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Review: 'The Revisionaries' an eye-opener on Texas' schoolbook clash

Scott Thurman's 'The Revisionaries' is a riveting study of the Texas State Board of Education's attempts to de-emphasize evolution in textbooks.

October 25, 2012|By Gary Goldstein
  • Don McLeroy at the office in a scene "The Revisionaries."
Don McLeroy at the office in a scene "The Revisionaries." (Kino Lorber )

The eye-opening, unusually engaging documentary "The Revisionaries" looks at the Texas State Board of Education's attempts to revise teaching and textbooks standards to align with conservative dogma.

For anyone not on the extreme right of things, this well-told tale might feel like a kind of American horror story.

At the heart of the battle, which occurred from 2009 to '10, is Don McLeroy, a Bryan dentist and unabashedly chipper "young-Earth" creationist who spent 12 years on the SBOE (two years as chairman).

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Aided by fellow culture warriors, particularly Liberty University law professor Cynthia Dunbar, McLeroy led the charge to de-emphasize evolution in nearly 5 million Texas schoolbooks, along with striking a variety of references including "hip-hop" and in one odd case, "Thomas Jefferson."

What about separation of church and state? It's clearly a non-issue for McLeroy and his allies.

Despite the ongoing efforts of more progressive, pro-science locals such as Texas Freedom Network president Kathy Miller and SMU anthropology professor Ron Wetherington, McLeroy's stance prevailed, resulting in statewide and national consequences until the criteria are reviewed again — in 2020.

Using extensive footage from key school board meetings, interviews with the case's various players plus many casual, personal moments with McLeroy, director Scott Thurman presents a largely even-handed recounting, wisely letting folks — and events — speak for themselves.

It's riveting stuff.

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'The Revisionaries'

No MPAA rating

Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes

Playing: At Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena


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