Ross Poole

Dec 2007

This class, Professor Poole’s first at Columbia, met once a week and I do not believe it is being offered again. In the unlikely event that Professor Poole teaches again at Columbia (to get an idea of where he stands politically, he’s also an adjunct at the New School), I doubt I would enroll. The class was just way too disorganized and I found that students consistently suffered. It was already past the add/drop date when I learned that we would be reading very short excerpts from works I had looked forward to studying in great detail at the 4000 level, including Hegel (2 pages), Augustine (1 page), Hobbes (short excerpt from Leviathan), Aristotle (two short excerpts), and Nietzsche (one essay from Genealogy), amongst short samples from contemporary theorists. I did get the sense that Poole knew the material well and, to be fair, was kind in response and encouraged participation (even though his anecdotal stories sometimes seemed in poor taste), though not knowing how to quiet redundant questioning, this oftentimes made it difficult for the completion of lectures. Though for a political science course, “politics” was rarely addressed. This course would have been just as well off if offered through the Philosophy department. Poole tried taking advantage of CourseWorks by posting almost every reading to the site for students to print. Unfortunately, these readings were posted almost always no earlier than two hours before the lecture (while Poole rarely indicated which readings were to be completed for specific dates). Empty promises were made about posting additional readings. The same was true for Poole’s lecture notes, which he promised to post after each session. By the midway point, notes were rarely made available (though, by this point, I think Poole was winging it with whatever he bothered to scribble on the subway ride up to campus). After it took nearly a month to get our second paper back (after, again, multiple empty promises for faster delivery), I got the general impression that Poole was just a lazy instructor. Not surprisingly, the last final grade to post for me this term was none other than Poole’s. The three essays were really take-home examinations. Poole asks specific questions and is clearly seeking specific answers. Any deviation from this, regardless of one’s mastery of the material, is likely to result in a reduced grade. The syllabus mentioned that the third and final essay would be a research paper. Instead, with three weeks to go and no mention of the assignment all semester, it too became another mundane take-home examination – just twice as long. On paper, the class seemed like a good idea: a different emotion each week as explained by various theorists. With the restrictive one-day a week format, incomplete lectures, ordinary take-home exams, and an overall disorganization and laziness on the part of the instructor, I would avoid this or any of Poole’s classes. Note: this class is sometimes referred to as The Emotional Life of Politics.