Political Theory I

May 2021

The TA sections were extraordinarily helpful and really the only reason I could understand what was going on in the class. Readings were not that heavy and somewhat optional, especially if you pay attention in lectures. The lecture felt a lot like a summary. The grading on the midterm/final was pretty harsh and because both were essay tests the grading was pretty subjective. The midterm/final questions were also difficult to understand. However, the class is curved. I think it would be hard to get below a B, but this is not an easy class to get an A in. I took this class online, so maybe it's different in person.

Mar 2021

Toughest grading I've seen in my 4 years at Columbia. Even harder than Jervis

Mar 2021

I chose this class because I really enjoyed CC. But after such experience, I found that these lectures were superficial (Wikipedia must be thorough) but the grading still horrendously harsh. There are some courses that the harsh grade is outweighed by a brilliant and engaging professor. This is not one of them.

Jan 2020

Political Theory is a pretty decent lecture. Professor Macinnis is really well spoken and is a really good lecturer. Also, the required book for the course, Rosen's Political Thought, is a great way to get an overview of major political philosophers. Honestly, there's a lot of overlap with these readings and CC, but we just connect it more explicitly to politics. The downside is there aren't many assignments. There are two papers and one final exam. On the exam, you're expected to know what each philosopher thought about each topic, which can be overwhelming. The papers are a mixed bag. The prompt is purposefully inflammatory so students will have a lot to write about, but neither professor Macinnis nor the TAs were very specific on their expectations for the paper (i.e. what makes an "A" paper). In fact, when my TA was explaining the grading process, he only told us the difference between a B-, a B, and a B+, making me think that no one in our section got an A- or A on the papers. The grading can be pretty frustrating, but if you're looking for a super interesting lecture, this is a good course for that.

Dec 2017

Only one thing to say: do not take this lady's class. First of all, her accent is difficult to understand. While obviously, that is not totally her fault, this fact makes Prof. Urbinati's already meandering and unstructured lectures even more impossible to follow. She jumps from topic to topic without even alerting the class that she is doing so and the lectures seem to have no structure or organization whatsoever, rather they are just her stream of conscious as she reads to us from the texts. Really, I did not learn anything in this class that I couldn't have on my own. Secondly, she was completely disengaged from the class. She never had any idea about what the assignments were and on the class before the final, someone asked what the format was and she merely looked confused and motioned for a TA to answer. She didn't even know whether we had a final or a final paper, and it turned out that we had both. According to my TA, she had no part in creating the syllabus and therefore was not as committed to the class as she could have been. This was abundantly clear to me. Every lecture seemed perfunctory and Prof. Urbinati seemed to have no desire to engage with her students. Overall, I cannot warn against her class enough.

Nov 2017

If you have the choice to take it another semester w it's someone else, do so now. Nadia Urbinati should be your last choice ever, because you should not expect yourself to be able to drag yourself to her horrific lectures to actually listen. As explained by others below, Urbinati has a wonderful resume and is a renowned political theorist, but her lecture style and manner of speech really does not reflect that. If you can tolerate her thick accent and unstructured lecture style (which I doubt you will), you will realize that you are truly better off spending the same time reading your texts and making notes instead of being shouted at her. She refuses for students to use laptops even when most of the long readings are digital and is very rude about any students having disabilities that require them to use a laptop. Don't even think of challenging her on that, or on anything else - she deals with questions extremely badly. She either ridicules the question without fully responding to it, or claims that it is a good point she was about to make despite it being contradictory to her entire lecture. Your biggest supports will be yourself, any study group you manage to make to divide the readings up and your TA. Urbinati is truly horrible and should be avoided at all costs.

Jun 2017

This class was okay. Some of my peers and I had already taken CC and pretty much agreed that we didn't learn anything new; the lectures weren't very stimulating and seemed to delve only into a superficial level of analysis for most of the works. It was interesting that Professor Gundogdu chose to include Simone De Beauvoir on the syllabus but having taken several gender studies courses prior I found her analysis to be very surface level and even problematic at times. The TAs were very helpful; discussion sections offered many more provocative ideas and stimulating discussions. Lecture attendance is required and there is a sign in sheet. However only about a third of the class attended each lecture.

Feb 2015

Pros: Professor Gundogdu is a brilliant professor, and extremely nice. I heard from many of my peers that she was very helpful in office hours. No homework. Readings aren't necessary, you could leave it for last minute and understand the parts you have to read and smart-read them. usually, you will have to focus on a chapter or two. No midterm, no final. 3 papers. She gives out a detailed outline for all papers that really help. Cons: Mandatory attendance, you pass around an attendance sheet for each lecture. No computers allowed! (WHAT THE.... was my first comment but each to his own I guess...) Mandatory disc sessions which go by quite fast since it's usually the TA talking and peers sharing thoughts. Since there are a lot of GS Students, many well thought claims come to light which help for the essays. Each time a paper topic was announced, 70% of the class was confused. Like literally, the next lecture would go by with people reformulating "WHAT SHOULD I WRITE?" around a million times.. Personally, I enjoyed the class very much. She organized the class so that she begun with Plato's democracy discussion up until John Locke, etc. So, it was like a timeline of political theory. She is obviously very intelligent and extremely kind, yet not the most entertaining teacher, I must say. Grades really depend on the TA, hope that you get an easy TA for the final one! SHORTCUT: If you're just getting into politics, don't want too much work I would definitely recommend the class

