ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS CLASS. I thoroughly enjoyed the History of the City of New York with Professor Sullivan. The man is a walking fount of historical knowledge of NYC. I thought the curriculum was planned out well for a twice weekly class, meeting one day for lecture and one day for a walking tour to various sites such as Central Park, the Lower East Side, lower Manhattan, and Brooklyn Heights. Professor Sullivan often added his own personal anecdotes to both lectures and walking tours which made the class more interesting. It's also a perfect class to take during the summer session since we had beautiful weather for all of our walking tours and it sure beat sitting inside a classroom. Stephen does go off on tangents (as he admits) but I find his lecturing style refreshing. But he really shines as a tour guide because of his vast knowledge of the city. As a native New Yorker who thought knew everything about the city, I was amazed of how much I actually didn't know about the city. The bottom line: If you love both history and New York City, then I wholeheartedly recommend this class. It was the fastest (and most enjoyable) 6 weeks I have ever spent in a class at Columbia.
DO NOT take A History of the City of New York with Sullivan, who teaches during summer sessions. He is disorganized, teaches the course at a 9th grade level and goes off on endless tangents about his tenuous personal connections to famous people and places. I once timed the amount of class he wasted name dropping and it was over 17 minutes! His tours are taken directly from Big Onion Tours (which he never fails to mention he contributed to as an undergrad at CU) and are not recalibrate for college students. While he means well and is an easy grader, Stephen Sullivan is too self absorbed to impart any knowledge. Wait for Fall or Spring to take it with a real professor.
I did not think Oliver Murphey was capable of leading sections or grading papers. He did not seem to know what he was talking about. He is a nice guy, but his paper comments did not make sense and he was not good at assisting students in the manner they deserve at Columbia. It felt like a waste of time and effort. The course is excellent, so it is a shame to have a weak TA for such an interesting topic. The sections could be excellent due to the interesting readings and current events in NYC etc, but it was lacking and the grading was inconsistent and comments were weak and unfair.
I very much disagree with the previous reviewers. Professor Jackson's class is the sort of experience where you will get exactly what you put into it. Unfortunately, for many students in a 300+ lecture class, this meant skipping lectures, coasting through discussion sections, and half-assing it on assignments. To be fair, it's unsurprising that there's some disappointment with Jackson's class: his lectures can (at times) be vague or repetitive; some of the books fail to be compelling; and the field trip requirement can be tedious (especially when not planned out properly--many of my friends didn't go to any the first half of the semester and got screwed around finals season). That being said, Jackson is a living legend at Columbia (and unfortunately at age 72 he may not be living too much longer). For those that actually do the readings, you will learn more about New York City than you thought there was to know. If you keep your ears open in lecture and your eyes open on the field trips, you'll leave the semester with a factoid about every other block in the city--something I love to share whenever I have relatives in town. Jackson's class gave me the single largest bulk of information of any class I've taken in 3 years at Columbia. That not to mention the fact that his Tennessee frankness makes lectures delightfully entertaining. Jackson rambles, yes, but his anecdotes are genuinely interesting and often quite funny. Lastly, the field trips, if you take them seriously, will take you to places in the city you've never been before, and the TAs set out truly awesome experiences. To name a few: the all-night bike ride, going backstage at the opera, and walking across the Brooklyn Bridge to eat Grimaldi's pizza with Jackson himself! On a personal note, I found the neighborhood project was truly an enlightening experience. Ask your TA for a particular neighborhood assignment early in the semester so that you get somewhere you're interested in (otherwise the assignments are random). I picked Mott Haven and found it to be a genuinely eye-opening--not to mention fun--experience. A word of caution: for those considering History of New York City just because it has a reputation of being a legendary class, there is a possibility you'll fall into the category of the previous reviewers and not get much out of the class. Personally, however, I'm not a history major, but I love New York (as should every Columbia student). So, if you really want to learn a ton about the city you live in, and enjoy some southern humor and quirkiness twice a week, I recommend Kenneth Jackson wholeheartedly.
This class was a huge disappointment. Jackson is a decent lecturer, but not necessarily enough to make it work waking up for a 10:35 class. Add that to the fact that some of his 'lectures' are just him playing documentaries that happen to feature him commenting about the subject on hand. Do yourself a favor and buy the PBS special miniseries of the history of New York on DVD. Congratulations - you just bought 3 of the 22 lectures in this class, and you didn't even have to pay any tuition! The neighborhood report is a joke - it's a high-school level assignment (a glorified book report), but it's a huge pain to visit the neighborhoods, as none are in New York. You're lucky if your neighborhood is only an hour away by subway. The walking tours/field trips could hardly be scheduled more inconveniently. A few were even scheduled during the lecture time - I kid you not. It adds insult to injury when you find out that most of the tours are run by a tour company that was founded by one of Jackson's old students (and which employs many Columbia graduate students/alumni as tour guides). I stopped going to the class a week before the midterm (except for the two exams, I didn't even set foot inside the lecture room afterwards, though I did go to recitation). Didn't miss a thing, apparently, since I did very well in the course anyway. I'm a bit sad, because I was really excited to take this class as a freshman, and I waited until senior year to take it, only to find out that it was more tedious than anything else. On the plus side, I got to sleep in until noon two days a week, which was a nice surprise.
