About your Host

Adam Laats is a historian interested in culture and education in the United States.  He taught middle- and high school for ten years in sunny Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  He now teaches at Binghamton University (State University of New York).  He was trained as a historian at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he studied with educational historian William J. Reese and historian of science and medicine Ronald L. Numbers.

What I wish I looked like...

What I wish I looked like…

He has published widely about the history of America’s schools and culture.  His first book, Fundamentalism and Education in the Scopes Era: God, Darwin, and the Roots of America’s Culture Wars (Palgrave Macmillan 2010) examined battles over religion and schooling in the 1920s.  His second book, The Other School Reformers: Conservative Activism in American Education came out in February 2015 with Harvard University Press.  His next book, co-authored with philosopher Harvey Siegel and titled Teaching Evolution in a Creation Nation, hit the shelves in March, 2016.  His fourth book, Fundamentalist U, came out in early 2018. It looks at the tumultuous twentieth-century history of conservative evangelical colleges and universities.  His latest book examines the history and culture of creationism in the USA. He is currently writing a new book about the earliest attempts at urban school reform in the USA. Laats has published articles in such scholarly journals as Church HistoryHistory of Education Quarterly, and Teachers College Record.  He has contributed essays to the Chronicle of Higher Education, to Education Week, to Time, to Newsweek, to the Washington Post, and to the History News Network.

When it comes to his personal opinions about schools and culture, Laats generally sticks with his progressive roots. He was not raised in any sort of evangelical, conservative, or fundamentalist church. However, he tries hard to be sympathetic to and understanding of conservatives, traditionalists, and free-marketeers. As SAGLRROILYBYGTH are aware, the point of this blog is to challenge pat assumptions about school and society, whether progressive, conservative, or other.

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  1. Sharon Lee Holdren

     /  January 2, 2019

    I am a proud and happy 1969 graduate of Bob Jones University and am thrilled to find your website! I am terribly keen to discuss my experiences with other graduates of BJU or knowledgeable educator or others who have had similar religious education. Bob Jones University gave me a wonderful education in an atmosphere that provided the physical and intellectual structure I was fully aware I needed. That does not mean I agreed then or now with their positions on religious doctrine, politics, music, society, dress code or other trappings that l accepted at the time as going with the territory of where I wanted to be or what I wanted to do.
    Knowing full well what was expected of them (I was completely naive and totally in shock) my brother and sister both chose to attend after me. I however was the only one of us to gradate and I am by far the most liberal. I also went on to acquire two additional degrees both graduate and undergraduate at state universities. At no time did the years I spent at BJU fail to ground me, or leave me wanting. The closest I came to hearing questions was that I dressed more like the professor’s than the other students.
    I am no longer formally religious, no do I attend church. I read extensively on Christian education, and about the different conceptions that I was taught were cults or false religions. I never was narrow minded enough to believe in the literal interpretation of the only Word of God, the King James Version. However, it is to this translation that I always refer. While I do believe in a Creator God I do not believe in Creationism, and I diligently seek to disabuse such believers of this false doctrine and to show them how stupid they look and how insulting to the intelligence God gave us humans.
    My only regrets about the lingering and residual impact on my thinking of what I was taught in church and chapel at BJU are two fold. For too long I refused to attend any church and passed on a once in a lifetime opportunity to attend Christmas services in the only Assyrian Christian Church in Baghdad in the time between the rise of Saddam Hussein and the Iran-Iraq war. The second was that I could not bring myself to complete the application process of giving my “witness” or testimony to Mercy Corps International after having been recruited to work with them by their Senior Vice President. Since then I have come to realize this was what and where I had really wanted to work all my life. I now tell myself that in my next incarnation I will be smarter.
    I hope to hear back from others with similar experiences.

  2. Sharon Lee Holdren

     /  February 5, 2019

    Adam, how do I access other readers comments? I’m certain someone has said something about your book.

    I have been reading The Legends of the Jews by Lewis Ginsberg 1902, and ran across a line about the animals and humans dispersing from the Ark to the region to the south around the Mediterranean which it says was not covered in Noah’s Flood! Being a geographer with an increasing and life long interest in geology, I’m finding it more and more ridiculous for even Fundamentalist schools to give people like Ken Ham any credence beyond that of a cultural anomaly, let alone any influence on their academic teachings.

    The overwhelming thought I have taken away from you fascinating, enlightening and impressively researched work is of the profound level of hypocrisy inherent in Christian higher education in general. All along I had thought it to be the sole preserve of Bob Jones University.

    I have always been aware of the political nature of Christian schools. My freshman year (1964) we were told at Chapel sevice there would be no classes on a Day of Celebration if our side won. I did not fail to study for a scheduled test that day, and someone from my High School sent me an anonymous sympathy card.

    However, my fear now is the systematic but insidious way these schools are infiltrating their graduates into government. They have found they cannot be elected into office, or if they are the voters refuse to retain them. As a result they are moving into higher levels of policy making through back doors of appointment that do not have to be confirmed by the Senate or as clerks and interns on the state level. I regard many of them as no different from the Communist cells of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. I regard them as inimical to democracy. One radio host (Bryan Fischer of American Family Radio) actually stated on air last fall after the election that he did not wish to see divided government that in fact he wanted to see one party with one conservative outlook in all positions elected or appointed. He is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. I confess that even though I consider myself to be Christian and have always been politically active, I tremble for the future of my country.

    There only breath of fresh air was in BJ3’s comment that there was nothing unscriptural about women wearing slacks. I remember the horror of girdles and garter belts in the 90° heat and humidity of South Carolina. Should your flesh jiggle or expose skin on the leg it could cause your brothers in Christ to falter! On the otherhand I still regard wearing your hair up in rollers our in public as the depth of vulgarity.

    I shall look forward to reading your other work.

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