Past Discussions


The Bliss (?) of Ignorance

I am Ahsan Nawroj, and this week I am hosting my discussion at 4pm Tuesday.

The topic is the rather extravagant “Bliss of Ignorance”:

Every year a new technological marvel grips the world and popularity for this new gadget soars. Everyone seems to have one.
If we look at these devices that are there to make our lives better, I notice an implied assumption that people do not care to know how their lives are made better as long as they are made better.
Some would argue that knowledge of the functionality of an object is a prerequisite to its true usefulness. While in politics or social issues this transperancy is still used as a direct measure of usefulness, yet such arguments made about an iPod or a GPS device seems wholly unnecessary.

My questions for this discussion are as follows:

1) When does the gap in understanding of a complex process seem justified (building a brigde vs. holding an election)?
2) How does this collective acceptance that we will forgo some of the details of our lives but not others shape us away from who we would otherwise be?
3) What does this growth into fancier, esoterically designed gadgetry mean about the way we think about our society and our very beings?
4) What defines the limits to which our ‘stuff’ defines us?


Age of Consent

Hey guys!

Tomorrow’s discussion will be around age of consent laws, and some of the legal issues surrounding them.  In terms of reading, the Wikipedia article in age of consent can provide a good background: but also come in thinking about a few questions:

-> How have age of consent laws been applied to different groups of people (LGBTQ people, different ages among youth, etc)?
-> Is age alone a good requirement for determining who can and cannot consent to sex?
-> Do age of consent laws effectively prevent young people from abuse?
-> Should age of consent be abolished?

See you tomorrow!
~Peter Moody


The phenomenon of pre-adulthood

Hey Everyone,

I am Nafis Hasan, a B.S. Biology senior and will be holding the Reeder Discussion tomorrow at 4 pm in Reeder House (225 Reeder St.). The topic of my discussion is actually based off on a recent Wall Street Journal article on pre-adulthood, a recent phenomenon commonly observed in males in their 20s. Here is the link to the article:

Although it may seem like a light question involving “bro-hood” with recent bros icing bros, the Judd Apatow films and the Seth Rogen jokes, and other forms of entertainment such as the highly addictive PS3, the deeper concern here is about the maturity of males in general and even the bigger psychological concern is that can males let go of their lifestyles that they encountered in college (eg – fraternity lifestyle)?

So hopefully we will have a fun-filled discussion with some refreshments. See you all at 4 pm in Reeder House!



Marriage and Ioana

Hey Folks,

As a newbie in Reeder I have my first ever Reeder discussion tomorrow (Tuesday)  4-6 pm. I’m hoping it will be an easy debate on “Should Ioana get married?” The topic seems to be coming up more and more often for us, so I thought we can have an interesting conversation about it’s advantages and disadvantages.

Here are some reference articles from NYT:

Economics of marriage:


Civil protest and democracy

The first Reeder discussion of the semester will be about two inherited rights: The right to know the truth and the right to protest. Both of them can be related; however, is it always good to know the truth or to protest against the government?

Are there cases in which knowing the truth is not desirable especially if it has to do with millions of people?

Is it truly democratic to protest against a democratically chosen country? What happens when a “democratic” government does not represent the majority of the people? Do the people have to right to stand up and protest? What is the role of civil protests?

I hope we can talk about these issues and use the following recent world events as examples: The secret US cables disclosed by Wikileaks, the recent protests in European and the protests against Mubarak in Egypt.

So to prepare for the discussion check out the following Wikipedia articles:

The discussion will be on Tuesday, February 1st at 4pm at Reeder house. We’ll have some refreshments.


Climate change with Al Gore

Hi guys,

This week our discussion will be on Climate change. We will start the discussion with a brief showing (15-20 min) of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and then hopefully the discussion will open up to : the science of climate change, the economics of climate change and the overall impact of climate change. I have attached an article below by Nicholas Stern a British economist and author of the acclaimed Stern Review.

