Paideia in a Pandemic

Paideia Czars talk preparations and challenges for the Reed tradition

Quest editor, Clarissa Lam ‘23, hosted a Zoom call with Paideia Committee members, junior religion major, Hellie Smith, and senior anthropology major, Alisa Chen, to speak about upcoming deadlines (sign up to teach a Paideia class by Nov. 30!) as well as the difficulties and freedoms of hosting Paideia virtually. 

Do you guys want to just jump into it and give a timeline of events leading up to Paideia?

A: Basically, we’re just collecting signups right now to teach a class. The deadline to sign up is the 30th, and then we’ll go through a period of review where we meet with the rest of the Paideia committee and just make sure that the classes fit the mission of Paideia and also are feasible, especially considering everything is virtual this year. We’re getting back to the applicants, our goal is mid-December, because we’re meeting in early December, and then Paideia will be held from January 16th to the 24th.

H: I think we’re both really excited about Paideia this year. I think that because it’s online, it means that it has the opportunity to be a lot more accessible, especially to alums. Definitely alumni love coming back for Paideia and being involved. There’s so much excitement from them. And so I think now that you can be anywhere and teach your Paideia class is really cool, and just like doesn’t really have any boundaries on who can teach a class.

Students making face masks during the 1987 Paideia. Photo Courtesy of the Reed College Archives.

Students making face masks during the 1987 Paideia. Photo Courtesy of the Reed College Archives.

C: How have signups been so far? And communication with people as far as getting people to really get involved?

H: We’ve had some signups. We started postering around campus, sending out communication. Al set up an Instagram account, posting old photos from the archives, which is super cool. And we’re communicating with faculty, staff and alumni right now as well.

C: Alisa, do you have anything to add? 

A: Yeah, we’re doing a lot of outreach right now. I would say it’s kind of hard because I think that Zoom is really difficult. Of course, zoom fatigue is very real, and so we’re trying to reimagine ways in which to make this a matter of accessibility rather than a matter of Zoom fatigue. It’s like making that a positive. So then, like any person in the community can join any class. Outreach is going well. Follow the Instagram @reedpaideia. There are a lot of funny photos in the archives, so I’m excited to post them.

C: Nice. And you touched on this a little bit, but what are the biggest challenges that you’re facing with organizing Paideia this year?

H: I think one is making sure everyone knows it’s still happening. There’s obviously some uncertainty about how next semester is going to go and everyone has to come and quarantine  and get tested first. And so I think just making sure that everyone knows that this is happening, and then also just making sure that we can give people what they need to make their classes successful.

A: Yeah, I would agree. I think towards the beginning of January it’ll be a lot of figuring out how to make sure classes can happen as the instructors want them to. We already have a handful of requests or questions about how classes will go about online. So just figuring out the material needs for each class and the resources that each class requires and making sure that teachers and students are  prepared for that. 

C: Yeah, definitely. I know some classes and some Gray Fund events send materials to people. Is that something that you guys are going to incorporate?

H: I think if teachers want materials and to have everyone do that, individually, that that’s definitely something we can accommodate for.

C: How does that change the signups? And do people need to sign up for classes earlier than they would have in the past?

A: I think it depends. We’re still working on that. So the Paideia Committee is us, a professor, Chris Lydgate, and Janice, and we’ve been meeting with Janice most frequently just because [she’s the] Director of OSE. But yeah, we’re trying to figure out things as they come, while also being reasonable about the resources that we have access to.

C: And what do you love the most about Paideia? 

A: I just think it’s really exciting. I think Paideia really embodies the Reed principle of learning for the sake of learning. And I think it’s really exciting to learn from people who are really passionate and want to teach these classes and really give back to the Reed community

in this way. And it’s really exciting because it’s such a long standing tradition and feels like such a fundamental part of Reed’s identity. I mean, it’s in the admissions question, the essay question. 

H: I think that the way I’ve loved getting to know Reedies the most is outside of the classroom. And I think that this provides a great opportunity for that, of exactly what

Al is saying about learning for learning’s sake. And just getting an insight on what people love to learn about and being able to be taught by them is super cool. I also think that it’s really nice that alums get to participate in this. There’s often — as I’m sure it’s gonna happen this year —‘Olde Reed’ storytelling, and so I think it really is keeping this tradition alive through Paideia.

C: What else do you want students to know about Paideia?

A: That they should sign up to teach a class. I think it’s really intimidating.

Paideia — I think for a lot of students, especially first years — is kind of this like, orb that’s just part of Reed tradition and they know about it, but aren’t really sure how it goes. And especially this year, I think it’s a really great time to just teach a class if there’s something you’re really passionate about. They don’t even have to be classes. They don’t have to be strict lectures. They can be discussions or just forums for sharing poetry or art or to talk about current events or something that you really are interested in and being able to facilitate that conversation. 

H: Yeah, Reed is literally like, ‘Hey, we want to support what you’re interested in.’ And I think that’s not something that a lot of colleges do, so this is such a great opportunity for people to pick out something that they’re passionate about and get the college’s time and money spent on making it happen and making it accessible to the rest of the community.

Go to Instagram to follow @reedpaideia, and sign up to teach a Paideia class! The sign up deadline is Nov. 30, 2020.

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