April 29, 2012

Hawley, John Silver_nugget
Hinduism

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

Be sure you REALLY want to take this class before assuming you're going to like it.

I have to be honest, I cannot believe the reviews I'm seeing of this professor. I understand that he's a nice guy, and I got a feeling in lectures that for some bizarre reason people liked him because of his "delightful" attitude, but this is easily one of the worst professors I had at Columbia. I do not understand why he is on the Columbia faculty or why people actually appreciate his teaching methods -- the content of the course may be fine, but his delivery is so poor that I was able to learn it all better on my own with the readings (which were enormous, numerous, and NECESSARY to pass the course).

To easily describe what a mess this course is, I can just say that the questions he invents for discussion sections were so vague and had so little material to support their discussion that frequently the TA wouldn't even know how to approach them, let alone stimulate any real dialog on the topic. Hawley talks, and it's a coin toss whether what he's saying will actually make sense as he constantly interrupts himself and fails to clarify what his point is.

If you are a Religious Studies major, the class would be worth taking strictly for the readings. If someone told me that Hawley contributed strongly to their knowledge of the subject through his lectures, I would think they were deluded. He hands out "Lecture Outlines" that are actually just a random assortment of Hindu/Sanskrit terms that give you no information about where the class is going to go, and he will talk about ANYTHING he wants to, pretty much ALWAYS running out of time before finishing his discussion on the actual subject of the lecture.

The only lecture I learned from was given by one of his TAs. I don't know HOW one would organize a class on Hinduism to be clearer and less overwhelming (the sheer number of totally disparate terms and topics discussed outmatches any classes I've ever taken in my life), but this is not it. I know it's a big topic, but it's TOO big for trying to fit ALL OF IT into one class, which I think is what Hawley wants to do.

You will leave this class having learned an enormous amount of thinly connected information that will never be useful to you again unless you go to India and continue studying this religion. There is just so much useless information covered by this course in no discernible order -- the only part I liked was when I was reading about how the core concepts of the religion worked. After the midterm it is a random assortment of stories and history lessons that you really would need to care about outside of this course to learn anything from.

I suspect people won't appreciate this review if they loved him, but I don't know -- I know multiple students that also couldn't understand a word this guy said and ended up regretting not dropping the course sooner.

Workload:

50 to 200 pages of reading a week (in about 3 to 7 different sources per week), 2 papers, 2 field trips, discussion section every other week (with specific questions), 1 midterm, 1 final.

If things go similarly to this semester, the midterm will be heavily curved (a 75 went up to a B+) -- this is because the exams are actually very hard to study for, and he throws about 100 possible terms at you. Do not trust his lectures to get you through the course, only the readings will.