barbaric. Instead, the film makes it look as if the Aztecs were living happily until the nasty Catholics arrived and bullied them into submission rather than the truth, which was that many of the natives flocked to the Church to escape the rampant killing.

The video continues to distort history by teaching children that the Catholics realized the two cultures had more in common than they wanted to believe, such as how the many gods of the Mexicans were just like the many saints of Catholicism! Therefore, instead of making the Aztec traditions disappear, they just “rebranded” them and moved everything to the fall in order to coincide with the Catholic holidays of All Saints and All Souls.

Rather than offering any explanation of what All Saints and All Souls is all about, the video goes on to make the ill-informed claim that the altars in use today for the feast of the Day of the Dead are meant to guide spirits to the altar – suggesting that Mexican Catholics are engaging in necromancy – which they are not. The altars are simply a remembrance and celebration of their dead and to invoke their intercession, not to evoke them to return to earth. In other words, the Aztec Day of the Dead was not rebranded, it was replaced by the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls with native customs adapted to these beliefs. Big difference!

This blog won’t be the first time BrainPOP has been called into question. Their presentation of the Black Lives Matter movement which promoted the defunding of police caused an uproar among parents at a school in Sarasota, Florida. This shouldn’t surprise anyone with contributors such as Vanessa D’Egidio, who is involved with the Learning for Justice organization that promotes Critical Race Theory (CRT) in schools.

Parents have also voiced their concerns about BrainPOP material at Common Sense Media.

One parent wrote, “Besides it being boring and every teacher loving it, you can clearly see their point of view in politics.”

Another wrote, “Not a great resource for kids to be educated. They are one sided on issues and the things they [say] are facts are completely false information. Back years ago we paid for their app but now they are pushing their beliefs instead of being a neutral for kids. Unprofessional.”

Parents should check with their school to determine if BrainPOP is being used and if so, whenever possible, they review the content of the videos before allowing their children to watch them.

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