Student Comments on ECO357k
- Introduction to Marxian Economics-
Fall 2009

These are all the written comments made by students in their course evaluations: the good, the bad and the ugly.

"I am so fortunate. If I go astray, others are certain to notice it." - Confucius

The course has definitely been of value to me because it has been more than just another letter grade on my transcript and has inspired me to think about a whole lot of issues that I just took for granted earlier. The assigned books, though depressing, were also pretty interesting.
However, I feel that the class could be made more interesting for instance, video clips from some of the songs and movies that you mention in class would get the information across to the students more effectively. It would also help if the class is more of a dialogue between you and the students so questions and articles to prompt such a dialogue would be great.

The course was very interesting, particularly the subject matter. I have been able to start great conversations and debates with friends and family over issues learned during the semester. I believe this was the most interesting of all the economics classes I have taken at UT. However, the organization and requirements for what was to be learned were not clearly presented. I don’t know if the subject matter allows for alternative methods, but I think it would be advantageous to research other options.

The exams were pretty fair in the questions, however, the 2nd exam was not really feasible. Four essays in 50 minutes were really difficult. I made an “A” on the first exam and a C+ on the 2nd solely because I ran out of time to thoroughly answer the questions. Even the TA agreed in his DH that he was surprised by the level of difficulty of all four essays considering the short time span allotted. I felt like it was just too much.
Overall, the course was really great. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was getting into and several people tried to discourage me from taking it. I’m very glad I did. The course material was really interesting and you presented it in a very reflective way. I wish your OH were not so early. I would have enjoyed coming in to see you more often. It would have been nice to watch some films or even short YouTube clips of some of the movies you discussed in class. Many of us had not seen/heard of a lot of them.
Finally, the TA has said that you curve the exams, but where is the curve explained? I still only have a vague idea of my exam grades, which can be somewhat uncomfortable. I wish this was clearly explained in an email.
Also the TA was helpful in OH, but I sent him several emails asking questions about the material over the semester. He never replied to any!!

I suggest Dr. Cleaver change the format of his exams because short essays are time consuming and the grading of them is a bit subjective. I understand the course material but my grade does not reflect what I have learned.

Cleaver is one of the best professors I have had at this school. This course was excellent and I am walking away from this course with new insights on life. He did something different and that was actually tying things in the information to our lives and making us think about it. I honestly can’t say I have taken a course as of yet that has made such an impression on my lfie and how I think. The work in this class is also very beneficial because our writings are for our own good, not for the professor’s benefit, allowing us to think out of the box. All in all, great professor.

-I liked the connection to the university and to students’ lives.
-I expected to do economic exercises using Marx’s models – pleasantly surprised it wasn’t traditional economics
-Made autonomist Marxism clearer, more accessible, exciting – I look forward to using your insights to strengthen my own work.
-That said, I think you’re too hard on the Leninists, and I think the definition of “historical materialism” should be kept away from its Stalinist legacy.
-An expanded section on Hegel would be nice – I think he has much to offer an autonomist reading of Capital – more than the thesis-antithesis-synthesis caricature.

This has easily been one of my favorite classes I’ve taken at UT. It has not been an easy class, there’s been more and more involved reading than in most classes I’ve taken, however, I feel that the critical thinking involved in this course (and the things it made me think about) have been of great value to me, academically and life-wise.

Dr. Cleaver conducted the course well & demonstrated deep knowledge of the subject. However, I found that the class moved very fast & it would help if he explained using the book and texts. While I understand it was his desire to include extra literature, I find that understanding Karl Marx and reading Capital is already a very heavy workload and so perhaps he could just focus on Capital, Volume I. Overall, I found that I’ve learned a lot from the class and enjoyed it.

The tests do not accurately represent a student’s knowledge of the material. There is not enough time to answer the questions properly, and due to the very small number of questions, a failing grade is very easily achieved by a student who otherwise knows the material.

Flew through the material. I didn’t feel that I was learning anything inside of class, but I learned everything outside of class. Exams were difficult and focused on what you said in class when most of the students were lost. I was really excited to learn about Marx but I feel the only thing I actually learned was primitive accumulation.

It was a very interesting class, probably if you make us participate more in class would be good.

