The Collection of Ismayıl Hakkı Baltacıoğlu, a thinker and scientist who contributed immensely to Turkish educational history, has been meticulously conserved by Haldun Özen. This collection includes the handwritten articles and drafts of some of Baltacıoğlu’s books, his correspondence with some of his friends, the original proofs of Yeni Adam journal, the unpublished writings of his wife, the author Samime Baltacıoğlu, newspaper articles on his daughter, the painter Fadime Baltacıoğlu, and photographs.
Ismayıl Hakkı Baltacıoğlu (1886-1978), born in İstanbul, continued his secondary education at Fevziye Junior High School and Vefa High School after completing his primary education. In 1909, he was sent by Mustafa Satı Bey to Paris, London, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany to do research on pedagogy and handicrafts; he also conducted research on educational systems. Baltacıoğlu began teaching pedagogy in Darülfünun in 1913 and continued in this role until 1933. He became the first rector of Turkey in 1923 and was the foremost representative of the "Educational Reform Movement" in Turkey. He wrote prolifically on the disciplines of education, sociology, philosophy, public education and religion.
Haldun Özen’s friendship with Baltacıoğlu dates back to the 1950s. The earliest letter in the collection was written in 1951. This letter attests to Özen’s keen interest in Baltacıoğlu’s works and the Yeni Adam journal. Because of this correspondence, Özen became an assistant to Baltacıoğlu during his doctoral studies at Yıldız Technical University in the 1960s, and the duo worked hard to publish the most important journal of the period for thought, culture and literature, Yeni Adam.
Ismayıl Hakkı Baltacıoğlu was also interested in graphology. He describes graphology as follows:
“Understanding handwriting requires specialization. In the West, this science is called ‘graphology’. They call those specialized in this field ‘graphologists’. The science of graphology focuses on the unity and the cause and effect relationship between the writer and his or her handwriting. It illuminates this relationship. Conceptualized this way, graphology is a branch of psychology: it is handwriting psychology.”
Baltacıoğlu asserted that the science of graphology played a significant role in describing personality and character traits and thought that graphologists should serve at Turkish Courts to determine the sentences of their culprits.
In a letter dated 25 January 1953, in which he analyzes the handwriting of Haldun Özen, Baltacıoğlu states the following:
“The most definitive feature that characterizes Haldun Özen’s intellect is tacit understanding, certainty. He is someone who wants to see events in their full transparency. He works hard to illuminate every subject, every event. For him, mathematical certainty is the ideal for every kind of thinking.
The emotion that defines his character is shyness. I could even claim that he suffers from fear of crowds. The tacit understanding and certainty that characterizes his thinking, is present also in his affective world. Free of all sorts of stains, purity is the foremost characteristic that defines his affective world. There are people whose souls are woven with complexities. Haldun Özen is nothing like them. His deep inner world is silent and tranquil.
We can describe Haldun Özen’s inner world with another characteristic. This is pride combined with modesty. His shyness towards the crowd stems from this pride.”
Revolution in Pedagogy is among the most significant works written by Ismayıl Hakkı Baltacıoğlu. This work tackles Baltacıoğlu’s pedagogical philosophy and clarifies the principles of education that he puts forward in Social School (1942). It adopts a critical approach to not only to Turkish schools but also to educational systems all around the world, questioning educational traditions. In this book, Baltacıoğlu underlines the importance of educating children as social human beings:
“A social human being is someone who has a national as well as a civilized character. Culture provides the first character; technique provides the second. A national character is a character that bears and carries national traditions. Not to cause any misunderstanding, I would like to underline the fact that it is not a character that carries the knowledge but rather the traditions themselves. These traditions are: Religion, Language, Art . . .”
Baltacıoğlu, influenced by thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Henri Bergson and Emile Durkheim, debated the views of these thinkers in the fields of education, philosophy and sociology. He also reinterpreted Ziya Gökalp's ideas and opinions in his newspaper articles and columns in which he expressed his ideas in various subjects such as development, progress and politics in Turkish society.
Another important achievement of Baltacıoğlu’s was to re-translate Qur’an into Turkish. Once, he was asked why he translated the Qur’an despite the availability of many other translations. He answered:
“Former translations have been written in half-Arabic, a broken language. They are full of mistranslations. Among them are some mistakes as unbelievably immense as “kill yourself.” There are also poor translations of which the broken Turkish they have used calls for obscene meanings. The community that has made these translations gave anti-nationalist advice to our generation, such as “there is no nation (kavmiyet) in Islam.” Once the Qur’an is properly translated, it will be seen that the Qur’an is a nationalist book. By saying that “the Qur’an must be translated into [our] native language,” I mean it should be translated into a traditional Turkish as in Mevlid of Suleyman Çelebi, which became worship, as in Yunus Emre’s language. Later, the Qur’an needs to be interpreted (tefsir) so that it would stand firm with all its greatness, all its power, vis-à-vis today’s positive sciences.”
Gençlik, December 1961, Year 6, Volume 16
In 1957, the Turkish Language Symposium thanked Baltacıoğlu for translating and publishing the Qur’an in Turkish.
While Baltacıoğlu often meditated on social and political issues, one can also count branches of fine arts among Baltacıoğlu’s areas of interest. As a person who was educated in Turkish calligraphy and who achieved the title of calligraphist, Baltacıoğlu stated the following in a petition to the Directorate of Religious Affairs he wrote on November 6, 1962:
“Mosques are built in Turkey. The signs on doors, shrines, minibars and the area around the domes are prepared scratchily. Most of the time, they do not bear any artistic value. This is tragic for Turks, as we are a nation who spread the plastic arts to three continents, became exemplary in these arts and led the way. If you consider it appropriate, I will take over the preparation of these calligraphic signs. Thus, art works valuable enough to put up on our sanctuaries will be produced.”
Haldun Özen’s relations were not limited to Baltacıoğlu himself. Özen, who exchanged correspondence with Fadime Baltacıoğlu, Baltacıoğlu’s daughter, played a prominent role in promoting Fadime Baltacıoğlu’s exhibitions on several occasions.