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Letters

Read the President's Message, Guest Editors' Note, and Letters to the Editor

President's Message
In his recent and thought-provoking book, The Essential College, Bruce Haywood, president emeritus of Monmouth College and Knox honorary degree recipient in 1988, questions the efforts of some residential liberal arts colleges to try to imitate universities, where disciplines can become silos within the larger institution.

Haywood argues, and I agree, that an essential feature of a true liberal arts college is collaboration -- collaboration among students, among faculty, and among disciplines -- which allows students to explore issues from varying perspectives and prepares them for the complexities of the real world.

Knox fosters collaboration. Knox students are introduced to liberal learning in the first year preceptorial, in which they read a common set of texts and are taught by faculty from across the curriculum. Programs like the newly created Japan Term offer students the opportunity to learn Japanese language, history, and culture over the course of a single term. Politics and Change in the Middle East, the renowned textbook written by Knox Professors Roy Andersen, economics, Robert Seibert '63, political science, and Jon Wagner, anthropology, is perhaps the most emblematic example of the power of collaboration at Knox.

More than 25 years ago, as they were preparing to teach a collaborative course on Islam and the Middle East, Professors Andersen, Seibert, and Wagner realized that there was no textbook that covered the full range of issues -- economic, political, cultural -- that faced this region. They addressed this vacuum by collaborating to write Politics and Change in the Middle East. Their book became one of the most highly used textbooks on the Middle East in this country. Indeed, it has just entered its eighth edition.

Andersen, Seibert, and Wagner have collaborated as guest editors of this issue of the Knox Magazine. From a discussion of the changing politics of the Middle East, to profiles of influential diplomats, Joseph Sisco '41 and Ismat Kittani '51, to a peek at how the Middle East is brought to life at Knox, both inside and outside the classroom, these three faculty members give Knox alumni and friends an in-depth look at current events in the Middle East and at Knox's connections to these events.

Politics and Change in the Middle East, as well as this issue of Knox Magazine, is rooted in the liberal arts. In a university, or a liberal arts college trying to imitate a university, it is doubtful that three professors in different disciplines would have collaborated so closely, so long, and with such proven results. But Knox's commitment to liberal learning, which encourages students to be skeptical and explore all aspects of an issue, nourishes the kind of collaboration represented by Politics and Change in the Middle East.


Roger L. Taylor '63

Guest Editors' Note
It's hard to pinpoint the origin of our book, Politics and Change in the Middle East. In some respects, the intellectual origin of the book can be traced back to the summer of 1976, when the three of us were in Cairo working on a project funded by the U.S. Office of Education that took us to the Middle East and to Southeast Asia. During our stay, we engaged in a long-running conversation (some would call it an argument) about what our various disciplines -- politics, economics, anthropology -- contributed to our understanding of the region.

One exchange stands out in our minds. The three of us were walking in an older neighborhood in Cairo, when out of the blue Jon Wagner said, "Seibert, I really envy you here. Look at all this politics." Or words to that effect. Seibert responded, "That's not politics we're looking at, Jon, it's economics." Andersen chimed in with, "No, no, no, not economics. It's culture." We knew then that we had to get a better handle on each other's epistemologies. What emerged is known between us as the "Cairo Understanding," a methodological/paradigmatic truce of sorts that led us to attempt a multidisciplinary analysis of the region.

We returned to Galesburg and taught a collaborative course, Islam and Social Change. We had continual difficulty finding a core textbook that addressed all of our concerns. In 1980, while attending the American Political Science Association's annual meeting, Bob conveyed his frustrations to a Prentice Hall representative, who innocently asked, "Have you thought about writing one?"

That brief exchange somehow transformed itself into first a book proposal, then a detailed outline by proposed chapters, and, ultimately, three demonstration chapters. This material was sent to reviewers for their opinions and the rest, as they say, is history -- or social science, anyway.

All along, we've been fortunate to have support and encouragement in our various ventures. The Knox community, of course, has been very helpful, giving us various forms of support (release time and grants) for our project. We were also fortunate to begin this work at the very same time that the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago began a serious effort at outreach on Islam. Our connections with that institution have been continuous and supportive.

Later in our work, well after the publication of editions one and two, we began an association with the National Council on United States-Arab Relations. The three of us have traveled the region with academic groups put together by the council. The council president, John Duke Anthony, has taken us to places and people that are ordinarily just plain inaccessible to "foreigners." Collectively, we have visited individually, or in combination, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

Finally, our work would be incomplete without reference to the continuing flow of Knox students; students that have contributed to our classrooms, reacted to our various efforts at writing and publication, brought personal points of view into our classrooms. Students from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Israel, Palestine, Kuwait, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and yes, the United States of America.

