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'The Long Game,' a documentary on Texas public school curriculum, to air on KUT

Austin, TEXAS — Oct. 10, 2013 — KUT 90.5 presents the world premiere of a new radio documentary, The Long Game: Texas’ Ongoing Battle for the Direction of the Classroom, on Sunday, Oct. 13, and again on Tuesday, Oct. 15at 7pm. Produced by Trey Kay (producer of The Great Textbook War, which was honored with Peabody, Murrow, and DuPont Awards), Long Game delves into the culture war battles over public school curriculum content, which have ebbed and flowed in the Lone Star State for the past fifty years.

We cannot lose Texas. If we lose the education in Texas we lose the entire country.”  —Glenn Beck, television and radio host

“In Texas, we have a kind of petri dish where they grow the cultures to see which of those ideological aspects will be most easily adopted into the classroom and which ones need more tweaking.” —Kathy Miller, President of the Texas Freedom Network

The report will be available to programmers through the Public Radio Exchange (PRX) server on Wednesday Oct, 16, 2013. For more information contact: Carolyn Sandano.

“For more than a half a century, citizens of the Lone Star State have had intense, emotional battles over what children should and should not be taught in public school classrooms,” said Kay. “While there have been fights over just about every academic subject, debates over history, evolution, God and country generate the most heat.”

In many ways, Texans are stuck.  Some believe teachers should lay out relevant facts before students and have them draw their own conclusions. Others believe there should be particular values —perhaps absolute values— added into the mix to help guide students. As he did with Textbook War, Kay gives each side ample room to present their best argument.

The documentary opens with the recent controversy over the Texas-generated CSCOPE online lesson plans, which drew fire when Tea Party parents were outraged by lessons that equated Boston Tea Party participants to terrorists, and encouraged students to design a flag for a new communist country. Parents were also troubled by lessons that taught the fundamental principles of Islam.  When these parents asked to see their children’s lessons, they were told that CSCOPE lessons were protected by a non-disclosure agreement and that parents couldn’t have access.

Long Game also profiles the influence of late textbook watchdogs Mel and Norma Gabler, who pioneered a method for religious conservative citizens to challenge textbook content. The mom and pop couple became concerned after finding numerous factual errors in their son’s textbooks. Over time, the Gablers became more concerned with school materials that they believed to be amoral, anti-Christian and un-American.  The Gablers persuaded the Texas State Board of Education to reject certain textbooks that were beneath the couple’s standards.  National textbook publishers took notice of the Gablers’ reviews, since Texas had long had a reputation as the 800-pound gorilla in the conversation for determining textbook content used throughout the nation.

Also featured in Long Game is Texas’ perennial battle over the content of biology standards and the issue of teaching alternatives to the theory of evolution.  In 2009, the Texas State Board of Education adopted science standards that encouraged students to challenge some of the tenets of the theory of evolution. They raised doubts about the age of the universe and the reliability of the fossil record and questioned scientific explanations for the complexity of cells.  Science magazine called Texas’s standards “a major blow to the teaching of evolution.” This part of the report is topical because the Texas Board of Education is presently adopting new science textbooks.

Long Game focuses on the fundamentally different mindsets that are pitted against one another when deciding how to educate the next generation. The culture war differences in Texas are not that different from those in other states.  Long Game suggests that based on the differences among Texans— those who advocate for a values-neutral classroom and those who see the mission of educating tomorrow’s generation as an epic religious struggle— the prospect of common ground for national Common Core standards may be bleak.

Producer Trey Kay has contributed numerous reports to national programs, including This American Life, Marketplace, Morning Edition, American RadioWorks and Studio 360.  In 2005, Kay shared a Peabody for his contribution to Studio 360’s “American Icons: Moby Dick” program.  Long Game was edited by Deborah George, five-time DuPont winner and two-time Peabody winner.

Long Game is a project made possible by the Spencer Fellowship for Education Reporting at Columbia University's School of Journalism with additional funding provided by the Fund for Investigative Journalism, Marist College, the CRC Foundation and Friends of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.  

What people are saying about Long Game:

Trey Kay has done it once again: The Long Game is scrupulously reported and beautifully produced, a rigorous, fair-minded and illuminating exploration of one of America's fundamental challenges, the ascendant and hysterical conviction that, pace Daniel Moynihan, everyone is entitled to his own facts as well as his own opinion. A compelling and important hour of radio.

Kurt Andersen, co-founder of Spy Magazine and host of PRI’s Studio 360


Trey Kay has produced our best single account of curriculum controversies in Texas, a longtime battleground for the culture wars in American education. As Kay shows, the current imbroglio over "CSCOPE" has deep roots in Lone Star political and religious history. But it also reflects more recent trends, especially the nationwide movement for standards and accountability. Given their profound cultural and ideological differences, can Americans ever embrace a shared "standard" of education? Listen to Trey Kay, and make up your own mind.

Jonathan Zimmerman, Professor of Education and History, New York University and author of Whose America: Culture Wars in the Public Schools (Harvard University Press)


Trey Kay provides a deep, richly reported look at longtime culture wars over what can be taught in Texas classrooms. He takes listeners inside Sunday schools, classrooms and the minds of those who believe the teaching of evolution theory and state curriculum materials confuse and mislead students and promote anti-American battles.  Kay goes well behind the superficial headlines about battles over curriculum delivery and textbooks in the Longhorn State, getting his pulse on why ideology continues to dominate education debates.

Liz Willen, editor, The Hechinger Report, Teachers College, Columbia University


Media Contacts: Trey Kay, 917-921-1091; Carolyn Sandano, 914-262-7322; or Erin Geisler, KUT 90.5, 512-475-8071