Nov 2014

Gundgodu is a great professor. She is very welcoming, supportive, and helpful when you need it. Unlike many of the TA's , she welcomes your opinions (even if they consist of incorrect interpretation of the text) and is excited to answer any questions you may have. Although this is an intro level course, don't expect easy material. There are a lot of weekly readings, which are not light reads! They are chalk full of meaning, so you literally cannot skip anything. Gundogdu really helps though! Her lectures clarify all the important parts of the books/articles that you read in the class. Discussion sections can be annoying... I always wished that TA's would go over more material from the text instead of let us ask random questions... P.S. stay away from Guido!!!

May 2013

Professor Smith's enthusiasm for political theory shows is contagious and I really enjoyed her teaching style. In addition to giving engaging lectures (she utilized Prezi rather than slide shows, included videos, and funny images), she facilitated discussions in the classroom which made what could have been a boring subject very interesting. She was also extremely understanding with regards to extensions if you come to class, participate, and do the work. Although there is a lot of reading assigned, the Prezis are extremely informative as to which sections of the readings you should focus on.

Nov 2012

Professor Smith is very nice, however, she seemed to be much less knowledgeable about political theory than either of her two TAs. I understand that she is a new professor, but her level of mastery in the field could easily be that of an entry level graduate student. For example, I tried to explain to her in her office hours how classifying people as "the other" is polemical. She couldn't quite understand this concept, and frankly, didn't even seem like she wanted to. Her TA however, Andreas Avgousti, did a superb job at elucidating the basis for this idea. There were also times when her feedback conflicted with that of her TAs. This resulted in a game of grading roulette, where your grade simply depended on who received your paper, regardless of the quality of your work. This was probably the worst part of the course, for it invoked a feeling of helplessness at the hands of an instructor who couldn't quite comprehend complex arguments.

May 2012

Prof Smith may seem incredibly charismatic at your first class, but don't let this fool you! She has a wonderful personality, but this does not translate into her teaching abilities. She suffers from new professor syndrome of treating her students like middle schoolers. This class has high amounts of reading which she (despite what she says) incentivizes students into reading by giving 10 pop quizzes throughout the semester. Not exactly a fun way to start your Mondays and Wednesdays at 9 AM. But even worse than this are the writing assignments that attempt to "break down" the different elements of political theory writing into small assignments as if specific elements of writing could exist within a vacuum...what a dismal waste of time! The prompts are dry and uninspired, the lectures even more so! Somehow Smith was able to acquire excellent TAs, but unfortunately, this was not enough to make up for her inexperience and arrogance. If Smith had let the TAs show her how to teach the class it would have been unquestionably better. Aside from the pop quizzes, there is no need to go to class. Her lectures do not help with the writing assignments and there is no midterm or final. Do not feel the need to frantically record everything she says (which seems like the only option since she offers no powerpoint, notes etc) but only chalk board scribblings every once in a while. Despite her youth, Professor Smith seems to be incredibly lacking in her ability to effectively use technology. She would send several e-mails over the weekends with no attachments, the wrong attachment, the wrong due dates etc. She also did not (could not?) use courseworks at all. Bottom line: Avoid at all costs until taught by someone else.

Mar 2012

Not my favorite course. To begin with, Professor Smith is a perfectly nice woman. But something about her teaching style just didn't work too well for me. She is a lecturer not a notes giver so you kind of have to make your own guesses as to what's important. The readings were the only part of the this course which I particularly despised. For a 1000 level class, this class had ABSOLUTELY excessive amounts of reading for every class along with pop quizzes for those readings. The papers were graded kind of harshly by the TA, and not so much by Professor Smith herself. The one thing about essay prompts is that they are very unspecified while the TAs look for specific things. It's hard to do well when you are playing a game that you don't know the rules to. Conclusion: This class is not for the weak-stomached.

Dec 2010

This class was a vague jumble of philosophers. Professor Gundogdu tricks you with the first assignment of reading Antigone. It appears that the course is going to be easy and straightforward. As a freshmen, you are put at a disadvantage in this class. The upperclassmen with more college-level writing experience have a much easier time. It takes a while for the papers to start coming, but towards the end it is close to a paper every other week. Gundogdu is vague in her explanations and asks for too many student opinions. Students typically repeat what the professor and fellow students are saying. The professor fails to keep the attention of almost all of the medium-sized lecture class, and will constantly remind you that she cannot focus because of the "movement." The TAs are unhelpful in discussion. The best way to get a good grade on a paper is to go to office hours and have a TA or the professor thoroughly read over your paper. This class had a fair amount of work, if you did all the reading. Much of the reading is irrelevant to the papers. Towards the end, attendance was taken in almost every lecture. She often hands out note cards in response to a vague question about the reading. This is easy to bull shit even if you don't do the reading. The note cards and attendance were 10% of the final grade.