And a special thanks, as well, to those American students who have, for one reason or another, embraced the Middle East and all it has to offer. Students who have studied and/or traveled, and sometimes worked, in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, and Yemen. Students who attended the Model Arab League simulations here and in Cairo.

For the three of us, the Middle East continues to fascinate. It has been a personal and academic pleasure to be part of the efforts of one civilization to understand another. We are grateful that Knox Magazine has seen fit to dedicate this issue to Knox and the Middle East. Knox graduates have for decades contributed to the solution of the region's conflicts. Of that, we are proud.

On a personal note, this issue has allowed us to look back at our own experience, here and abroad, and to think about the future. It would be exciting and fulfilling to write one day that the important conflicts in the Middle East have been resolved. Unfortunately, we are a long way from that conclusion.

Roy Andersen, Bob Seibert '63, Jon Wagner

Letters to the Editor
Kudos
I loved the spring edition. I enjoyed the article about Gale and the founding of Knox. I also enjoyed learning about Professor Conley's research. She will certainly be a great asset to the Knox community. I sure didn't know that Professor Priestley had such an impressive curriculum vitae. Knox has and continues to attract quality faculty.

The theme about "innovators" was poignant. What better way to demonstrate this than in the alumni and student stories. To focus on this aspect of education at Knox has got to be a big winner. Good work, Dean Breitborde.

The student article "Independent Minds, Independent Majors" was a great example of this innovative process in action at Knox. Something tells me these students will be the "innovative" alumni of tomorrow.

The 20 Knox students who "anti-protested" at the Wehrly funeral impressed me. They did just the right thing, and that is often hard to figure out, let alone do! Kudos! The magazine will be a good introduction to prospective students of the history, opportunities, and diversity of the Knox community.

I'm proud of my alma mater! -- Sara Arnold '79

How I became a chef.
I liked the article on Jay Matson. My senior year, I and two of my Fiji brothers applied for jobs at a brand new restaurant ? The Packinghouse. We were all hired, and I ended up becoming the manager of Lullaby Dad's Thirst Parlor (no longer) and, eventually, managed The Packinghouse until the fall of '82.

I got my first crack at cooking at The Packinghouse and ended up becoming a chef in St. Louis for a time. Now, I'm chef of my house -- all because my fraternity brothers wouldn't take me to physical therapy at the hospital unless I went with them to apply at The Packinghouse. -- Brian Cox '79

Matson, Barnhart, and Axelrod
I was pleased to see Jay Matson on the cover of Knox Magazine and to read of the Alumni Achievement Awards to David Axelrod and Bill Barnhart. We knew Jay as the paradigmatic poet, and, though I haven't seen him in many years, I did write about his entrepreneurial achievements in my book, The Malling of America. Bill Barnhart was The Knox Student editor at a tough time in the history of the College and the country -- plus he had some unruly columnists to deal with (like Skip Peterson, Kev Cameron, Mark Brooks, and me.)

But mostly I want to acknowledge David Axelrod, who began and ran the Cinema Club at Knox, showing foreign films pretty much monthly. This was when there were few film programs anywhere and no film courses at Knox, when movies were still considered disposable entertainment.  It was also well before video stores and cable TV, when only a few theatres in major cities showed Bergman, Fellini, Kurosawa, and the French New Wave, as David did.

I learned the language of those films by watching them, even when I didn't quite understand what I was seeing. It made a big difference in my life, as I've seen hundreds of films since, written about film, and even spent an hour talking with one of the filmmakers whose work I first saw at Cinema Club, Francois Truffaut. -- Bill Kowinski '68

Correcting the Record
Having just read your Spring 2006 Knox Magazine, your article about the 1974-75 men's basketball team being inducted into the Knox athletics Hall of Fame caught my attention and got me to do some research. I am unfamiliar with the statistics of the 1974-75 team, other than your mentioning it "earned its place in the Hall of Fame as the only basketball team to have represented Knox in the NCAA Division III National Championship tournament. The team holds the second best basketball season to date: 16-7." (By the way, the Knox Hall of Fame website says it is the third best record; however, all three of the 1957-58, 1958-59, and 1959-60 teams had better records than the 1974-75 team.) Furthermore, it is my understanding that the team tied for the Midwest Conference with a 12-4 record and lost their final game in the regional.

 Thanks for your indulgence, and maybe your next issue will correct the records. -- Bill Graning '60

Editor's Note: Thanks to Mr. Graning's fact finding, we can now report that the 1974-1975 basketball team actually holds the fourth best basketball record in Knox College history. The top four teams and records are as follows: 1957-58, 17-7 record; 1958-59, 20-3 record, 1959-60, 16-6 record; and 1974-75, 16-7 record. We regret this error and have made note on the Hall of Fame website.