Hope to see you all. All the best to our Fed Challenge team : Nick + Nan

Farai ’11


Liberal Arts education:

Why, How and What’s next?

Hey Folks,

My name is John and I am a sophomore ECE / Int’l Studies major from China.

In my Reeder discussion next Tuesday (11/16), I plan to bring to your attention a revisit to the fundamental debate that many of us have probably experienced prior to coming to Lafayette – A Liberal Arts Education: Why, How, and What’s next?

I’m sure having tasted it for at least a couple of months, we all would have somewhat formulated our own understanding of its purposes or the way it ought to be run. Come prepared with questions, stereotypes, grudges or secret confessions. Here are some brain teasers to jump start your mind:

  • Is it meaningful to mandate lab-sciences for all, if the only purpose it serves was to make them hate sciences more? In other words, how Liberal should our education ultimately be?
  • In what ways does a hyper-inflationary well-rounded liberal education pay off in the future? Or does it?

Here are a few light reads for your pleasure:
“Only Connect…” The Goals of A Liberal Arts Education by William Cronon

The Disadvantages of An Elite Education by William Deresiewicz

Or… for those who are more audibly inclined:

TED talk by Liz Coleman to Reinvent the Liberal Arts Education

Light refreshment will be provided (at the very least), authentic home-made Chinese cuisine is a high-probability event.

Tuesday, 4 – 6. Enjoy.

John Yin


Vaccination and Children

Hi everyone!

How’s everything going?

This is a flu season,fortunately you didn’t get a cold so that you can come to reeder and have some free food and free talking, instead of going to Baily to get a shot 🙂

I’m Xuan and the next week’s discussion topic is SHOULD ANY VACCINES BE REQUIRED FOR CHILDREN?

All of us have been vaccinated to get into Lafayette, so it’s relevant to our health.

In some sense, the school forced us to take the vaccine.  However, if ever there’s anything wrong or detrimental in that vaccine, who’s responsible for our suffering?

What’s your opinion about the vaccine?

Current debate:

Proponents argue that vaccination is safe and one of the greatest health developments of the 20th century. They point out that illnesses, including rubella, diphtheria, and whooping cough, which once killed thousands of infants annually are now prevented by vaccination. They contend that anti-vaccination studies are often faulty, biased, and misleading.

Opponents argue that children’s immune systems can deal with most infections naturally, and that the possible side effects of vaccination, including seizures, paralysis, and death, are not worth the risk of safeguarding against non-life threatening illnesses. They contend that numerous studies prove that vaccines may trigger problems like autism, ADHD, and multiple sclerosis. [1]

Background info:

Vaccine time table (I assume you’re quite familiar with it:)

History of Vaccine Schedule:

A Short History of Vaccine Panic:

Vaccine side effect:

I found some short videos on YouTube about vaccines for your reference:

1.   Flu Shot Disabled Beautiful Cheerleader – ( Dystonia Disorder)

2.  Remember Swine flu last year? The college provided free vaccines to students. Let’s listen to Doctors speak out about H1N1 VACCINE DANGERS!

3.  Believe or not, some vaccines for kids contain mercury. Vaccination of such medicine will leads to Autism.

Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN) talking about “Mercury in Medicine: Are We Taking Unnecessary Risks?,”!

4.   Besides the pure medical problem, states and companies are forcing people to take vaccine. Just in Pennsylvania, Doctors at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia are ordering all employees to get a flu shot every year or be sent home for two weeks without pay to “think about it.

Forcing Flu Shots on Health Care Workers Who is Next?!”

[1] Should any vaccines be required for children?


Hey there everybody,

Hope you are doing well and preparing your costume for Halloween! 😀

I am Nafis Hasan, a senior Biology major from Dhaka, Bangladesh and I will be leading tomorrow’s Reeder discussion. The topic of the discussion will be based on the benefits and drawbacks of Genetically Modified (GM) Foods. Given the fact that genetic engineering has rapidly transitioned from a purely scientific field to a commercial area, and that GM foods have shown much promise and stirred up a lot of arguments, I feel that this topic should be talked about (apart from my own interest in it :D).

For starters, GM foods are mainly genetically modified organisms which are used to grow food crops, which would mainly be plants. The genetic modification takes place only through artificial ways and does not involve any natural process. There have been major benefits of such food products, eg – increased nutritional value, yield, resistance to pathogens/diseases, increased food security, etc. On the other hand, genetic modification has also raised issues about safety of human health, environmental damage and even corruption of intrinsic values of an organism. According to recent news reports (, most Americans are rejecting GM foods in the market and building an “Organic Food” movement ( Do you feel the same as these Americans or do you believe that GM foods are going to be the key to ending hunger and securing food for everybody in the world?

Bring your thoughts tomorrow at 4 pm in Reeder house! Refreshments will be provided.

Some light reading for you to help shape your arguments better 😀 –

World Health Organization on GM Foods –

Schneider & Schneider –

Wikipedia –

Anti-GM food website-


Hello everybody,

My name is Nicholas Stacey, I am a senior math and economics double major from South Africa, and I’ll be leading Reeder’s discussion tomorrow the theme of which will be on the role of government in managing economies. This is an issue  of some importance given the recent global economic turmoil and the choices that will need to be made as countries and economies recover.

In John Nash’s talk earlier today, which hopefully everybody attended, in addressing what theoretically would constitute “ideal money”, the role that government plays in determining economic outcomes was discussed. In most  countries there is a central bank as well as a government treasury which wield considerable influence over short and long term economic outcomes including growth, unemployment and inflation. Nash, however, suggests the removal of this power through the fixing of the value of money.

For a start how do governments affect their nation’s economy? Beyond the provision of public goods, should government be involved in the management of the economy? Given the existence of governments’ existing economic roles, would changing the status-quo be feasible at all? Given the recent financial crisis, where immediate government intervention in many major economies staved off great economic disruption, is any change warranted? In developing countries where many markets are imperfect and economies are trapped in low performing equilibria, should government intervene?

These are some questions which will be addressed.
Here are some links, which should provide some insight into this issue:
Viton Tanzi and Ludger Schuknecht on fiscal policy:

A Paul Krugman blog posting:

Joe Stiglitz on his experience as an economist in government:

A TED talk by conservative UK prime minister David Cameron on “Big Society”:

Irma Adelman on the role of government in development:


The Image of An Ideal City

Hey folks,

I am Sandy, and my discussion topic for the coming week is “The Image of An Ideal City”. The discussion will be held on Tuesday (Oct 5th.) 4:00-6:00pm, in Reeder House as usual.

What is an ideal city? Should it be diverse and dynamic, as suggested by the New Urbanism movement; Should it bear order and efficiency, as realized by Robert Moses’ great urban plan; Or, is there some way in between, through which we can achieve both?

Wandering in the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai (the theme of which is “Better City, Better Life”), I kept thinking about my experiences in the various cities I’ve currently been to: a little town named Beveren in central Europe, my hometown Nanjing, the great Metropolis Shanghai, the romantic palace Paris, the ambitious New York, and, of course, our city Easton!!

How is people’s life connected with their cities here and there? Do they(we) enjoy the current relationship between cities and citizens(us)? In which direction could we enhance this relationship to have a better city life?

With our diverse student body and their rich experiences in cities around the world, I hope we can generate some inspiring answers to the questions above.

Background information & reading:

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs

New Urbanism:

Congress of New Urbanism:

The Radiant City by Le Corbusier

Suburban Sprawl:


A panacea for development?

Hey folks,

So, tomorrow (Tuesday) 4-6 pm at 225 Reeder Street, 2 blocks from Wawa, you’re all invited to a heated discussion on poverty and development, an issue very dear to many of us. Although somewhat lacking in originality, I feel the topic is particularly relevant amidst the financial downturn, the causes of which believed to be rooted in the very principles that this country thrived and was founded upon.  And with non-governmental actors and microfinancing being hot of the press now, I would like to raise the question of what is, if at all, a panacea for development.

Some of the issues I wish to discuss include:

Why are some of the key factors impeding development?


Does economic development drive political/social development(or vice versa)?

Unintended consequences of public policies. think subsidies, tariffs, sweatshops,

Some classic reads on development that you might find helpful:

Paul Krugman on comparative advantage

Amartya Sen’s review of “The White Man’s Burden” by William Easterly

Why poor countries are poor


An excerpt of Mystery of Capital by Hernando De Soto


The Singularity: Questions about the future of our kind

I am Ahsan, and my discussion topic for the first Reeder house discussion is my thinly-veiled interest in the future. The discussion is on Tuesday, 9/21 from 4pm to 6pm. I want to explore the questions about what, if any, will be the future of the human race when the objects and concepts that help us understand nature are able to process and ‘understand’ data better than us to the extent that we, the designers of said systems, become obsolete.
I base my talk on the claim of well-known inventor, scientist and ‘futurist’ Ray Kurzweil, who believes this phenomenon is not only a possibility, but a necessity.
But is it? What is this ‘technological singularity’ he talks about? What is the likelihood that all our current disparate disciplines will align and merge into the very research programs written to solve the complexity of the real world?
What, in short, is the probability that soon the real problems of the world will be solved by a computer whose results it is impossible for the very ones who posed the question to comprehend? (When do we get a 42 for every question?)
The following links provide information about Ray, his theories, his opponents, his opponents’ theories and much more.
Please take a look at them before coming to the discussion so we can have a spirited discussion!
Please also DO REMEMBER TO LET ME KNOW if you can make it, so we can make adequate dinner arrangements!
See you all!
About Ray Kurzweil singularity: the book: “The singularity is near” of the singularity theory:

Videos of the “Singularity summit”:

Opposition/fears of the singularity: Bill Joy’s article:


The n-th Reeder discussion, where n is an odd power of 2 less than or equal to 10 and not prime

Hi folks,

Let me start off by saying that my discussion has nothing to do with math. On the other hand, it is most definitely about something that has been intriguing me for a couple of weeks now, and that is health care reform in the US. I personally don’t know much about this subject; whatever I do know comes from the list of websites below, which you may or may not find useful depending on your expertise and/or interest in this topic. The purpose of this discussion would be to find out what each of you individually think about health care reform, how it compares to other countries’ health care systems and try to analyze the pros and cons of this kind of reform. I hope that the discussion will somewhat flow on its own as we hit different topics of interest.

Reading List:,8599,1912920,00.html?cnn=yes

As for food, I’m thinking it’ll be pesto pasta from Morici’s.



What is going on in Iran?

7th Spring Reeder Discussion

led by Prof. Tavakoli

WED. MARCH 24th, 2010 @ 6pm

Some sources of information:

. 1. From the New York Times:

2. From the Economist Country Briefing:

3. From Wikipedia:


Relationships and Love, Whats all the hubub about?

6th Reeder Street Discussion

Led by Alex Sandoval

As a single guy I have often wondered at the point of a relationship or what you get out of it that is so darned special. Also whats up with this love thing? Alot of folks give me different answers and I am wondering what other people think. Who knows maybe we all think the same way about it. This is guaranteed to push the comfort zone a little bit and I hope everyone is up to sharing. Questions folks should think about: Why are relationships important, significant benefits? What are the effects of being in a relationship? I was also hoping to get people’s idea of what a relationship entails. What exactly is a relationship? Also the concept that is inevitably tied to a relationship is love. What is this concept, and are there different types of love? Why is love important?

