Note: This paper was written by Ronda A. Lewallen in Fall, 2007. At that time, she was a graduate student at the University of Arkansas working on her M.A.T. in Childhood Education.
Dr. John H. Lounsbury
As one of the founders of the middle school movement, Dr. John H. Lounsbury began his career in education over 50 years ago, and still has not stopped. He has written countless articles and books, making him a role model and inspiration to all involved in middle level education.
His life began in the 1920's in Plainfield, New Jersey as the son of an investment broker. Lounsbury's family had a secure life until the stock market crashed in 1929 and the Depression began. Even still, he had a good childhood, owing it to his mother. When it was time for college, Lounsbury chose Tusculum College in Tennessee, where he met his future wife Libby (Johnston, 1992).
In 1941, merely in his sophomore year, Lounsbury enlisted in the Army as a cryptographer, and later to the Signal Corps, in which he worked his way up to technical sergeant. When World War II was over, he wed his college sweetheart Libby and began to finish his degree at Stetson University. It was there that Lounsbury took a history of education course from Boyce Fowler Ezell, and in his words, "I was hooked. I wanted to be a teacher" (Johnston, p. 47). And so his journey began. He began his master's degree in 1947 at George Peabody College for Teachers and began teaching junior high the following year in Wilmington, North Carolina (Johnston, 1992).
As Lounsbury worked on his Doctorate, he began corresponding with Leonard Koos, known as a founder of the junior high movement, and chose to write his dissertation on the junior high school (Johnston, 1992). This was the beginning of an interest that would soon shape America's school system. Lounsbury went on several assignments including to Berry College in Rome, Georgia and the University of Florida in Gainsville, only to go to the Georgia State College for Women in 1960, where he remained (GC, 2007).
GSCW was renamed to the Georgia College and State University and Lounsbury was made the first dean of the School of Education, in which he retired from in 1983. He made such an impact at GC that the School of Education was later renamed the John H. Lounsbury School of Education in 1997, where he is still Dean Emeritus today (GC, 2007; Norton, 2000).
Lounsbury was the original winner of the National Middle School Association award, given for service, integrity, leadership and having a global impact on middle level education. This award now, also, bears his name (NMSA, 2007; Lounsbury & Vars, 2003). He continued his work with NMSA throughout the years as Editor of the Middle School Journal from 1976 to 1990, as Publications Editor for NMSA from 1990 to roughly 2002, and is the current consulting editor for NMSA (GC, 2007; Lounsbury & Vars, 2003).
Honors and awards aside, Lounsbury has much to be proud of in that his publications have shaped the way young adolescents learn in today's schools. He was one of the first to say that there is such a thing as "young adolescents;" that there is a growing, transition stage between childhood and adolescents (Lounsbury, 2007). He believes that this could be the most significant stage of life next to infancy. Lounsbury shows a deep admiration and understanding for this group of students as he talks about their actions and behaviors. They are described in his article "Understanding and Appreciating the Wonder Years" as a "wondrous group, eager, enthusiastic, curious, adventuresome, full of life, fresh and refreshing" (Lounsbury, p. 2). From that sentence alone, Lounsbury shows that he is truly a teacher that cares about his students. He says that it is during the young adolescent years that students develop who they really are. They form their personalities, beliefs and moral values that will stick with them throughout adulthood (Lounsbury, 2007; Manning, 1997).
Lounsbury is a huge advocate for a teacher knowing her students on a personal level. With young adolescents, students are on complete ends of the spectrum when it comes to development both socially and physically. He also points out regularly that learning does not go on merely at school, but in the homes and neighborhoods as well. Lounsbury once stated, "American society is not in good shape" (Norton, p. 2). It is the crises and violence in the world, and what goes on in the home that affect the students' willingness to learn (Norton, 2000).
Lounsbury has been in the beginning stages of numerous middle school strategies such as schools-within-a-school and looping. Teams are a highly recognized trait of middle schools, which Lounsbury likes because it gives teachers of different subjects the chance to work together and integrate lessons. He suggested that small teams word better because it leaves room for more compassion with the students, more communication with the parents, and more integration with the teachers (Manning, 1997). However, he has stated that the middle school strategies are not only organizational but programmatic as well (Norton, 2000).
One of the main ideas that Lounsbury encourages is that of the school forming to the students, not the other way around. He has promoted that teachers learn their students and form the lessons to them. Teachers must do what they believe is best for the students. In Lounsbury's eyes, the students always come first (Johnston, 1992).
A strong supporter of heterogeneous grouping, Lounsbury believes that ability grouping works against the process of students learning themselves (Norton, 2000). He thinks that if teachers and schools change their systems and the overall way in which they educate that special programs, such as special education and gifted and talented, will not be needed (Manning, 1997). Lounsbury supports that young adolescents need hands on instruction and the opportunity to talk about it in order to reach their full potential of learning (Norton, 2000). He stated that teachers need to "move from instructing subjects to directing learning" (Manning, p. 5). Students need opportunities for critical thinking and problem solving along with the regular emphasis on the reading, writing, speaking, math and science programs. Teachers need to have varied instructional strategies to accommodate the large array of maturation and assorted learning styles present in the middle school. And if taught correctly, students will begin to evaluate their own progress in school and in short discover their interest and abilities for themselves (Lounsbury, 2007).
Lounsbury has been supporting middle level education for over 50 years and continues to influence and speak out for the area. As a person, Lounsbury describes himself as "very conservative, old fashioned…in personal values, progressive in educational values, and liberal in social values" (Johnston, p. 45). And progressive in education he definitely is. There are numerous things that Lounsbury has done for the institution of middle level education that could not possibly be touched on, and he has not stopped, yet.
A. Hall (personal communication, July 16, 2007)
John H. Lounsbury Award (2007). Retrieved July 16, 2007, from the National Middle School Association Web site.
Johnston, J. H. (1992). John H. Lounsbury: conscience of the middle school movement. Middle School Journal, 24(2), 45-50.
Lounsbury, J. H., & Vars, G. V. (2003). The future of middle level education: optimistic and pessimistic views. Middle School Journal, 35(2), 6-14.
Lounsbury, J. H. (2007). Understanding and appreciating the wonder years. Retrieved July 16, 2007, from the National Middle School Association Web site.
Manning, M. L. (1997). An interview with Dr. John H. Lounsbury. Childhood Education. Retrieved July 16, 2007,
M. Mitchell (personal communication, July 17, 2007)
Norton, J. (2000). A listserv conversation with John Lounsbury. Retrieved July 16, 2007 from the MiddleWeb Web site:
The John H. Lounsbury Award (2007). Retrieved July 16, 2007, from the Georgia College and State University Web site.