The 19th century German scientist Johann von Goethe said, “All truly wise thoughts have been thought already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, until they take root in our personal experience.”
I came across Goethe’s quote years ago while teaching a doctoral seminar in History and Systems in Educational Psychology, and I have never forgotten it. At first, the quote was disappointing, seeming to convey that one could not have original thoughts or make novel contributions. However, I think Goethe was saying that we should value the thoughts and work of those who came before us because, in a way, we must recycle their thoughts and contributions, in our own time and context, to find new value and make these thoughts our own.
The School of Education is currently commemorating our Centennial, and we have been looking back at the details of our history. Our building now has a depiction of a historical timeline with photos from the early days to the present. When I look at our former leaders, I wonder what thoughts and aspirations they had about our School. I wonder what our earliest faculty and students would think of our School one hundred years later.
Our School has grown to over 50 full-time faculty members representing many educational disciplines, all of which have advanced rapidly in the last century. Our faculty today are national leaders in their professional organizations, among Baylor’s top producers of research, and award-winning teachers. Our students become highly recruited and excellent classroom teachers, school leaders, school psychologists, and university professors and researchers. I believe our predecessors would be proud of what has transpired.
We owe much to the devotion of those before us, but we are also looking ahead. What will the next 100 years look like? What problems will we face, and how will we contribute solutions? What thoughts will be reapplied by future generations?
There is currently a tremendous sense of energy in the School. Some of this is related to Baylor’s new academic strategic plan, Illuminate, that presses us to ambitious new heights as a research university. But I think much of our energy and innovation is inherited from our past. Like those before us, we focus our thoughts on fostering transformational education in a Christian context, seeking out empirical evidence confronting educational problems, and preparing leaders for impact.
I do not believe these to be new thoughts, nor are we thinking them for the first time. But we are experiencing them honestly and making them part of our personal experiences, just as those in future generations will do.