Love New York. Love Kenneth Jackson. Hate this class. Do not take this class if you do not have money to pay for the numerous trips or buy all the books. Do not take it if you are also a busy individual with other slightly important courses. I wanted to love this class and would have if we did not have to have eight credits worth of field trips. Yes, the bike ride sounds amazing, but only if you own a bike or can afford a rental. Too much reading for a 3 credit class. Your grade depends on your TA. Each TA grades differently and it really sucks. The Neighborhood project is great though. I was able to learn about another neighborhood that I judged before visiting. But if you group stinks, then your grade does as well. Overall, the class gets a B-. It would have been great without the extra work. The class is also not worth going to unless you are an outsider that does not know NY history already.
Ken Jackson shares a number of characteristics with another beloved New York institutionâ€”Regis Philbin. Both are enthusiastic entertainers who sincerely want their audience to enjoy the show (oops, I mean the course). Both really do know their stuff and have become admirably proficient over the years in their stagecraft. Unfortunately, both have grown far too comfortable with being caricatures of their better selves, and settle too often for â€œshtickâ€ over substance. Both are far too fond of name-dropping and random digressive reminiscences. To be honest, both are critic-proof, so I doubt that my comments will make the slightest dent in their popularity. I will say this, though: If your parents have never been to college and they come to visit you, this is the course to take them to. Theyâ€™ll think itâ€™s just wonderful. On the other hand, if you have a friend who is a history major at another reputable university who comes to visit, this is the last class to bring her to. Youâ€™ll spend your time cringing in embarrassment and explaining apologetically that the Columbia/Barnard History Department really isnâ€™t like this.
If you have the slightest bit of interest in the city surrounding Columbia, Kenneth Jacksonâ€™s History of the City of New York is one of the most important classes to take before graduating. Most of the reading comes from a book of primary sources that Jackson himself edited, Empire City. In past history classes, I always felt a little uneasy assigned to read a book written by the professor. In this class, I felt grateful that we were able to read such an amazing collection of stories on New York. Empire City includes writings on four centuries of the cityâ€™s history, from early Dutch settlers to Fredrick Law Olmstead to Jack Kerouac, and arguably the greatest piece ever written on New York, E.B. Whiteâ€™s 1949 essay, Here is New York. A few weeks into the semester, Jackson leads a Friday night bike ride beginning at midnight. It could have easily been one of the most amazing experiences I have had at Columbia. Riding under the lights of Times Square with two-hundred other people on bikes and seeing the looks of bystanders standing outside bars was truly unforgettable. The ride encompassed Central Park, Times Square, Greenwich Village, Federal Hall, the Brooklyn Bridge, and finally ended with an incredibly peaceful moment on the Brooklyn Promenade just before 5 AM. The neighborhood analysis, a group-project where students prepare an online wiki article detailing the history, sites and culture of a New York City neighborhood (including an account of a personal walking tour), was a very creative way of experiencing a completely different piece of the city. Unlike the reviewer below, I chose to cover a neighborhood in Staten Island with two other classmates. It was my first time to Staten Island and it was truly fascinating to see a residential neighborhood in the same city as Manhattan with an entirely different character. We had the opportunity to meet a handful of local residents, ranging from a devoted cricket player hailing from Sri Lanka who leads an organized league every weekend at the neighborhood park to a young Italian woman who explained the sharp divisions in socioeconomic class between the â€œNorth Shoreâ€ and â€œSouth Shoreâ€ of Staten Island. Jackson himself is an incredibly entertaining and informative lecturer. When discussing how the work-life balance shapes New York relative to other cities, he instructed us to â€œthink about people in Madrid or Seville. They have a siesta in the middle of the day when they get to go homeâ€¦.and have sex if they are lucky. New York doesnâ€™t have that.â€ One requirement of the class is to attend seven field trips to different places in the city (my favorite trip explored the history of ghosts in Greenwich Village). If you are lucky, Jackson will sometimes come along on these trips, which can range in size from 15 â€“ 30 people. On one such trip, to the temporary home of the National September 11th memorial downtown, I asked the very approachable Professor Jackson about how he got interested in cities. While I donâ€™t remember his answer, I remember the advice he gave. Things will happen in life (like getting married) that may cause you to move somewhere or take on something you never thought you would do. So donâ€™t worry too much about every detail now because life is too fluid to be planned out. Not only is he a great teacher, Kenneth Jackson an inspiration.
