Introduction to Political Thought

Mar 2009

Not really my area of interest in political science (took this course to fulfill a major requirement) but Martha Zebrowski managed to make it bareable. Great sense of humour - even at 9am - and she really knows her stuff. Workload more than manageable - a book every week or so and a take-home midterm and final. i know some people in the class felt grading on the first exam was a little harsh, but she was more that willing to meet with students to discuss how to improve and really seemed to take that improvement into consideration in the final grade. Lecture attendance is compulsory, but there were no discussion sections.

Apr 2008

GS Political Science majors are required to take this course. What you may not know is take you can also take CC to fulfill the requirement (there is an all-GS section). If I were you, I would look into and consider this option, as I wish I had taken Contemporary Civilization instead of Intro to Political Thought. However, once you have taken this course, you cannot take CC (if I understand correctly). While the lectures can be interesting, the other reviewer is fairly accurate in describing the overall arbitrary and scattered nature of the course. The material is fabulous, but, unfortunately, we never went in-depth in either class or discussion. We talked around everything (as the other reviewer states). Paper topics were strange. We were asked to boil everything down in the form of analyzing at least 3 of the thinkers in each of 2-eight page papers, where we also asked to include “goals, methods, etc” as some have mentioned in previous reviews. Expectations were not clearly outlined. As the papers were distributed, we were given information about what was expected, but it was still vague and ill defined. Unfortunately, I did not get much more than my own thoughts and observations out of this class. I regret taking it as I truly looked forward to insights and intellectual debate about these great thinkers.

Jan 2008

I usually never write statements about Professors at CULPA, since people tend have extremely positive or negative opinions about a professor. But this time I will have to make an exception. Zebrowski bases her grades on other aspects than the work load or your knowledge of the material. In the beginning of the semester she might seem like the easiest professor ever and you might think “What the hell are these wimps complaining about.” Her grading seems extremely easy, since she only expects attendance (10%) and two essays (45% each). She will laugh it off as an easy A. Her lectures are interesting, to say the least. She will tell you everything you will need to know about the authors and MORE. (Favorite foods, sexual orientation, favorite color, height, weight …). Unfortunately, she only shallowly touches on the actual book. You might as well go to Wikipedia and just print the summary. So you might hope for the TA, who in my case was Pablo, who seemed to have been unwilling to read the material himself. You might still think “Ok, I can still do this on my own”. So you read the books, do extensive research in Butler on the subjects, and you feel “I should be ok, since most of the class is not even doing the reading”. Then, the big day comes… MIDTERMS!!! And it is indeed THE BIG DAY, since the grade you will receive will turn out to be your final grade. READ CAREFULLY NOW …. Here is the midterm question: Compare and Contrast 3 Authors and everything they incorporate and their philosophies in less than 9 pages. After meeting with her, trying to get a feeling of the direction she wants us to go, I got a LOVELY answer: “JUST START WRITING AND SEE WHERE IT TAKES YOU.” So I did … many, many times. I wrote a solid, TIME CONSUMING paper. I felt confident. A week later, the big day for all of us finally arrived…. GRADES! I like to call it “the Zebrowski blood bath”. 40% got a C or less. A couple of Bs and a couple of As. I was happy to have gotten a B-. I figured, my essay must have gone in the wrong direction, so I read four of the five A-papers, which were very similar to mine. I set up an appointment with Zebrowsky to discuss my Midterm paper. She simply stated “some people have a talent for writing papers and others just don't.” I WILL NOW REVEAL THE SECRET OF ZEBROWSKI GRADING: 100% Personal Preference. The Ass-kissers under you might now believe “I got this”, however, being a professional myself, believe me when I tell you: “YOU HAVE NOOOOOOOOOOO IDEA.” You won't know whether she likes you until you receive your grade. Some of you will make the mistake of trying to write a better paper for the final, since you think you might be able to save your grade, and waste even more valuable final time on this crap. AGAIN … WRONG! As she stated herself: “In my experience, students tend to consistently write the same grade-level papers.” I survived with some scratches and my first B, in my Junior Year at Columbia, but many of my friends were not as lucky. If for you grades “should not be important”, and you would like to work at Starbucks after graduation … GO AHEAD AND GIVE IT A SHOT AT THE ZEBROWSKI LOTTERY. For everyone else, pick ANYTHING else … anything.

