Student Comments
Eco 368, Survey of Economic Thought
Fall 2004

These are all the written comments made by students in their course evaluations: the good, the bad and the ugly.
The originals are available to anyone who wants to see them.

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

Professor Cleaver has a great deal of knowledge that has been imparted quite successfully in this class. The workload is excessive in my opinion but using the original works of economic thinkers was highly valuable. Although I don't agree with many of Dr. Cleaver's positions on issues I think that his insight is informative and that he shed light on many contemporary issues by resolving the impact that economic thought has today on political and economic policy making.

As becomes clear in some of the other comments below, the "excessive workload" mentioned above was mainly the quantity of reading of original, and sometimes difficult, texts. I've come to agree with this assessment and plan to reduce the amount of reading in subsequent semesters. Fewer pages coupled with more in depth analysis of those pages seems like a reasonable alternative.

One of the most interesting econ classes I have taken. This course presented economic material from a new and exciting perspective. The combination of history, philosophy and economics stimulated my thinking to an extent far beyond previous courses. A bit more structure and organization to class would have been helpful but overall lectures were interesting and well worth attending. Readings from the first portion of the course were difficult to sift through and I often had trouble understanding their relevance to the discussed topic. As the course progressed, however, readings became more accessible and valuable. Great professor with incredible knowledge not only regarding economics but current events and politics. A fantastic class!

The assignments in this class has enlightened me on the philosophical beliefs of history's greatest economists. The premises for which present economic actions are made, need obviously to be reconsidered in the light of these fundamental beliefs. My only complaint with this course is not founded on the professors' performance but rather the omnipresent complaining of capitalism without offering any sort of solutions. We tended to focus on this, but I would personally be more entertained if we took more time in class to brainstorm to these fundamental issues.

Yes, it's true that the readings contain considerable critique of capitalism, even from its greatest proponents, e.g., Adam Smith, but they are, I think, essential for confronting our current system in a thoughtful manner. As for "entertainment", well, frankly I don't think the objective of either professors or students should be "entertainment" in class! There are plenty of movies, concerts, theatre, etc. in Austin where you can be entertained. University courses are places to confront ideas in a serious and thoughtful manner. If they are well prepared they help you to do that. If you need entertainment, go elsewhere.

Here's the thing. Course is great and all but the amount of words containing three or more syllables is killing me. The readings are already verbose enough. You give an interpretation on the reading (in lecture) that is sometimes as hard to understand as the reading. There's no need to impress me with your vocabulary but there is a need to communicate on my level. On the other hand, I could work harder and look up all the words but I would rather spend my free time "sauntering" if you catch my drift. Sometimes it's almost as if you're speaking another language up there. What's the point in lecturing if you're the only one who understands. Being honest, its not that bad, this was the only thing I could think to write about. Peace out.

This kind of comment about vocabulary pops up from time to time, sometimes in these written evaluations, sometimes in, or out of, class. My reaction is always the same: Don't you come to the university to learn new ideas? And don't new ideas often require new words to express them accurately? If we professors only used a highschool level vocabulary and/or only assigned texts that were written in such a vocabulary would it not be inconsistent with a major point of studying at the university level? An obvious example of the need to learn new words is the reality that almost every discipline has its own jargon, it's own specialized vocabulary to express its theoretical insights. But more generally the more comprehensive your vocabulary, the more nuanced and precise will be your ability to communicate your ideas on any subject. Given these considerations, I would say to every student: if you don't recognize a word, or don't understand how it is being used, don't hesitate to ask! Either in class or out of class. You're here to learn; being clear about what you don't understand is one of the most important parts of learning. I'm here to help.

I have really enjoyed this class and look forward to taking another in my last year here. Many of the reading selections were wonderful and the online notes were very useful in tying the course together. What I would most like to see added to the course are more and better structured contemporary repercussions or analogies. Thank you for your enthusiasm in teaching this course.

I would ask that you keep posting your notes for the readings. People who don't read the assignments can use them unfairly (or perhaps unethically) to do well on tests. But your insights are what kept this class from becoming another brick in the wall, and what made this class valuable to me.

Give some incentive to come to class so the students can at least give a shot in learning this boring material.

The course has been very interesting. The professor clearly is interested and knows the material. I think, however, it would be better if the professor more strongly pointed out the theoretical contributions by figures in economics and their relation to the historical context. The professor is fond - and to his credit - of making connections to the modern day with the economists being studied, but sometimes I feel that these become digressions rather than helping illuminate the material. I think that some out-of-class essays would help reinforce the material to those of a different learning style. As it is, though, the course has been remarkable, and I have learned a great deal from an enthusiastic and intelligent professor.

