Once every decade, 15 elected Texas citizens influence what is taught to nearly every American child. As the Texas State Board of Education revises textbook standards for the state’s nearly 5 million schoolchildren, much of the rest of country follows suit.
Because Texas is one of the nation’s largest textbook markets and decides which books its public schools buy, publishers typically print editions for all of America based on the Board’s rulings. The reason? They can’t turn a profit otherwise. During the Texas textbook hearings, the Board becomes highly politicized as wording changes (one proposal: that President Barack Obama’s middle name, “Hussein”, be included wherever he is mentioned) and removals (other initiatives: rationing the mentions of discrimination in US history, and promoting alternatives to evolutionary theory in science texts) are determined and voted on. Texas filmmaker Scott Thurman captures the debates and the characters involved in the drama: Cynthia Dunbar, a Houston attorney and (curiously) law professor at the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Virginia; Kathy Miller, president of the liberal Texas Freedom Network; Ron Wetherington, an anthropology professor at SMU; and the film’s main protagonist, Bryan dentist Don McLeroy, a Sunday school teacher, young Earth creationist and Chairman of the Board during the last hearings in 2009.
THE REVISIONARIES tracks the rise and fall of these controversial, semi-hidden figures in American education and proves that political power and ideological dogma still have an immense effect on what our children learn.
Scott Thurman first gained notice with the 2009 DIFF short film SMOKEY, about an Elvis impersonator in the Texas Panhandle that he made while a grad student at the University of North Texas. THE REVISIONARIES is his feature-length debut.