I remember seeing the trailer for The Revisionaries in the theater and feeling my anger rise in the brief two minutes of screen time. I also paid close attention to the story upon which this documentary is based as it was happening halfway across the country from where I sat. People had gathered in a small room, cameras flanking them on all sides, as they decided what would be included in the new Texas state public school textbooks.
Why should this matter to a writer in California? It matters because I am going to be a father soon and I want my son to have the best and most accurate education possible. A heavily conservative faction on the Texas School Board, led by a dentist named Don McElroy, was attacking that dream for my child, and all children. Since Texas has such a large student population, they purchase a huge slice of the nation’s textbooks. Textbook publishers tend to give great credence to what Texans want, and do not want, in their schoolbooks.
McElroy is an admitted young-earth creationist (believing the Bible as literal truth and that man and dinosaurs roamed the planet together). Although that in and of itself is neither illegal nor unethical, he has made it his mission to challenge the presence of evolution in the science curriculum and to infuse God in the public school education system.
He set off a firestorm of criticism as people rushed to defend science from religious attack and remind the folks in Texas that the First Amendment of the Constitution speaks specifically to the separation of church and state. McElroy and others on the school board view that as a an inaccurate reading of the First Amendment.
With a view that the United States was founded, created, and forever meant to be a Christian nation, McElroy and his supporters have attempted to remove evolution from the science curriculum, following that up by rewriting social studies standards to overwhelmingly highlight conservative historical figures and philosophies over those not so keen on the power and spread of religion by government. People like, say, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.
This documentary follows McElroy and others through the standards revision process and you witness the frustration of those people who don’t want their children’s education to be politicized and reshaped to match up with the worldview of a concentrated few. It is a powerful glimpse into the Religious Right and its efforts to change the game in their favor. If they can’t convince the legislators of today that they’re right, then they’ll reshape the legislators of tomorrow.