Cover: The Other School Reformers: Conservative Activism in American Education, from Harvard University PressCover: The Other School Reformers in HARDCOVER

The Other School Reformers

Conservative Activism in American Education

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$48.00 • £41.95 • €43.95

ISBN 9780674416710

Publication Date: 02/09/2015


328 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

6 halftones


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The Other School Reformers: Conservative Activism in American Education is the first comprehensive historical study of conservative educational activism in the United States… Laats makes a compelling argument that a powerful tradition of educational conservatism has played a decisive role in shaping American public schools and culture from the 1920s through the present… The Other School Reformers makes a vital contribution to the history of education by identifying a clearly discernable and politically powerful tradition of conservative educational reform in the United States since the 1920s. One of this book’s strengths is its ability to explain the connections between these four episodes separated by time and space, and also to account for such differences as the changing ways that conservative educational activists dealt with race and religion.—Zoë Burkholder, History of Education Quarterly

Well researched, well written, and well argued, The Other School Reformers offers a clear, evenhanded account of conservative activism in public education.—Kevin M. Kruse, Journal of American History

Laats’s analysis of the social and political contexts in which this [conservative] resistance [to educational reform] occurs makes this book a must-read for anyone interested in or hoping to effect educational reform—whether in the sciences or in other disciplines.—Andrew J. Petto, Reports of the National Center for Science Education

The Other Reformers is about big ideas and big questions. At bottom it is a valuable portrait of how Americans vie, in an ongoing way, to answer the questions that matter most: Why do we educate? What are schools for? And, in the context of crosscutting claims about the intrinsic relationship between ‘education’ and ‘democracy,’ what has, does, and should each of those terms mean?—Mike Wakeford, Society for U.S. Intellectual History blog

Laats examines in detail four events: the 1925 Scopes trial, the 1939 Rugg textbook debate, the 1950 forced resignation of school superintendent Willard Goslin, and the 1974 Kanawha County school boycott. Throughout the work, Laats offers lively, chapter-length explorations of each event, fairly presenting the players, their motivations, and the surrounding historical context. The work’s primary value is in these concise but thorough accounts… Laats nevertheless offers commendable documentation of that conservative standpoint.—J. R. Edwards, Choice

The Other School Reformers is a major rethinking of the history of American education. Laats explores four of the most important and controversial episodes of the last century—the Scopes trial, the Rugg textbook controversy, the Goslin affair in Pasadena, and the textbook wars in West Virginia—to argue that scholars have often overstated the progressive trajectory of American education. His book offers an insightful and empathetic view of conservative education reformers and a thorough account of their goals and tactics.—Andrew Hartman, author of Education and the Cold War: The Battle for the American School

If I say ‘school reformer,’ you probably think ‘liberal.’ Think again. As Adam Laats shows, right-wing Americans have exerted a consistent influence over education for the past century. Taking conservatives on their own terms, he rescues them from the outright condescension that has colored so many other accounts of the so-called ‘ignorant’ Right and our schools. No matter what you think of the Right, it would be flat-out wrong to ignore this important book.—Jonathan Zimmerman, author of Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory

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