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Five months earlier I graduated from Yale University with the intention of becoming a licensed historian who could be counted upon to attach the name of a dead poet or an unhorsed king to the appropriate zeitgeist. Great news, he said, but maybe you could spare a few moments for the 12th century?

I managed to sustain the illusion of scholarship for about the length of time it takes to see five deals of blackjack.

People respected history but also believed in liberating themselves from the pressure of history.

They were creating a new Arab state — democratic, liberal, open to education, and that carried with it also an interest in building.

Before reaching the general theory, you see, we like to have in hand a passing acquaintance with at least some of the facts.

When I was 9 and 10 years old, there was a program in the New Jersey public schools for “gifted children.” Several afternoons a week, we would be excused from our regular classrooms and go to a separate room with a separate teacher, Mrs. One semester I wrote and directed a play, cast it, designed costumes, built sets and finally performed it for the whole school. Lachel and I joined a parapsychological society, then devised tests for telepathy and tested all the teachers and principals.

The teachers who taught sciences in the school I went to when I was growing up in Baghdad were all from the university, and so the levels of the science courses were really incredible.

The headmistress, who was a nun, was very interested in the education of women, so in a way she was a kind of pioneer in that part of the world.

Back in the 1960s Bruno Bettelheim gave a talk to my senior class in high school.When I exhausted my supply of talking points, the tutor poured us both a second cup of tea, and for the next quarter of an hour, he asked questions about aspects of the 12th century that I had possibly overlooked.In Byzantium, for instance, the prices bid and asked for Russian fur and Christian slaves?I’m with Borges in imagining Paradise as “a kind of library.” Where instead of angels there will be a corps of excellent librarians.When I was teaching second grade in Baltimore, there was an adorable but disruptive boy in my class named Calvin.

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