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Rw 2: the revisionaries a texas textbook massacre


Revisionaries: Texas Textbook Massacre Video Analysis Assignment Instructions

You will need to watch the movie: The Revisionaries in order to compete the prompt for this assignment topic. There is a version you can rent or purchase, but it is only available to be purchased and watched in Amazon for prime members. Option 1.

Option 2. Copy and paste this link to stream the Revisionaries entire documentary free. https://tubitv.com/movies/54909/the-revisionaries (Links to an external site.)

The Texas Textbook Massacre Showdown

Assignment Objective and Purpose: Use your voice. I have provided the platform and safe environment for students to  participate in personalized, value added, political experience, whereby critical examination of current political issues and topics, result in structured and scholarly academic exchange and debate between peers.  

Helpful Resources and Useful Links

Video Synopsis:

Topic and Background Information

About the Film and Filmaker

Obtained from PBS official website: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/films/revisionaries/

In Austin, Texas, 15 people influence what is taught to the next generation of American children. Once every decade, the highly politicized Texas State Board of Education rewrites the teaching and textbook standards for its nearly five million schoolchildren. And when it comes to textbooks, what happens in Texas affects the nation as a whole. Texas is one of the nation’s largest textbook markets because it is one of the few where the state decides what books schools can buy rather than leaving it up to local districts, which means publishers that get their books approved can count on millions of dollars in sales. Further, publishers craft their standard textbooks based on the requirements of the biggest buyers. As a result, the Texas board has the power to shape the textbooks that children around the country read for years to come.

Don McLeroy, a dentist, Sunday school teacher, and avowed young-earth creationist, leads the Religious Right charge. After briefly serving on his local school board, McLeroy was elected to the Texas State Board of Education and later appointed chairman. During his time on the board, McLeroy has overseen the adoption of new science and history curriculum standards, drawing national attention and placing Texas on the front line of the so-called “culture wars.”

In his last term, McLeroy, aided by Cynthia Dunbar, an attorney from Houston and professor of Law at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, finds himself not only fighting to change what Americans are taught, but also fighting to retain his seat on the board. Challenged by Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, and Ron Wetherington, an anthropology professor from Southern Methodist University in Texas, McLeroy faces his toughest term yet.

The Revisionaries shines a spotlight on the key players affecting U.S. high school textbooks, with characters representing a wide array of personalities and desires. Some see the board as a stepping-stone to future political success. Others see it as their ordained quest to preserve the teachings of the Bible. Still others see it as their duty to ensure that their children, who are in the public schools, have access to the best possible education that will prepare them to compete for jobs in the global marketplace. In all of this, one thing is assured, these board members are in the right place at the right time. They have the opportunity to affect a generation of Americans.

Filmed for over three years, filmmaker Scott Thurman has captured all of the intense debates, vote trading, and compromises amongst the board members. He shows the back room discussions between the board members and the experts, and is with them as they make their decisions. But, first and foremost, The Revisionaries is about people, those few passionate citizens who are fighting to shape the course of American education, and the future of America with it.

The Filmmaker: Scott Thurman was born in Lubbock, Texas and is an M.F.A. graduate in documentary film from the University of North Texas. He has worked as a news photographer for four years and has produced three short films at the University of North Texas including Smokey a short documentary about an Elvis impersonator that has been selected by film festivals around the U.S. including AFI Dallas, Los Angeles Film Festival, Hot Springs Doc Festival, and Austin Film Festival among others. Scott originally conceived of a documentary film about the Texas Board of Education for his thesis project Standing Up to the Experts.

Topic and Issue Overview: Texas is one of the nation’s largest textbook markets because it is one of the few where the state decides what books schools can buy rather than leaving it up to local districts. With the debate in the US about changing curricula and AP test subjects, it seems appropriate to investigate a bit further into the debate and its background. “The Revisionaries” is a 2012 documentary meant to provide a look at who makes the decision that affect the American curriculum and on what grounds they are made. While the film does provide a good and interesting look at the logic – or illogic – of curriculum decisions, it also makes some interesting choices of its own, raising the age-old question of what a documentary is meant to do.

“The Revisionaries” follows Don McLeroy, the former head of the Texas state Board of Education, as he head a curriculum revision first for the Texas science curriculum, and then for the Texas social studies curriculum. In the case of science, the debate focuses on evolution and how to teach evolution in schools, while the social studies curriculum debate focuses on a shift towards conservatism and the exclusion of minorities.

