BINGHAMTON, NY – Adam Laats, associate professor of education at Binghamton University, will be presented with The History of Education Society’s (HES) Outstanding Book Award, which recognizes what is judged to be the most outstanding book on the history of education published during the previous year. For his work, The Other School Reformers: Conservative Activism in American Education (University Press, 2015), Laats will be honored at the HES meeting in Providence, R.I., in November.
In his award-winning book, Laats investigates culture-war battles throughout the history of American education. According to him, historians have assumed that education has been shaped by progressive thought. However, he argues the opposite: conservative activists shaped and defined American classrooms throughout the twentieth century.
Laats studies four education controversies—including the 1925 Scopes Trial, the 1939 Rugg textbook controversy, the 1950 ouster of Pasadena Public Schools Superintendent Willard Goslin, and the 1974 Kanawha County school boycott—to explain how conservative forces challenged progressive thought. These progressive ideas included Darwinism, socialism, multiculturalism and feminism. According to Laats, American education has not been as profoundly shaped by such new ideas as scholars have assumed. Time and again, American schools kept in place a traditional and conservative-minded curriculum.
The book is "compellingly and accessibly written," according to HES committee members. They also commended Laats’ approach and said, "While the topics explored by Laats are familiar, his lens is unique. Laats grounds the issues broadly in political conservatism and demonstrates how everything in schooling is political."