Quadrivial Pursuit

Illustrations by Hawk Krall

How well do you know Reed? Take our fiendish quiz.

By Marty Smith ’88

Editor’s Note: Trivia gets a bad rap. The term itself derives from the Latin trivium, meaning “three roads,” which was coined to describe the fundamental elements of a classical education—grammar, logic, and rhetoric—that would lead the student to truth. The trivium was intended as a prerequisite to studying the quadrivium, which consisted of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. Taken together, the trivium and the quadrivium comprised the seven disciplines that originally made up the liberal arts. Somewhere along the way, however, the term suffered a loss of prestige, leading to the current meaning of trivia as a mishmash of factual information of vanishing significance. 

Reed magazine cover, September 2014, illustration by Hawk Krall

Reed magazine cover, September 2014 Illustration by Hawk Krall

“Trivial Pursuit” seemed too flippant for a quiz about Reed—plus the name is taken. For a fleeting instant, we were tempted to name it “Vigintisexavial Pursuit,” since Reed offers 26 academic disciplines, but after the editor was persuaded to take a nice, soothing walk in the Canyon, this option was thankfully rejected. The internet suggested some intriguing rhyming possibilities such as Bacterial, Convivial, Matrilineal, and Forgivable Pursuit, but in the end we opted for Quadrivial and now we’re stuck with it. Our thanks to the many people who contributed to this project, including Gary Granger, director of community safety, who first came up with the idea for a quiz, and Lauren Cooper ’16, who researched the questions.