In a Paideia workshop on Chinese calligraphy, course instructor Tony Shan '23 (second from right) gives tips as Reedies create calligraphic ornaments to welcome the Year of the Rabbit.

In a Paideia workshop on Chinese calligraphy, course instructor Tony Shan '23 (second from right) gives tips as Reedies create calligraphic ornaments to welcome the Year of the Rabbit.

11 Fascinating Things We Learned at Paideia 2023

From springtails to '60s-era shenanigans, here's what we took away from Reed's annual festival of learning.

January 26, 2023

Fencing. The birds of eastern Australia. Lock bypassing. Heuristic horticulture. Hula. Mushroom identification. Letterboxing. Burlesque. Beekeeping. The neurobiology of trauma. Argentine tango. Argentine slang. The geology of Reed. Knot tying. How to clean your dishes.

That’s just a small sampling of what was on offer at this year’s Paideia, Reed’s annual festival of learning. For 10 days, members of the Reed community led and took part in classes covering the full (extra)curricular gamut, continuing a tradition that began in 1969. (Courses that first year included metalsmithing, blues guitar, bread baking, survival training, and astrology.)

The Public Affairs team was along for the ride. Here’s a peek into what we learned.

1. To avoid damaging a fountain pen, always untwist the lid before pulling, and never put the cap on the back when writing.

2. When American Protestant missionaries arrived in Hawaii in the 1820s, they denounced hula as pagan and vulgar. The next several decades brought numerous attempts to ban, regulate, or discourage the dance—none of which could actually keep hula down.

3. A terrarium’s closed, self-sustaining ecosystem can be enriched by the addition of a small colony of springtails. These land-bound arthropods feast on organic materials and can leap to great heights relative to their body size—but not high enough to escape the terrarium’s mossy paradise.

4. The internet was developed in the context of the Cold War, and early research was mostly funded by the Department of Defense.

5. The Sallyport of Old Dorm Block is a virtual copy of Compton Wynyates, an English manor built around the turn of the 16th century. Dedicated to Henry VIII, the manor’s gate—like the Sallyport—boasts a false gable, crenellations, a sundial, three side-by-side windows, a crosshatched brick pattern, and a Tudor arch. Henry VIII’s dragon and greyhound, however? At Reed they’ve been replaced by several griffins. (Bonus tidbit: Lara Croft’s manor has a similar arch in one of the Tomb Raider video games.)

6. Being gay was decriminalized in 1791 in Paris in the wake of the French Revolution.

7. Letterboxing, an orienteering game involving stamp trading, started in England in 1854 when a Dartmoor National Park guide, James Perrott, left a card in a bottle by Cranmere Pool and invited others to leave their own messages as well.

8. Don't expect meditation to permanently quiet the mind. Andrew Mason ’90 says his teacher was once asked what his mind was like after 60 years of Zen meditation practice. “It’s a mess,” he said. “But you should have seen it before.”

9. Most people can only hold between five and nine items in their short-term memory. Also, the term "UX" was coined by Apple in 1993.

10. Always listen to the whole tape. After rescuing a collection of cassettes from songwriter Robbie Robertson’s storage unit, producer Cheryl Pawelski discovered a raw and powerful vocal-and-piano version of the song “Twilight” at the end of an otherwise blank side of a tape. Pawelski and Robertson decided to include the version on The Band’s 2005 box-set anthology, A Musical History, rather than the heavily produced reggae-tinged original 1976 release.

11. On the last day of old commons in 1965, students staged a mass food fight that resulted in 233 honor violations.

Facts gleaned from the following courses: Gay People Existed Before 1969, Hula Basics, Pen-dora’s Box, Terrarium Building, The Secret History of the Internet, Architecture of Reed College, Letterboxing 101, A Taste of Zen Practice, Human-Computer Interaction and UX, Talking Tunes, Reed in the Sixties

Tags: Campus Life