I agree that writing essays is an excellent method of study. There are, however, two problems with writing essays in this course. First, it is a survey course and essays almost always tend to be narrow in focus and their writing therefore, tends to narrow students' attention when a primary objective of a survey course is to obtain a more comprehensive overview. Second, they require a lot of time to write, and a lot of time to grade which must be subtracted from the time available to read and think about the materials at hand. This said, I'm going to give the idea some thought.

This is an excellent course. I can't think of any other course I have taken at UT that was as thought provoking as this one. Professor Cleaver is the perfect professor for this class, he knows seemingly everything there is to know in this subject and manages to make some pretty dry and difficult texts interesting, contemporary and relevant to today. Every economics student should take this class. The only real problem is the lack of class discussion. I think it is difficult to achieve this in a class this big but maybe every now and then Professor Cleaver could make it an assignment for the class to debate issues we are discussing.

It might be helpful to require some assignments - something that will force/encourage us to engage the material more fully - papers or discussion questions or anything - given the size the course has ended up, it might be worth it to treat it as a discussion or seminar (and get a room to match - these stadium seating lecture rooms encourage us to shut up and listen.)

I liked the lectures and the scope of the material for the course. However, I felt the breadth of the reading was too much and the texts, being primary historical documents were very often difficult to digest in such a short period of time. Indeed, many of the texts were nearly philosophical or psychological essays that were muddled in abstraction and technicality. If the most representative texts were examined in depth, with perhaps some guide to better discuss their meaning, I think the end result would be more useful. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the brief introduction I received to some of the characters of economic history.

I thought the tests were straightforward and fair but sometimes drew on stuff that was tough to comprehend on my own time. I made most classes (3-4 absences) and enjoyed lectures though not really enjoying the reading. It is a lot of reading that is sometimes hard to stay up with. Overall the course was nice, but not great.

I liked this course a great deal but felt material was being rushed at times. I think this course would work well as a two-semester course so more time could be spent on each particular time horizon addressed. This would also allow more time for the extensive reading necessary in this class. I don't know if this is a feasible option but it would make for a better or more in depth learning experience.

A two semester course would be good, partly to have more time to cover the material, partly because more material could be covered. Right now the course covers the mercantilists to Keynes and the rebirth of macroeconomics. A second semester-long course could also explore the post-Keynes, post-WWII evolution of economic thought. I had originally thought to sweep through that period as well, but have found that an even marginally thorough examination of the earlier period just doesn't leave enough time to do that. To date, however, there hasn't been enough demand for a second semester course to offer one.

He is a good teacher and interesting. But the amount of reading required is too much.

If a student was to spend his time actually reading and understanding ALL the material assigned they would probably fail all the rest of his/her classes.

Your course was excellent professor though I think no one took full advantage of it; I did not begin to until that day that you gave a small talk about how we were not getting anything out of it if we don't do the readings. You really helped me see that the problem in our modern society isn't money but our allowing false desires for consumption to drive us to a life serving labor markets, working for a system that controls us.

The point I was making, to which the comment above refers, was that without reading the original material you are in no position to evaluate the interpretation of it that I provide in class. I am not interested in your simply learning what I have to say, but in your confronting the original texts themselves and seeing what you make of them, what you can get out of them. If you do that in advance of my lectures you are in a much better position to evaluate, and question, even challenge, my interpretation. Moreover, almost every text deals with several issues and in my lectures, given time constraints, I can rarely deal with them all. The points I skip just might be those that you will find most interesting if you actually read the texts.

I liked the class very much. The lectures were interesting, however, I know a lot of people did not go often because they didn't have to and I wish something would be done to change that. Perhaps more focused or pre-announced discussions on readings would be helpful. It would give people more incentive to read the course material before class. Overall, the class was very good.

At first the reading comes across as excessive. It was worth reading but I was turned off from it b/c it was just so much. I tried to find ways around reading it b/c I thought that there was no way I would be able to read all of it.

Definitely my favorite lecturer on campus. The workload is high, but it is usually made clear in class what readings to focus on. The class discussion is great though I am sometimes intimidated by the sheer volume of knowledge that Professor Cleaver shows on the subject.

At the beginning of the semester I was lost on how to study for the test and got a bad grade so I have been playing catch up for most of the semester. I would feel more confident about myself in this class if I would have gotten off to a better start.

I very much enjoyed the course. I think one improvement may have been for the instructor to hand out course material (i.e., syllabus and calendar) the first day of class. The material is online but handing it out and going over it briefly would be helpful.