As in his first documentary, Kay said he has striven to fairly present both sides of what is really "two different mindsets" about culture and education.
"One side believes in an ultimate truth, kind of like a fundamentalist view of the world. Another side believes in a more relative or changing and evolving truth. Those two different mindsets, it's going to be very difficult for them to agree and find any common ground to agree on how to choose educational curriculum for children.
"They have a very different vision of what America is and what America should be."
Is this an intractable subject, then, or are there ways to hold a civil discussion? His documentary is just such an attempt, said Kay.
"I tried not to be too judgmental. I try to let either side present their best argument. I think that hopefully having a dialogue and encouraging people to come outside their echo chambers and have a discussion about this is a hopeful thing to do."
Not an easy goal, he concedes.
"Since 'The Great Textbook War,' I've been trying to figure out a way to encourage people to engage in a respectful debate beyond the culture war divide -- but that's easier said than done."
Texas is a significant battleground for several reasons, among them that the state purchases a huge number of textbooks and so influences the market, although that is changing somewhat as digital publication changes textbook marketing. The tussles also take place all across the curriculum.
"In Texas, they have fights over everything from reading to biology to algebra and they break down over culture war lines."
Kay tries to be fair in presenting these divisions.
"I think there are good people on both sides of the Texas debates. It's my hope that people can rise to their higher selves and be respectful in that debate so we can find a good solution for the children of Texas but also the children of America.
"But it's a tall order because of this divide I'm talking about -- between those who believe in an ultimate truth and those who believe in a relative evolving truth."Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.