Dec 2010

Ugh this class. Not a fan. I was choosing between this and Intro to International Relations, and I really wish that I had taken the latter. More than anything, this class was just boring. I should have been more inspired, as I am a political science major, but I just could not get myself interested in the more abstract concepts the course involved. I think that the professor means well, and I really want to like her because she's adorable, but she can be crazy strict (for example, not allowing students to leave in the middle of class without a note, even just to go to the bathroom). I never did the readings, and I had trouble focusing in the lectures. However, from taking notes in the larger class and discussion group, I was able to get a basic idea of the texts' main points, and that was usually what I wrote my papers on (with help from sparknotes). I never got anything lower than a B+. I took this class as a junior, and I think the fact that I'd already had some experience writing at a college level really gave me an advantage. There are a lot of freshmen that take this class, and they're still figuring out how to write a paper the way that the professor wants them to, so if you're an upperclassman you'll already going to be ahead of the learning curve. Just actually do what she asks and follow the directions, and you'll be fine. Overall, this class was boring but not terrible. If it was not in my major, I probably would have chosen to take it pass/fail. It requires a lot of work for just a 1000 level class, and expects a lot of you, which is difficult when the subject matter is pretty uninteresting. Also, the TAs think they know everything (or at least, mine did).

Jan 2010

A good class, and a very good professor. Professor Gondogdu is very concise in her explinations and very clear explaining the material, which is necessary because sometimes you will understand what she says but fall asleep on a reading. She is also very approachable and helpful, and takes time to learn your name. There are some petulant complaints on culpa that she's unfairly strict but clearly those reviewers have failed to read what is on her syllabus; she's organized and strict but not unreasonably so, she made herself clear from the beginning e.g. about late work, cell phones, etc. Just meet her halfway, respect her the way she does you, and if you have a real issue then let her know. I came away from this class really learning something about citizenry and government though I was freaking out in the middle of the course, and a lot of people were. For me it was because some of the culpa reviews led me to believe this was an easy A class and I could just lean back and concentrate on other work. Wrong.

Nov 2009

I feel badly doing this, but I do not know one person who actually likes this class. Everyone complains. Her lectures are unclear, and the TAs are incredibly harsh graders on the in-class writing assignments. (Essentially there are 10 surprise in class assignments). There are only 3 possible grades for these assignments, 5/15, 10/15, 15/15. I don't care if you've done the reading and feel like you understand everything asked of you, it is damn dear impossible to get a 15. Those grades will accumulate faster than you think. She also gives a lot of reading--most days are manageable (30-40 pages of reading)--but she also assigns reading the same day as essays. Her writing prompts make no sense, and she'll make up a lot of words during class. She actually speaks English quite well, it's just that she doesn't acknowledge that she makes mistakes and new words... I've spent a good 15 minutes simply deciphering her essay prompts. She's boring and uninspiring. I took this class hoping to really get some insight, but she manages to turn interesting reading into the worse hour+ in your life. This class ruins my day, everyday. Nice thing is that there is no midterm, nor no final.

Jan 2009

Overall, I give this class a thumbs up, although there were some times during the semester when I was doubtful. Prof. Gundogdu is a super nice, young woman from Turkey with a real passion for Political Theory. She's new to Barnard and it shows, though. Her biggest fault is that she spends too much time asking for student responses to her questions. The class is medium-sized so it's not necessary that she have student participation, and it's a nice idea that she does, but she just takes it too far. We all know that students have a tendency to basically say the same thing that the last five people have said, and that's what it is always like when she opens up the floor to comments, which is once or twice each class. I wish she would just wrap it up more quickly, get one or two responses and then shut the rest down. Everyone else thought that as well, you could see the exasperated looks on older students' faces. Other than that, though, I really enjoyed this class. It's super digestible even for your first political science class, and it's nice because you don't speed through a thousand readings. Instead, she picks 5 major books complemented by other smaller readings, and you end up spending at least two weeks on each segment of the class, which is focused on addressing a major issue of political theory. I liked the organization of the lectures and found the assignments very do-able. I like that the TA's hold optional writing sessions before each assignment is due as well.

Dec 2008

This is a great class to take if you're looking for an introduction to political science. The assignments increase in point value so you can get used to the style of writing and thought process. Professor has trouble getting people to participate in class and the conversations were dominated by a few overly enthusiastic students. She understands that not everyone feels comfortable talking in class therefore the class participation grade is composed of ten in class writing assignments on random days... you just answer a short question about the reading...really not hard at all. The other 50 points come from attending the 5 in class discussions on the days the papers are due. It is possible to get 20 extra bonus points because she gives two extra in class writing assignments. The reading is somewhat fast paced but manageable. The TA's hold writing sessions for each of the papers and grade them. The persuasive essays were somewhat hard but doable because there is not a specific correct answer to the question you are addressing. I definitely recommend this class as an introduction to political science and as a manageable way to get a good grade.

Dec 2008

This class is a waste of time. The readings are interesting, sure, but if you're in CC and going to read them in Contemporary Civilization, then don't take it. Ayten does not make going to class worthwhile, and if it weren't for the 10 point attendance quizzes, I wouldn't have gone: she only ever went over the reading, and never added anything insightful. I mean, we all got into college, I'm sure we can all understand what we're reading. But even more irritating, she tried to turn the eighty-person class into a discussion class; which isn't horrible in itself, but she did it by calling on people in a row, so that the "discussion" ended up being a series of disconnected comments rather than a fruitful conversation. If you want a reason to read these texts, or want to get a head start on CC, take this class, but otherwise wait to see if a better teacher comes along.