Nov 2007

Honestly guys, this class is not worth it. Take CC instead - you'll learn more, and you'll get a professor who lectures, instead of just reading out of books and droning on. In my opinion, Colby didn't bring anything to the texts, and didn't encourage thinking, encouraging students to spit back his opinions (one of the questions on the final was what he had thought about someone) on the poorly formatted texts.

Dec 2006

Professor Colby was an extreme letdown and one of the greatest examples of CULPA not being a completely accurate gauge of teaching ability. That said, you may not have the same experience I did, but I feel the need to refute some of these gushing reviews. In Intro to Political Thought, you are assigned some of the best, most revolutionary texts ever created. The Communist Manifesto? On Liberty? It's amazing stuff, yet Colby managed to bring nothing special to it. He reads nearly verbatim from his lecture notes; his delivery is uninspired, and he puts those same notes online anyway. It would be great to have a 9AM class that gives you notes on Courseworks, save for the fact that he decided to take attendance at random points. The entirety of the first semester consists of classic texts. You will be able to read these on SparkNotes and get the same information out of them as you would from Colby. While many would say that, if one does SparkNotes beforehand, it's his/her fault that the lectures seem old hat, I would ask: Shouldn't a professor at one of the best schools in the country bring something passionate and inspiring to what he is teaching? It all comes down to specifically that: passion. Colby arrived at class' start and bolted at the end. He's based in Jersey and teaches at Princeton. This, his sole class at Columbia, always seemed like something he didn't want to do. It may not be true, but the fact that a huge number of the classes were at less than half capacity seems to show that I am not the only one who didn't agree with all of those glowing reviews about Colby. Point is, he is competent, he knows what he's talking about, but he doesn't particularly care about you as a student. The mid-term has you write everything you learned about the first three philosophers, which is an AWFUL format and guarantees you won't have the same view of importances as the TAs. The final is created by the TAs, on whom the real grading of the class (45% mid-term, 45% final, 10% discussion) will be dependent. He will be at neither testing day. It says a lot.

Dec 2006

All these good reviews are such a laugh!! Colby is the most lethargic professor I've ever had -- lectures are boring, the TA's clearly feel tortured, tests are poorly constructed, discussion group was no help at al, then he tried to force the class into better attendance in exchange for lecture notesl...Save your three thousand dollars!!!

Sep 2006

NOTE: I ONLY HAD MAGGIE AS A TA FOR ONE SECTION. However, in that section she seemed extremely indifferent to the class, lethargic, like she wanted to leave as soon as she could, and like she needed some serious caffeine. I had already heard a friend who had previously had her describe her as "worthless." However, she was switched out to another class after the first week or so of section. Be warned though, that, based on first impressions, steer clear of her if you can.

Sep 2006

Claudio is a nice guy, but not a very good TA. In a Poli Thought class already made into a circus by the fact that Prof Colby could never get there on time, he just made it things even more awkward. Although we were supposed to sign up for section, only about half (25 out of 50 or so) ever actually came. He is a very soft-spoken immigrant and it is sometimes hard to hear what he is saying. Thought he is intelligent, it is hard to get much out of section. The truth, though, is that without any papers you don't really need his help to do well. He is a really sweet guy, though.

Feb 2006

Hands down, the sole reason I became a Political Science major, and the best professor I've had at Columbia in three years. Take anything he offers; you won't regret it!

