professor
Hidetaka Hirota

Aug 2014

Professor Hirota is a very nice person, really smart too (he is a history Phd from Boston with a special interest in early US immigration). However, if you can avoid it, do not take his section. The first half of the semester he would barely guide the class discussion, opting instead to appoint 'discussion leaders'. I understand that he wanted us to have control over the class dialog, but we were dealing with some really dense philosophical material and none of us were philosophy majors...so people usually left really confused/unsure of what they were supposed to have gleaned from the past 2 hours in class. He got better during the second half of the semester, but there was still a lot left to be desired. Aside from this, the real issue I had with his class were the essays. First I'll start with the prompts. The prompts would require you to FULLY incorporate all the authors that we'd read up until that point. Usually 6+ authors into ONE paper...it was bound to make your paper sound incoherent. It was just too much information to cram in. And he expected a full expose on each author...it was ridiculous. My second qualm has to do with the grading. There is no rhyme or reason to the grade he gives you. The essay that you write in 3 hours will get a higher grade than the one that you takes you 3 weeks. Jury is still out on whether or not he actually reads them. This was incredibly frustrating. I hate to leave him such a bad review, but this class really was painful to get through.

May 2014

DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS! DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS! DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS! DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS! DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS! DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS! DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS! DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS! DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS! *****DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS!***** ~~~~~DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS!~~~~~ ~*~*~DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS!~*~*~ DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS! DO NOT TAKE! DO. NOT. TAKE!!!!!!!!!!!111111111!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!~~~~~~~~~~~ !!!!!!! !! ! ! ~~~DJAFLSJIOF34URIOJDLKFJASDJFKL;SADJKLFJASKDL;FJ89Q275VN98QNRCIOEWAIF;LDFJKL;DANSFKL;AEFL;KVAJLKSDFJKLSDFJ;LAVSJDFKL;NASDFNASJDFASDLFJASKD;L~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ … Seriously, if you have the luck to be put in this class, switch into another section immediately. Put off CC until next year. Do whatever it takes. I’m writing this instead of studying for the final in two days because I’ve honesty reached the point where just looking at the books for this class makes me angry. Maybe it’s just that this was Prof. Hirota’s first time teaching CC, and maybe it’s just that my CC professor last semester was so awesome. Maybe I’m the only one who feels so much resentment. But this was easily my worst experience with the Core. Simply put, Professor Hirota made this class unnecessarily painful. He just took himself and his class way too seriously, and he had a penchant for reminding us just how important his class is. Two days before our midterm, he verbatim told us that he wanted the class to "be desperate in studying for the exam, as if the entire class got a B+ on the first paper." Then in the last class, he made it a point to shove his belief that his class would be "guaranteed the most academically stimulating course" we would ever take down our throats. It also didn't help that he had a rather bad accent, which only added insult to injury. At least I got a few giggles out of hearing “library” pronounced as “lie-blare-lee” and Kant’s name as a certain part of the female body (CRINGE). As for our class discussions, they were never engaging due to the “discussion leaders” that Prof. Hirota favors. Instead of preparing his own materials for class discussion, Prof. Hirota liked having 2-3 students prepare discussion questions for him every week. The result was a mess. Every week’s discussion would consist of jumping from one student’s question to another student’s without any logical connection between the two, and while Prof. Hirota did try to get more involved in class discussions toward the end of the semester, going to class was always a struggle. Of course, I couldn’t skip class not only because of the usual CC attendance policy, but also because we had wonderful 9AM pop quizzes! These were stressful and didn't add any value to the course. I had the luck of missing a pop quiz the one class I accidentally missed at the end of the semester, and now I can’t make it up. Papers were terrible, too. Prompts were unreasonable, with Prof. Hirota expecting us to analyze 5+ works in a 6-8 page paper. I’m sorry, but the theme of human liberty cannot possibly apply to all of Mill, Marx, Frederick Douglass, Darwin’s theory of evolution, AND a random ass collection of Abraham Lincoln speeches equally. To make matters worse, we just didn't have enough time to write papers. We almost had four days to write the first long paper before we begged Prof. Hirota to give us two more. But really, the worst part of this class was the grading. Never have I ever seen grading so arbitrary in my entire Columbia experience. On the syllabus, Prof. Hirota specifies that he will grade papers so that “stylistic sophistication” is worth as much as your actual argument. Yes, grading papers is subjective in its nature, but there's something to be said when a professor says your ideas are well-developed and strong but knocks your paper down a grade because "your paragraphs are too long." (True story.) I also got a B+ on the midterm despite writing "one of the best midterm essays in the class" because Prof. Hirota thought my responses for the passage IDs were "too short." (He never specified a length requirement for the midterm passage IDs.) At some point, I gave up on submitting my best work because there was no point in putting in the effort if I was going to lose points for stupid things. And I consistently received A/A- grades in previous semesters of Lit Hum and CC, so it’s not like I can’t do the work. I’m looking at something in the B-range now. tl;dr: Prof. Hirota’s CC class was a terrible experience, and I actually still feel disgusted thinking about it now. I had the chance to switch into another section at the beginning of the semester and am now seriously regretting that I didn't make that decision. Please don’t make the same mistake.