University Communications

 A photo of the class

P.E.A.R.R.: A Radical(ization) project

Bandwagon, name-calling, testimonials, and glittering generalities are a few of the seven propaganda devices used in radicalization. Students in Dr. Patricia Bodelson’s Administering Public Policy (POL 481) class are using these seven propaganda to receive hands-on, real-life experience with a project to prevent radicalization with a national competition this spring.

Working closely with EdVenture Partners, a peer-to-peer marketing organization, the POL 481 class was awarded a $2,000 grant to support their efforts in the Invent2Prevent competition.

Their grant supports a website for students, parents, and teachers to access information on and recognize biased propaganda and how it is used to manipulate people into supporting ideas or actions. The target audience: adolescents aged 10-15, who are among the most susceptible to radicalization due to the time in their lives in which ideals and values are being solidified.

Working closely as a team, the class has come up with messaging, website content, and logo to meet Invent2Prevent’s program objectives. The class developed P.E.A.R.R., which stands for Propaganda Education and Awareness to Reduce Radicalization.

Research for the project involved sophomore Social Studies Education major James Reichow attempt to connect with organizations – the Proud Boys and the Asatru Folk Assembly in Murdock, Minnesota (a white-only church).

“I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try and see if we were able to talk to them to try and understand what they are thinking and what causes them to do what they do,” he said.

Reichow received no response from either organization.

The P.E.A.R.R. website contains videos and other media to illustrate ways the targeted age group can recognize coercive propaganda and how it may influence their thinking. Supporting materials for educators and parents are also in development.

“The teacher lesson plan has not come up on any website we have found,” said Jacqueline Borromeo, a junior Political Science and Economics double major from Faribault, Minnesota. “There are similar websites to this we have seen, but we are implementing ideas that they have not.”

This project has not only been a lesson on radicalization prevention, it has also enhanced students’ teambuilding skills. Sophomore Political Science and International Relations double major Elise Kloeppner has a new found outlook a project of this scale.

“I assumed it would be an easy task, but now I see how many people and talents it takes to execute a project as large as this,” said Kloeppner.

The 2021 spring semester competition includes 25 universities across the United States. Finalists are to be named May 14. St. Cloud State University is the only Minnesota school participating.

Noah Dodge, a senior Political Science and International Relations double major from Durand, Wisconsin, lays it out perfectly: “Being a finalist, or winner, would fill us with a great sense of school and community pride.”

Visit the P.E.A.R.R. website to learn more and watch a video for a chance to win $75.