The Revisionaries

The Revisionaries

Directed by: Scott Thurman
83 minutes

New England Premiere

It’s no secret that the debate over teaching evolution in public schools has been at the forefront of the culture wars for several years. But less widely known is the enormous influence that certain states have over the curricula at the rest of the country’s schools, and how debates about science have spilled over into other school subjects.

To bring these issues to light, director Scott Thurman documents the Texas State Board of Education’s most recent hearings on the teaching and textbook standards of the state’s public schools. Because Texas rewrites its standards every decade and guarantees publishers significant financial gains if their textbooks are adopted, Texas has a powerful influence over the content in all of the nation’s textbooks. In a riveting, detailed sequence resembling an enthralling courtroom drama, scientists and school board members clash over how to provide a “balanced” view of evolution, a debate that opens out into an alarming discussion of how to bring religion into subjects such as history and civics.

Thurman humanizes the debates by following several key players—most prominently, Don McLeroy, the seemingly nervous and affable, but strikingly powerful chair of the school board, whose rallying cry is that “someone needs to stand up to these experts.” With its broad and timely implications, THE REVISIONARIES is a provocative look at the culture wars in action and a dismaying account of the growing triumph of ideology over education.

—Kristina Aikens