New Film Chronicles ‘Revisionaries’ on Texas School Board

By Erik W. Robelen — October 15, 2012 1 min read
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K-12 education policy and politics have seen a surge in the cinema of late, what with “Won’t Back Down” about a “parent trigger” law for school interventions, “Waiting for Superman,” and “The Lottery.”

Enter “The Revisionaries,” a new documentary film by Scott Thurman that chronicles the hotly contested development of recent state standards for science and history/social studies by the Texas board of education. The star of the show is Don McLeroy, a staunch conservative and former board chairman (and a dentist).

At EdWeek, we’ve chronicled much of the Texas debate on those stands. For a taste, here’s a story on social studies and another on science. (To be clear, however, I have NOT seen “The Revisionaries.”)

McLeroy is joining the filmmaker this Thursday in Houston for a Q&A about the movie, according to a Houston Chronicle blogger.

At the risk of spoiling a key plot development, McLeroy lost a bid for re-election in 2010, when he was defeated in a primary challenge from moderate Republican Thomas Ratliff.

The documentary ends up being more “nuanced” than Thurman expected before he plunged into the project, which has taken nearly five years and $120,000, according to the Chronicle blogger.

Thurman is no fan of McLeroy’s politics and worldview, but apparently, he ended up providing a fairly sympathetic portrayal of the man.

“I was torn in how to portray someone who’s done so much damage to education and yet is such a sweet person with good intentions,” the filmmaker told the Chronicle.

A “director’s statement” on the movie’s website explains it this way:

I was drawn to the magnetic personality of Don McLeroy, chairman of the board, and outspoken creationist on a mission to convince the public and next generation of students that evolution is not sound science and that America is exceptional in part because it was founded on Christian principles.

According to the Chronicle, both McLeroy and liberal documentary filmmaker Michael Moore liked the movie. That in and of itself is a pretty remarkable accomplishment.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.