Pray Tell

'The Education of Shelby Knox'

Pray Tell

Shelby Knox is a budding politician, a show-off, and a sincere Christian hell-bent on questioning authority in Lubbock, a land were questioners are questionable at best. She's also a charismatic teenager coming of age in the documentary The Education of Shelby Knox. Not long after taking a public vow to stay celibate until her wedding night, the 15-year-old joins the city-financed Lubbock Youth Commission and sets out to change Lubbock's rep as a capital of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Her target is the school district's abstinence-only sex education policy.

Filmmakers Marion Lipshutz and Rose Rosenblatt spent a year searching for the right city involved in a sex education debate. Once they found Lubbock, Knox jumped onto their radar. "There's this magic thing called being telegenic," Rosenblatt says. "They can relax and feel real; they can't be self-conscious and inhibited. Shelby was one of those people."

The documentary tackles a weighty topic, and the filmmakers want the public to see the effects of heavy investment by the federal government in challenge grants, most going to faith-based organizations, to teach abstinence-based sex education. But it is the cast of characters who give this film depth: the Rev. Ed Ainsworth, who frosts his hair and sports a hipster goatee as he tries to connect with teens, but blurts out, "Christianity is the most intolerant religion in the world, and we get a lot of heat for that"; Corey, Knox's political competition on the Youth Commission and a hungry junior politician in his own right; and Knox's parents, dyed-in-the-wool conservatives who support their daughter, most of the time, as she takes on one cause after another. "They walked the party line," Rosenblatt says, "in this case the Republican party line, yet they were so supportive of both sex education and their daughter."

Lipshutz sees the film as a real representation of the issues facing a nation divided between the so-called red and blue states. "No one film can completely change the world, Michael Moore notwithstanding," she says. "Change happens in increments, and this is an increment. I hope a lot of religious people see it and realize that Christianity isn't the same as right-wing politics, that Christianity is completely compatible with liberal politics."

Expect Knox, now a University of Texas student, to be there when the film screens for South by Southwest. She'll be coming from Washington, where in the past few days she's been lobbying a more influential group of politicians for the sex education cause.

The Education of Shelby Knox screens at 11am, Sunday, March 13, Alamo South Lamar; and 4:30pm, Wednesday, March 16, Austin Convention Center.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

SXSW Film Releases Full Feature Lineup
SXSW Film Releases Full Feature Lineup
Slate includes everyone from Wes Anderson to the Zellners

Monica Riese, Jan. 30, 2014

Mindy Kaling Comes to SXSW
Mindy Kaling Comes to SXSW
The comedian and showrunner will speak March 9

Monica Riese, Jan. 21, 2014

More Screens
Austin Artist Brings Gamera to Vibrant Life in a New Box Set
Austin Artist Brings Gamera to Vibrant Life in a New Box Set
Matt Frank builds the perfect monster

Richard Whittaker, Aug. 28, 2020

Do or Do Not
Do or Do Not
SXSW sports docs follow heroes' journeys

Joe O'Connell, March 15, 2013

More by Joe O'Connell
This Job Will Change Your Life
This Job Will Change Your Life
Former staff reflect on the zigs and zags of life post-Chronicle

Sept. 3, 2021

Top Books to Read in 2020 As Everything Falls Apart
Top Books to Read in 2020 As Everything Falls Apart
In a COVID-strained year, tales of families repairing their lives and the caste system's effect of Black Americans made an impact

Dec. 18, 2020


The Education of Shelby Knox, Marion Lipshulz, Rose Rosenblatt

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle