Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Vault - The Education of Shelby Knox

The Education of Shelby Knox (2005)
directed by Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt
starring: Shelby Knox

Shelby Knox is a high school student in Lubbock, Texas, a community full of evangelical Christians whose approach to sex education for teens is summed up in one word: abstinence. The community also has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in America. The film follows Shelby through her junior and senior years of high school. An Southern Baptist, Shelby has pledged in church to abstain from sex until marriage, but as part of the city's Youth Committee she makes it her mission to get the School Board to adopt a comprehensive sex education program. This struggle gets Shelby involved in an LGBT student group's lawsuit against the Lubbock school district.

Shelby is up against a lot. She lives in a town where teenagers believe most gay people die by the age of 30 and where a sex ed class teaches students they can catch an STI by shaking hands with an infected person who has masturbated. Questioning what she has always been taught about sexuality is clearly painful for Shelby, a very intelligent young woman and you empathize as her personal experience challenge her entire belief system. The truth is so clear to her that, as an optimistic and somewhat naïve young person, she is positive that simply pointing it out to her peers, her pastor and the School Board she will change the world. It's hard to watch how devastated she is when she learns it isn't that easy.

This documentary is the story of not only Shelby's coming of age but of the belated coming of age of her parents. This is where the film is at its strongest. Adults may be set in their ways, and their conservative town might reinforce their conservative beliefs, but parents with real family values like Mr. and Mrs. Knox love their children no matter what -- and their children's battles have a way of becoming their battles. So what if the School Board uses political pressure to scare off the Youth Committee leader, and the LGBT group loses its court case? Shelby's quest has clearly made at least two converts in Lubbock and that's a good start.


  1. This sounds like an awesome documentary! I'm so glad you reviewed it, as I'd never heard of it, I'll have to watch it!