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.
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