I loved History of New York with Prof. Jackson. Taking this class really makes you appreciate the city we live in. Prof. Jackson is a great lecturer. He's very clear with what he's stating, selects interesting information to give, and also throws in personal anecdotes. I will, however, say that he loves New York too much to say anything negative about the city and found that he did not mention some of the problems the city has faced. Also, it's hard to cram 400 years of New York history into a semester and we never went too far in depth. But overall the delivery of his lectures were fine and I enjoyed listening to his lectures. He also invites a few guest lecturers. The midnight bike ride was epic - can you imagine a 70-year old professor leading over 200 students on bikes around New York City? I thought it was very generous of Prof. Jackson to do several field trips including the bike tour. In terms of grading, it all comes down to your TA. Unfortunately sections meet every 2 weeks so you never get the chance to really get to know your TA. Sections are mandatory and count for a large chunk of the grade. I've heard mixed reviews about different TAs. For the neighborhood analysis, you are assigned the neighborhood and do not have the option to choose. I lucked out with my neighborhood being accessible by subway and with great ethnic food. If you're unlucky you may have to schlepp over to Staten Island...
At the very least, this is a fair class. Lectures often contribute specifically to subjects covered in the exams. If Jackson brings up a piece of information more than once, put a star next to it; it might be on the exam. Otherwise, if he happens to go off-topic, he will say so, and state that the information is unnecessary to know. I recommend you attend lectures often, as they will be helpful to your preparation of the graded work. He requires 7-points worth of field trips (some trips are 2 or 3 points) as part of your grade. Some are free, but most are led by tour guides, and therefore cost either $12 or $15. There are enough trips that you probably won't need to ruin your life just to schedule one (I didn't). Get these done early, if possible. The Neighborhood Project is a major component of your grade. You will work in groups of three to wrote a 20 page report on a specific NYC neighborhood. Get ready to do some original research. You may have to dig deep if you are assigned a more obscure area. I recommend this course. Jackson was a concise lecturer (and fun to quote out of context!) and made sure we knew when he was discussing fact, or his own opinion. "Now, this is an editorial..." I enjoyed listening to him. But--your grade is up to your TA.
Mike is a really sharp guy; he used to be a journalist, so he's full of interesting information and he doesn't like BS. If you make an assertion in the discussion group, be prepared to defend it, because he will press you on the reasons behind your interpretation. He doesn't do it in a confrontational way; he comes across as honestly curious about your reasoning, which is a pretty cool feeling if you know what you're talking about. If you didn't do the reading and you're just saying something to fill the void, however, he'll recognize it in a heartbeat. Plus, he's cute, as are all the TA's in History of the City of New York.
I had Adina a few years ago as a TA and it's taken me a while to cool down to write a review. Hands down in my 4 years at Columbia, I have never had a TA with more negative attitude. She often came to sessions without having done the reading. Called us "spoiled" because some didn't do all the reading. Wouldn't let those of us who had managed to cram it in to contribute. Sulked and snarked. Refered to Prof Jackson as "Kenny" which I thought was lame. Passed back my paper with pizza oil one it. Oh, and I got an A so I'm not being sour. I just think she has some teen issues and needs to work them through. Rolling one's eyes and being snarky usually ends at...like...age twelve. Really, don't bother. Whatever her damage is, never mind, just go somewhere else. I had a friend in another TA group who gave me notes and relevant chapters from books, and study guides for exams. Adina wouldn't help us because we were spoiled. Oh boy, get out of graduate school and try your attitude outside these Ivied walls and find out WHO is the SPOILED one, miss thing! Hope you can keep a job. Adjust yourself.
Jackson's taught this class for so long, that you FEEL that you're getting rote, regurgitated info. Some reading material was interesting. As were some field trips. Here's what's definitely unfair about the class. Even if you do A to A- work in exams, your grade will be lower than some lackey who's gotten B's & B+'s on exams but went to ALL the field trips, because Jackson gives extra credit for field trips. Yup. Elementary school redux. So if you have a job or family duties that preclude you from attending some bull*&^% field trip to a hippie taking you through Gramercy, you are out of my luck, my friend. If this class was ever good (and deserving of its reputation), then it's merely a shadow of its former self.
Jason is an oustanding TA who comes to section incredibly well-prepared and is great at faciliating discussion. Particularly willing to help with drafts, questions and anything throughout the class. Goes out of his way to help with essays, tests and in explaining grades as he provides constant handouts on all these issues. Others have said he is somewhat of a harsh grader but I never found him to be and he is an incredibly nice, knowledgable and helpful person who tells you exactly what he wants and expects from you. If available a great TA to take a class with.
