Is a Texas Lawmaker's Push To Make Magic a 'National Treasure' Really As Silly As It Sounds?
Maybe you’ve heard Texas Rep. Pete Sessions wants magic to be recognized as an official national treasure – the proposal made headlines, many of them a little snarky. But how could magic solve some of the state’s most pressing needs?
For instance – when news comes, as it did in November, that Texas is still the state with the highest rate of uninsured people even after the Affordable Care Act, get your magic wand, give it a twirl – and it's fixed! Texas ranks 43rd when it comes to education – and voilà! Now we’re number one.
Poverty? Mental health care? Traffic? What if everything could be solved magically?
These do-gooders have some tricks up their sleeves: One teaches complicated science concepts using magic, while the other turns fake money into real donations for veterans.
"You are looking at it backwards – you need to look at it differently!" Semi-retired engineer and professional magician JD Stewart wants me to stop poking fun at the powers of magic.
"How I define magic is a place where reality and imagination come together," Stewart says. "It's kind of the place where paradox and mystery live. And so, I think if we had a little more imagination – because we have a lot of reality, we face reality everyday – but if we had a little more imagination like a child does, we could solve a lot more problems."
Cody Fisher says magic solved many of his life problems. "It made me discover my life and who I was," he says.
As a child, Fisher could hardly put a sentence together. He could do it in his brain, but when he opened his mouth, things came out all wrong. His speech impediment was just one of the reasons why he was bullied all the time.
"Growing up with financial hardships, and being the product of a single mother raising three kids, having to move a lot," Fisher says, "that's difficult on any kid, I think."
The day came when he got a magic set as a present. It saved his life, quite literally, he says. All of the sudden he wanted to perform his magic, which gave him a new confidence that helped him overcome his speech impediment. Another thing Fisher discovered?
"A lot of the early things that humans considered to be magic was just science stuff that we didn't understand," he says.
So Fisher fell in love with science. He got a degree in molecular biology and a Ph.D in biochemistry from the University of Texas at Austin. That led him to a life in academia. "Sometimes I'd use a magic trick to illustrate a certain point I was trying to get across," he says.
His students loved it. Better yet, he believes it helped them learn.
"And I began to notice that if I could link an educational concept to a magic trick," Fisher says, "because magic is so visual, so memorable... they were having an easier time learning these difficult concepts."
So though a wave of a magic wand might not fix every issue in the Texas education system, Fisher says magic is a tool that could help educators in Texas.
But many of Texas' shortfalls could be solved with more money. JD Stewart knows that – that's why as a magician he helps raise money for injured veterans. On the day he visited the Texas Standard, our producers learned to transform fake $20 bills.
"Watch carefully – see? All I'm gonna do is fold it over, just keep folding, and then start unfolding it – notice as I unfold it – I no longer have a 20. I now have a fake $500 bill!" he says. "Now, the question is, would you like to see that done with a real 20? All I need is a real 20 or you can mail it to: Heroes Night Out, 1150 South Bells, Cedar Park, Texas."
That's how Stewart uses magic – to make money.