Books by George H. Wood

Released: Aug. 3, 1998

A passionate plea for educational reform by a teacher who changed the course of a poor rural high school. Wood (Education/Ohio Univ.; Schools That Work, 1987) was ensconced in the ivory tower of academia when he was approached to serve as principal of Federal Hocking High in Stewart, Ohio. He proved to be the rare administrator who was willing to take risks; as a result of Wood's iconoclastic methods, Hocking became one of the region's top schools within a few years. Clearly influenced by such reformers as Deborah Meier—whose Park East Secondary School in New York City has served as a model for many educators—Wood radically changed the structure of his school and here advises such changes for all high schools. Echoing 1960s radicals, Wood condemns "the traditional mindset" of institutions that "are not concerned with the needs, interests and abilities of individuals except as they serve the mission of the institution." The primary goal of schools, he contends, should be to create learning communities that nurture the kinds of citizens we would like to have as neighbors. Students, he believes, should strive for producing high-quality work rather than just accumulating credits; schools must be kept small, so that no child is anonymous. Fewer classes each day, held for longer periods, are crucial to realizing Wood's vision, along with enough unstructured time to encourage the growth of student-teacher relationships. Students should be given far more decision-making power, he argues, so that they will graduate more capable of handling the adult responsibilities that will be thrust upon them daily. (In Wood's school, in fact, students play an active role in hiring staff.) Complete with an appendix well-stocked with resources for high school restructuring, this is a somewhat utopian blueprint, but still one packed with common sense. Read full book review >
Released: April 17, 1992

Wood (Education/Ohio Univ.) visits schools and classrooms that are concerned with teaching children, not with satisfying bureaucrats. The children and teachers in N.Y.C.'s pioneering Central Park East Secondary School seem to be so often visited by journalists, researchers, and education specialists that it's hard to imagine they have time for schooling. In this case, Wood spent time at CPESS, as well as at elementary and high schools in New Hampshire (where students of the Thayer School mobilized to head off a toxic- waste site and honed reading, writing, science, and math skills in the process); Georgia (where students produce the renowned Foxfire magazine); Illinois (where parents are an integral part of the workings of Hubbard Woods), and less heralded institutions in Wisconsin and Ohio. The author reports his conversations and observations with warmth—and with the strong conviction that schools should not be factories to assemble future workers, but centers where children can learn to function as informed and thoughtful citizens. His theme is that less is more—less stricture, less structure lead to more flexibility in the classroom and to the skills crucial to a democracy: how to question, how to analyze, how to develop an idea, how to work with one another. Not new (and for a more perceptive report, see Edward B. Fiske's Smart Schools, Smart Kids, 1991), and repetitious at times, but, still, an upbeat, child-centered view of bright spots in American education. Read full book review >