Niki is a great section leader. She grades fairly and is totally approachable. Opt for her section in whatever class if possible.
This man is so amazing. I was told to take his discussion section by a friend and I thank him to this day. Matt insisted that most of us were smarter than he was, but that is definately wrong. In the least aggressive or pompous way, Matt (or Matty as people call him) demonstrated his amazing breadth of knowledge--especially cultural and political (something at which K.J. was not so good). He is very encouraging to his students, whom he wants to see really excited about some aspect or the other of the City. He also has this uncanny way of connecting with us--maybe the age, maybe the kind of student rebelliousness he has, I don't know. He is a real fair grader in that if you get excited and do your part, he will do the same and all will be copasetic.
I wasn't as enamored with Jason as previous rewiewers but he is a good guy. There can be awkward silence during his discussion sections, but he generally does a good job of going over relevant material. He was also nice enough to give us an extra page of wiggle room on the paper. I found his grading on the midterm & paper to be a little harsh (but not as harsh as the horror stories I heard from friends who had different TAs). However, the final grade I got was extremely generous. If you have the chance to sign up for his section, especially in this class, since he has TA-ed it many times, I would say take it.
I totally agree with the previous reviewer. This class does not live up to the hype. I am a native New Yorker & I decided to take the class to learn more about my native city. I was often insulted by Jackson's remarks about the city, especially the outer boroughs. I also found that I wasn't learning anything I didn't know & Jackson presented some obvious misinformation. The readings were too many in number & pretty pointless. The field trips were terrible because you had to pay Big Onion Walking Tours to go on them & you still had a good chance of having your TA as your tour guide because they all work there! Discussion sections were a joke. So were the exams & paper but somehow the TAs can find reasons to grade harshly. I was not impressed with Jackson himself. I was insulted on the occassions that he felt like not showing up to class & his lectures were ridiculous. He would start on some important idea & then go off onto millions of little tangents, often stopping in midsentence. This class is not worth the trouble.
You could take this class. Or, alternatively, you could learn the two big lessons of this class right now by reading this review. Ready? 1.) In the nineteenth century, the streets of New York were covered in manure. 2.) New York is the best city in the world. Basically, this is what I got out of this class. It is possible (if not likely) that Jackson imparted other important information in his lectures, but it is difficult to be sure b/c they were so painfully disorganized that it was impossible to pinpoint at any given moment just what Jackson was trying to say. Except, of course, that New York (horse s--t and all) is really really awesome. The class does have redeeming elements. The reading list is for the most part excellent. The field trips are a great idea, and the research for the paper on the New York Times is actually very interesting. There is also the fun of watching Jackson shamelessly direct some hapless TA to fastforward to every point in a video where he is speaking, neatly skipping those pesky parts in the middle where he can't listen to himself talk. If you've always dreamed of taking a class with the vainest professor at Columbia, this course is a must for you. I believe Jackson loves New York (maybe even as much as he loves himself). I believe (b/c I read his book) that he is remarkably intelligent. I also believe that taking this course was a huge waste of my time. I know some people take this class and really enjoy it. I can see how maybe it might be fun if it is the only history class you ever take at Columbia. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and stay far far away.
Certainly one of the "must" courses at Columbia though sadly as a "must" fails to live up to the hype. The class comes built in with two fatal flaws: it's enormity and a lack of control on the part of the professor. First, the enormity. 350 registered students means a few things: students won't be showing up to lecture or section, students won't be doing the readings, and students simply won't take the course serious assuming it's an easy A. The class is just too large, but little can be done given the persistent demand whenever its offered. A class of this size means students are stuck with a single TA throughout the semester, for both bi-weekly recitations (a breeze, though many of the other students can be quite annoying when you have something worthwhile to contribute) and grading (thankfully, I had a really great TA on both fronts, though I've heard horror stories). Then there's the famous field trip requirement -- 8 trips for full credit, 13 for a 1/3 final grade bump, and 21 for a 2/3 final grade bump. The objective of the field trips, somewhat insulting, is to get the students out of Morningside. As someone who makes it his obligation to get out of the area, I found that I had visited nearly everything on the field trip list at some point. Thus, many of the trips were wastes of time, and costly ones at that. I never had a chance to experience the bus trip because the head TA would routinely send conflicting information, only to correct herself in three-plus subsequent emails. By the time students were allowed the sign up, the bus trips would be somehow full. Of course, again, the enormity of the class is to blame. Secondly, while Ken Jackson's phenomenal, he