From the Editor:
Our original plan for this issue of Genesis did not include the discussion with Princeton professor Michael Barry on the teaching of Near Eastern studies in this age of ISIS and al-Qaeda and the threat of terror.
But Barry got caught in the headlines when he was denied tenure by the university, and students turned out in droves to urge the university to reconsider. What attracted us to the story was not the tenure battle but rather Barry’s considered views of how the intellectual community was being distracted by the headlines coming out of the Middle East and losing sight of the region’s cultural foundation. See page 2.
The discussion with Michael Barry led us to the poetry that appears on this page.
Here’s how that happened: In the course of discussing the tenure battle, Barry noted that he often meets with students after class at Panera Bread, the coffee shop across Nassau Street from the university campus. Cafe life is vitally important, said Barry, whose American parents raised him in France. The cafe is a place where students can talk freely to the teacher, and also to themselves, with the cast of participants changing as people come and go.
To Barry the unscheduled and unscripted time spent in the cafe is a welcome change of pace from the inexorable time line of the academic calendar. “It’s almost as if we’re stealing a few moments of time,” Barry said. We had to agree, and that made us look again at the volume of poetry we had received from Ellen Foos’s Ragged Sky Press — poems touching in some way on either chocolate or coffee. Poems that prompt thoughts to be considered in an unmeasured moment in time.
We hope this issue will prompt some other thoughts: How John Popper escaped being labeled a “weird mutant” and instead discovered his musical genius at Princeton High School (page 4). How statistician Howard Wainer, who spent more than 20 years as a research scientist at Educational Testing Service, has come to value the power of storytelling in his profession (page 7). And how bad writing can sometimes be so bad it’s good (page 19).
Follow the lead of Professor Barry and his students: Steal a few minutes from your busy schedule, and indulge in an article or two from this issue of Genesis.
— Richard K. Rein