New radio documentary details curriculum battles in Texas


A new radio documentary from Trey Kay (producer of “The Great Textbook War”) delves into the culture war battles over public school curriculum content in Texas. Listen to The Long Game: Texas’ Ongoing Battle for the Direction of the Classroom on Thursday, Nov. 7 at 9 p.m. on West Virginia Public Radio.

Prior to the broadcast, the public is invited to a listening session and discussion at the University of Charleston on Monday, Nov. 4 at 6:30 p.m. Panelists will include Kay and Dr. Calandra Lockhart, chair of the Education Department at University of Charleston. The presentation will take place in the Erma Byrd Art Gallery located in Riggleman Hall. The public is invited to this free event.

“The story of the Kanawha textbook controversy was an example of where the nation was in the early 1970s regarding culture wars and education,” Kay said. “Texas is a great example of where those battles are today. 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. While there have been fights over just about every academic subject, debates over history, evolution, God and country generate the most heat.”


Trey Kay accepting the duPont-Columbia Silver Baton award for his 2009 radio documentary “The Great Textbook War.” Kay grew up in Charleston, W.Va., and lived through the controversy as a student.

The hour-long Long Game begins with a focus on the recent controversy over an online set of lesson plans widely used in Texas schools. Tea Party parents believed these lessons to be pro-communist, anti-Christian and pro-Islam. Earlier this year, they successfully pushed to remove the lessons from Texas schools.  The program then discusses how an unlikely conservative, religious couple created an organization powerful enough to force textbook publishers to alter books.  The documentary closes by examining the battle over what science textbooks should teach about evolution in public school classrooms.

“The debate in Texas is something that plays out in communities throughout the nation, and highlights some of the controversy surrounding the new Common Core Curriculum standards,” Kay said. (Common Core Curriculum standards are to be fully implemented nationally by the 2014-15 school year.)

These are fundamentally different mindsets pitted against one another in deciding how we are to educate the next generation,” Kay says.  “Is it possible for Americans to ever agree on ‘common’ essentials to teach the next generation?”

Kay’s documentary The Great Textbook War, a radio report about the 1974 Kanawha Textbook Controversy, was honored with Peabody, Murrow, and DuPont Awards. In addition Kay has contributed numerous reports to national programs, including This American Life, Marketplace, Morning Edition, American RadioWorks, Studio 360 and Frontline. In 2005, Kay shared a Peabody for his contribution to Studio 360’s “American Icons: Moby Dick” program.

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.

Contact Trey Kay at or follow on Twitter @LongGameTexas.