has absolutely no control over the course other than the two times a week he shows up to lecture -- granted, there were five times last semester, not counting exams, that he decided not to show up, and instead insulting us with either a movie or a guest lecturer. His lectures were interesting, albeit extremely dated. His best work was certainly the historical component of the course that really lasted through the midterm. After that, I'm not sure what we were supposed to pick up from the second half -- there was a degradation into American Urban History (independent of New York), common suburbanization trends, and, for awhile, his feelings on energy consumption. The point is, to do well in the class, and he lets you know this on the first day, you don't ever have to show up to lecture. Lectures can become redundant anecdotal stories, with one "editorial" after another. He also seemed to ignore the post-1945 cultural and economic rise of the city, favoring broader trends over New York. Finally, and again due to a lack of control, the readings rarely corresponded with the lectures. The exams seemed to ignore his lectures completely. This is of course not to take anything away from the man as he's the greatest living New York City historian. Though he seems to have lost control over his classroom. As for the readings -- I can't understand why people go insane over Jackson's booklist. Don't bother with the novel; not just because Time and Again was a lousy read, but because it's not going to show up anywhere, on anything. You'd be better off paying a visit to the Dakota (on 72nd and CPW) and just looking around the neighborhood. You also shouldn't spend too much time with Empire City, other than reading the chapter intros. Don't bother reading Carol Willis' skyscraper book if he assigns it again. While it shouldn't take more than an hour or two to plow through, it's one of the most poorly written academic works I've ever suffered through. Read The Power Broker. It's 1,200 pages of pretty easy reading (by Robert Caro) that doesn't take more than a few days to complete, and it's a great tool for the final. Read Jane Jacobs' book, not only because it's required, but also because it's one of the greatest critiques of postwar urbanization ever written. Read Jackson's Crabgrass. I think the reasons have been well articulated in other reviews. If he's still assigning Doig's book on the Port Authority (and Austin Tobin), read it for the final. The same goes for Craig Wilder's book -- a critique on the rise of Bed-Stuy as Brooklyn's ghetto. Buy Dolkart's book on Morningside Heights because, good god, you're studying there. While it probably won't show up on anything, it's a fantastic read with fantastic historical pictures throughout. Hell, I'd even recommend the hardcover for a coffee table.
I just read the latest review. The most amazing class ever? The sad thing is that for a minute, I thought that was a joke. Literally, I thought that was sarcasm. Depth? Analysis? Non-existent. Immigrants came to NY. NY is unique. The Industrial Revolution changed NY. Transportation changed NY. Yay, NY! Jackson loves NY. I believe it. I love NY, too. But I learned nothing in this class. Really.
Simply put, she's the hardest TA I've ever had. Unless you read all the assigned readings THOROUGHLY, expect to get lots of points off IDs on exams. She also seems obssessed about theses--make sure all your essays have original and compelling theses. The final paper, for instance: if your thesis is not original enough--no matter how much blood and sweat you poured into it--there is no hope that you will get a decent grade. Effort is NOT rewarded. It seems that your final grade for the class depends heavily on your participation in her discussion section, so if you're generally a quiet student, expect to feel marginalized. It is clear that she favors the articulate and often obnoxious students over those who speak less. She lets them control discussion and when irrelevant topics arise, she does nothing to keep the class on track. Sure, she is friendly and approachable, but her expectations are too high (I mean, come on, original theses for exam essays??, when you have a million other things to worry about, like running out of time to COMPLETE the long exam) and she doesn't mind playing favorites. If you get her as the TA, make sure to do some bootlicking.
This is the most amazing class ever! Sitting in Jackson's class is something I looked forward to every monday and wed. THis man is a legend and deserves the reputation. Not only is he engaging and interesting, but he is interested in his students. Impressive considering the size of the class. THe lectures resembled a story time, that you left with a huge amount of information without realizign how you acquired it. The fieldtrips are time consuming but so interesting. It allows you to experience NYC, forces you outside of the COlumbia Bubble. His enthusiasm and love of the information makes you want to learn the information, the enthusiasm is contagious. THis is THE BEST CLASS I HAVE EVER TAKEN!!!!! I wish I could take it over and over.
I have taken everything this man offers at Columbia for a reason...hands down the chillest man alive. Hes definitely not the teacher for people who want structure. But let me suggest him for those who like to sit back in class, relax, and just absorb his knowledge and really fun little stories. A word of advice for Urban History and City of New York, READ HIS BOOK "CRABGRASS FRONTIER" its all you have to know basically. I read this book once, really well and was able to write like 5 papers using the ideas from it for his classes and got all A's. His reading lists are usually enormous, but he never expects you to actually have finished every single book, just know the juicy stuff and you'll be fine.
