I can genuinely say CC was one of the classes I was most excited about coming into Columbia, so I was already looking forward to all the books before coming to class in September. Although I had heard terrible stories of unfortunate CC professors, I came to class with an open mind, knowing that either way, I would at least get something out of simply reading the texts. Although I really enjoyed the progression of the readings, I felt I have been cheated a semester of a potentially enlightening class due to Marcâ€™s lack experience in the subject matter and knowledge required to present these books.
What I wish to critique most is his inefficient ways of managing class time, directing conversations towards valuable discussions, and bringing up meaningful and important passages in the text. Seriously the first few classes, and I mean at least the first four, we spent about 20-30 minutes total each class memorizing each otherâ€™s names. Although it was an effective strategy in creating a comfortable classroom environment, he often interrupted discussion at the end of class so that we could go around the room and say our names, multiple times. Although that does not seem like a significant issue, there were countless times when I felt he did not understand the books and concepts presented in the texts, so he would waste class time with such diversions.
Because he provided no background of the texts and did not discuss the historical significance in context, it felt as though he was reading the books along with us through the semester. Because he had no background knowledge in any of the texts we read, I seriously do believe that any of us in the classroom could have served as a professor. What bothered me, and many other of my colleagues the most, was that for literally every book, we spent about half the class discussing why we think it should be on the core and whether we believed the Core education was valuable. While it is important to consider this as future leaders of our generation and to discuss the argument on both sides, I would have liked to spend this valuable class time ACTUALLY discussing the book and doing close readings. In addition to poor text discussion, he would also spend significant time for every single book discussing reading strategies we used. It would have been sufficient to discuss this just one time at the beginning of the yearâ€¦ not for every single book. In addition, when returning papers, he spent significant class time discussing basic writing skills, like how to use an apostrophe and a semicolon. He stressed such minor issues and distracted the class from the texts themselves. When we finally did have good debates, Marc would often interrupt it so that he could stay in line with his very structured lesson plan. Throughout each class, he would fit in these awkward five-minute â€œreflectionsâ€ which interrupted class unnaturally. Many times, he would ask us to read them to share our thoughts, but he would only allow us to do so if we read our writing verbatim. I personally, saw no value to this, and did not benefit from it. We would often even have â€œre-writesâ€ in which we would reflect on our first writing, and then discuss what we changed when we answered the question the second time. This was perhaps the most disappointing thing about Marc because his inflexibility did not provide enough room for natural conversation and debate.
Honestly, each class I left very disappointed and dissatisfied because I felt that I wasted 2 hours in class without gaining much insight into the texts than I already gained just from reading the books. All in all, I would not recommend Marc Hertzman as a CC professor. To be fair, he seemed like an actually pretty nice guy with good intentions, but I am unsure as to how the Core Committee found him qualified to teach such a dense course. Perhaps he would be more suited to teach the global core classes in which he can focus specifically on his background knowledge of Brazil and Latin American studies.