I transfered into Karls section because of the above reviews. I know that ever other review says that Karl is great, but he really isnt. I dont mean as a person, I dont know him, but as a teacher. All in all, this was an absolutely useless experience. I guess L&R isnt very useful in general, but this class seemed particularly bad. We wrote about 8 papers which were totally topic oriented as opposed to writing style/clarity etc oriented. Karl's comments were copious but mostly useless; most were very specific, very obvious observations about minor mistakes -- he didnt say anything constructive, and seemed totally unable to suggest any kind of "remedy" for my writing ills. Karl is also very political. He got into mini-debates about political issues with some of the guys in my class (most of us girls were pretty quiet) and seemed uninterested in anything other than trying to prove that he was right -- nothing about whether or not the students' arguments were sound or well articulated or how to improve. Karl seems to think that his stunningly left wing approach to every political issue was all that was worth dicussing, he didnt even try to present the other perspective and construct an argument based on logic and facts. I think he was the worst teacher Ive had at Columbia.
Karl was one of the best teachers I've ever had. Besides his thorough grasp of English and the copious helpful comments he writes on every paper, Karl is a really nice person. He knows a lot about pretty much every topic in the universe, but nevers wears his knowlege on his shoulder or talks down to the students. He cares about your writing, and wants you to improve. He was always accessible via email and willing to meet after class or during office hours. Take advantage. If you can get into Karl's section, do so. If you are in his class already, enjoy.
Karl was a great L&R teacher, always encouraging the class in discussions and written assignments. His comments were always helpful and honest. I absolutely loved this course, one of the few who actually enjoyed going to L&R everyday - and even writing the papers.
Compared with some other horror stories I've heard, Karl was a pretty good L&R teacher. His comments can be harsh at times, though. He would literally fill any white space left on your essays with comments. Often these comments were fairly harsh criticisms. And then he would give you a B+ on your essay. Strange. I think I got a B+ on all of my essays but two (I got A- on those), but I still managed to end up with an A- for the semester. I'm not quite sure how that works out mathematically, but I'm not going to question it. Grading aside, Karl's class was a good time. The readings we were assigned to write essays about were varied and interesting (ranging from Noam Chomsky to Richard Pryor). Overall, this was a good experience.
Karl is a grad student but a great teacher. Self described as a Harvard grad whose freshman writing class taught him nothing, he seems to have a real desire to help students learn how to write. He writes a ton of comments on every paper, and if that's not enough he often spends an entire class on one or two papers. Of course this means you have to actually spend time on papers (or risk being shredded in front of your peers), but it's worth it. By the middle of the semester, however, Karl gets a little boring. But I think most L&R classes would be somewhat bring some of the time. Overall, a solid choice for L&R.