I must agree with the previous reviewer. How can you manage to make a class on ancient Egyptian history so uninteresting? With so much fascinating stuff out there written and filmed about Egypt we were assigned to read the most boring text book of all timesby Nicholas Grimal. On top of that we spent hours on reading aloud ancient sources in class :-( That was the worst part. Truly speaking everything I know about Egypt now was gained from Columbia's collection of books in the library and in the process of writing a paper - not from the professor. It was really funny when he briefly mentioned Buhen fortress in class and specifically said that we did not have to remember that name and later included it into the map asssignment ont the midterm that had to be done with the closest precision or points were taken away. Boring, boring, boring.... + on top of all the bad things the TAs were not particularly interested in the class as they had nothing to do with Egypt. No discussion section, which might have been very helpful in this particular class to make sense of what Mieroop was saying in class.
Van de Mierrop, as said before, is a very nice guy. Howeve, I have to agree w. most of the reviews. He managed to turn an extremely interesting subject into a snooze fest! I was very disappointed w/ what I actually got out of this lecture. The readings were of little help & the lecturers were, at times, very confusing. What one of the reviewers said about the exams are true. He says that he doesn't have an interest in dates, but that was not reflected on my grade. Also, pay very close attention to all the towns, places, etc.. he vaguely mentions because they will show up on the map.
Professor Lobel is totally cool. She permits students to call her Cindy and prohibits them from calling her Dr. Lobel (despite being a PhD.) One day she didn't have her notes with her, yet she lectured for nearly 3 hours (with a only 15 minute break) and it was one of the best lectures of the semester. She helps students understand the fundamental reasons for change with emphasis on major events or turning points. Although Kenneth Jackson is the New York Guru, I don't feel that I missed anything by not taking his class, but then again, I don't know what I missed. I do know what I gained, however. I enjoyed watching her dismiss brown-nosing and long-winded students too! Cindy has a great sense of humor (like the rest of us native New Yorkers) and knows the city "like the back of her hand." This was a great class to take during the summer because we went on neighborhood tours and were blessed with nice weather. She's also professional NYC tour guide. Take her classes if they are available! One of the best instructors I've had here at Columbia, and I'm a senior history major.
Okay, so he's arrogant. Granted. But the man is THE foremost authority on New York history (and urban history in general). His lectures rarely follow the syllabus, but they are nonetheless interesting. Depend on a good TA for reading guides (so you don't kill yourself reading superfluous material) and discussion of the readings, which are the subjects of the midterm and final.
While his lectures drift off, I still found Jackson to be very interesting and charismatic in his lectures. He more or less gives you the important points - and any confusion can be sorted out in his book Empire City. He brought in several guest lecturers, some of whom were more interesting than others. You have to go on 8 or more walking tours (over 10 warrants extra credit) and those were pretty good... another plus - KJ leads a great walking tour. While the book list looks long, the books are very interesting and some books you only need to read chapters of. And if for nothing else, take the class to go on the All-Night Bike Ride - the most awesome trip you will take at Columbia.
A real mixed class. I thought the first half was great but the second half sucked. KJ's like an old man who regales you with two good stories until you realize those are the only ones he knows. Still, I'd recommend it. The walking tours are great. They're something you could and should do in your spare time, but never will. Plus, the class is relatively painless. Even when KJ's at his worst, it's more pointless than boring.
probably the only class i'll take at columbia that i will remember for the rest of my life...ken jackson is one of the kindest, smartest profs i've had.
History of the City of New York is a great class. Professor Jackson mixes lectures, walking tours, and the infamous midnight bike ride to tell the history of the city. Rather than trying to provide a straight narrative of the city from 1636 to the present in the course a semester, he focuses on the main themes of urban history--sanitation, public health, transportation, commerce, and politics--and traces their development through the years. You definitely benefit from going to lectures, where you hear not only about the day's topic but all of the random facts that Professor Jackson knows about the city. There's a reason he's the authority on New York City, he knows it all. Professor Jackson is incredibly busy, but he still makes time for his students--leading some walking tours himself and replying to students' emails. Don't miss this class!
The criticisms of the class are too harsh. Although the reading workload was rather heavy, most of it complimented Jackson's lectures very well. Jackson's concentration on the facts, as well as discussion and readings on multiple theories, allows and requires students to decide on their own which of the many complicated fact-driven urban theories they will subscribe to. It is true that Jackson often lectured more by subject than chronology, but most of the major deviations were clearly as a result of his trying to accomodate the events of September 11th, so that we got to hear about related subject areas in September, rather than having to wait until December. Regarding his interruption of Carol Willis - SHE was a terrible lecturer who simply regurgitated, verbatum, what was said in her highly illustrated book (whose premise can be summarized in about two sentences). I was more embarassed for her when she bitched out the TA's for not operating the slides to her liking and relieved when Jackson tried to straighten her out in his gentile southern manner. Bottom line: you get to take field trips to baseball games and ride around the city on a bike and still actually learn alot.
