Tribeca Doc Made in Austin: The Revisionaries

Remember Waiting for Superman, Davis Guggenheim’s documentary about the crisis in American education that focused on Washington DC, among other places ? The inquiry into the Texas State Board of Education, The Revisionaries, which made its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, could be called Waiting for the Dinosaurs. (Dir. Scott Thurman, USA, 2012, 83 minutes.) At the Tribeca Film Festival.

Scott Thurman expands on a film that was his thesis at University of North Texas to enter the world of Don McLeroy, the dentist who is one of 15 appointees to the Texas Board. McLeroy is an evangelical Christian who believes in Young-Earth Creationism. He thinks that the earth is 6000 years old, and that men at that time walked the same planet with dinosaurs. No kidding. And he chaired that board until recently.

Was that a Pterodactyl, or Just a Satanic UFO?

Before you pass judgment too quickly, try finding a Republican candidate for president who believes in evolution.   McLeroy may seem like the outer fringe, but he isn’t, and he was appointed by a Texas governor who wanted him and people like him to be there, telling children what they can read and telling publishers what they can sell to the public schools of Texas.

The Revisionaries spends enough time at Board of Education meetings for you to see the kind of guidelines that force textbooks sold in the state to challenge science with religious principles.  Texas mandates that the same textbooks be used in all of its public schools (whatever happened to the Right Wing aversion to “one size fits all” regulations?) which means that publishers target their content to what a huge market like Texas requires. Hence, students in a lot of other states get Texas-sized instruction. And you wonder why this country is falling behind other countries.

Thurman’s focus on Don McLeroy in board meetings, in his dental practice, and on the Christian campaign trail takes his documentary from fingerpointing into a focus on a religious zealot with courtly manners and a sense of humor, who can still deny the validity of any scientific findings. You’ll be left wondering how McElroy got through dental school, but you’ll get a much clearer sense of how his influence weighed on the Texas Board.

McLeroy is out now, replaced by a moderate Republican. But things haven’t changed that much. Toward the end of The Revisonaries, a board member intervenes, asking that Barack Obama be referred to as Barack Hussein Obama. Plus ca change…..

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