The Revisionaries

Trailer (2:05)
Clip ( 1:34)

About the Film

Don McLeroy being interviewed by a reporter from Fox News. Cynthia Dunbar bowing head in prayer at a rally. A woman stands at a podium with a sign that says Texas Freedom Network surrounded by people, some holding signs, which say Stand Up for Science and Are These Really Texas’ Most Influential ‘Scientists’? Anthropology professor Ron Wetherington awaits the final vote in the deliberations over Texas curricula.

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 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.