Photo of Adam Laats

Adam Laats

Associate Professor, Graduate School of Education

Office: AB-231
Phone : 607-777-3329
Fax : 607 - 777-3587
E-mail : alaats@binghamton.edu


Educational Background

  • PhD, History, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • MAT, History, Washington University in St. Louis
  • BA, English Literature, Northwestern University

Awards and Honors

  • History of Education Society Outstanding Book Award, 2016, for The Other School Reformers
  • Spencer Foundation Small Grant, 2014-2015: "Fundamentalist U: Keeping the Faith in American Higher Education"
  • Bruce Mansfield Prize, best article in the Journal of Religious History, From the Religious History Society (Australia), Fall 2013, for journal article, "Our Schools, Our Country: American Evangelicals, Public Schools, and the Supreme Court Decisions of 1962 and 1963".
  • National Academy of Education/ Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, 2009
  • Blattburg Writing Award, University of Wisconsin Department of History, 2002
  • Hansen Excellence in Teaching Award, Marquette University High School, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 2001

Teaching Profession
Courses regularly taught

  • Issues in American History
  • History of American Education

Current Research Interests

  • American Educational History
  • Twentieth Century American History
    • Religious History
    • History of Conservatism

I study the history of American education, particularly the history of cultural conflicts over curriculum and educational philosophy.  I’m interested in culture-war battles over the most basic questions of schooling and education: What should American schools teach children about science?  …about history? …about sex?  Who gets educated, and how?  Who pays for it?  And how can we learn from the checkered history of school reform to improve our schools today?

These days, I’m finishing up a book manuscript about the twentieth-century history of American higher education.  Specifically, I’m looking at a certain sort of dissenting institution, the fundamentalist or evangelical college or university.  These schools—places such as Bob Jones University in South Carolina, Wheaton College in Illinois, and Liberty University in Virginia—have always educated only a small minority of students, yet they have always punched far above their weight in mainstream American politics and culture.  Since the candidacy of Ronald Reagan, for example, every major Republican presidential contender has made at least one campaign stop at a conservative evangelical college or university.  In the most recent round of electioneering, not one but two major GOP candidates announced or promoted their candidacies in speeches at Virginia’s Liberty University.

But these schools are not merely bastions of conservative religion and politics.  They are also colleges and universities, and my current book argues that we can never understand them if we don’t understand the context of the history of American higher education as a whole.  How have they hoped to educate each new generation of students?  How have they struggled to survive in the increasingly ruthless market of American higher education?

This latest book was funded by a generous research grant from the Spencer Foundation.  It is tentatively titled Fundamentalist U: Keeping the Faith in American Higher Education, and it will be out soon with Oxford University Press.

For reviews of my books and more info about my research interests, please check out http://adamlaats.net

Sample Presentation

  • "'Surely You're Joking, Mr. Huckabee:' Creationism in Historical Perspective," a talk at the Evolutionary Studies Program, Binghamton University, November 7, 2011. To hear this lecture, see the EVOS post: http://vimeo.com/31851749

Selected Publications



  • The Other School Reformers: Conservative Activism in American Education, Harvard University Press, 2015:

                                                              Image Dr. Laats Book The Other School Reformers

                      Winner! History of Education Society Outstanding Book Award, 2016

  • Fundamentalism and Education in the Scopes Era: God, Darwin, and the Roots of America's Culture Wars, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010: http://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9780230623729

Photo of Dr. Laats Book on Scopes EraArticles and Book Chapters

  • “Brave Sons and Daughters: 1960s Protests at the ‘Fundamentalist Harvard,’” Perspectives on the History of Higher Education, forthcoming March 2017.
  • “Religion,” Miseducation: A History of Ignorance-Making in America and Abroad, ed. A.J. Angulo (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016): 161-183.
  • "Dissenters, Not Ignoramuses: A New Approach to Creationism in America's Public Schools," Anthropology Now, 7:1 (April 2015): 80-88.
  • "The Missionary Supposition: Evolution Education and Creationist Culture," Reports of the National Center for Science Education, 33:6 (November-December 2013): http://reports.ncse.com/index.php/rncse/article/view/201/392.
  • "Our Schools, Our Country: American Evangelicals, Public Schools, and the Supreme Court Decisions of 1962 and 1963," Journal of Religious History (Australia),36:3 (September 2012): 1-16.
  • “Red Schoolhouse, Burning Cross: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and Educational Reform,” History of Education Quarterly, 52:3(August 2012).
  • “Monkeys, Bibles, and the Little Red Schoolhouse: Atlanta’s School Battles in the Scopes Era,” Georgia Historical Quarterly,95:3 (Fall 2011): 335-355.
  • “Many Educational Pasts: Conservative Visions and Revisions of the History of American Education,” Teachers College Record, 114; 3 (2012): http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16300, Date Accessed: 1/26/2011.
  • "Forging a Fundamentalist ‘One Best System:' Struggles over Curriculum and Educational Philosophy for Christian Day Schools, 1970-1989," History of Education Quarterly, 50 (February 2010):55-83.
  • “Inside Out: The Transformation of Conservative Protestant Educational Activism, 1962-1990,” in Inequity in Education: A Historical Perspective , edited by Debra Meyers and Burke Miller, Lexington Books, Rowman and Littlefield Press, 2009, pp 183-209.
  • "The Quiet Crusade: The Moody Bible Institute's Outreach to Public Schools and the Mainstreaming of Appalachia, 1921-1966," Church History 75:3 (September 2006):565-593.

Articles (Non-Peer reviewed/Media):

Digital Publishing:

Founder/Contributing Editor: I Love You but You're Going to Hell: Awkward Conversations about School and Society, http://iloveyoubutyouregoingtohell.org; a blog devoted to exploring news and ideas related to history, education, and culture in the United States, 2011-2016.

Book Reviews

  • Journal of American History
  • History of Education Quarterly
  • Church History
  • American Studies Journal
  • H-Education Book Reviews
  • Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
  • Reports of the National Center for Science Education

Last Updated: 10/3/16