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CHARACTERS: Shelby Knox, Corry Nichols, Pastor Ed Ainsworth,


SYNOPSIS: Shelby Knox--a wide-eyed, precocious activist--is the star of The Education of Shelby Knox, a riveting tale of one girl’s mission to bring sex education to schools in her ultra-conservative hometown of Lubbock, Texas. Bursting with original characters, including an intolerant preacher crusading for abstinence, Shelby’s skeptical but loving Republican parents, and Lubbock’s tiny-but-vocal gay youth movement, the film richly captures an unusual coming of age story. In a town filled with religious fervor, sexual ferment, abstinence-only agitators and teenage pregnancy, Shelby struggles with her conflicting values and comes to terms with her own sexuality. In the process, she becomes an endearing and honest guide to the national moral morass. Unafraid to tackle pressing, complex questions, the film is supercharged with religion, politics, sex and the cultural warriors and ordinary people who battle over these hot-button issues. Skillfully crafted by award-winning directors Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt, The Education of Shelby Knox is "a pungent civics lesson on what can and cannot be accomplished by one plucky, idealistic girl.” -- The New York Times.

A transcript of an online chat session with Shelby Knox is available here:
A video of Shelby Knox’s testimony before a congressional committee is here:


1. Shelby herself notes the irony that she’s liberal while her parents are both politically and religiously conservative. She says that the transformation took place when she started associating with kids that her parents didn’t know from the Lubbock Youth Commission, and this made her think that the world was a bigger place than Lubbock. What else might have contributed to her shift in thinking?

2. Should Shelby’s parents have been more supportive of her?

3. Should Shelby’s pastor have been more supportive of her, or did he do the best that a conservative pastor could have done under those circumstances?

4. Shelby’s pastor says with a certain amount of pride that Christianity is the most intolerant religion in the world. Is he right?

5. Shelby’s pastor also says “the terms Christian and liberal are like oil and water” insofar as they don’t go together. Is he right?

6. On two occasions Shelby asked her pastor why homosexuality was sinful, and both times the pastor cited the Bible. Could he have given a better response?

7. In an online interview Shelby states the following about her pastor: “Ed Ainsworth continues to travel the world with his abstinence-until-marriage program. He has most recently been to AIDS ravaged Africa to insist that condoms do not work.” What if anything can be said in the pastor’s defense?

8. Do you think that comprehensive sex education in Lubbock’s schools would have reduced teen pregnancy or the STD rate?

9. At the school board meeting, one of the board members made the following statement: “I pulled some other statistics regarding the south plains region. We also have a higher nonuse of seatbelts, a higher nonuse of car seats, a higher percentage of teen drinking and driving. We tend to get this ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude … I think that Lubbock is in that mode where we think that nothing bad is ever going to happen, and when it does we’re shocked. I don’t think it’s a sex education issue, maybe it’s not an education issue. It’s an ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude in this entire region.” How, if at all, does the board member’s assessment help address the problem of teen pregnancy?

10. When Shelby was 15 she took a sexual purity pledge; she said “it was the thing to do if you’re a good southern Baptist girl.” In an interview, Shelby stated the following about the effectiveness of purity pledges: “a recent study out of Colombia stated that 40% of teens who take the pledge break it. Most alarmingly, 88% of the teens who break the pledge do not use any form of protection when they do.” Might there still be some value to purity pledges?

11. Shelby states that she didn’t trust Corry Nichols the second that she met him. Did she have good reason to not trust him?

12. Lubbock Youth Commission was setup by the city’s mayor to give the Lubbock youth a voice in city government. What good do you think a commission like that, consisting of high school students, would do in affecting change within a city of 200,000 people?

13. One scene in the film showed an anti-gay protest by members of Fred Phelp’s church. Shelby participated in a counter-protest. Would it have been better to have ignored Phelp’s protest rather than responded to it?


The Education of Shelby Knox: This was a very refreshing movie to watch because its been awhile since children have taken situations into their own hands. Shelby Knox understands what is going on in the world around her and wants to try to make people more aware of the problems that can occur if not properly educated. She tries to show how people are so bland about who they care about who they choose to participate sexually with. Many people have started to degrade their standards for the feel good in the moment and Shelby Knox conveys that very well. Her parents were a little shocked about the whole situation of her wanting to take this stand, but they turned out to be very supported. This movie shows that there are very few people that still carry this point of view. I did appreciate that she still participated in activities that would be considered normal for a teen to do. It was refreshing that there were some adults that wanted to try to help out and talk to teenagers. T hey are trying to show the children the repercussions of their actions and how they can be avoided. They don't even encourage the use of protective ways to avoid diseases and pregnancy. Shelby understands there are problems in certain points of view that people can't change. It was very refreshing on how well she tried to keep to her beliefs. It was good to know that she wanted people to be comfortable with how they were trying to go about teaching the students. — D.H.

