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reed magazine logoMarch 2010

Reed Mag March 2010

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Chris Lydgate

Class Notes &
copy editor

Laurie Lindquist

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Robin Tovey '97

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Matt Kelly

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Chris Michel

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Raymond Rodriguez


From the Editor

What You Can Learn in Three Hours

Chris Lydgate

Over the past year, I’ve grown accustomed to seeing intriguing flyers plastered around campus, imploring me to play go or participate in someone’s thesis experiment or share a ride to Minneapolis. Most of the time, I’m in too much of a hurry to spare more than a glance. But the enormous Paideia class schedule, taped to the wall of Commons, was just too good to pass by.

Paideia, in case you forgot, is the informal miniature college, run by students, that takes place over ten days in January before spring semester. Anyone can teach, anyone can learn, and no subject is out of bounds (of course, the classes carry no academic credit).

For several minutes, I stood gazing at the catalogue, lost in the beguiling possibilities. The Origins of the Suburban Crisis. The Basic Physics of Music. The Theory and Practice of Memory. Speculative Spaceflight. The Music of Handel and Why It’s Awesome. Was this my chance to learn how to make a movie? Play the stock market? Moonlight as a safecracker?

In addition to the impressive range of the classes, from the eminently practical to the totally outrageous, there was also something irresistible about their sheer bravado. From ragtime to rap in an hour and a quarter! Geology in a single session! Handel demystified! Where else but Reed would students organize—and teach—classes of such wild ambition?

This year, I offered my own modest contribution: “Journalism Bootcamp,” my attempt to distill two decades of experience as a newspaper reporter into three 90-minute sessions. About a dozen students showed up in Eliot 216, the same elegant oak-trimmed classroom where professor Jack Dudman ’42 once introduced me to the joys of the Fibonacci sequence.

At first, I worried that the students might have trouble digesting the vast quantity of material we were covering at breakneck speed. To my surprise, they betrayed no sign of intimidation. On the contrary, they proved curious, perceptive, and utterly confident that with reasonable instruction no subject, however daunting, was beyond their reach.

That confidence is well founded. By the time they earn their Reed degree, they will have read Homer, Plato, Virgil and Augustine. Cloned bioluminescent genes. Braved rapids. Diagrammed Algonquian grammar. Climbed mountains. Run a nuclear reactor. Proven that 1+1=2.

Reedies are not easily fazed—in fact, I would argue that independence, gumption, and intellectual daring are among Reed’s defining characteristics, from its founding as an upstart challenger to the lives of its graduates and instructors. Dell Hymes ’50 invented his own subdiscipline (see in Memoriam). Frank Wesley ’50 saw the horrors of Buchenwald—twice. Patrick Phillips ’86 solved one of the oldest puzzles of evolution. Jenny Leonard ’09 is helping impoverished South African children get to school. Reed’s wilderness instructor Rodney Sofich hiked across miles of treacherous terrain—alone—to get help for his climbing partner.

At the end of our final session, I knew that I had provided the students no more than a cursory introduction to the craft of reporting. Still, those thousand-mile journeys have to start somewhere—and who knows where they will lead?

Lydgate signature
—Chris Lydgate ’90

reed magazine logoMarch 2010