Jun 2008

I have to admit that at first I did absorb much of what Dalton said like the pathetic sponge I was. As the semester wore on, though, I started to see a sick sort of Dalton-worshiping in the halls of Barnard. No one saw the hypocrisy in that they were unquestioningly following the words of a man who preaches questioning our sole existence. If nothing else, this class made me embarrassed by my swooning Barnard peers and the mindlessness with which they took in his words. He blatantly discouraged students from following their dreams by handing out papers and advice pitted against certain professions. His closemindedness towards professions in law, business and government make it all the more obvious that he himself could use a little truth- pursued indoctrination.

Jan 2008

Not so great. Dalton has a large following of girls who hang onto his every word and think he is a God. There is always a line after class of students that want to hug him for such an inspiring lecture. It gets to be a little much. Especially for a man, who although he is very kind and intelligent, only expresses the most biased perspective on any issue. He stifles creative thought. I did gain a general understanding of Plato, Aristotle, etc…which I believe is very important, especially for Barnard students who don’t take Columbia’s core. His lectures are enjoyable enough but they are all the same and I often found myself looking at the clock. I wouldn’t tell you not to take the class, but I would not necessarily recommend it. Maybe I have a bitter taste in my mouth because I did exceptionally well on the midterm, but not as well on the final. He removes points for unspecific reasons. I found that my friends who memorized the 8 pages of answers they prepared before the test that simply regurgitates his thoughts did better than those who went into the test prepared, although not memorized. So if you can memorize I would do it…he wants to hear his words of wisdom mindlessly repeated back to him.

Dec 2007

I agree with some of the reviews below- while he's a great guy, I'm not a huge fan of the class. The first few classes were very interesting and inspiring, but it became very repetitive and I stopped going after the midterm. The class is centered around the theme of idealism vs. realism, which I found to be too simplistic (and he is also heavily biased towards the idealists). He is a wonderful and inspiring person, but I'm not taking the second semester. By the way, don't believe what people said about difficult midterms and finals- go to the review session, he tells you what he wants in his answer word for word.

Oct 2007

Throughout my years here, i have never found ONE professor as passionate as Prof. Dalton. Accessibility and his 'do no harm' principle are his most powerful attributes. Some people have to realize that college is not about memorizing facts, historical events etc. College is about making you a better person, in order to be able to legitimately BECOME PART of history in a unique, admirable Way. Thankfully, Dalton has realized that, and helps us in the most efficient and virtuous way. There was not even one lecture when i left without experiencing a 'catharsis'. This person has the unique ability to wash away all your malevolence by instiling benevolence and the 'do no harm' rule in your minds and souls. If there is anyone who realizes the value of all the above, just take his class. Its too bad this 'agent of benevolence' is leaving us next year. I know this sounds cliche, but i love him.

Apr 2007

By far the BEST professor I have had in my life. I learned more in his classes than I have ever learned in any class. This guy is amazing and so kind. He is ALWAYS willing to make time to see students, whether about something relating to the class, or about anything that they want to talk abuot. I thoroughly reccommend his classes, I cannot do justice for this amazing person in just a few words. AMAZING,

Apr 2007

I adore this man. Dalton is the first professor I have found at Columbia or Barnard who feels like a human being. He is approachable and kind - totally understanding and willing to hear criticism or praise about his class. When you email him with comments/questions, he emails you right back with a lengthy, well thought out response, and even commented on my great performance on the midterm (as in, he remembered who i was - impressive for a CU prof). He loves answering questions and talking to students after class about the material, philosophy, or your life. He's become a great friend and I truly recommend taking this class, due to the inspiring nature of Dalton. The readings are standard: Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli - all texts I had read before - but he illuminates them with clarity and joy and excitement. His politics are right on - the only professor Ive had who addresses the war we are in and the outrageous atrocities of the Bush Administration - thank god someone is talking about it. After every class I walk out feeling refreshed and excited about life - I'm not kidding! He's so cool! You don't have to do the reading - just go to his lectures and highlight the passages he reads in class. The midterm was easy. I got an A and only studied for a couple hours the night before. Take this class. He will open your mind and soul.

Apr 2007

By far the best professor I've had in my life. Also the kindest and most compassionate. His classes are amazing - every single one of them. He teaches with such passion its hard not to stay focused in class. I LOVE this guy and his classes.

Mar 2007

I am so happy to see that there are other students who see, as I do, that Dennis Dalton takes advantage of a captive audience - his class - to indoctrinate the students with his political views. After a 2 hour or so conversation with him (he requested I come in after I sent him an e-mail because I was upset) I realized that it's not that he doesn't understand what influence he has on students when he rants. Rather, he knows exactly the power he has and he's happy to exert it; hence the students who gleefully - in their words - worship at the Dennis Dalton altar. It's totally unfair of him to run the class the way he does because it deprives the students of the education they expect the course to provide. And, as others have mentioned, his "pursuit of truth" stuff is all talk. He tells students (basically word-for-word) what they must answer for questions on the midterm and final. By the way, I would appreciate it if other students would make it clear to him that they do not like how he "teaches" - he was totally shocked when I came in to speak with him.