-appreciated all material available on-line for review and constant allusions to good/relevant books, films, music, etc. Made the subject matter feel more apparent in real life and helped establish connection w/professor.
-it was easy to overlook assignments & due dates, would be nice to have some kind of reminder (in class, email)
-this class had a very heavy reading load w/online material AND books, but it was nice to be able to pick and choose what appealed to us most.
-chapter 1 of Capital made me not want to read the rest (but I did and it does get easier).

I think the format of the test is very hard to do in 50 minutes. I struggled with the time on the first test and there were only 3 questions, the 2nd test had 4.

This class should be a required class for anyone interested in government, history, public policy, economics & anything that deals with human interaction. Also, an excellent class to understand current events from a perspective not commonly heard. I hope in the future there will be a second part to the class dealing with Marx’s influence on the world.

This is my second course with Cleaver. I expected this class to be more interesting than the first, but I found this class lacked discussion, something Cleaver will probably agree with. The thing that made the other class more engaging was that every other class was devoted to discussion, independent of Cleaver. I thought the material was interesting. My main critique would be of Mary Barton. I didn’t enjoy the novel & thought that it added little to the overall discussion of the industrial city. It was also demanding to keep up w/Marx’s Capital and the novel simultaneously. I would estimate that only 5% of the class even got halfway through the book. I would suggest just one novel to read over the course of the semester and that it be more interwoven into discussion.

Liked the way the course was structured. Tests were somewhat difficult.

The course was interesting and I enjoyed learning some insight into Marx’s argument. However, the midterms do not fairly evaluate the knowledge obtained. I think the test should be more like several short answers and less like its current form. Three to four essays on complex questions is hardly possible to supply the desired answers in the allotted time. I did all the reading, study guides, and worked with the TA and other classmates but unfortunately my grade remained the same. Otherwise the material in lectures was presented well and in an interesting manner.

It’s a great course and great instructor but I think the workload before each exam is excessive, besides that, I loved the course.

I admire the knowledge power possessed by professor Cleaver. This course has allowed a connection of thoughts from the 19th Century to the modern world. It’s very interesting to see the fundamentals of the way “society” works. Having gained this knowledge, it allows me to explain modern issues & that’s priceless.

Instructions for Essay 1 on appropriation could be better – clarified as it seemed many students were confused as to the specific assignment. I appreciated your study guide associated with Capital, as it provided a very helpful accompaniment to the required text and helped to clearly outline the chapters.

It was difficult to get to the TA’s office hours because they were all early in the week. I would have like the opportunity to take a couple of quizzes just to practice the essay format of the test.

I would have appreciated it if students were notified through Blackboard of their grades and if the instructor gave more detailed instructions of what to expect on exams and what was expected on essays. Or at least have the questions on the test be proportionately reflective of what was covered in lectures.

I thoroughly enjoyed this course. Though the texts/readings were quite dense, Dr. Cleaver did an excellent job in allowing us to understand the material. The class forced me to be more constantly analyzing the texts from different angles, and Dr. Cleaver’s pacing made the thousand pages of overall reading much more easily digestible.

Maybe try to offer a sort of review prior to tests. Lots of material to assimilate, difficult to know which parts may be completely useless, which may be integral to the learning (in relation to the tests). Thoroughly enjoyed the random discussions which occur during portions of the class.

Very helpful, communicated information better than most, and encouraged discussion and free-thinking more than any other professor I’ve had.

Professor Cleaver is very knowledgeable about what he teaches as well as passionate. It has been a pleasure taking this course from him. Only complaint was that I have no idea what my projected grade for this class will be because the curve is assigned after Exam 3 during finals week.
I feel like this is the most I’ve learned from any professor so far at UT. The Economics Department needs better professors.
Usually lots of reading, but always manageable.

I really like this class, I feel like I learned something new from this class. There are a few things that could maybe be changed, the test questions could be shorter, most of the time reading the test question and understanding what I needed to answer – took me too long. Secondly, I think some of the symbols that you use to represent some other word are hard to identify when you use the same symbol/lower case letter twice with different meanings in different chapters.

You say you wish you did not have to test us, yet you give very hard tests with not enough time, and grade very hard.

This course was very well prepared in my opinion because of the vast amount of resources provided. I am really thankful for all of the on-line links to Marxist theory and information as well as the powerpoint slides all being available. It is awesome that you made your book available on-line to the students, and I hope you can inspire other professors o do the same.
Although I like all the examples and commentary, I wish there was more class discussion, which I am sure would be very interesting and would help to organize Marx’s content into current cultural terms for greater understanding.
Finally, I really like the idea of the two essays.