The way his class is run, it's pretty easy to see what he wants you to know. He gives you reading questions in advance for each reading, so you know what parts of the reading to pay attantion to. Another reviewer thought that Lifset was trying to guide the class too much, but I thought that he wasn't doing much guiding at all. He let us talk and argue with each other, which I thought was really great. If you like to participate in class and the people in your class are good, this can be a really great class. It could be pretty bad if the people in the class are bad, though (basically, Lifset lets the students take a big hand in directing the class). Anyway, I liked it, but I didn't like my grade in it. Still, it was enjoyable, which is better than my other core classes . . .
I'm not sure what I hated more about my semester with this man. He's rude, more socially awkard (around females) than any academic you will ever meet, has no background in things other than the US, and does not substantially contribute to the class. He always comes to class with a RedBull (every day, really), and is unwilling to talk to you about improving your papers. The only plus was that the midterm and the final were given beforehand in the form of questions, and therefore really easy to study for. He's NOT articulate, organized, or understanding. Or that intelligent about CC. For the first half of the semester I was convinced that he did not have a personality. There are way better CC professors who will actually share their knowledge of the text with you. At least he smiles.
Lifset is a history grad student, and it shows... he begins every class with a little lecture on the author's background. The class wasn't that bad, but most of the intelligent comments were coming from the students, not him. He tries to direct ths discussion a little bit too much by rattling off (sometimes pretty inane) questions from a sheet of paper and not going with the flow of the class. The quality of Lifset's class really depends on the people in it. He isn't that bad of a guy, his grading on wiritten work is pretty fair. He tends to give you the same grade as your first paper on everything. But beware if you aren't running your mouth the whole time. He lowered my final grade because of participation (25%) when I was throwing out at least 5 lengthy comments per class and got 4's on all my response papers.
I had a lot of fun in this class. (How many people say that about any Core class?) I was definitely blessed with intelligent classmates, but I give most of the credit to Lifset for my good CC experience. He's smart and articulate, but he's more than fair when it comes to listening to the students' ideas and interpretations. He has a knack for acting the role of the philosopher being discussed for argument's sake, and for finding weaknesses in a student's argument without belittling him or her.
The class was fine to sit through - but that was more because of the people in it rathar than Lifset's own teaching ability. True, he's a grad student, but he would try to make the class "seminar style" by asking seemingly annoying questions and blaming little discussion to us not reading. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the class did keep up with the reading (much more than LitHum last year) and so students took his criticism with insult. He graded extremely tough on the papers, especially given that he would give us a week to work on them and give some ambiguous questions. I guess he thought that giving low grades made him a good prof. Instead, many classmates were turned off by this. Midterm and finals had review sheets from which the questions were drawn from - but if you didn't study really hard you were screwed. Also - participation is 25% so if your mouth wasn't running you had to have superb written work. Not a bad guy, and accessible during office hours, but he was very harsh and didn't appreciate the fact that we had a really smart class.
Lifset is a grad student, as many CC instructors tend to be, and though his expertise is US history, he's still relatively knowledgeable in philosophy. The class tended to be more lecture than discussion, and it was easy for just a few people to do all the talking, though he does like participation and will say something to you if he notices that you've been too quiet. Overall an okay professor - brought out some good points about the books, though not especially inspiring. He's a fair grader, though, and is friendly though appears to be strict and anal.