Academic journal article Middle School Journal

Remembering Gordon Vars

Academic journal article Middle School Journal

Remembering Gordon Vars

Article excerpt

With the recent death of Gordon Vars, the field of middle level education lost one of its premier scholars. Dr. Vars, professor emeritus at Kent State University, was a cofounder of the Midwest Middle School Association, which became National Middle School Association (now Association for Middle Level Education) and a true teacher-researcher who helped develop the model Kent State University Middle School. His work, spanning more than seven decades, was foundational to current scholarship in the field of middle level education and is remarkably relevant and influential today. In his writings, he confronted and brought clarity to some of the thorniest issues in middle level education, including assessment, advocacy, and student involvement.

I, like so many others, have been greatly influenced by Dr. Vars's writings, particularly those pertaining to curriculum. Dr. Vars was a proponent of core curriculum, which must not be confused with the common core standards initiative sweeping the country today. In the 1978 book A Curriculum for the Middle School Years, Dr. Vars and his coauthor, John Lounsbury, defined core as "a form of curriculum organization, usually operating within an extended block of time in the daily schedule, in which learning experiences are focused directly on problems of significance to students" (p. 56). Core combines areas of the conventional curriculum with some functions of guidance and advisory programs. During core, students apply knowledge from various subjects to their work solving problems that concern them. The curriculum becomes significant and meaningful to students, qualities antithetical to recent curriculum reform in the United States. …

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