Book Review: Now You See It

Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and LearnNow You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn by Cathy N. Davidson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this book, Davidson, longtime Duke professor and founder of HASTAC, argues that attention blindness is the key to how we learn, how we identify problems, and how we find solutions to those problems. Using helpful anecdotes from real life (including infant development) as well as business and education, Davidson writes that we must each identify our current patterns of thought and action and then unlearn in order to see what we’re missing.

She makes a compelling argument for socially constructed values. For instance, she discusses how infants learn from their parents whether music is “pretty” or not. In addition, even the seemingly “natural” habit of talking to western babies with noun-heavy dialog instills in young minds the importance of naming things, a pattern that isn’t true worldwide. Part of her argument is that historic and social trends in education policy and implementation are lagging behind both what is needed to succeed in today’s workforce as well as what technologies are doing to the way we learn and work.

Not surprisingly, Davidson takes on standardized testing as highly biased as well as attuned to the dominant values of effiency, timeliness, order, and finding the one right answer. These values aren’t what American society needs right now, argues Davidson, and she goes on to highlight schools (including Duke as well as a few charter schools doing interesting project-based and collaborative work).

As a graduate student as well as a mother with children in 1st and 4th grade, I found many of Davidson’s points quite pertinent to my own learning and the education I want for my children.

Shortcomings:
-a bit repetitive and overly simplified at times (I found the section on infant brain development underwhelming and facile)

I would recommend this book to readers who are:
-interested in the history and problems with standardized testing
-parents of children who are frustrated by traditional schooling and who are looking for ways to advocate and supplement their kids’ public school education
-worried about the supposed “erosion” of quality elementary and middle school education
-thinkers who don’t follow linear thoughts but instead discover their best ideas through networking and interdisciplinary reading/work

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