Revisionaries: PBS documentary on Texas' control of education

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#1

It premiered last night on PBS. Here's some words about it:

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 effecting 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.
I guess McLeroy, the guy who the documentary focuses on, is no longer the chair.
 

Espy

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#3
This sounds infuriating but like a great watch. It doesn't sound like we will see it on Netflix anytime soon though from looking around online... thats a shame.
 
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#10
In the long run, I'm thinking of the Lost City of Atlanta type of situation seems possible here...


(In case anybody thinks I'm serious, it's a Futurama reference)
 
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#11
I love that all the other states get to choose between Texas and California for textbooks. Two ends of the spectrum running the show, and to hell with a middle ground.
 
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#12
Fortunately in most states the school district, and sometimes the school itself, sets the curriculum, so they can take into account local culture. For instance I recall that moving from Georgia to Michigan as a youth I noticed that we spent a lot less time on the Civil War/Revolutionary War (guess which side called it which?) and focused on certain leaders differently.

It's not necessarily that either side was wrong, but emphasis makes a difference, and the people care about those things.

Further, teachers, once assigned a book, can spend as much or as little time customizing the curriculum for their class, and creating extra assignments to augment or replace portions of the textbooks they feel inadequately teach their subject - as long as their students can pass the state testing, they're fine straying from the line a little distance.

In essence, the state testing probably has more effect on the overall curriculum than the books.
 
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#13
Who the hell calls the civil war the revolutionary war? I'm from north florida (which, culturally, is south Georgia) and I've never heard it called that.

Wouldn't that get confused with the american revolution?
 

GasBandit

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#14
Can we go ahead and let Texas sucede?
Not until we all learn to spell secede, at least.

Who the hell calls the civil war the revolutionary war? I'm from north florida (which, culturally, is south Georgia) and I've never heard it called that.

Wouldn't that get confused with the american revolution?
I agree, the most often heard alternative title that I've run into is "The War of Northern Aggression," or possibly "The War Between the States."
 
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#15
Not until we all learn to spell secede, at least.


I agree, the most often heard alternative title that I've run into is "The War of Northern Aggression," or possibly "The War Between the States."
War Between the States is the most common alternative I've heard, but that was from people with actual confederate flags flying from the back of their pickup.
 
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#16
Who the hell calls the civil war the revolutionary war? I'm from north florida (which, culturally, is south Georgia) and I've never heard it called that.

Wouldn't that get confused with the american revolution?
Perhaps I've got it mixed up, but recall that I started school in the early eighties.
 
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#17
Further, teachers, once assigned a book, can spend as much or as little time customizing the curriculum for their class, and creating extra assignments to augment or replace portions of the textbooks they feel inadequately teach their subject - as long as their students can pass the state testing, they're fine straying from the line a little distance.
Tell that to my department chair.

This is how it used to work. Now it's common to find that the majority of your curriculum is dictated by bureaucrats terrified that any deviation from their directions will lead to lower test scores. And to be clear, that only concerns them because they're worried about funding. Educating students is secondary at best.

Of course, your mileage may vary. Maybe I've just had crap luck with my schools.
 

North_Ranger

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#18
Y'know, if ever again GasBandit starts badmouthing the Finnish school system, I think I'll just post clips of this documentary in response.
 

GasBandit

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#19
Y'know, if ever again GasBandit starts badmouthing the Finnish school system, I think I'll just post clips of this documentary in response.
You will never find me sticking up for the american public school system.

And as I always say - there's no bureaucrat like a Texas bureaucrat.
 
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#21
You will never find me sticking up for the american public school system..
YMMV. State to state, county to county, it's silly to lump Texas wing nuts with counties thousands of miles away with completely different reasons for sucking. Here, it's a tradition to reject school bonds. So while my local schools are some of the best in the state thanks to proximity to WVU, one county over sending your kid to their schools is tantamount to abuse.
 

GasBandit

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#22
Everybody always thinks "my local public schools are ok, but all the other ones are crap."

They're all crap.

If they were good, they'd be private.
 
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#23
Everybody always thinks "my local public schools are ok, but all the other ones are crap."

They're all crap.

