cathy davidson – standardizing human ability

cathy davidson bw

I love Cathy’s work, will add more of my favorite here in due time. [like this and this and this… and this… and this…and one of her latest here… ] – adding this great insight from her post on the tragedies of scholarly publishin – alphabet as destroying our souls

But this piece, I think about and/or quote perhaps daily. [like here, and here, and here…. and here.]


cathy davidson quote

similar to Harold’s question..

harold jarche question


Her book is a high recommend – about paying attention – to paying attention.

now you see it

click book to go to amazon


this video seemed fitting with Cathy’s work…


The open course she is doing with Dan:

If you’re in a room and no one sees the guerilla, don’t assume the one that does is ridiculous.


what i hope to learn from teaching a mooc

me and moocs


My motivation for doing my version of Hack Higher Ed is manifold but here is the biggest:

We must change the current US higher education system which, because of price cutting of public education and the soaring costs of private education, is increasingly aimed at the “global 1%” (the wealthiest top tier of the world) and the “intellectual 1%” (that subset of smart students who are unfailingly studious, do great on tests, don’t question authority, and earn the kind of perfect records that get you into college today).   As I note in all my lectures, the current average GPA of a student entering the Univeristy of California at Irvine is 4.1 on a 4.0 scale–and they have perfect test scores, scads of AP classes, tons of community service to boot:  I do not want to live in a society that expects young people to be that perfect and then has the audacity to tell them they have to “learn to fail” and “take risks”:   no, we have set up a system where even a tiny mis-step is disaster.

overview, ed vs learning, how we measure, teaching like it’s 1992, 8 new paradigms for future of higher ed

NOTE: This is an ACTIVIST course, intended to use the stable Coursera platform to de-stabilize some assumptions about both online and face to fce learning.   I personally do not believe MOOCs that are simply top down and offer one centralized  point of view take full advantage of the community aspects of learning.   I hope we can use this course to, together, explore the possibilities of both online learning and formal and traditional modes of education.   I hope this course is the platform for a global conversation with engaged  interactive participants thinking together about better forms of education for the world we live in now.  


field notes by c davidson


Cathy –

  • as lead prototyper ..itunesu
  • cofounder of hastac
  • visionary  .. now you see it
  • swimmer in perpetual beta  .. peer grading, moocs, class writing book
  • et al

next adventure – history and future of (mostly) higher ed:

history and future of higher ed


jan 2014 – hangout on the remaking of the university:

Chris Newfield

57:30 – Cathy saying – can we play out our aspirations – where there is no prereq/cost/heirarchy.. different metric ness


How to Do Digital Humanities Right – Chicago Humanities Summit

Published on Jan 27, 2014

Cathy N. Davidson is the Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English and the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University.

Patrick Jagoda is assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago, co-editor of Critical Inquiry, and co-founder of Game Changer Chicago Design Lab.

The Chicago Humanities Festival, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Modern Language Association come together to co-present the first ever Chicago Humanities Summit, Jan. 9, 2014. Inspired by the Congressionally-commissioned report The Heart of the Matter, the Summit explores opportunities within the public humanities, and how the academic and cultural sectors can maximize the impact of the humanities within the broader community.


oct 2014:

Six (Truly)Radical Ideas for Reinventing College

1.  Lose the 4-year degree
2.  Lose the High School to College Model
3.  Lose the Transcript  
4.  Lose the College Major   
5.  Lose the Tuition.  
6.  Pay the Profs
oct 2014 at cuny:
dec 2014:

How to see what we’ve been missing
7 min – on higher ed needing to quit perpetuating testing.. ie: high scores to get in et al
9 min – distraction is our friend
april 1993 – mosaic browser available to everyone
14 min – the push against unlearning is because we did well teaching them the first 12 years. .. toward compliance
16 min – what is wrong with a world that we comply to signing off terms of agreement w/o reading them
17 min – resistance to unlearning is a well-honed skill of attention blindness
18 min – unfortunately we finally see the gorilla via some tragedy..
19 min – multi-tasking – 1930 debate on putting radio in car…what we now know is radio helped stabilize esp in night/long distance driving.. the brain doesn’t know how to mono task.. nothing seems like it’s multi-tasking until it feels like too much – to the person. all multi-tasking means is – you’re overloaded.
24 min – howard’s first few minutes – no one notices the same thing.. they were distracted by the world… there’s always something we’re missing
26 min – we are always missing something (in class – where we’re trying to cover things) – and it’s often the most important thing
july 2015
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, – As she said that night, the real disability of the smart and the well-educated is they are “handicapped” in how they see the world:  they see it “limited by being underimpaired.”
july 2015 – Who Passes the Baton? Who Holds on For Dear Life?
riff and run
our one world… ness
what the www can show us.. about interconnectedness..
july 2016 – thinking big inside box – redesigning higher ed for world we want
a mission of higher education as a public good.  That shared mission also has three shared and intertwined components: first, to train students in the best way possible; second, to support basic research in all fields, regardless of politics or profitability; and third, to lay the groundwork for training the next generation of college professors.
if true – 1\ to train students in best way possible.. then no label of student.. no institution with pkg deals ie: courses/credentialing…… 2\ if support basic research.. then no walls at all.. why just in uni.. why not uni as public library… …3\ training next gen of profs..? cyclic to #1.. perpetuating what we already have..