Jan 2006

This is a great class to take if you are filling a social science requirement! His lectures are organized and interesting. The books read are poltical classics everyone should at least have a basic knowledge of. you do not even need to read the books. if the class agrees to continue showing up, he posts all his lecture notes online, which are very comprehesive. there is an in class midterm and final. the question is "write everything you know about two (or three) of the authors" I didn't keep up with the reading and missed several classes, but I took his notes, wrote an essay out of them for each author, memorized the essay and copied it into the blue books. thats enough to get you a full A. take this class!

Jan 2006

Everyone else seems to think so highly of Colby, I just didn't see it. The class itself was a type of circus, and the timing of it extremely bad. Althought it was from 5:40-6:55 PM, Colby couldn't come earlier than 5:45 due to the train and usually came closer to 6:00. His lecture was pretty boring and incoherent, I usually didn't pay attention. He does post his notes, which is good because if you actully tried to do the readings you would find yourself drowning in a massive amount of incredibly confusing material. Somewhere around 80-100 pages were actually assigned, but noone really read them. You are supposed to sign up for discussion section, but most people did not. I didn't really get anything out of this class except an easy grade, but can't help but look at other reviews and wonder if I just got unlucky.

Jun 2005

This is by far the best class I've ever taken. I would sometimes leave the class in absolute awe saying "wow!" Colby is an extremely interesting and organized lecturer, and he explains difficult concepts very well. I had never studied philosophy before this class, and I found it understandable with Colby's lectures. I agree with the other reviewers in that Colby has a great sense of humor, and he manages to share his own political views without going off on tangents. It can be very entertaining. I did however take this class thinking that it would give me an idea about Political Science as an area of study, but it didn't really do that. It's basically a philosophy class with an emphasis on political philosophy.

May 2005

I agree fully with the last review. This professor should be hired full-time, and should be given classes above the Intro level in Political Thought (and Philosophy). HeÂ’s a wonderful lecturer and an extremely fair grader, and has a vested interest in his students understanding relatively dense material. He promises that his students will have a strong appreciation of political theory, and by the end of the course, and heÂ’s proven to be correct. He requires attendance, but doesnÂ’t circulate a sheet. However, Colby strongly appreciates those students who consistently show up for class and participate in classroom discussion. My only gripe with the course is the mandatory discussion section (not listed in the bulletin) that tended to add nothing to ColbyÂ’s very complete lectures and in-class discussion.

May 2005

Hire the guy full time. He delivers on his promises and CARES, yes can you believe it CARES about his students and what they are learning. I took his class first semester and he changes the lecture style in the middle to make the class more engaging and to respond to the students that were in the class. You dont find that. And you wont find another more with more knowledge of the material. He is articulate, quirky, responsive and WILL ALWAYS LISTEN. i cant say enough about him other thanhe shoudl be teaching more classes here on campus.

Jan 2005

I found Prof. Colby to be a very intelligent and articulate lecturer. The class reading is pretty standard for an intro to poltics class and the reading is difficult but never exceptionally long. His lectures are very interesting and he always welcomes questions. In person a bit awkward, but an engaging teacher nonetheless.

Sep 2004

No surprises here. It's your average political philosophy class complete with Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Machiavelli, Marx, and Nietzsche. But beware, Nick is anything but interesting. His lectures highlight the obvious and there is little (if any) discussion in his class. He spends 65 minutes providing a synopsis of the assigned reading, and leaves 10 minutes at the end for questions. He does not display even an ounce of origial thought and isn't really looking for yours either. He is a walking, talking collection of cliff notes- so if you do the reading, you never have to go to class. But if you don't do the reading, which you may not because there is so much, lecture will keep you up to speed. His grading guidelines are very vague and he lectures as if it were his first time (nervous stuttering, awkward pauses, and such). I'm sure there are better poly sci professors out there.