After reading all the CULPA reviews, it was pretty obvious that someone needed to defend the guy. Yes, his lectures were massively disorganized. Yes, he didn't get through his syllabus. And yes, the workload was a bitch. But last semester was something totally different for Jackson, the man wears his love for this city on his sleeve and it was probably the worst semester he's ever had. He's got a tremendous love for the subject and you do learn a lot about the city, but it's not a class that goes chronologically--because that's not New York. Instead, Jackson takes you into the subways and sewers and immigrant neighborhoods, because to him that's where the city is, that's where the important elements are. The readings are often unrelated to the lectures, but sometimes they worked well in tandem. He does know more about New York than anyone else and he seemed rather free and open to questions. I never found his demeanor in class "puerile," as other reviewers have put it. He was, for the most part, a funny, interesting lecturer who strung together the history of New York through anecdotes, something that worked a heck of a lot better than straight political history. And to respond to those who saw him as an egotistical prick, Jackson most days seemed utterly the opposite of that. He did refer to the NYHS a bit too much, and yes, he did refer to Crabgrass a lot. But he really did love teaching, especially when he was out on a walking tour, he loved being around the city with students and it showed. Jackson wasn't great, but it was pretty obvious something knocked him off his game in 2001. Maybe it wasn't his fault that he taught the History of the City of New York a bit differently.
There are several professors at Columbia whose reputations as teachers are vastly overexaggerated. Ken Jackson's reputation is the most overexaggerated of all. I took this class because (A) I'm a History concentrator and (B) I thought it would be interesting to learn a bit more about the city I live in. I learned very little in this class despite attending all the lectures and doing (most of) the reading. Jackson's lectures were not in any kind of chronological order (we might learn about skyscrapers one day and the Dutch the next) and were completely lacking in organization. I can honestly say that I learned more about 19th-century New York from reading THE AGE OF INNOCENCE in high school than from taking this class.
I was incredibly disappointed in this class, perhaps because Jackson's reputation was so great and I had high expectations. Jackson has his lectures memorized and can talk endlessly in front of a mirror, not caring about what he's actually saying or relating to his students (aka audience). He once gave the same exact lecture twice, weeks apart. He skipped class a few times and babysat us with documentaries where he was of course the key speaker---giving once again the same lectures that he'd given in class repeatedly. It's definitely not an easy class like people think in advance---perhaps it was just this semester that he wasn't so interested because now he is president of the Historical Society. Also, he uses classes to stroke his ego, as he knows how much people love him as a professor and how difficult it is to get into his class, and he [CULPA CENSOR] likes it when his students applaud him after every single class and his ten minute standing ovation at the end of the semester. It would sound from that that he is a loved professor, but i know of very many students in the class who really hated him and the class---but perhaps they just aren't culpa writers.
Granted, his book Crabgrass Frontier was a landmark, his Encyclopedia of New York City is fantastic, and if you read the Times (or either of the tabloids) you're bound to read a glib, entertaining quotation attributed to him. BUT - this man should not be teaching! Ken Jackson needs to brush up on how an adult acts in public: the more embarassing episodes are already described above. He needs to realize that a professor serves students, not vice versa, and make himself at least somewhat available and attentive to students (If you ever want to see a rat's nest, go to his office, if you can track him down - the office is symptomatic of how he runs the class). He needs to actually place facts in his lectures, which are completely off the subject, simplistic, have little to do with the exams, and, despite the myth, are not entertaining but rather frustrating. The field trips are a mixed bag -- in general, I can't stress enough how disorganized the class is, and the uber-haphazard administration of field trips is a key example. The Bike Ride is transcendent - but if you don't draw attention to yourself, you can tag along, even if you're not in the class. Don't worry. He won't recognize you. Once again, DON'T BE FOOLED!!!
He loves to talk about the horse poop problem in NYC and that is what this class is...horse poop. He is so busy trying to remind his students that he is president of the NY historical society (and therefore is being generous by teaching us with his precious time) or that he has a huge front lawn out in westchester, (which means in his bible of crabgrass that he is a rich mofo) that he actually repeated a lecture once! .... [CULPA CENSOR].... This man is a story teller who without a doubt is "the man" when it comes to nyc facts...but that is about it. I would have rather put my time into another class where I actually may have felt my brain being stimulated. Depending on your TA the midterm or final can be a biznitch, but have no fear: If you do over the required class trips you can bump your grade up a whole grade.