The film offers a good look at the thought process behind some of the changes made by the Texas SBOE, and an excellent look at the politics of it. Its interviews with the Board members make it clear that each of them do feel they have Texas’ best interests at heart. The interviews with lobbyists and outside parties, too, demonstrate that, for everyone involved, this is a moral fight where they are the good and righteous protagonists facing a foe that seeks nothing less than the destruction of Texas’ children. Even while the film shows some of the more outlandish beliefs of its subjects – McLeroy, for instance, is a Young Earth Creationist – it still manages to humanise them and not demonise them and their desires.

Including Information from Additional Independent Research, Sources, Citations and Plagiarism: Students who use additional outside secondary information they obtained—whether summarized or directly quoted ideas, thoughts, statements, data or information not considered common knowledge to the average person– from independent research, must be cited, parenthetically (in-text) and listed on a works cited or bibliography page. This page does not count towards the minimum length requirement. A student whose critical evaluation response egregiously (meaning, quantitatively, at least half or more of your submission) includes piece meal use of information, to construct a response made up of back to back compilations of paraphrased,  or otherwise directly quoted sources’ ideas, data, opinions, etc. –whether properly cited or not—will receive an automatic zero on this assignment, without opportunity to re-submit.

Formatting Guideline Expectations and Requirements:

Critical evaluations should represent the individual student’s reflections, perspectives, opinionated, clear, developed in reasoning, supporting evidence/information/data, should be a minimum of 2 pages, typed, double spaced, times new roman 12 point font, complete sentences, paragraph, and essay format. If you choose to write more, than the minimum, GREAT! There is no deduction for going above and beyond the minimum requirements.

Essay’s should focus on the subject matter, discussed in the film: The Revisionaries as well as the prompt provided.  Additional independent research, is encouraged, in order for students to provide a well-reasoned, critical analysis, incorporating evidence, examples and information to support their perspectives, statements and opinions. To meet my expectations that this be done in a scholarly and academic manner, focus explanations in a direct, clear and concise, manner. Statements, analysis, opinions, arguments, and evaluation should be rooted in reason and rationalization, to provide a clear opinion statement and discussion of their personal perspective and political position towards the prompt, events, issues, and questions outlined.

Discussion Prompt:

Reflect on what you notices in the board members decision-making behavior and outcomes, at  the individual member’s level as well as of the collective action between ideological blocks of like-minded members. How did power in numbers impact political gains and loses, result in successful or failed collective actions between ideological aligned members, at the expense of individual members  representation obligations to their own independent electorate that make up the voting population, of their district? How does collective action voting impact individual members power to block or approve a proposed amendment? What ways can collective action succeed or fail in this policy making process (think in terms of blocking or passing proposed amendments that members, at the individual level, would prefer succeed or fail.

Ideas and Questions to Help Start Thinking:


What about the film surprised you? What baffled you? How w do you explain the political consequences in their decision making?  What did you learn about the existence of the board, as well as qualifications, power, selection of members, debates, issues, and impact in their successful or failed representation, of those most impacted by their political chicanery and decisions (whether it be students, learning, publishers, education, teachers, standards, testing, etc).  

What did you already know about Texas public education’s textbook policy making, before viewing the film? Reflect on this critically by comparatively discussing expectations, reality, and what you learned, both prior to and after watching the Revisionaries. Focus on identifying and describing your personal connections, expectations, perspectives, etc. on the subject matter and topic. Discuss personal connection, if any, such as experiences that explain whether you held a position of ignorance, passion, prior knowledge, what you knew or thought you knew about the issue and topic of the film.

It is okay to not know, be confused, and have questions. It is even okay to look back and say I still really don’t care about this crazy board, its policies, or what the state of Texas does in regard to the politics, effects, and debates over textbook policy making or even public education in general. You don’t have to come out having a new regard to championing for a cause. Maybe you did not receive K-12 public education in this state. Maybe you don’t have kids. Textbooks, what are those when we have the intra-web and the google. WHAT IS IMPORTANT is Recognizing that you had absolutely no position, opinion, and knew nothing about the subject and issue AND still don’t, as long as you provide reasoning, explanation, and critical analysis for why a personal apathy, attitude and lack of care about the subject existed, continues to exist, and is likely to not change.  

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