Mar 2007

This class is fine, but I don't seem to find Dalton as amazing as everyone else does. I find it kind of boring. But it's ok, as classes go. There's not much work at all, except reading and the two exams. Try to leave yourself plenty of time to study before the midterm and final; it's really hard to memorize the quotes verbatim, which you have to do.

Apr 2006

Amdur is wonderful. He is one of those professors without a huge ego to protect or a potential hotshot academic career to shuttle along, and it shows in his classes: he focuses on teaching and enjoys his students. He is perhaps the clearest lecturer I've encountered, and he speaks at a manageable pace so that you can easily take down all the important points. He always leaves time at the end for questions, and genuinely welcomes them; it made me sad to see how disappointed he was on those days where there were none! He makes difficult texts seem easy. I truly hope that I will be able to take another class with him in my time left here. A shy but extensively kind man.

Dec 2005

Amdur isn't the most scintillating lecturer, which turns off many students, but I found that listening to them gave me a strong understanding of the argument of all the authors we studied. He speaks at a very manageable pace, and chooses his facts judiciously--he's not trying to show you how much he knows, or cram in every fact he's ever learned about Plato. In general, I appreciated this class a lot.

Dec 2005

i liked this class a lot. professor amdur has a very dry sense of humor that makes his lectures entertaining, and he really relates to his students, so he knows what will interest us. the theorists we read (plato through the federalist papers) were all interesting and amdur did a really good job of tying them together even though they are all very different. for each thinker he told us their views on women, which i think is often neglected. his lectures are sometimes a little dull only because he reads passages and explains them for 75 minutes straight, but i still enjoyed them. he summarizes the previous day's lecture every class, so even if you miss a class you still are caught up on the important themes. one thing that bothered me was that he always started class late and almost always ended it early.

Jan 2005

The texts in this class are good, and Dalton sometimes gives interesting lectures. However, sometimes he doesn't, so bring something to read to class. What he says in class is in no way relevant to what is on the midterm and final. To do well on those you don't even need to go to class. Just copy what he says in the course packet word for word and you will get an A.

Dec 2004

This man is amazing, inspiring, and an all around great human being. He is caring, kind and sensitive to his students and the world. I don't get how people can say it is bad in any way for him to be an idealist- who wouldn't want to live in an idealistic world?! The course itself is great- wonderful lectures that are unparalleled. "DD" is brilliant and I only wish he was my grandpa!

Nov 2004

This class is really inspiring. It's all about realism vs. idealism, with some theorists in between. A lot of time is devoted to Plato. There's a decent amount of reading for the class, which is interesting (The Republic, Antigone, Tao te Ching, The Prince, Hobbes, Aristotle, etc...) but no need to do it. You just need to go to the lectures and read his outlines carefully before the midterm and final. He really wants you to memorize his packet (which contains all the outlines). He goes on tangents on how the theories from Ancient Greece, etc relate to today. If you're not liberal, it might irritate you but I find it so honest and inspiring. Good class today if you're looking for something in the middle of Philosophy and Politics. Also just a really sweet man.

Nov 2004

I am in lovelovelove w/Dennis Dalton. He is just so great! The class is really interesting.. he is super passionate and his packet is the Bible. He explains the political theorists in full, and with their own bias (as if he agreed w/every one of them)... If you're interested in political theory at all, def take this class. As for the exams, it's a pain to memorize 14 essays, and a pain to write them out in such little time. But all you have to do is make a study group, and divide the quotes up, and you'll do fine. I got an A+. I'm shocked at the negative reviews for DD, I really don't understand how this class could be perceived as so terrible. He dislikes George Bush with good reason...and if you're deciding on what classes to take based on the most amount that you can skip, stop wasting your parent's money.

Dec 2003

If you can stay awake through his letures, Professor Amdur is extremely easy to understand. He always opens lecture with a review of the last one (which helps if you skipped a lecture), and he constantly references the text when teaching (which helps if you didn't do the reading). His only weakness: his lectures can be extremely boring. He discourages students from asking questions during the lecture, which usually leads to 50-60 minutes of uninterrupted droning on Locke, Hobbes, or another important political thinker. Many people fall asleep during these lectures. However, he almost always reserves the last 10-15 min. of class for questions and sometimes lets the class go early. I wouldn't rate hi m as a great professor, but definitely a little above average.

Nov 2003

I would have to disagree with the other reviewers who found Dalton's classes to be stifling. Maybe you will not agree with everything, (or even very little of) what he has to say, but it is still worth taking his classes. Rare is a professor who addresses and embraces their subject so passionately. Dalton delves into the material and brings it to life. I found him to be inspiring and I LOVED this class. And do not listen to the people who say this class is difficult. I only skimmed the readings, often slept late, and easily got an A both semesters.

