WHERE IS HE? His Sabbatical has been stretching on for over a year and I'm about to graduate and want to take one more class with this fabulous professor. I took the Democracy class and it's all true what they say--he's simply mind-blowing, funny, and the smartest person I've ever met (and that's genius level, because I like to think I'm pretty smart myself!). His democracy class was the best class I've taken at BC-- the readings on public ignorance and human fallibility were so compelling that I can no longer read the NYT in the same complacent way I used to. Really, he should write a book and change the world. But I'm selfish and I've heard that his Liberalism class is amazing so if you can find out where he's hiding, tell him Barnard needs him (at least till I graduate).
Professor Friedman is the best teacher I've had. He is brilliant (you may think you've had brilliant professors before but this experience will make you re-evaluate that), intellectually rigorous (what do you say about a teacher who is able to tie all the tangents together), challenging (you WON'T find anyone who thinks like him and he expects you to think for yourself as well) and compassionate (really listens to students and seems to care). I have also never taken a class with such devastating intellectual and political implications.
On the first day of class, Prof. Friedman will likely scare away all students who are intimidated by the prospect of critically analyzing the foremost political theorists of our time. But for those who can put up with the pretentious Harvard-knows-what's-best aspect of the class and who don't mind spending an hour and 15 minutes twice a week (plus as many hours as it takes to read, which is really up to the student, the more time you spend, the more you read, the time spent, the more you'll probably get out of discussions) thinking critically in the abstract, take this class, because Prof. Friedman is incredible, given the fact that he has the ability to make a class on "liberalism, communitarianism, and the good" into a discussion. This is due mostly to the fact that he is a fabulous listener. He has a remarkable ability to understand what his students are saying when they struggle to articulate, and he uses it to clarify what student was trying to say to the class and to the student. He asks open-ended questions to get students to think out loud. The only problem with this method is that sometimes his questions are a little too pointed, and it seems there is something very specific that he wants to hear. My advice if you're taking this class, don't be too teleological. There is no ultimate meaning that the whole class is leading up to (although Friedman will make it seem like there is). The details and all the tangents are often the most stimulating parts, so enjoy them.
This class was frustrating, boring at times, and competitive (in a weird way). He made people feel self-conscious about the quality of their comments in class. But, I will be forever grateful that I took this class because a) I got over my fear of public speaking (ie making a fool of myself) because participation is 20% and b) it really opened my mind and challenged me to think constantly during the class. He comes off as opinionated, but I think that's just because he knows he's right :). He really took the discussion to places I have never before nor since travelled to in any other class here. Always challenging us NOT to assume things, not to be lazy in thinking liberal ideology is always right, to read critically - to have our "bullshit detector" always on. This class made an enormous difference in how I analyze readings, and allows me to pull deeper meaning from a lot of what I read even today. If you like a challenge, and don't mind being a little harassed, I recommend this class and I would take it again.
Hands down the best class I've had at Columbia. Professor Friedman is an excellent professor. He knows his stuff and challenges everyone to think. The subject matter is extremely interesting and the class is conducted as a discussion. The discussion format creates a great environment for learning, and if you do not know the material, it becomes apparent. I have learned an immense amount in this class due to the power of the material and the way in which it is presented. Professor Friedman also happens to be a very nice guy. He is very approachable and interested in helping his students. I highly recommend this class to anyone. It will change the way you think.
Opinionated -- i.e., his questions reveal that he is looking for a particular answer, and at times he drops the pretense and just states his own views as God's truth. That said, I enjoyed the class immensely. The readings are dense, left-wing political philosophy (Rawls, Sandel, Charles Taylor, etc.) and, on the negative-liberty side, Robert Nozick.
The class: Take it. Friedman builds a case against Democracy thatÂ’s too convincing to ignore. A real eye opener. Prof. Friedman: A really good guy and an excellent teacher. Class is entirely discussion based; Friedman explains the material clearly and accurately, welcomes criticism and is an expert verbal Â“fencer.Â” However, he makes an effort to reach every single person in the class, and if one person just isnÂ’t getting a point, Friedman will take time away from the material to break it down for them. By and large, though, discussions were interesting and engrossing.
A very nice guy. He knows his stuff and will definetly challenge you to rethink your convictions. For the thesis if you are the type of student who comes to the first day of class just for the syllabus you'll do fine. He does not bog you down with tons of internal deadlines, but leaves it up to you to be an adult about going after input and disciplining yourself as far as time and quality. However, if you actually go to classes for structure and guidance this is not the thesis advisor for you- and I'm really really serious about that. You have no idea what senior year holds for you until you get ther... and you'll probably need more help than you'd like to admit.
Freidman is a pretty solid professor. He wants everyone to learn and the discussions were enjoyable (although that might also have been to the credit of the other students in the class). He provided very useful comments on assignments. He does have a tendency to ramble a little- he comes up with about five examples of the same thing and uses them all- but overall he is interesting and more importantly fair. He assigned a very do-able amount of reading because he wanted us to read it well... much appreciated. He also did not grade finals papers on their length- mine fell severly short of the 25 pages and I was not punished for it.