If they were good, they'd be private.
And you're proof. :p

It's not provincialism. Multiple newspapers in the state documented conditions in Preston County schools that were Dickensian at best, rivaling the slums of Calcutta at worst.

Voters still rejected the next school bond.
 
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#24
Everybody always thinks "my local public schools are ok, but all the other ones are crap."

They're all crap.

If they were good, they'd be private.
I honestly was lucky. The one I went to was excellent, and has the awards to show for it. It wasn't until I talked to people outside of my high school that I realized how bad some of the other ones can be.
 

GasBandit

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#25
And you're proof. :p

It's not provincialism. Multiple newspapers in the state documented conditions in Preston County schools that were Dickensian at best, rivaling the slums of Calcutta at worst.

Voters still rejected the next school bond.
I didn't say they weren't bad, I said the ones you think are good, are also bad.
 
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#26
Everybody always thinks "my local public schools make great daycare centers."
Where the parents actually care, schools are great.

Why are the schools surrounding universities good? Not because of the university. It's because the parents in that area are well educated, and demand good education.
 
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#27
I just want to add, NCLB is worthless. Completely terrible through and through. It was a noble goal, certainly, but the execution is lazy at best, harmful at worst.
 

GasBandit

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#28
Where the parents actually care, schools are great.
Only relatively speaking. Americans are that accustomed to substandard primary education. I know DarkAudit was being flippant, and I know it's subjective, but I am actually proof - when I was taken out of private montessouri school, the only thing the public school I moved to could think to do to me was move me ahead one grade in most subjects and two grades ahead in math. And that was a good public school.

Then we moved to El Paso, where the EPISD couldn't give a shit, put me back in my own grade, and I proceeded to coast without cracking a book until college, whereupon because I had forgotten how to study since I hadn't for years and years, I had to take calculus 3 times.

Public school ruins your children. If you hate them, send them to public school.
 
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#30
Texas != anyone else. Don't pass judgement on the other 49 states just because you had a bad experience.

Rejecting a school bond after buildings have been condemned and you've been shamed in front of the rest of the state and the country? Judge away.
 

GasBandit

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#31
Texas != anyone else. Don't pass judgement on the other 49 states just because you had a bad experience.

Rejecting a school bond after buildings have been condemned and you've been shamed in front of the rest of the state and the country? Judge away.
Military family. The other public schools I attended are in affluent suburbs in Maryland, New Mexico and Colorado. They were comparatively better, but none still approached the level of education available from the private school. My folks learned their lesson though, my (much) younger brother went to private school all the way from start to finish. I envy him.


Basically, public education is like public transportation. Some places have crappy buses, some places have nice buses, some places have buses you fear for your life whilst inside. But no matter how nice the bus, none of them ever beat a rental car.
 
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#34
My experiences with my local school system...

- District decides putting security cameras in our school was a better idea than repairing FIRE DAMAGE.
- Voters decide they'd rather go to split sessions than pay for more schools to be built. Grades go down, petty crime goes through the roof. Still wouldn't pass a bond to pay for the schools, requiring federal aid to build them.
- The only time a bond EVER passed was when the after school sports programs were put on the chopping block.
- Oh yeah... the time they shut down my middle school because a gang war broke out.

Still, the private schools aren't much better. You get a better education but a year doesn't go by that we don't hear about a teacher sleeping with a student or a student athlete is involved with raping someone.
 

GasBandit

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#35
My experiences with my local school system...

- District decides putting security cameras in our school was a better idea than repairing FIRE DAMAGE.
- Voters decide they'd rather go to split sessions than pay for more schools to be built. Grades go down, petty crime goes through the roof. Still wouldn't pass a bond to pay for the schools, requiring federal aid to build them.
- The only time a bond EVER passed was when the after school sports programs were put on the chopping block.
- Oh yeah... the time they shut down my middle school because a gang war broke out.

Still, the private schools aren't much better. You get a better education but a year doesn't go by that we don't hear about a teacher sleeping with a student or a student athlete is involved with raping someone.
Sounds like it's time to just bomb a fault line under that community and watch it sink to the land of the lost, it's past redemption.
 
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