The New Education

How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World In Flux


By Cathy N. Davidson

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“One of the most thoughtful voices from within academia” (Washington Post) argues the American university is stuck in the past—and shows how we can revolutionize it

We’re living in a period of great upheaval—yet there hasn't been a corresponding change in our system of higher education. In The New Education, Cathy N. Davidson argues we need a new theory and practice of learning that emphasizes achievement not as a score on a test but as the ability to navigate a job market—and a world—in constant flux. Davidson offers lessons for remaking higher education for our own time, for every institution from the Ivy League to the poorest community college.

Now with a new introduction that addresses the benefits and challenges of remote learning and an appendix that offers practical advice on how institutions can change, The New Education is essential reading for educators, parents, and students. Davidson deftly shows how we can teach students not only to survive but to thrive in the twenty-first-century economy.

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  • "The New Education" is an inspiring, well-researched, and compellingly written manifesto for a revolution in learning and teaching. It is a book for everyone who wants to understand why and how universities need to be reimagined for the twenty-first century--those who have been 'educated' and those who aspire to be. It is the most important book I have read in many years."
    Tony Wagner, Harvard University i-lab expert in residence and author of The Global Achievement Gap and Creating Innovators
  • "Davidson is one of the most thoughtful voices from within academia calling for a more student-centered university. The New Education is a welcome collection of stories detailing how professors, administrators and students are designing paths through higher education that are relevant to our changing culture and society... At her best, Davidson writes in the tradition of Du Bois and Dewey, a pragmatist tradition that puts inquiry first and sees learning through the potential of the full, complex human beings students can become."
    Washington Post
  • "Davidson argues persuasively that student-centered, active learning can transform classrooms and even online courses... [her] enthusiasm and her examples should inspire creativity from a lot more college teachers."
    New York Times Book Review
  • "The fact that Davidson is able to bridge her narrative on the history and future of higher education across a popular and academic audience is a testimony to her skills as a scholar, an educator, and a writer. Davidson knows her stuff, has something to say, and has clearly worked very hard in crafting a book that should be discussed by everyone who cares about higher education... Powerfully argued, beautifully written, and doggedly grounded in research and examples."
    Technology & Learning, Inside Higher Education
  • “It’s Davidson who has a vision for what education could and should be that’s consistent with the traditional values of freedom, opportunity and progress we associate with education.”
    John Warner, Chicago Tribune
  • “I am aware that I cannot do justice to the merits of this book, let alone capture the depths of Davidson’s insights, in a few thousand words, but I do think I can make enough points sufficiently to warrant why readers should commit themselves to examining this volume, sharing it with others, and most importantly help to enact changes in higher education offered in this work.”
    Richard Leo Enos, Athenaeum
  • “I found the book to be a succinct (it isn’t long), interesting (particularly the historical perspectives on problems that plague us today), practical (so many references and case studies of success!) guide to the big problems in universities. The book is also written in a funny and light-hearted way, despite the gravity of some of the issues that are discussed. I’d strongly recommend it to all HE colleagues, and especially to staff in managerial positions. We’re the ones who need to make the change.”
    Christopher Hassall, Katatrepsis
  • “Read it. And change the world! If you are an academic or a student or an administrator, begin with college.”
    Susan D. Blum, Academography
  • "The New Education takes a good hard look at the old education, and finds it sorely wanting. Are colleges and universities failing an entire generation of young people? Yes, argues Cathy N. Davidson, a renowned literary scholar and a leader in higher education reform. This is an important and illuminating book whose argument is driven by a deep knowledge of the past and an even deeper commitment to the future."
    Jill Lepore, David Woods Kemper '42 Professor of American History, Harvard University
  • "The New Education compels us to equip our students with creative new tactics for navigating the volatile present. Grounded in a deep understanding of both historical and current crises in education, Davidson challenges us to reinvigorate and reconsider our approach to reform."
    Danah Boyd, author of It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens
  • "The New Education offers valuable reflections on ways educators can reexamine approaches to preparing young women and men for a rapidly evolving modern world. Grounded in decades of classroom experience and scholarly inquiry, Cathy N. Davidson makes a compelling case for educators to interrogate traditional structures in higher education, and help students seek, in her words, 'a sustained and productive life.'"
    John J. DeGioia, president Georgetown University
  • "Cathy N. Davidson offers us an inspiring and lucid explanation of how we got the educational system we have and how to build the one our students and our country needs and deserves. A must-read for those interested in higher education."
    Diana Taylor, president, Modern Language Association, and university professor, New York University
  • “She pulls no punches and writes in a style that challenges and encourages in equal measure. She is a doyen of the progressive education movement, and her ideas are far reaching and influential.”
    Steve Wheeler, Associate Professor in Learning Technology, Plymouth, Devon, UK
  • “In her book The New Education, Davidson emphasizes the importance of higher education as a place of transformation for students, making the role of the teaching in the academy a critical one. Tracing the evolution of the university from the seventeenth century through today, Davidson … argues that our contemporary world has moved far beyond the nineteenth-century paradigms that the current university was designed for, and that it’s past time for colleges and universities to evolve as well.”
    Cathy LeBlanc
  • "An engaging, anecdotal, wide-ranging look at educational innovation... a persuasive plea for creative learning."
    Kirkus Reviews

On Sale
May 10, 2022
Page Count
352 pages
Basic Books

Cathy N. Davidson

About the Author

Cathy N. Davidson directs the Futures Initiative at CUNY. She is the author of many books, including Now You See It, and has written for the Wall Street Journal and Fast Company, among others. Davidson lives in New York City.

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