Oct 2003

I took both Political Theory I and Political Theory II. I agree with much of what has already been written in reviews about Dalton (to the extent I know much about his classes, despite having "taken" them). The points I disagree on are the complaints about his so-called unfair grading. This class is insanely easy if you just write out word-for-word (or as close as you can remember) what he puts in the packet. I went to THREE classes spring semester (the first one, the second one, and the final) and nearly as few in the fall. I didn't read any of the books either semester that I hadn't read already in CC. I didn't take the optional midterm. I read in other reviews that there was an optional paper, but I don't remember hearing about that, and I certainly didn't write it. The night before each final, I did study the packet he handed out on the first day of class. I showed up to the finals, took them, and for my hard work, I earned an A first semester and an A- second semester. If I can do it, you can do it. On the other hand, if you can handle waking up at 10:35 AM, I'd suggest going to the class. He sounds like a great lecturer from the CULPA reviews.

Sep 2003

Take this class--either semester. Dalton is THE MOST passionate and eloquent professor at Columbia. He brings each author to life in a way no one else does. He can seem opinionated in lecture but if you disagree stay for discussion section and challenge him for a thoughtful debate, you'll be surprised at how open-minded he really is. I don't agree though that he is only conveying one view. He conveys the view of each author as if the author were there himself, and lets face it each one of them had something very specific to say--Dalton tells you what it is in such a powerful way you have to get it. In fact, if you forget what Marx, or Plato, or Freud's main points are after this class you are an idiot--the message is that clear, that repetitive and that strong.

Aug 2003

Professor Dalton is AMAZING! And that's an understatement. I recommend this to every student - freshmen: if you're looking for inspiration and one class you can always look forward to, Dalton is your man. seniors: WHY HAVEN'T YOU TAKEN HIS CLASS YET?? don't regret not taking his class! Although the class is relatively "easy", that is only the case if you don't take it for granted. Don't wait until a week before the midterm/exam to study. The course is extremely interesting - it is rare to have a class with interesting material (malcolm x, marx, gandhi, plato etc) and a wonderful teacher. I am saying this even after not doing so well in the class - I regret not putting more effort into a class I loved and could have aced. I will never forget all that he has taught me.

May 2003

Professor Dalton uses his class to voice his views. Althoguh I agree with much of his political ideology, I found his ranting to be a waste of valuable class time. I was also disappointed that his expectations for exam answers were the regurgitation of what he said in class. Students are encouraged to write formulaic answers on the exam, which undermines the intellectual nature of the course.

Jan 2003

He is insane and crazy. I didn't know that being a genius was a synonym for being a dictator. Do you like memorizing his thoughts word for word? Then this is the class for you. If you have a third of a brain, avoid this man at all costs.

Jan 2003

The most deceptive class at this school. I knew about 50 kids in this class, and each one was dissatisfied with their grade. The lectures are over-crowded, and, although Dalton is indeed a great speaker, full of his own liberal agenda. Most students did not attend because there was a lack of seating, and the alternative was to watch a videotape of the lecture in the library. Very little of what the man talks about are on the exam, which are the trickiest tests you'll take here. With an optional midterm, many student opted to take the final, which was graded extremely unfairly, with point being extracted for missed concept and not added for new ones. Instead of expecting an essay, Dalton would like you to list everything he has told you, word for word. I would advise memorizing the packet, but then again I knew it back and forth and wound up pissed off. Be prepared to really know your stuff and get a C or lower.

Jan 2003

It amazes me that students rate this professor so high. Yes, there is no reason to go to class. Yes, you have learned all this stuff in CC. The problem with the class is that it prohibits original thinking. There is one interpretation and it is his. He gives an optional midterm and an optional paper, then a final. Judging by the final grades of those that did the optional stuff and those that didnt, they arent optional. Everyone (10+ people) that I knew that only took the final got a C in this class, with the exception of one student who got a B-. If you are looking for an easy grade this is not it. Yes the class is easy, very easy. It seems like a cake class until you get your final grade back and you are sitting on the worst grade you have ever gotten at Columbia. I have two critical thoughts on the class: Either the grades were based on whether or not you did the optional work (where those people that did had their work graded much easier), or they were graded on how much of what he spoon-fed you you regurgitated back up on the final. Columbia is about enabling students to think for themselves and formulate their own opinions on the texts that are read. This class was exactly the opposite of that ideal. If you think for yourself you are penalized. Finally, I would not argue that he's a nice guy in class. I am weary, however, of how much he really cares about his students. I think it is a show, and I think that the emails that he reads in class are a show. I think they are written by him in an attempt by him to make students feel that he is in touch with them. Also, it is very ironic how those emails read at the beginning of class act as a perfect transition from the previous class to the later class discussion.

Jan 2003

I loved this class. The works on the reading list are interesting and Dalton is an interesting lecturer. I can see why someone would say that he does not see other points of view, but if you stay for the discussion sections or email/meet him, you'll see that he has thought about the opposing views. He's passionate about idealism but he's also been educated about realism and reformism. He's an incredibly caring, understanding, and thoughtful professor. If you feel that you're open to lectures that will have a good focus and will allow you to understand the major tenets of political theory, I encourage you to take this class. I don't think it's for everyone though-it may not question the opposing views as much as you would like. Still, he's one of the best professors I've had. I loved this course and learned so much. Visit him on office hours. And he's great about responding to emails, even right before an exam.