The film “The Education of Shelby Knox” was a documentary about a young girls struggle to reform the lack of sex education available to adolescents in high school. She is a very ambitious young lady and showed no restraint to shed emotion to her audience during many points of the movie. She showed how pregnant girls in her school were overlooked as if there were no issue. Normalcy of teen pregnancy was not a main point in this film but it was a interesting and direct way to involve the audience in the suggestion that people are not paying enough attention. She was genuinely concerned with the health of her fellow adolescents and did not want them to give their purity up and take the risk of STI’s or pregnancy. She spreads tolerance and understanding toward the issue by offer her time to dedication to spread awareness and compassion. She even expresses her confusion toward the paradox of someone having the view that Christians should be intolerant. At several points of the movie Shelby shares the constraints of being a liberal that lives with her parents that are extremely conservative. This may be the case that she cannot always agree with her parents but they seemed to be very supportive to her. I personally respected her for counter protesting Fred Phelps and his “God hates a fag” followers. — D.M.

The Education of Shelby Knox was very interesting. The first thing I noticed was that Shelby was not the typical looking teenage girl. She was on the heavier side and she did not dress like most of the other teen girls. She is also closer to her parents than other children on the movie. She was a typical Southern Baptist young lady. She tries to abide by all the rules her parents set for her, and her church. During the movie, the pastor talks about abstinence over and over. He is dead set on telling the teens to wait until they are married and God will bless their union. He never takes into account the staggering numbers of teenagers with STD’s and the increasing teen pregnancy rate. Her parents also try their best to help her with her campaign, but because of their beliefs, they can only do so much. I do however think they could have been more understanding in helping her with her message. She kinda had to do things on her own or with the Youth Commission. I’m glad that she was brave enough to go about trying to get more education for the teens of Lubbock. They really needed more guidance from some adults that were not afraid to step out of their beliefs and faith and deal with the real world. More teens should be aware of their sexual environments and the hardships that could come about when they throw themselves into these adult situations. — C.J.

“The Education of Shelby Knox” is another eye-opener which discusses the issue of how politics and faith play into what is taught (or not taught) in our public schools. The plot of the story revolves around a young Texan Southern Baptist Girl named Shelby Knox and her fight for a more comprehensive sex education curriculum within the public schools of Lubbock Texas. She is deeply astonished and troubled about the fact that her town had the highest STD rate in the entire United States. She is equally appalled at the current sex educational standard that the school implements which calls for strict abstinence in all cases and punishment for any teacher or facility which deviates from this standard. In order to reform these measures Shelby joins the Lubbock Youth Commission and went before the town board to address these disturbing problems. During the school board deliberation one of the committee members gets to the heart of the problem which Lubbock faces as a conservative town. This is their willingness to deny or look the other way and hope for the best, but in the words of the board member, “ I think that Lubbock is in that mode where we think that nothing bad is ever going to happen, and when it does we’re shocked. I don’t think it’s a sex education issue, maybe it’s not an education issue. It’s an ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude in this entire region.” In the end Shelby Knox left the Youth Commission but not without being changed from a Conservative Christian into a more enlightened and socially aware. — A.V.

Viewing The Education of Shelby Knox was enjoyable but a bit tedious at times. I liked the movie as a whole, but Shelby was annoying. I tried to blame it on her age but as the film went on I thought she started acting more annoying and self-centered than her years could justify. I did, however, think that she really tried to spread knowledge about sex education. The statistics for teen pregnancies and STDs shown at the beginning of the film was quite startling and it was nice to see someone doing something about it instead of ignoring the problem. Pastor Ed Ainsworth was an interesting character. I disagreed with almost every word that came out of his mouth. It alarmed me that at one point he was explaining to a group of teens why condoms do not always (he made it seem like hardly ever) prevent unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases. I liked Corry Nichols and at some points in the movie I wished the camera crew were following him around instead of Shelby. Corry was manipulative, but I don’t see that trait as necessarily being bad. He knew when to take action and when to back off. The election for president of the Lubbock Youth Commission was intense. Watching Corry and Shelby give their speeches was one of my favorite parts of the film. I also liked the gay students that Shelby became friends with; they all seemed level-headed and had insightful things to say. — C.R.

