"If you had not had this turning inward of fundamentalists and the building of educational infrastructure, you couldn't have had the explosion of home schooling and Christian day schools in the 1970s and 1980s," he said. "You can't have schools without books; you can't have Christian schools without Christian books."
The dissension and debates that exploded in the 1920s are still a part of today's public schools and society, whether focused on evolution, sex education or saying the Lord's Prayer in the classroom, Laats said.
"Some of the venom of today's culture wars comes from this divide in basic beliefs about who humans are and how humans fit into the universe," he said. "If you think what's being taught in schools is hurting children, it's difficult to say, 'It's more important that we all get along' than to do something about it.'"
Whether it is in schools or society, Laats believes the impact of fundamentalism in the 1920s cannot be overestimated.
"I sensed this was a story that hadn't been fully explored," he said. "Most of the literature that looks at the roots goes back to Billy Graham in the 1950s instead of the 1920s, where a lot of the direct beginnings come from. I thought the topic would be interesting, provocative and important not just for historians, but for all kinds of Americans."
|Contact: Gail Glover|