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Monday, April 03, 2006

The Education of Shelby Knox

Review by Duane Simolke, author of the West Texas fiction collection The Acorn Stories, for This Week In Texas.

This documentary, screened at film festivals, PFLAG meetings, colleges, and many other venues around the US, involves a teen who dares to stand up for comprehensive sex education in her home town of Lubbock, Texas. I live in Lubbock and write Rainbow: Lubbock, the online newsletter for Lubbock gays, so this documentary interests me, especially since it eventually involves the attempts of gay teens to start a gay/straight alliance at their high school.

In the film, instead of worrying about the fact that Lubbock suffers unusually high rates of teen pregnancy and teen STDs, the school board keeps trying to silence Shelby and the other teens who want the right to fully discuss sexual issues. Of course, Shelby eventually grows up and goes away to college, and nothing really changes with the schools. Still, her story—captured so well by filmmakers Rose Rosenblatt and Marion Lipschutz—forms a powerful narrative that not only shows the importance of standing up for one’s beliefs but also provokes the very discussions that Lubbock’s school board tries to squelch.

The Education of Shelby Knox should interest viewers everywhere, even if they aren’t from Texas or don’t agree with the stands that Shelby takes. Emotions run high throughout, as Shelby experiences the pain of learning that she keeps disagreeing with the views of her loving and supportive parents. Fortunately, they stay by her side.

This film, also shown on PBS as part of their Point of View series, captures some telling moments in Lubbock’s recent history, such as struggles between teens and the school board, a visit to Lubbock from members of Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church congregation (the “God Hates Fags” people), and a surprise twist in the life of a moral crusader. Visit to learn more about the movie and its upcoming screenings.