Jefferson Decker

Jul 2010

This was easily the best class I have taken thus far at Columbia. Professor Decker is an utterly brilliant man, and although he often speaks in a monotone, it is clear how passionate he is about the material, and if you actually listen, you will be astounded by his intellect and wit. His readings paint a very clear picture of all aspects of the last 50 years in America, and he especially focuses on political changes and their consequences. Discussion section has no weekly posts, and all in all the workload is quite manageable. I highly recommend this class to anyone remotely interested in American history.

Apr 2010

I believe that this is Professor Decker's first time teaching a lecture course like this, so with that said, I cut him some slack. He seems like a funny and easygoing guy who is interested in what he's talking about. I was very interested in learning about recent history when I took this class, and granted, its a subject that isn't really tackled much in history departments. The class was a standard large lecture with a weekly discussion section. Each week, either a book or a set of printouts from Courseworks was assigned to be read for section. Sometimes I found that it was hard to take the time to get the reading done, especially with the thicker material. If you have enough time, the material is interesting enough, especially if you're into poli sci and recent interpretations of history in general. There are readings with liberal as well as conservative biases to give you a range of ideas of what's going on in a given decade. Section was pretty laid back as long as you did the readings. No weekly posts on courseworks (yay) and no response papers but you were expected to present or make a response now and then. The reason that it was pretty important to do the reading is that the two papers and final exam, as well as the section (everything that counts in your grade) is related to the books rather than the lectures. Therefore it made it seem kind of pointless to attend lectures unless you were really interested in listening to a summary of historical facts. However the lecture portion was probably where I (and most of the class) had the biggest issue. Professor Decker had a lot to go over in each class, resulting in his having to talk really fast. He posted the outline on the projector but unlike slides, it only had the headings of the topics he talked about. In order to take notes, you'd have to listen very carefully and follow along, while also having quick typing skills (not sure if its possible to take detailed notes that fast on paper). Probably out of nervousness or something, he also had the tendency to look down and mumble, or to pace around sometimes while he was talking, making him hard to hear. It was really easy to lose track of what he was saying when I got distracted and there were moments I got lost when his words just sounded jumbled together. Because of this reason, either people didn't take notes, didn't go to class, or dropped the class right away during the shopping period. I feel that if Professor Decker gets another chance to teach, he just needs to speak clearer and have a little more confidence in his voice as I feel that he has a lot to offer to the subject. He seems like a nice guy who tries his best to make the class laugh now and then.