Wednesday afternoon May 30 saw a panel on the history and future of Paideia as part of “alumni college” at Reed Reunions 2012. Featuring a panel of past Paideia coordinators and a variety of alumni from the classes of 1962-2007, the ninety-minute discussion encompassed the many ways that Paideia has worked since its inception in 1969.
After a brief overview of the Paideia timeline, including the pedagogical rationale for the long interim of unsupervised independent study, variations in Paideia over the decades were discussed by folks actively involved, including Barbara (Serrell) Hansen ’62, who became a CPA and returned to Reed to offering classes on small business accounting for many years in the 1980’s. Current director of student activities Kristen Holmberg discussed how her office uses the time to offer a variety of “leadership classes” and the long history of focused study such as the Reed reactor’s licensing class and various classes on first aid such as Wilderness First Responder certification were discussed.
Among various trivia unearthed in the archives and within the room was Paul Bragdon’s brief attempt to use Paideia as a corporate-sponsorship opportunity in the mid-1970’s, the well-organized 1976 Paideia around the subject of the Vietnam war which featured Seymour Hersch and the first appearance of Doctor Demento, the earliest discovered class in underwater basket weaving from 1981 and the shortest Paideia (Tuesday-Sunday) in 2000. There was a formal faculty proposal to terminate Paideia in 1987, which apparently did not take, and a variety of other fond memories around food and movies and less formal activities.
The group identified five key constituencies for an ideal, future Paideia: students, faculty, the Student Activities Office, alumni, staff (and arguably the general public). Things which attendees felt were most helpful for a successful Paideia going forward or which they’d like to see most are (a) awareness and knowledge well in advance, (b) career prep for medical school, (c) “merit badge courses” in interesting skills, (d) a cohesive community focus and (e) more of the traditional classes such as bread-making and underwater basket weaving.