The PBS show Independent Lens, which airs a different original documentary film every week is featuring The Revisionaries, the Religious Right's efforts to transform public education in Texas beginning on Monday, January 28, 2013. Local broadcast dates and times will vary. Check your PBS station schedule. I haven't seen it. But it sounds good, and ought to provide an important window on the Christian Right's ongoing influence in public education, as well as featuring such fine organizations as the National Center for Science Education and the Texas Freedom Network.
The film's website explains:
In Austin, Texas, 15 people influence what is taught to the next generation of American children. Once every decade, the highly politicized Texas State Board of Education rewrites the teaching and textbook standards for its nearly five million schoolchildren. And when it comes to textbooks, what happens in Texas affects the nation as a whole. Texas is one of the nation's largest textbook markets because it is one of the few where the state decides what books schools can buy rather than leaving it up to local districts, which means publishers that get their books approved can count on millions of dollars in sales. Further, publishers craft their standard textbooks based on the requirements of the biggest buyers. As a result, the Texas board has the power to shape the textbooks that children around the country read for years to come.
Don McLeroy, a dentist, Sunday school teacher, and avowed young-earth creationist, leads the Religious Right charge. After briefly serving on his local school board, McLeroy was elected to the Texas State Board of Education and later appointed chairman. During his time on the board, McLeroy has overseen the adoption of new science and history curriculum standards, drawing national attention and placing Texas on the front line of the so-called “culture wars.”
In his last term, McLeroy, aided by Cynthia Dunbar, an attorney from Houston and professor of Law at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, finds himself not only fighting to change what Americans are taught, but also fighting to retain his seat on the board. Challenged by Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, and Ron Wetherington, an anthropology professor from Southern Methodist University in Texas, McLeroy faces his toughest term yet.
The Revisionaries shines a spotlight on the key players effecting U.S. high school textbooks, with characters representing a wide array of personalities and desires. Some see the board as a stepping-stone to future political success. Others see it as their ordained quest to preserve the teachings of the Bible. Still others see it as their duty to ensure that their children, who are in the public schools, have access to the best possible education that will prepare them to compete for jobs in the global marketplace. In all of this, one thing is assured, these board members are in the right place at the right time. They have the opportunity to affect a generation of Americans.
Filmed for over three years, filmmaker Scott Thurman has captured all of the intense debates, vote trading, and compromises amongst the board members. He shows the back room discussions between the board members and the experts, and is with them as they make their decisions. But, first and foremost, The Revisionaries is about people, those few passionate citizens who are fighting to shape the course of American education, and the future of America with it.