The Education of Shelby Knox, although at some points difficult to sit through, presented interesting philosophical and political issues in an easily understandable and human way. At the beginning of the documentary, Shelby Knox is a young conservative Southern Baptist and participates in the Love Waits program, adorning her finger with a promise ring (symbolizing her decision to remain abstinent until marriage). However, throughout her involvement with the Lubbock Youth Commission, she begins to deal with issues that cause her to question her preconceptions. Her initial goal includes lobbying for compulsory sex education in public schools, while later in her high school years she additionally supports gay rights as well. As she pushes the envelope to a new extreme, she must deal with and overcome the social backlash she faces from both those in her community as well as within her support network. During one scene, Shelby is defending the rights of some of her gay peers as her own pastor publicly insults them in her presence. As Shelby grows and overcomes various obstacles in her quest for a more liberalized education system in Lubbock, she learns how to think for herself and better discern fact from fiction when forming her own beliefs. After a series of unconvincing conversations with her pastor, Shelby comes to realize that not everything her church and pastor preach is acceptable in her developing belief system. She must also learn how to interact with her parents when, for the first time in her life, her personal values do not completely align with their own. This film adequately portrays the obstacles associated with developing a personal identity and fighting for a cause in the face of great opposition. — J.D.

The Education of Shelby Knox: I saw the YouTube of her dipostion at the SexEd hearing on Capitol Hill and I thought she was a real prune but then I watch the film and found out that I was right but she did make some good points on sex and religion. The Education of Shelby Knox is an eye-opening, occasionally infuriating documentary revolving around 15-year-old Shelby Knox, a Texas-based teenager who embarks on a mission to bring sex education to area high schools after learning that pregnancy and STD rates among her peers is at an all-time high, the school board's policy is to promote abstinence as the only form of safe sex. The film follows the young woman through three years of her high school life, slowly revealing her to be one of the few rational people in this small town, even her parents are somewhat opposed to her mission. It's hard to know just how unbiased the film is, as it presents the town as an extremely backward, small-minded community - a place where citizen's lives are completely dominated by religion. At any rate, The Education of Shelby Knox is engaging and intriguing, and Knox herself makes for a compelling heroine. She even manages to sum up the entire movie with an apt piece of voice-over towards the end; "some of these people never get their head out of the bible to see the real world." — B.C.

The Education of Shelby Knox follows the coming of age of Lubbock, TX high-school girl Shelby Knox as she embarks on a mission to bring modern sex education to the area high schools. This documentary paints a rather backwards picture of Lubbock, with religion as the dominant motivation in people’s lives—which is the likely reason that the local school system has an ‘abstinence only’ policy on sex education—though such a picture is likely warranted. Watching Knox grow up was everything from a chore to hilarious depending on the scene. The directors focused a bit too much on her rivalry with another student for my tastes, but still managed to do justice to the topic at hand through interviews with her preacher and others. Towards the end of the film (as she gets closer to college), Knox puts a bit of perspective on things and really comes into her own. As for philosophical significance, there really isn’t much going on outside of the argument behind sex education and some of the ramblings of Knox’s preacher, who is ‘proud to be an intolerant Christian’. The Education of Shelby Knox may be tedious for the already progressively minded viewer … but it does an excellent job of easing you into the main argument for modern sex education, making it a perfect film for those on the edge of reason needing a nudge in the right direction. — J.B.

The Education of Shelby Knox while critical of some religious views did a better job of being objective than did Bill Mahr in Religulous. Shelby Knox was annoying and childish at times and this made the movie difficult to watch during certain scenes. However, I can understand why such scenes would be included for the sake of objectivity. And at the end of the movie Shelby has matured somewhat. Some religious individuals in the movie, such as Shelby’s pastor were not comfortable with sex education being taught in public schools. However, the movie showed that not all religious people thought this way. At one point near the end of the movie Shelby says something about Christianity not being as intolerant as her pastor thinks. On this point I totally agree with Shelby. The Bible doesn’t say anything about what public school curriculum ought to be. To say otherwise is to use religion for political or personal ends. I believe the city council was keeping the sex education policy in place for political reasons not religious ones. Lubbock Texas is a conservative place and it would not be possible for a candidate to get elected who is for sex education in public schools. — N.T.

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