A Personal History of the Classroom
Lewis Buzbee
“To find a silver lining in even the most embarrassing, most angst-filled moments of your school years? Such a thing seemed impossible for even the most wistful of people, until I read Lewis Buzbee’s Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom. . . . Many readers . . . will gladly follow him on his journey.”NPR
“Simultaneously a memoir and treatise on educational reform structured as a series of essays reflecting on the author’s experiences as a student and teacher. . . . An important and humane perspective on what happens to us as individuals as we engage in education.”Inside Higher Ed, “An Education Reading List for Bill Gates”

About the Book

A captivating meditation on education from the author of The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop
Lewis Buzbee looks back over a lifetime of experiences in schools and classrooms, from kindergarten to college and beyond. He offers fascinating histories of the key ideas informing educational practice over the centuries, which have shaped everything from class size to the layout of desks and chairs. Buzbee deftly weaves his own biography into this overview, approaching his subject as a student, a father, and a teacher. In so doing, he offers a moving personal testament to how he, “an average student” in danger of flunking out of high school, became the first in his family to graduate from college. He credits his success to the well-funded California public school system and bemoans the terrible price that state is paying as the result of funding being cut from today’s budgets. For Buzbee, the blackboard is a precious window into the wider world, which we ignore at our peril.

Additional Reviews

“Meandering through [Buzbee’s] sunny book feels fairly hypnotic—then he hits you with the epilogue in which he gets down to the business of saying, ‘Look, you and I had it good back in the day. Don’t our kids deserve what we had?’. . . . I hope more voices will join in the conversation about the state of public schools. Blackboard gives us a place to start—by recalling our own experiences in school.”Kansas City Star
"Like Buzbee's previous book, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, Blackboard is a gentle, pleasant and charming read. But there is a fierce anger and frustration lying just beneath the surface . . . directed at the neglect and, occasionally, contempt politicians and taxpayers have displayed toward public education in recent years."Chicago Tribune
"A lyrical, graceful appreciation of the transformative force of teachers . . . and a poetic reflection of the redemptive power of school."—Montreal Gazette
“Buzbee offers short, appealing histories of such staples as kindergartens, blackboards and school buses, and explains how they transformed the American school environment. He never forgets the most important asset in any school—the teachers—and recalls how they changed his own life after his father died. . . . Part personal recollection, part history lesson, part call to action, Blackboard is all eloquence.”BookPage
“One needn’t subscribe to [Buzbee’s] agenda to appreciate the lasting value of the kind of education he portrays with affection and insight in this appealing book.”Shelf Awareness
"Buzbee's whirlwind reminiscence touches upon common school experiences and throws in a bit of history. The result is a timeline of how the burly mass of experiences we call school enabled a boy teetering on hooliganism to suceed."Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
"Lewis Buzbee returns to where he started, nearly a half-century ago. . . . [His] ambitious plan, with a touch of Swift's 'Modest Proposal,' pivots around the simple fact that schools are not factories, and mechinization is not the answer to what human enterprise can do."PopMatters
"Blackboard [is] more than just a recounting of Buzbee's school days and instead serving as a lesson on how school here came to be." Zyzzyva
"[A] heartfelt non-fiction ode to learning."—BBC, "The 10 Best New Books to Read"
“Provides a bracing rejoinder to the didactic, data-driven books from policy gurus and social scientists. . . . From the layout of schools to the distinction between ‘middle school’ and ‘junior high school,’ Buzbee spreads engaging prose across the pages, providing both a reminiscence of better days and a considered examination of the assumptions we all make about what does—and does not—constitute a quality education. . . A welcome book on the importance of education for all.”Kirkus Reviews
"Buzbee's experiences as a learner and a teacher will resonate with both audiences and provide hope to others who were considered average and aspired to be successful."Library Journal
"[Blackboard is] a moving and thoughtful mediation on learning, the book underscores our value as teachers and the lasting impact we have on our students."The Quivering Pen
“Anyone who is bothered by the educational system’s focus on tests and success and wishes that more time were devoted to encouraging the love of learning and to nurturing curiosity will appreciate this short, entertaining, and important book.”Beth Fish Reads
"From the perspective of former student, teacher, and parent, Buzbee offers a keen look at the politics, economics, and sociology of how school has evolved and the history of school developments from textbooks to writing tools to blackboards interpersed with his own visceral memories of nap time in kindergarten and learning to read and calculate. This is a loving and probing look at the social and emotional meaning of school."—Booklist
“Buzbee’s affectionate account [is] a subtle, sharply etched critique of contemporary public education. . . . 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.”Publishers Weekly, starred review