Lewis Buzbee was a self-proclaimed “average student,” one whose parents did not go to college. After the death of his father he began to spiral downward, but was saved from failing high school by attentive teachers—teachers who had ample resources thanks to a well-funded California school system. But now, schools have been devastated by funding cuts, and Buzbee wonders if it’s still possible to save at-risk students when “the public will to fund public education remains pallid, timid, hypocritical.” Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom looks to the origins of kindergarten, muses on the architecture of schools, and organizing principles and objects of the classroom like the blackboard and the desk, to discover what those spaces and objects tell students about the importance of learning. Buzbee adds insight not only as student, but also as a teacher and a father as he contrasts his daughter’s experiences with his own. This unique and refreshing approach to the subject makes for a warm and accessible read, and his story stands as a testament to what school can achieve in the life of a student.
Lewis Buzbee is the author of The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, After the Gold Rush, and Fliegelman’s Desire, as well as three award-winning novels for younger readers, Steinbeck’s Ghost, The Haunting of Charles Dickens, and Bridge of Time. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and daughter.
A captivating meditation on education from the author of The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop