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Reading list

October 2012
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Reading list

Books and articles that matter

By Dean Andy Boynton

Living in New England, where some of the best striped bass fishing in the country can be found off the island of Nantucket, I’ve developed a passion for the sport. This year, on the recommendation of friend, guide, and Nantucket fishing expert Nat Reeder, I bought a copy of the so-called nautical bible, Eldridge’s Tide and Pilot Book 2012 (Robert Eldridge White, Jr., 2011). This was the key, I was told, to calculating the precise timing of the tides—and expanding my bass-hunting grounds.

The book, which calls itself the “most trusted guide for East Coast waters, since 1875,” covers topics from tide and current tables to astronomical data, flags, codes, and maritime manners. I have no doubt that, in the right hands, this book is a treasure trove of information about all things navigational. But not in mine.   

Eldridge’s, as those in the business call it, is just plain impenetrable. Take its maps of tidal current charts for Buzzards Bay and Vineyard and Nantucket sounds, for instance. Arrows pointing north, south, east, and west are labeled with numbers ranging from 0.2 to 2.6. Rather than explaining those, the captions read like this: “4 hours after ebb starts at Pollock Rip Channel or: 2 hours after high water at Boston. Velocities shown are at Spring Tides.” When I called Nat and asked him to explain how to use the guide, he just laughed. He confessed he had no idea.

Hunting for bass is in many ways like hunting for new ideas. Both involve more than casting a line into the deep. Bass are trickier than most fish. To find them, you need to know about tides, water temperature, shoals, and changes in water depth—and you have to be ready at the right time.

Good ideas aimed at strengthening the Carroll School are also elusive, and getting to them often involves charting a complex course. While we’ve implemented a number of innovations, we continually seek good ideas. One thing I know is true: good ideas won’t find us, we have to find them. That means we can’t navigate the same waters every day using the same tried and true techniques. We have to pursue every source, every nook and cranny, and try different approaches—just as in my search for the wily bass.

At the moment, we’re looking for great ideas beyond any single academic discipline. Instead, we are taking an integrated approach to undergraduate education, blending the Catholic, Jesuit heritage of Boston College, the humanities, and the sciences. Recognizing that we need significant intellectual breadth and depth to catch big ideas in this initiative, we have a team comprised of David Quigley, dean of the University’s College of Arts and Sciences, and two outstanding faculty members: English Professor Mary Crane, director of Boston College’s Institute for Liberal Arts, and Professor Tom Chiles, chair of the biology department. We’ll be collaborating with faculty and staff at Boston College to see if our already proud core liberal arts curriculum can be renewed.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

In the meantime, tight lines.

Follow Andy Boynton on http://twitter.com/Andy_Boynton

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