Both personal and historical, this is a welcome book on the importance of education for all.

BLACKBOARD

A PERSONAL HISTORY OF THE CLASSROOM

Elevating the thinking around school improvements, from the nuts-and-bolts ideas to a broader view.

Most parents, teachers and others involved in the education of children and teens would agree that nearly every school could use improvement in certain areas. There are, of course, dozens of useful books on the education shelf, but Buzbee (The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History, 2006, etc.) provides a bracing rejoinder to the didactic, data-driven books from policy gurus and social scientists. Where other authors draw on research studies and have specific case studies that serve as the frosting on the cake, the author starts from his own experience and leapfrogs back in time to explore various educational practices and their origins. The blackboard itself was invented back in 1800. Students were using their portable blackboards to practice writing and arithmetic in school and at home when George Baron thought to connect a series of them on the wall to teach broader and more complex formulas to a larger audience of students. Buzbee writes of the different views of the teacher in the front, from the “lecturing chalk-and-talk” droners who fail to reach students to those who serve as “a lens through which the lesson is created and clarified.” 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. In the epilogue, he offers a series of proposals, noting the importance of raising teacher salaries—and yes, even if that means raising taxes. “And to prove my seriousness, let me be the one to say it first,” he writes. “You may read my lips: Raise my taxes!..you can raise my taxes through the roof…raise them to Swedish levels, to ‘socialist’ levels.”

Both personal and historical, this is a welcome book on the importance of education for all.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55597-683-5

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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