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Arts & Culture

INDEPENDENT LENS: The Revisionaries

Stephanie Klenzendorf's Biology classroom, Stony Point High School, Round Rock, Texas.
Courtesy of Byron Flesher
Stephanie Klenzendorf's Biology classroom, Stony Point High School, Round Rock, Texas.

Airs Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Every ten years a group of 15 individuals convene to discuss, debate, and rewrite the teaching and textbook standards for the next generation of students. Hugely influential, these decisions mandate how science, history, and other core subjects will be taught. Who are the people who get to shape the textbooks for our nation’s students?

In large part it is the members of the Texas State Board of Education, whose decisions about standards for the state’s nearly five million schoolchildren hold enormous financial sway over publishers, who craft their textbooks based on the needs of their biggest buyers.

Scott Thurman and Don McLeroy in conversation after Don's Sunday school class.
Courtesy of Zac Sprague
Scott Thurman and Don McLeroy in conversation after Don's Sunday school class.
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Don McLeroy speaks with the media in between SBOE History/Social Studies TEKS deliberations.
Courtesy of Scott Thurman
Don McLeroy speaks with the media in between SBOE History/Social Studies TEKS deliberations.
Kathy Miller speaks to the press before the SBOE Science TEKS deliberations.
Courtesy of Scott Thurman
Kathy Miller speaks to the press before the SBOE Science TEKS deliberations.

Directed by Scott Thurman, "The Revisionaries" goes to ground zero in the textbook wars, a moral battleground where every word is a weapon in the fight and no child can be left behind. The film premieres on INDEPENDENT LENS, hosted by Stanley Tucci, on Monday, January 28, 2013.

Shot over the course of three years, "The Revisionaries" follows the rise and fall of some of the most controversial figures in American education as they wage tumultuous intellectual battles. Don McLeroy is a dentist, Sunday school teacher, and an avowed young-earth creationist.

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 lines of the so-called “culture wars.”

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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 students are taught, but fighting to retain his seat on the board.

Challenged by Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, a nonpartisan group that supports religious freedom and individual liberties, and Ron Wetherington, an anthropology professor from Southern Methodist University, McLeroy faces his toughest term yet.

To learn more about the film, visit the interactive companion website, which features detailed information on the film, including links and resources pertaining to the film’s subject matter. The site also features a Talkback section, where viewers can share their ideas and opinions.

INDEPENDENT LENS is on Facebook, and you can follow @IndependentLens on Twitter.

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