K-12 textbooks cover a lot of historic battles between their hard covers, but they've also become the subject of a battle themselves -- especially here in Texas, where the State Board of Education made national headlines two years ago by planning to de-emphasize Thomas Jefferson and insert doubts about evolution into the texts.
This frontline skirmish in the culture wars is the subject of Scott Thurman's engrossing documentary, The Revisionaries. Though it's obvious that Thurman allies with traditional science, he just lets the two sides speak for themselves and chronicles the board's crucial votes with no narration.
The film then becomes something of a Rorschach test for the viewer. Cultural conservatives will see themselves in avuncular board president and Tea Party activist Don McLeroy and his efforts to root out secular humanism, while liberals and others will side with feisty Kathy Miller, head of the Texas Freedom Network, and weary SMU anthropology professor Ron Wetherington, who come off as if they are single-handedly keeping the flame of the Enlightenment alive against the forces of anti-science superstition.
It's a symbolic fight of our times, making The Revisionaries -- despite its seemingly dry subject matter -- a compelling and involving work.
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