Review Comment

Religion in American Culture

December 26, 2009

Balmer, Randall Silver_nugget
Religion in American Culture

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I do not have enough nice things to say about this man. Religion in American Culture I was very well structured, the material was interesting, the workload was very reasonable, and I have never meet anyone more enthusiastic about their subject matter than Randall Balmer. He is always full of stories, and wants to make sure he has earned the class's attention. Class was always thought provoking and I can't wait to take Religion in American Culture II. He is also a very reasonable and kind person when it comes to individual problems.

The readings are interesting, but not a necessity. He has all the information he wants you to know on power point slides, but he won't test you on the details, so don't bother writing everything down. I thoroughly enjoyed this class and think Randall Balmer is a great teacher!

Workload:

free points for "participation" (10%), and there were two 4-6 page papers that are graded very generously (20% each), a midterm (25%), and a final (25%). The multiple choice could be a bit tricky but the IDs and essays on the midterm and final were graded very easily.

December 17, 2009

Balmer, Randall Silver_nugget
Religion in American Culture

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

This class was most definitely a survey of American religious history from colonization through the Civil War. As such, we covered a lot of ground only sometimes in depth, I learned a lot, and it was very easy. Professor Balmer's greatest fear (as he demonstrates with repeated apologies for his lack of up-to-date humor or for his hilarious anecdotes that he's sure no one will be interested in) is that the class will be bored or overworked. I thought he was hilarious in that kind of awkward, professorial kind of way. At the same time, he knows all about American religious history, and if he doesn't have a full answer to a question, he will research it and give a better answer in the next class.

Classes consisted of powerpoint lectures that are not posted online, so take notes! Luckily, Professor Balmer goes very slowly, leaving plenty of time to copy out almost every slide in full (not that you'll need that much detail for the exams, but it comes useful in papers and is interesting). On top of going so slowly, class was almost always let out 15 minutes early, so I never had to sprint to my next class.

There were two 4-6 page papers, graded by TAs who seemed to have no role but grading these papers (no discussion section), with given topics. The midterm and final both have three sections: multiple choice, match the term with the answer (in lieu of writing IDs), and an essay question or two. Again, easy. Weekly reading was important for the exams and for the papers, and ranged anywhere from 20-150 pages per week, though only a few times did it hit 150 pages, and those books were easy to read.

Workload:

20-150 pages reading per week (you need to read the books that keep coming up in the syllabus, as well as some of the smaller ones, but you don't have to do everything). 2 4-6 page papers. Easy midterm, easy final.

June 18, 2005

Balmer, Randall Silver_nugget
Religion in American Culture

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

A true intellectual lightweight. I'd say in about 2/3 of the classes he could have been making the stuff up as he went along, and the remainder of the sessions Balmer screened movies, not because they told us something earth-shattering (which they didn't) but because his lazy ass wanted to avoid giving a lecture. The outside speakers he brought in were all more interested in advancing their own parochial agendas than telling us anything of value. I wasted a lot of $$ and burned some shoe leather trekking to the Hungarian on weekends to hunker down and finish the ridiculously repetitive books he assigned. I only did the readings because, since the exams are all IDs, you cannot skim to get the general concepts, but instead you must read every word and be on the lookout for words thrown in here and there that might POSSIBLY make it onto a test. Finally, he bent over backwards to allow students to waste the time with idiotic questions that belong back in the 3rd grade. At the end of the course, I felt used like a cheap whore - because I'd allowed this guy to waste so much of my time. After class every day, I quite literally regretted having attended, because sleeping in would have been a better use of my time. One of the biggest academic disappointments I've had. Avoid this guy.

Workload:

Either 2 "response" papers or 1 longer research paper; midterm and final. There's a twist to his grading policy which he won't disclose until the last week of class, but since no one has put it up yet, I'm going to blow his cover: He'll let you double your grade from one exam and drop your grade from the other. That is, if you do well on the midterm, you can simply skip the final; or if you do poorly, a bang-up job on the final can make everything right. Simply put, no need to work that hard.

January 12, 2004

Balmer, Randall Silver_nugget
Religion in American Culture

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Though Balmer himself is as nice and knowledgeble as the others have written, I found his grading style to be atrocious. I don't think he touched a single paper or exam anyone in the class handed in - didn't read any of them or even verify the grade. The TAs graded everything, and they were rather unpredictable and in one case, downright mean about the comments. I was so frustrated and hurt by one particular TA's comment on a paper I threw it out in the nearest trash can -- they were utterly unhelpful and bordered on being personal. I found it hard to keep up my enthusiasm for the course when I realized neither professor nor TA cared who their students were nor how they were doing.

Workload:

I found it to be a little excessive - 4 papers 4-8 pps (one optional), in-class midterm and final (easy).

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