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 in his new book “Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom,” if it’s still possible to save at-risk students when “the public will to fund public education remains pallid, timid, hypocritical.” Searching for solutions, Buzbee 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 offers insight not only as a student but also as a teacher and a father, contrasting his daughter’s experiences with his own. And, in the book’s epilogue, he offers a seven-point “immodest proposal” to save our schools.
Lewis Buzbee is the author of “The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop,” “After the Gold Rush,” and “Fliegelman’s Desire,” as well as three 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.