Dr. Wesley Null
Educator John Comenius said, “The proper education of the young consists in opening up their understanding to the outer world, so that a living stream may flow from their own minds.” Dr. Wesley Null agrees. Dr. Null, Associate Professor of Curriculum and Foundations of Education at Baylor University since 2001, encourages undergraduate students to participate in scholarship by beginning their own research.
With the hope of strengthening the God-given ability to reason in his students, Dr. Null invites undergraduates to present at conferences and to co-author with him papers submitted to scholarly journals. Developing essays and presentations that “have clear theses, are well supported, and fit within a coherent curricular tradition” is a necessary step to produce credible work not only in Dr. Null’s classroom, but also in the larger academic world. As the editor of the American Educational History Journal, Dr. Null encourages his students to submit papers to the journal. Roselynn Nguyen responded to Dr. Null’s invitation, becoming the first undergraduate to be published in the journal.
Nguyen’s essay, titled Changing Professionals: How the Nature of Professionalism Evolved During the 20th Century, was presented at the Midwest History of Education Society annual meeting in 2007 in Chicago. The paper will be published in the American Educational History Journal in Summer 2008. Nguyen, a senior in the chemistry department at Baylor, is interested in the moral foundations of the medical and teaching professions. As the first chapter of her honors thesis, Nguyen’s essay tracks the decline of the moral foundations of the medical profession. She describes curriculum changes within higher education and the related philosophical shifts that took place within professionalism. Nguyen’s thesis also forecasts the future of professionalism. Students like Nguyen exemplify Dr. Null’s dream of “cultivating people who view teaching, research, and service as spokes in the same wheel” to produce liberated minds that not only digest, but also produce new knowledge.
Dr. Null’s work as Faculty Assistant Director of the Honors Program reinforces his work in the classroom. Dr. Null has been studying patterns of retention data in the Honors Program to learn how best to support Honors students in the various departments, especially the sciences. “We want to maintain the high standards of the Honors College; at the same time, we want as many high-quality theses completed each year as possible.” Improvements in the program, such as the Proseminar Series Dr. Null has designed to equip honors students during their junior year, have caused the retention rate to more than double in six years.
Since earning his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Null has written two books, Peerless Educator and Disciplined Progressive Educator, as well as edited three others, Forgotten Heroes of American Education, The Pursuit of Curriculum, and Readings in American Educational Thought. His work extends to the philosophical underpinnings of how people think about curriculum in his current book project, Liberating Curriculum. In this work, Dr. Null explores five competing curriculum philosophies that have been influential in recent centuries. He also draws upon Aristotle and Comenius to argue for a “deliberative” approach to curriculum theory and practice.
An avid believer in universal liberal education, Dr. Null strives to stretch each undergraduate student to integrate theory and practice. He is training the next generation of teachers to think of education not just as a means to a good job, but as the “improvement of the soul” of every student.