What will schools be like in 2119? Will this prediction be true?
“Books will soon be obsolete in the public schools. Scholars will be instructed through the eye. It is possible to teach every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture. Our school system will be completely changed inside of ten years.”
Interestingly enough, this quotation was shared six years before Baylor started educating teachers. This was the prediction of Thomas Edison in 1913. Most of the last 100 years, people were suggesting that massive changes were coming to education. Looking ahead to the next 100 years, we really have no idea what schools will be like. However, I am certain about four things that will catalyze education for the common good.
1. Baylor is the best place in the country to prepare Christian leaders for schools. Lynda and Robert Copple exemplify why this is true. Both Baylor grads, Lynda is a world class teacher, and Robert is a world class business leader. Their faith, their belief in Baylor’s mission, and the need they observed for strong school leadership from Christians led them to endow a chair to expand Baylor’s capacity to better equip education leaders. Two of the four pillars of Baylor’s Illuminate are captured perfectly in the work we will do in the coming century because of their gift. We are unambiguously Christian, and we will be producing research and PhD candidates who will move us forward as an influential Christian research institution. We are in the process of developing a master’s degree in School Leadership for emerging leaders, and a PhD for the most influential Christian school leaders in the country. They will lead schools and produce the research that will transform and influence both public and independent schools through their credibility as thinkers and leaders. My research focuses on catalytic leadership. As a former science teacher, I am particular about how we use the term catalyst. A catalyst accelerates a reaction. It is not the focus of the reaction. Therefore, catalytic leaders accelerate the work of others. A catalyst is what I want to be. Those are the leaders I want to develop.
2. Education is the profession that makes all others possible. I love education. It is my vocation. As Frederick Buechner wrote, vocation is “the place where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” In the last few months, I have gone from coast to coast twice, and all over Texas, working with gifted school leaders. I have been an educator and leader for 24 years, and I am convinced that Texas — with its openness to innovation and receptivity to faith — and Baylor — with its world class students and reputation — are the best places in the world to do this work. We need more great education leaders to walk alongside colleagues and students to help students become all that they were created to be as they find their calling.
3. This is the best time in history to be in education. We know more about how people learn, have more tools to support that learning, and can access diverse ways to deliver education. This year, 56.6 million students attend elementary, middle, and high schools across the United States. Public elementary and secondary school spending will be $680 billion. If that education spending were the U.S. gross domestic product, U.S. education expenditures would be the 21st largest economy in the world. This is a powerful moment in history for Baylor to engage in educational leadership.
4. We have nothing to fear. As a teacher, I always made my students memorize this quotation from Theodore Roosevelt’s "Man in the Arena" speech: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” At Baylor, we avoid that gray twilight by doing the work the Lord gives us. We can move boldly into the future. As II Timothy 1:7a says, “God has given us a spirit not of fear but of power.” Let’s claim that power by developing world class Christian leaders. We don’t need to worry about what tools will be obsolete in the next 100 years. We just need more great teachers and leaders who can think adaptively to meet the needs of students.
As Baylor President Linda Livingstone always says, and Baylor Provost Nancy Brickhouse reiterates, “The world needs a Baylor.” I would go even further. The world needs Baylor’s catalytic leaders who ground their moral and ethical stewardship of our nation’s future in the faith upon which this country was founded.
Jon Eckert, EdD, joined the Baylor School of Education faculty on Aug. 1, 2019, as the inaugural holder of The Lynda and Robert Copple Endowed Chair in Christian School Leadership. The installation was part of the Academy for Transformational Leadership, a continuing education and leadership training conference hosted by Baylor’s Center for Christian Education.
Eckert previously served as Professor of Education at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., where he taught as a member of the faculty since 2009. Prior to his career in higher education, Eckert taught at the primary and secondary levels and served a year appointment as a Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow for the U.S. Department of Education in both the Bush and Obama administrations, focusing on teaching-quality issues. This grew from his doctoral work at Vanderbilt University and his desire to elevate and advance teaching. Eckert holds an EdD in educational leadership, policy and organization from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. He received his master’s degree in education from Benedictine University, and his Bachelor of Arts in elementary education from Wheaton College.