Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Now You See It: Get This Book. Right Now.

I finally finished Cathy Davidson's new book Now You See It. It comes out today (August 18th). I am so glad that I decided to adopt this book for my Freshman Writing class on "The Future." I am excited and invigorated by the hopeful and optimistic tone that the book takes. This is a book that everyone should read. 


But, here's a list of the most important people who should read the book, and why.

1) Educators: This book outline where education reform needs to go, and for those educators who are already there (or desperately trying to get there) who face opposition or derision from administrators or parents, this book is your justification. We love "science" and Davidson makes sure that she has enough science to back up her claims about the benefits of things like social media, video games, and collaboration, to convince even the hardest skeptic. Teachers should assign it to students, it should be adopted as the campus-wide book assigned to students and faculty to read and discuss. 

2) Parents: All of that hang-wringing about how we're raising our kids? It ends here. It might depress you to know that your child's school is nowhere near as relevant as it could or should be in order to prepare them for whatever the future economy is going to look like, but at the same time the message (or one of the messages) that I take away is that it's never too late. I'm making it sound like Davidson advocates a truly laissez-faire style of parenting, but what she explains is that those habits that we chide or don't understand in this technological age are not to be feared, but embraced. That, and that we should learn from our children about those things that we don't understand. Not what we want them to tell us, but what they are really saying.

This book is all about getting us to pay attention, to disrupt our perception of the world so we can learn something new and truly change and (to a certain extent) evolve. There was a passage towards the end of the book that brought tears to my eyes:
To believe that the new totally and positively puts an end to the old is a mistaken idea that gets us nowhere, neither out of old habits nor finding new ones better suited to the demands of that which has changed. John Seely Brown calls the apocalyptic view of change endism. Endism overstates what is gone...When I talk to my students about the way we select the worlds we see in our everyday life, they often ask how they can possibly possibly change the way they see. It's easy, I always answer. I'll assign you the task of seeing differently. And you will. That's what learning is.
I needed to read that tonight, staring down the reality of trying to teach my course differently, in order to get the students to see things differently. I'll be writing a more detailed review later, but I wanted a chance to be emotional, a little hyperbolic, and effusive in my praise for this book.

Buy this book. It will change your life because it does exactly what Davidson does with her students. She assigns you the task of seeing things differently in this book. It is a book that demands to be re-read, reflected on, and discussed. I hope you buy it, share it, talk about it, and have the courage to allow it to change you.

And remember, if you're on Twitter talking about it, use the tag #NowUCit.


  1. Thanks for the recommendation. I cannot wait to read it. I am always looking for things to inspire me in the classroom.

  2. I can't wait to get the book today! I discovered it via your blog post a while back. Thanks for blogging about it.
    I'm interested in your freshman writing class and its theme of "the future." Can you share what other readings you're assigning and what kinds of writing assignments you'll have?

  3. We will also be reading Fahrenheit 451 (for the "downer" view). We'll start with the novel, and we'll be writing a compare and contrast essay (F451 vs our time, and the lesson(s) that teaches us), then moving on to Now You See It. By the end of the book, I hope that we'll be able to come up, collectively or individually, with a writing assignment to go with the book. Because of our common assessment, we have to write a persuasive essay, but the students will spend the last 4-5 weeks exploring whatever they are interested in (inspired, in part, by Now You See It) and that will feed the creation of their narrative essay.

    Last semester when I taught the book, I did a lot of short readings, like "How Google is Making us Stupid" or how the world is becoming over-populated or how living forever (or at least aspiring to) is bad news for the future. The course became so unrelentingly negative that I knew that I'd have to do something different this year. Thank goodness this book came along!

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