The ideal and commitment both kinds of institution share, intrinsically, is education as an intrinsic, public good which requires freedom from the profit motive or ideology.  It means being responsible to students, faculty, and the public.

Whether supported by private philanthropy, tuition, state support, or local support, all colleges and universities ultimate share the same goal of education to which academic freedom and basic research—without concern for profit—are definitional:  those are its endowments.

hmm… seems we’re just perpetuating the profit motive ness.. whether it’s a company gaining money or a person gaining money.. ie: prof for food et al.. or a person losing money.. person wanting in the place to get educated..

story in my head just now.. ged ness.. getting in ness..

and .. Cathy’s focus on standardizing human ability..

we can do better.. than thinking big inside the box.. we can think ginorm small..

ie: hosting-life-bits


digiped aug 2016 (haven’t listened to it yet)


find/follow Cathy:

link twitter


Cathy Davidson (@CathyNDavidson) tweeted at 4:50 AM – 7 Oct 2016 :
GOP has rendered 1 in 40 voters ineligible, 10% in FL-NYT. Next Supreme Court nominee could end future democracy. #millennialslosemost (

have we not already ended it..?

a nother way.. ie: host-life-bits via self-talk as data..

redefine decision making.. disengage from consensus.. et al


Susannah McGowan (@susmcgowan) tweeted at 3:13 AM – 12 Oct 2016 :

. @CathyNDavidson so much good stuff in one post …love idea of retention through engagement & community & connecting research&teaching (

(article from feb 2015)

spent my whole run on this.. and before i go back to it to jot notes here.. logging some intense feelings (because as i’ve been telling myself.. this space is for talking to people who can’t hear you.. aren’t listening.. whatever.. not so they can hear/read it later.. not even so i can hear/read it later.. maybe those.. but mostly.. just to have the space for conversation/talking/thinking.. outloud/inside/jargonish.. a space to spill)

so the spilling just now.. the intensity.. (can’t words it but will do my best).. from my first love of Cathy: if there’s no fixed standard of ed success do learning disabilities exist.. i’m asking.. if there’s no fixed standard of ed success do credentials/classrooms/courses/pkg-deals/ineq’s/et-al exist..

i’m reading so much of the research.. the mapping.. the successes.. but am wondering if all those grad students et al.. are really doing their thing.. not questioning if cuny’s work is good..questioning if it’s keeping us from what we are now capable of.. thinking of how hard Cathy works.. how much effort going into all of it.. but w/in premise of the need to be in a course.. have an outcome/graduation..

imagine if we rather: hosted-life-bits via self-talk as data – as the day – for 7 bill people.. for (blank)’s sake

so notes:

The “punchline” of Dorsch’s demographic work: “CUNY schools serve a student population as diverse as NYC itself—and sometimes more so.”

what if diversity is only partial.. ie: what diff does it make if the space we’re being diverse in.. isn’t truly deep/simple/open enough.. what if it’s still caught up in some pkg deal.. yes… it seems kinder to be more diverse.. but if it’s not toward free\dom.. increasing diversity doesn’t matter so much as going..beyond partial..

Quality and diversity, it turns out, can operate hand in hand—and they do at CUNY.

depends on who’s defining quality..

