Posted & filed under Blog

 Tune in to hear Cathy Davidson on the State of Things with Frank Stasio on Monday, July 2 at noon EST, 91.5 FM (Durham/Raleigh/Chapel Hill) or stream it from

Yesterday Frank Stasio interviewed me for his hour-long “Meet” show to air on July 2 on North Carolina NPR (WUNC 91.5 FM).  An hour is a lot of air time, but Frank is a great interviewer, canny and political and engaged.  The hour sailed by.   And I was fascinated because we ended up not talking about any of the usual things I’m interviewed about, and a number of interesting connections were made that I’ve not made before.   A great interview does that, pulling out ideas and words you may not have had before.  I asked Frank if he knew when something surprising was about to happen.  He said, indirectly, he did.  He called it Bow Wave.

Bow Wave is the wave that forms off the front or bow of the ship as it moves through water.   Its size is determined by the ship’s speed, the water depth, the shape of the bow, and other surface waves of the water.   Frank said when he’s doing an interview, something starts happening in advance of the revelatory moment, the wave starts to form in a larger, deeper way.  He can almost feel it coming and his job is to become more silent or encouraging to help it form and, most important, not to stop it when it begins to form.  Like great teaching, really.   Letting that idea well forth, not impeding it, preparing its way when it starts to happen–knowing when to get out of the way.

What was fascinating about this interview is all the things we did not talk about:  cognitive neuroscience, attention, multitasking, technology, my courses at Duke, the iPod experiment, higher education today, Webmaking as the 4th literacy, HASTAC, the Digital Media and Learning Competition, Now You See It—in other words, all the topics I usually am asked about on air.

Here’s what we did talk about:   getting kicked out of school twice in elementary school and four times in high school, pulling off a nun’s veil, robotics and AI, teaching at Michigan State during the collapse of the auto industry, being asked to leave the writing program at MSU because I refused to teach the five-paragraph essay instead of writing job letters and resumes, having tenured colleagues tell me it was risky going to teach in Japan during the year I was coming up for tenure (I went anyway), what I learned in Japan about humanity and group identity, han, what the Founding Fathers thought about the terrible fate of the first generation of mass readers at the time of the U.S. Constitution, public education as the place you go to standardize and regulate human behavior for Fordism (start at age 6, go from 8 am to 3 pm, 9 am math, 10 am spelling, etc),  teachers as trainers, high-stakes multiple choice testing shrinking a child’s imagination and curiosity to the size of a bubble, going to Asia to talk about Finnish education,why our narrow and inexact and de-motivating forms of assessment will end,  and lots and lots of hopes for the future of education,  and the idea that,  in an ecosystem, when the weather changes dramatically, the whole ecosystem is under pressure and, in an instant, can flip.   That’s what I’m hoping for our moment.  That we are all making ourselves ready for the big turn, and that it will be a good one.


That would be the stern wave, the disturbance after the boat pulls away.  If you happen to catch the interview on July 2, let me know what you think.  Even better, if you are inspired to join the movement, to start a few waves, I hope you find this interview is inspiring.   I did!



Leave a Reply

(will not be published)
Cathy N. Davidson

Cathy N. Davidson

Follow Cathy