Cultural Differences in relationships

Role relationships play in adolesence

Role relationships play in adolesence 2

Time magazine article: What is love

Less popular but still just as good article on the definition of love

Interesting blog that highlights some interesting point of views (not scientific at all but still interesting)

Bad effects of relationships

(click on PDF(299.7))


Relationships in the Age of Technology and New Media

Fifth Reeder Discussion- Spring ’10

Wednesday, March 3rd:  6pm-8pm

Led by Diana Hasegan

How have our relationships changed because of technology and new media? Has technology brought us closer or separated us further? Did the quality of our relationships increase or decrease because of technology?

It’s amazing what came out on Google search when I typed “Relationships and Technology”. This is just a sample of the best articles that came up, but I am sure there are plenty of other sources to be explored.

Surfing Alone: Is Digital Technology Destroying Relationships?

Pixelated Brains and New Media

Technology Forges Relationships For Life

Is Technology Bad for Relationships?

Technology vs. Relationships

Relationships and Technology: Is facebook as good as face-to-face?

This is cute: 20 Relationships And Technology Dos And Don’ts

This is just hilarious: Technology Ruins Relationships

And also, some TED Talks to watch as you could have expected:

Stefana Broadbent: How the Internet enables intimacy

Lakshmi Pratury on letter-writing


Racism and Discrimination?

Fourth Reeder Discussion- Spring ’10

Wednesday, Feb 24th:  6:pm-7:30pm

Led by Crystal Huang


Google: leaving China?

Third Reeder Discussion- Spring ’10

Wednesday, Feb 10th:  6:pm-7:30pm

Led by Luke Xuan Liu

Google, in possession of the most widely used search engine, one of the leading resources of news and media, IT crocodile, is consider leaving the largest market on the planet, or at least so it claimed at 1/12/2010 03:00:00 PM:

“In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. However, it soon became clear that what at first appeared to be solely a security incident–albeit a significant one–was something quite different….
These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China.”

What is beneath the claim made by Google?

Google’s advocacy of protecting human rights? Google’s foreign marketing strategy? Is Google doing a great job protecting your privacy?
Human rights issues in China? Government censorship? Should there be information censoring?
US-China relations? Partners or competitors, friends or political foes? US’s policy towards China? China’s role in contemporary world?

Recommend reading:


Liberal Education Discussion

Liberal Education Discussion-01Suggested Reading:

William Cronon: Only Connect…The Goals of a Liberal Education

Stanley Fish: Will the Humanities Save Us?


Obama’s First Year

First Reeder Discussion- Spring ’10

Wednesday, January 27th:  5.45pm-8:00pm


Discussion led by MICKEY ADELMAN.

Our first discussion for Spring 2010 will focus on President Barack H. Obama and his tumultuous first year in office.  The Administration and the public have been faced with some tough questions:

  • Economics:  has the Federal government effectively responded to the economic crisis, and how should policymakers deal with the effects of the recession?
  • Financial reform:  given the lessons of the recent near-meltdown, what reforms of the financial sector are needed?
  • Health care:  what must be done to keep America’s health care system economically viable, and how can the system best serve the public?
  • Foreign policy:  what role should the United States play in the world, and what image should we strive for as a nation?
  • Wars:  what directions should the United States pursue in the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?
  • Homeland security:  what does the recent attempted airline bombing reveal about the airport security system, and how do we address the perceived shortcomings?  Are facilities like Guantanamo Bay needed to deal with security threats?
  • Environment:  how should the Federal government address both the pressing global issues and the wide array of environmental challenges back home?
  • Immigration:  what reforms are needed to the American immigration system, and what would an effective and reasonable system look like?
  • Education:  what changes are needed to our school system to give everyone a chance at a decent education and provide for the needs of the future economy?
  • Civil rights:  what role should the government play in addressing the problems of minorities, women, and the LGBT community?
  • Politics:  after a year of bitter partisanship and unrest among the American people, are the Republicans poised to regain power or can President Obama make a political comeback?

Please read over or skim the questions and come prepared with your opinions – I am sure this will be a lively conversation.  You can find out more about any of these issues by following the news, but there is no “required” reading.  I will provide a handout at the discussion with a little more info about all of the issues listed above.


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