We have to work, together, to champion a future where access to higher education allows for a diversity as great as that of our cities, and of our society as a whole.

perhaps rather.. let’s champion a future where access to learning/doing/being whatever you want.. as the day.. is for all.. all 7 bill of us..

what does higher ed even mean.. really.. i’d suggest.. we take it to mean.. some place where one can get credentials/classrooms/courses/pkg-deals/ineq’s/et-al .. and we’re back to: if there’s no fixed standard of ed success do credentials/classrooms/courses/pkg-deals/ineq’s/et-al exist..

he professors of these introductory courses are themselves all students—graduate students enrolled in the first graduate Futures Initiative course, “Mapping the Futures of Higher Education.”

why can’t we just live/be/do the now/future.. ie: rev of everyday life.. a nother way. in the city. as the day.

because.. you get anyone in one of those courses.. and you ensure that consensus ness will oppress someone.. you’re (no matter how kind) raising eyebrows toward some program.. some assumption..

Our course, “Mapping the Futures of Higher Education,” is about the content, methods, pedagogies, technologies, theories and practices of *teaching and administering universities in the digital age. It is an **entirely new way of training graduate students for the challenges they will encounter as researchers and as professors.

what if *teaching/administering ness is irrelevant in the digital age..

**entirely new way – great… of training – why..? why training..? curiosity (key to research) is natural to a 5 yr old. not to mention.. research as we know it today is so pkg’d.. so gray research law‘d.. so geared toward ie: science of people ness.. we need to get back to a research ness as experimenting everyday as the day ness… an.. everything is experiment ness..alive/ness, experiencing .. a mindset where the experiment.. the pleasure of finding things out (not pleasure of finding things out from someone else’s agenda – again – no matter how kind or how much they let me feel like i’m creating it too).. overrides.. the .. proving/statisticing/et-al ness we associate today with … research…

let’s stats ourselves toward – understanding each other – rather than toward proving we’re getting better at a system (ie: voluntary compliance) that has been failing us for e v e r

Why is it worth passing it on to your undergraduate students as part of their “general education”?

general ed..?

We are working to create—together—the best, most inspiring and motivating kind of classroom—engaged, experiential, collaborative, project-based, student-led teaching.

why..? aren’t we living in a time where we can go deeper..? beyond classroom/teaching..

you are more likely to complete a course or a degree when you work with others, in study groups, as partners, as collaborators who count on you and on whom you count. Personal relationships are hugely important to staying in college and earning a degree

why does this matter..? completing a course/degree..?

if there’s no fixed standard of ed success do credentials/classrooms/courses/pkg-deals/ineq’s/et-al exist..

Enjoying what you do happens to also be a **great motivator, for staying in college and for anything *voluntary that we undertake in life.

oy. second time thru is screaming louder in my head..

like: *voluntary compliance?.. that has been failing us for e v e r

either.. if you need an great **motivator.. perhaps that’s a sign..? or.. if you truly let people do what they enjoy/love.. we’d have to let go of the whole.. classroom/uni/teaching aspect.. no?

We define success both in terms of *learning the material and in successfully completing the courses they are taking, of course. But we are also defining success as learning something in these courses that helps them have the confidence as human beings **to apply that knowledge in the world. In a larger sense, we want them to know, confidently, that they have learned the ability to master a new subject and apply it—through all the shifts and changes of the world in which we live. Precious. ***We put a lot of emphasis on “why”: Why this field? Why these methods? Why college? Why now?

*why of course.. perhaps that assumption is what’s killing us..

**apply that knowledge.. great.. but imagine if instead.. 7 bill people were applying/practicing knowledge they themselves (truly themselves.. not some imposition of assumed basic/gen knowledge) were seeking/curious about everyday..

***i’m sure you focus on why.. a lot.. but is it still in enough of a box.. that we’re not seeing us.. we’re not seeing/being the dance..

if there’s no fixed standard of ed success do credentials/classrooms/courses/pkg-deals/ineq’s/et-al exist..

After an Introductory lecture and several introductory assignments when our twelve students came to know a little about one another, Bill and I left the room on the first day and invited the graduate students to design a course. We had built a foundation, had mapped out the course, and *left a space for four groups to take charge.

that is indeed more space than we’ve been giving people.. but.. is that really space.. enough..?

perhaps it’s space enough to take charge of your agenda.. but is it space enough to take charge of .. everyday life..? of uncertainty.. of 7 bill human’s agendas.. each day..anew..?