Jan 2003

To call Political Theory a class, to call Dalton a professor, and to call his audience students is to make a mockery of everything for which education stands. 1) His class stifles creative and innovative thinking, 2) Contrary to his celebration of truth pursued, Dalton delivers ONE interpretation of the texts read, and 3) In office hours, he is unashamedly sarcastic, belittling, and downright rude. What is most painful is watching first-years lap up his anti-intellectual garbage for "wisdom." In fact, those who will attack this review are simply following Dalton's lead: only ONE interpretation can be heard; all others must be squashed out before they can balloon into malignant tumors. That said, it is without hesitation that I do not recommend taking this mind-numbing farce.

Dec 2002

truly passionate about his students and the subject. He almost worships Plato, and the class is heavily focused on Plato and Machiavelli, with a bit of Aristotle thrown in. He's a great lecturer, really interesting and clear, always bringing in outside events. Cares about students and actually encourages you to talk to him, and will talk to you for as long as you want. Quite idealistic, which sometimes seems a bit over the top, but its refreshing to hear someone who loves teaching and believes in his ideals, whether or not you agree with all of them.

Dec 2002

Fist off, to hear professor Dalton speak is a I agree with the man's opinion on everything? No. but I don't mind a professor simply selling his opinion. I'm old enough to decipher it and appreciate it for what it's worth. Go ahead take his class and listen to his lectures they're worth it. Don't take notes you'll miss some good stuff and you dont need them. As others have said this here and its true... the tests are just dumb... memorize the outline maybe review the videos of his lecture just to see the 2 minutes he spent on the ID... but thats it. Great professor one time but I wouldnt take him again.

Dec 2002

This is probably the easiest class you will ever take in Columbia. You could go about the class in two ways. If you are really interested in the topic, Dalton is an extremely enthusiastic guy who brings current events in politics to compare to the ancient philosophers and politicians studied in class. Although an idealist himself, he does a good job of showing the other side of the arguments as well. However, if you are just looking for a good grade while doing the least amount of work possible, this is also the class to take. you never have to show up for class or do any of the readings, and you can still ace the class. You can choose to make the final count as 100% of your grade by skipping the midterm. The great thing is that he gives you the final (and midterm if you choose to take it) a week or two before the test date. You're probably saying to yourself that this is too good to be true but it really isnt. I didnt go to class for the last 2 months and if I dont get an A, I only have myself to blame. All the answers to the final are in the packet he gives out at the beginning of the year. Another good thing, is that the reading list uses a lot of the same books from CC, so you could knock out 2 birds with one stone.

Dec 2002

This is the best class that I have ever taken at Columbia. Dalton inspires you to higher levels and is an absolutely fantastic speaker. He is probably one of the nicest people I have ever met. And yes, maybe the class doesn't requre much creativity on the tests, but atleast this is one of the classes that you will remember what the prof said a couple of years down the line. I wish I could say the same about some of the other Columbia classes!

Dec 2002

CRITICAL REVIEW OF DALTON: I hate to use caps lock but I wanted to get people's attention away from all the praise of Dalton and actually offer some criticism. Dalton is a charismatic lecturer and very open to his students. However, this can only take the class so far. He is all flash but not much substance. You get only the basics of the authors you read which I suppose is fine for an intro class. However, for Columbia students this is redundant after spending so much time on this stuff in CC. Its frustrating to have taken a challenging class like CC but then take two steps back with Dalton. This problem is worsened because Dalton doesn't want you to think on your own. He only wants you to use on the midterm and final exactly what he said in class. Therefore, you have to forget the more advanced stuff you learned already in CC and concentrate on functioning like a parrot. I don't want this review to seem overly critical. Dalton's charisma compensates for the lack of content to an extent. He makes every effort to be available to students. However, the reviews I read seemed to be so in love with the guy that they ignored how high school the class is. I don't recommend you take the class but I do recommend that you sit in on it once ( to hear him speak, not for what he has to say.) Also, I was slightly disappointed by one other aspect of the class. Dalton leads you to believe he grades the midterms, finals and papers himself which I thought was an awesome sacrifice for a lecture class. There are no TA's ever in class, he never mentioned them or gave us an opportunity to contact them. He never referred to how the TA's would grade the midterms but only himself. However, I found out later that there are TA's that do all that stuff. This is no big deal. I do not expect a professor to worry about that stuff and Dalton certainly deals with students in other ways (responds to e-mails himself and leads discussion sections himself). Nevertheless, I did feel slightly misled.

Nov 2002

Prof. Dalton is very passionate about nonviolence and makes it abundantly clear that he is not a fan of Bush. His message about being "the change you want to see in the world" (from Gandhi) is very inspiring. He, like Plato, wants everyone to find his or her arete and sometimes makes a crack at the large amount of people who pursue a career in law. Still, it is not surprising seeing the large amount of students who take him (so many that he needed a bigger classroom). I plan on taking Political Theory II. Also, he is very approachable. You can talk to him about ANYTHING and he will thank you for coming. I once talked to him about the distrubing prevalence of suicide on campus and he actually knew all of the students.

