cover image Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom

Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom

Lewis Buzbee. Graywolf (FSG, dist.), $23 (216p) ISBN 978-1-55597-683-5

Though this appears to be a nostalgic memoir of a baby-boomer’s education from kindergarten through high school, Buzbee’s (The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop) affectionate account turns out to be a subtle, sharply etched critique of contemporary public education. Framed by a visit to his former elementary school, the author effectively uses the physical details of the classroom to reveal what’s increasingly missing from the educational experience. The blackboard, specifically, offers Buzbee an opportunity to defend classical teaching methods that required collective focus, and provided eureka moments as repetition led to awareness. As Buzbee progressed into high school, the social experience of school, not grades, became increasingly important, and upon the death of his father, it became vital. Teachers refused to let him off the hook, demanded the best from him, and offered lessons on perseverance. Deeply affectionate toward teachers, harshly critical of budget cuts, the book offers an eloquent, important reminder (which in a perfect world would inform policy) about the nature of school. (Aug.)