The Revisionaries

The Revisionaries


About the Film

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. MORE

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 affecting 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.


The Filmmaker

Scott Thurman

Scott Thurman was born in Lubbock, Texas and is an M.F.A. graduate in documentary film from the University of North Texas. He has worked as a news photographer for four years and has produced three short films at the University of North Texas including Smokey a short documentary about an Elvis impersonator that has been selected by film festivals around the U.S. including AFI Dallas, Los Angeles Film Festival, Hot Springs Doc Festival, and Austin Film Festival among others. Scott originally conceived of a documentary film about the Texas Board of Education for his thesis project Standing Up to the Experts.

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Film Credits

Directed by
Scott Thurman

Edited by
Jawad Metni

Produced by
Pierson Silver
Orlando Wood
Scott Thurman

Executive Producers
Vijay Dewan
Jim Butterworth

Co-Producers
Chandra C. Silver
Daniel J. Chalfen

Original Score by
Mark Orton

Written by
Jawad Metni
Scott Thurman

Director of Photography
Zac Sprague
Scott Thurman

Camera Operators
Byron Flesher
Conner Hagan
Helmut Kobler
Hanny Lee
Chris Mangus
Fadi Wahbeh
Jerry Westergaard
Daryn Williams

Consulting Editor
Michael Lahaie

Colorist
Sean Donnelly

Sound Re-recording Mixer
Ed Kaufman

Sound Design for Animation
Grand Central Recording Studios

Sound Designer
Miles Kempton

Sound Producer
Oscar Kugblenu

Sound Foley
Miles Kempton
Gary TurnBull

Post Effects for Scoreboard
The Mill

Post Producer
Chris Batten

Flame Operator
Roisin

Animation Director
Andy Martin

Animation Producers
Nicola Finn
Hannah Kluman

Legal Counsel
Marilyn Haft

Production Consultants
Bob Hawk
Ben Levin
Melinda Levin
Bart Weiss

Production Assistants
Savanna Cummin
Kelli Jean Haltom
Josh Tam
Rosalinda Vento

Archival Footage
ABC News
Comedy Central
Fox News
Fox News
MSNBC
Liberty University
People for the American Way

Special Thanks
Austin Film Society
Biscuit Filmworks
Fallon
Gear Rentals
IFP
The Lifelong Friendship Society
Strange Beast
Technological Cinevideo Services
Texas Education Agency
Texas Freedom Network
Texas Citizens for Science
Texans for Better Science Education
University of North Texas

Funding Provided by
Barbara and Tony Mayer
John Edison Betts, Jr.
Rose Lee and Keith Reinhard
Aaron Smoot
Diane Kidman Young
Linda Silver
And additional funders on Kickstarter
A complete list of funders is available from PBS.

The Revisionaries is a co-production of Making History Productions, LLC,
Silver Lining Film Group, and Magic Hour, in association with Naked Edge Films.

This program was produced by Making History Productions, LLC
which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2012 Making History Productions, LLC. All rights reserved.

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. What is your opinion of this policy? Do you think textbook standards should be set at the local or state level?

AWARDS

  • 2013 Independence Lens Audience Award
    Award Winner
  • 2013 duPont-Columbia Award
    Award Winner
Please review our comment guidelines.
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. What is your opinion of this policy? Do you think textbook standards should be set at the local or state level?