This course wasn't the most inspiring, insightful, or educational I've taken at Columbia, but then again, no one should expect it to be. It is what it is touted to be -- a fun class about an interesting subject. Jackson is a great lecturer. If you're looking for lectures jam-packed with facts, this isn't for you. But if you're just looking to have a good time with the added bonus of learning about horse-poop, this is a great class. He is funny and irreverent, very rah-rah-New York, sometimes offensive, but always in good humor. The class is ridiculously easy -- the midterm is a piece of cake, the required field trips are a pain, but sometimes interesting, and the TAs are pretty good. Definitely take it for a good time, but not if you're rigid in your definition of what a good class should be.
Unscholarly, uninformative, and aimed at the lowest common denominator, Ken JacksonÂ’s lectures resemble high school pep rallies more than a class on the history of New York City. Â“ProfessorÂ” JacksonÂ’s ramblings cause one to wonder whether he ever earned a history degree. In one class, and I quote verbatim, he proclaimed, Â“I donÂ’t believe in theories, just facts.Â” He seems incapable of responding to questions with at least a bare minimum of insight or intelligence: his responses are either facile or donÂ’t answer the question. When asked whether he thought that the September 11 tragedy could lead to anti-Arab sentiment and violence in New York, he responded, Â“No, because that would be un-American.Â” His lectures are usually devoid of anything but superficial content. On one occasion he took 25 minutes to explain that City Central Placement Theory means that barring any geographical aberrations, cities develop in the center of a perfectly circular landmass. Jackson can also be exceptionally rude, even to guest lecturers. When Carol Willis, Director of the Skyscraper Museum, spoke last week, he would not allow her to finish making points about individual slides. He took control of the slide projector, and before she had finished a sentence about an image, he would advance the carousel to the next slide in order to make her go faster. At one point she interrupted her lecture to ask him to stop. He continued anyway, although thereafter he wore a boyish smirk. Under any circumstances, this puerile behavior is unacceptable. But it was especially egregious in light of the fact that she was already providing more compelling analysis and interesting information, at a faster rate, than he ever does. By the end she was frantic and clearly very frustrated. Although many of the readings are interesting, and the midnight bike-ride is fun, donÂ’t waste your time with this class. You can read and ride on your own.
Ken Jackson seems to believe that simply walking up and down the aisles in Oprah fashion constitutes exciting teaching. His lectures lack structure and insight, and they follow no perceptible order. In my opinion, he clearly has done nothing in particular to prepare every day. More than a few times, he has not come to class at all, preferring instead to have his TAs show banal documentaries. If you enjoy television a great deal, Jackson's your man. For a professor who bears such a reputation for oratory, he is also surprisingly glib (and I don't simply mean that he's Southern). My favorite quotation thus far is: "The British brought the Hessians with them to New York. Hessians are Germans with big boots and big hats." That's Ken Jackson in a nut shell. My favorite classes have been when Jackson has not spoken. Two guest lecturers--one on public health and another on skyscrapers--were erudite and engrossing. During the second lecture, however, Jackson's behavior was disgraceful. His GUEST stood up on the stage in front of 400 eager students speaking to slides. The esteemed Professor Jackson manned the projector operator and proceeded to skip through her slides without her prompting in an effort to speed her up. He would literally switch them while she was in mid-sentence, which kept throwing her off. It would have been no different if he had simply ripped a page of lecture notes from her hands at random intervals. At one point, she actually said to him: "I WILL NOT go faster because you keep switching the slides." He just smirked at her. I was embarrassed to have witnessed the spectacle. As for the bike trip, it's a wonderful experience. Then again, despite Jackson's assertions to the contrary, you can participate without being enrolled in the class. Several people I know did so this year. History of the City of New York has been a terrible disappointment.
Not as good a course as you hear it is. It might be worth taking, though, just to get you to read a few of the better books (like Robert Caro's book on Robert Moses). And of course, the bike trips around New York are legendary.
I'm not a history major, but I enjoyed this class. There's really not much work at all, so all you really have to do is show up to lecture once in a while. The class is so big that you can take it with a bunch of friends and just have fun with it.
This class is way overrated. I can think of many other history classes that are more worth your while. However, if you're the slacker type, this is the class to take. Reading is a joke, the paper is a joke, and you go on fieldtrips. Be warned: Grading all depends on which TA you get.
He drives a red sports car and keeps an apartment on the Upper West Side, as well as a house in Westchester. It's all paid for by his landmark books, which make for a good read. He's the authority on all things New York City, the rise of the suburbs, and car culture. The lectures are interesting if a bit haphazard--his passion for a particular topic sometimes requires that he gloss over other important subjects. The required walking tours could be more informative, but are enjoyable since they often end up at places like Katz's Delicatessen or Yankee Stadium during a pennant race. Avoid the walking tours by Joyce Gold. The reading is voluminous, but much of it is interesting stuff vital to a solid understanding of cities and politics.