Capstone Seminar: History--Near East: Economic Life in Ottoman Empire
Winter 2023 - Oh boy... I saw the incredibly divisive reviews for professor Koh on 105B and it prompted me to give my experience on the class, even though I've never written a bruin walk review before. Everyone is right in saying the class and professor Koh are unorthodox, especially for a history class. That comes with pros and cons, and I'll list the cons(at least the cons most people had) first: 1. For anyone that joined the class expecting a course dedicated solely to the historical material it centers around, professor Koh did not provide that. Arguably most of the lectures consisted of writing and grammar lessons rather than the actual history of the Middle East. 2. Many of those writing and grammar lessons involved reading other peoples homework papers. She kept it anonymous of course, but I can't help but feel as though it's a bit degrading for someone to sit in silence as their paper gets read and professor Koh points out all its mistakes as an example of how not to write a paper. 3. The in class lectures felt like being back in high school, as someone here already mentioned. She cold calls, assigns seats and groups, and has silent reading during class(She told me to put my head back down to read one time when I lifted my head up to stretch my neck). 4. Her grading mostly centers around writing and grammar rather than the historical content. She graded in 3 categories: Language, organization, and content. In other words, the means in which you wrote your paper primarily dictated your grade, as opposed to how well you retained and summarized the historical information from the readings. 5. The class was EXTREMELY tough. She's the harshest grader I've had so far at UCLA. I've generally never had any issues or substantial critiques with my writing since I got here, but it seems as though no matter how hard I tried, professor Koh always found a way to dock points. I think the highest I got on an assignment was a 13/15, and I averaged around an 11/15. To my understanding, those are the primary criticisms people had of professor Koh and her class. As a result, a lot of people seemed to hate the experience and cite it as their only B at UCLA. However, in my experience, professor Koh made 105B one of if not my absolute favorite classes so far at UCLA, and here's why: 1. I think most people missed the point as to why she emphasized writing so heavily. She was trying to tell us how, as historians, our ability to know historical information won't do much good if we don't know how to convey it through means that most people can understand. Because of that, she wanted to teach us how to effectively structure and explain our knowledge in a paper, and that's why she was so strict on the writing and dedicated a large portion of the lectures to it. I understand that most people didn't join the class to learn about writing, but that's actually why I respected professor Koh's message so much. I think a lot of people were under the impression that knowledge of historical events is all that matters in history, but professor Koh wanted to help our ability to relay that information so people will actually take us seriously. 2. The class environment, while often tense with cold calls, was incredibly friendly, social, and fun. I made some lasting friends in professor Koh's assigned groups, since we had to communicate and prepare with each other for when she called on us to answer questions. 3. Professor Koh genuinely cared about us and tried to help us with our work. She was super approachable and helpful anytime I needed clarification, and she always had great feedback on how to improve. 4. While her grading was harsh, it was not without reason. Professor Koh doesn't give perfect scores to people who did 'well enough', she gives a perfect 5 when she believes there's nothing that can be improved upon, which doesn't happen very often even for the best of writers. Her grading pushed me to become a better reader and writer, and I'm extremely grateful for that. I think most of the controversy of this class is how it seemingly marketed itself as a run-of-the-mill history course, so it was a shock when people started getting low grades for their writing when they already had an extensive knowledge of the material covered. With that in mind, I totally get why people were upset with this class and professor Koh, and I would agree that if you're looking for a class where the primary focus is the Middle East, it's not the course for you. However, the experience and knowledge professor Koh gave me is something I haven't experienced in a long time. I genuinely feel as though I emerged from the class as an improved writer and historian, and I would absolutely take professor Koh again in a heartbeat.