Sep 2004

Really a good guy. He covered centuries of polical philosophy in a mostly comprehensive way. He expected a lot on the papers but had no problem meeting to help me with the biggest one. I found his lectures interesting and helpful. The course was a lot of reading though and if you get behind you'll have trouble following the class. On the other hand, the only grades come from the papers and the final and he gave us a list of possible final questions in advance. If you put in a minimum of work and writing skill, you'll do fine and if you put in more work for the reading, you'll enjoy the class

May 2004

Enjoyable class, engaging professor, and a reasonable work load. Despite what was said in previous reviews, I feel that I learnt a lot. Definitely recommend the class, for poli-sci majors and non-majors.

Apr 2004

Segal's quality is community college level. Yes, this class is easy, light readings, short papers, easy exams. But it's not easy in a good way. Segal will expect you to adore and worship Plato, even though in class he'll be dismissed as a proto facist. And because Segal knows nothing at all about ancient history you won't be able to say that the Spartans treated women well, that the Romans freed their slaves, that both Greeks and Romans were anxious and uncomfortable with the practice of infanticide because Segal knows nothing about ancient history and he doesn't want to because it would interfere with his clean little theories that have developed absent of historical analysis. Like the other reviewers have said, he is witty and intelligent, the class is lively and it's an easy A if you give him what he wants. Don't, however, come to this class if you really want to engage the material -- Segal only wants you to engage his ideas about the material. And his ideas, frankly, are isolated, poorly developed, and steeped in ignorance.

Apr 2004

Segal is engaging and funny, he is pretty intelligent and can quickly assess an argument with realtive skill. However, he is not interested in literary, historical or historigraphical perspectives. His historical knowledge is sometimes painfully lacking. He got his PHD from Columbia, and the Poli-Sci department here is not the best, it ranks well, well below Harvard, Stanford, Chicago and Princeton (i.e., it's far easier to get into Harvard and Yale law than it is the PHD poli-sci program at Columbia, hands down). Class discussions are lively and imaginative, but when it comes to the papers, mid-term and final: play it straight, he does NOT want big ideas or creativity. Anything idea, concept, perspective or author that ranges out of the bounds of his previous considertion will be met with a bucket of cold water, which can make things very dull.

Apr 2004

I liked his class. There is kind of CC in one semester. You go over several of the main thinkers in western thought, and have LOTS of class participation which is really fun. Segal has a way of surprising the class with an unexpected joke every now and then, and if you go along with his line of thought, you just might get to discuss how RousseauÂ’s ideas on a Common Will are like the Borg in Star Trek. I recommended him (and if you are a GS student, you really donÂ’t have many other options anyway).

Dec 2003

Really a fantastic instructor. I highly recommend any class he teached - he is engaging, always extremely well-prepared, outstandingly enthusiastic. Fair grader.

Nov 2003

Look the man is a genius and that is a simple fact - though I am not enamored of him I can say that he is an excellent instructor. If you tend to fall asleep in class or be inclined to look at hour-hands on clocks for stimulation his class (or Columbia) would not be for you. If on the other hand you're interested enough in the material to listen then he is a perfectly excellent instructor to have for the class. Re-writes are for high schoolers anyway so don't let that sway you.

Nov 2003

Although the work load was fairly easy(since you really dont have to do the readings) I didnt find him very interesting. His lectures tend to be long and boring and you frequently find yourself either falling asleep or looking at the clock praying for class to be over. The class is not horrible, but I definately would not recomend it.

Mar 2002

Unquestionably the worst class I have taken in three years here. Cordes is boring, arrogant, and extremely picky in his grading. You have to do the reading (no, sparknotes is not enough) because he asks specific questions and calls on random people. I would never reccomend this class to anyone. It certainly does not come close to Dalton's Poltical Theory class. DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS!

Jan 2002

I enjoyed his lectures and readings. He's a knowledgable professor that handles discussions and questions well. Good selection of readings. Excellent perk: he'll let you hand in papers early, grade them and return them to you before it's due without recording a grade. You can then revise your paper accordingly and almost always get a fantastic grade. I'd rate him as a very good professor