Nov 2002

Dennis Dalton does care about his students and is very liberal, but the bitter reviews of him on CULPA have a point - this class oversimplifies everything. You are not encouraged to look at other views on Plato, Aristotle, etc. because he grades based on keywords. I wish it had been more challenging, but I suppose you can't expect much from an Intro class. You'll either love his teaching style or be put off - he reads from the lecture summaries in the packet word for word and will then veer off topic to rant on realists or Bush or something of that nature. It's an easy A and you learn the basics of political theory, but you don't feel proud of the A - it feels too easy and not like a college course at all.

Nov 2002

Do not believe any thing negative you hear about this man. The fact is that Dalton is an angel. He is unbelievably intelligent, caring, and kind. He is the only reason that this school can claim the high standing that it does.

Nov 2002

I just feel the need to respond to some of the other CULPA reviews that led me to take this class in the first place. If you want to sit through interminable lectures of ultra-liberal drivel, then by all means, take this course. The lectures and reading have nothing to do with the midterm or final. They're just rote memorization. His style is engaging for the first two lectures, when you think he's whipping you into an educational frenzy- but they don't stop. He keeps yelling and going off topic. He literally talked for 10 minutes one day about how all the girls in the class should buy this book that was a guided tour of the vagina. I don't see how this teaches us political theory. He also has this ridiculous theory that he will push down your throat about how all idealists and all realists are the same. I seriously doubt that Plato read ancient Chinese philosophy, but he claims that this is true. HOW? THE GREEKS DIDN'T HAVE TRANSCONTINENTAL TRAVEL! He also claims that he is objective and fair when dealing with the realists and the idealists, but he compared Machiavelli to Hitler. I would strongly recommend against this course for anyone who thinks independently and has a low tolerance for demogoguery.

Apr 2002

AMAZING. Political theory is SO not my thing, but if you can take ANYTHING taught by this man you must... he doesn't teach political theory, he teaches LIFE... he is FIRE, he is PASSION, you MUST MUST MUST take this class!!!!!!!!!!!!! He makes you think in such a good way!

Mar 2002

Professor Dalton seems to genuinely know what he is talking about and care a great deal about the material that he teaches. Unfortunately actual knowledge of this material is not needed to do well in his class, you can actually be penalized for going beyond recitation. The key to this class is to take it with friends, not that difficult because of the large size, and go to all of the classes. During class he will tell you which quotes in the work you are reading that day will be candidates for the ID based midterm and final. Write down whatever he says about these quotes and look at how he references the same quotes in the course packet that he distributes each term. He only puts quotes on the tests that were _both_ read aloud in class and mentioned in the course packet. Then just get together with your friends and create the ultimate formulated spitback description of each quote. Everyone can submit the same answer without worry; Prof. Dalton has no problem with this "studying" tactic. Lather, rinse, and repeat for the final and then sit back and rake in your A or A+.

Jan 2002

Prof. Dalton is a very passionate professor. He has a firm commitment to teaching his students to the best of his ability as well as that poli sci drive that although he does not crack jokes, he is got the full attention from everyone, even those with short attention-span. The material covered are classics of political theory and very interesting. He is a very caring man as well. He teaches you all you need to know for the exam so the class is not hard at all. Just try not to miss too many lectures.

Jan 2002

He's a great professor. For a class of 300 people, I think it's understandable for him to lay out exactly what he wants to see on exams. Whatever grade you get, I doubt you'd complain b/c it's all in the lecture outlines. If he didn't lay it all out for us, we'd all be complaining his class is too big and confusing. He cares about all his students and actually wants everyone to do well. (Definitely not like those science/math professors who tell us they rig the exams and curve it so that the mean is a B- in the class!) He isn't THAT great, but he's definitely up there and I'd like to take all his other classes as well.

Dec 2001

Surprise! I am a Barnard girl who is not in love with Dalton. I have to admit, though, that he is very devoted to his students and is a great lecturer. Make sure you e-mail him during the semester [about his class or whatever the hell else you want to talk about -- doesn't matter]. He's an interesting guy and is extremely thoughful and compassionate.

Jan 2000

This class was really excellent. All I can really add to the other reviews is that this is what CC should have been. Dalton is one of the big names in this department, and this is one of those 'must-take' classes that you hear everyone talking about. Like I said, a superb class.

Jan 2000

Although most of the Barnard girls in this class seem to be in love with Dalton, the class is really just about memorizing what Dalton says and carrying it over to the exams. He seems to be really nice, but actually he's just a phony convinced that he knows all about political theory. This class is meant for those who have trouble thinking or comprehending readings for themselves.

Jan 2000

This man rocks, and I would worship him if I could, but he wouldn't like that. He is in Barnard's political science dept., and right now is their only 'political theory' professor. Basically, any class he teaches is worth taking, from his intro to political theory class to his seminars and colloquia. His main issue is nonviolence - he is a Gandhi scholar. He is also a vegetarian and lives in the neigborhood, which I personally think says a lot. He is pro-activism in the largest sense of the word, and is pro-anything else postive (pro-all civil rights things, whether woman, black, queer, or anything else, not just in the US, but elsewhere). He is also an extraordinarily knowledgable man, who is also a wonderful teacher and guide. He will talk to (and <i>listen</i> to) his students for hours on end. He even lends books. Sorry this is so long, but if i could've, i would've majored in the man.