Logged in, students and faculty can share ideas—and maps! If they so choose they can work together, *across classes on maps of disciplines, or intellectual hobbies of relevance to the course, or just about anything that maps their relationship to the city.

imagine rather.. choosing to work together .. *across curiosities.. and that’s it. ie: hosting-life-bits via self-talk as data

The Futures Initiative motto is “Advancing Equity and Innovation *in Higher Education.” Keeping those in balance is the key to technology innovation that is not exploitative but has potential to offer real goods to society

again – what if the .. in higher education.. part keeping us from us

We want our students to understand and know more about the tools that the world is using to track their data and design their world. We are giving them tools to understand and use and sometimes fight back against the tools that are shaping their lives.

but.. you are modeling a mapping/tracking ness that is not natural.. you are mapping higher ed ness.. even though you are on the bleeding edge with it.. it’s still .. binding us

Why can’t you buy CUNY sweatshirts in the airports that sell Columbia and NYU sweatshirts? We need more CUNY pride. Pride is another one of those factors, the research shows, that motivates learning and formal educational success.

oh my. there it is.. pride.. via a sweatshirt.. sold along side other uni sweatshirts.. as motivation..

Again, this is what research is. You ask hard questions.

hard questions you come up with .. not someone else.. not someone running a course/program..


Chuck Pearson (@ShorterPearson) tweeted at 5:55 AM – 17 Jan 2017 :

.@CathyNDavidson, observing @mwesch and asking existential questions. (


Tony Wagner (@DrTonyWagner) tweeted at 7:58 AM – 3 Jun 2017 :

Just read pre-pub edition of The New Education by @CathyNDavidson. Most important edu book I’ve read in many years! (

kindle costs more than hardcover..


Cathy Davidson (@CathyNDavidson) tweeted at 12:25 PM – 6 Sep 2017 :

TIME Magazine op ed by @CathynDavidson: Why picking a major is a bad idea for college kids #neweducation (

That means getting the major requirements “out of the way” in order to ensure graduation (a degree still gets one past past the screening algorithms for a first job), and then concentrate on the synthetic skills that can help one succeed in everything else.

why not disengage from pkg deals altogether


How to Revolutionize the University Video of exciting conversation at Duke! #NewEducation

Original Tweet:

7 min – ranking system created at harvard.. every uni has to be compared to wealthiest.. true for all the ways we credential.. goes all way back to 1890

mona lisa compare law

9 min – april 22 1993 – make mosaic browser free to world as public good.. can connect to anyone else w internet connection.. from 20 to 10 000 web sites in that year.. since then gone thru a cataclysmic re distribution.. t.. but not same rethinking of what it means to train people for professions when invention professions..

yes.. a time that changes everything.. so let’s finally.. let go..  ie: no train

eagle and condor ness

11 min – skills training is so cynical.. everybody knows that skills training is going to make you obsolete

cure ios city as cure

17 min – those silos of 1890’s worked when you’re inventing professions.. they don’t work in world today

18 min – history.. guy who came up w grading system.. euthanasist; ranking.. social darwinism; outputs.. from author of productivity for pig farms..

22 min – how much does new ed need to completely transform old.. cathy: 1\ no one size fits all

24 min – almost child abuse .. medical expense is telling..

25 min – student centered learning.. rather than credential centered.. really educating not to get a diploma.. but to use one

ugh to diploma ness

credential ing

27 min – 112 – 112 tests from kinder thru.. we’re #1 country in amt of tests.. then tell them that score matters.. no wonder they’re freaked out.. anxiety ridden.. they know it’s a lie.. who really believes a test score is everything..

unwanted stress

28 min – i think we’re at a tipping point.. so many think we need to do something

begs a leap.. aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake

38 min – how do we tilt against credentialing pressures  cathy: we need change from every level.. classroom.. faculty meetings.. institutional traditions..


back to this tipping point time.. we have means to go deeper.. we can’t not..

42 min – at every uni.. there is something major you can do.. ie: get rid of rankings.. act sat

43 min – think pair share – gets ideas out..t

let’s try this think pair share for 7 bn – ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way

49 min – last page of book – how to be an adult 101 – impoverished at making classroom ed applicable..

50 min – what’s the question that would keep you awake at night.. that we should be asking in class..

let’s listen to and facil that for all 7 bn .. everyday..

58 min – saying.. only people going to succeed.. are people who have ed.. the more and more we count the success of ed as income.. the more you can’t have citizenship..t

a nother way.. sans and measuring..

59 min – need to start rethinking what value of college ed should be.. and maybe what it shouldn’t be.. is what income you’ll get when you graduate


The State of Things (@state_of_things) tweeted at 10:29 AM – 13 Oct 2017 :

college exists “to learn deeply, to think deeply, + to think about how what i’m learning can help society &…the world.” @CathyNDavidson (

imagine if that was jut how we viewed life.. for all of us.. everyday..

we can do that now.. we can ground the chaos of that .. now..

a nother way