All Ratings and Reviews for Joshua Armstrong
Kim Johnston is the worst TA I have ever had. Don't even bother coming to office hours, because the "clarification" becomes complicated and makes the subject Professor Armstrong teaches even harder. I would not recommend this class to anyone, especially if this is your first Philosophy class coming in as a first-year.
super confusing, would not recommend
This class is ridiculously hard to understand, and explanations from the teacher or TA make it more difficult. Do not take this class if you have Kim as a TA.
There is no point in going to lecture because nothing makes sense. Discussion is mandatory but if you have Kim things will only get more confusing.
If your TA is Kim, do not take this class. Trust me, drop it. This is a very hard GE. Papers are not well explained, TA's are unhelpful, and the professor expects you understand everything the first time it is said.
This class has the potential to be interesting, but Professor Armstrong talks so fast and monotone that I can barely register what he's saying much less take notes on the topic. Yes, there are no tests, but that means your grade is dependant on three essays which your TAs grade. I would highly discourage anyone who is considering taking this course. I completed every single reading, attended every lecture, took notes, went to office hours and still will not receive an A. Save your GPA and do NOT take this class!
You don't really have to attend lectures. Grading is based entirely on 3 papers and 10% participation. The topics can be confusing, so make sure to attend every discussion and go to office hours to get help from your TA. It's really easy to get a B in this class- if you want an easy A GE, this is not it. The workload is light, but you really need to be doing well on those 3 essays if you want an A.
Update after grades came out:
First off, I have to say I had Amber as a TA and not Kim Johnston. I really think she did her best to explain confusing concepts. I left office hours generally more ready to write the essays. She is my first TA ever at college, so I don't have any standard to compare her to, but I thought she was a good TA.
Now about the class. I really don't think the class deserves a 1.9 easiness rating. I would say it is closer to about a 3. You're not gonna be failing if you do the 3 papers. It is fairly easy to get a B in this class, but it can be challenging to get an A. I really did not expect an A-, I was HOPING for a B+ and thought I'd probably get a B. I think a majority of those who left bad reviews about the class before are now similarly pleasantly surprised at their final grade.
To get at least an A- in the class, try to at least get mid to high B's on all 3 papers and attend every discussion. Go to office hours to get help on the papers because the topics can be very, very confusing. You could be going completely off track with the prompts without help. You really do not have to attend lectures, but you need to make up for that in office hours. I only did the readings that were related to the essay prompts, so you really don't have to read everything.
20% short paper (3 pages)/35% longer paper (1200-1800 words)/35% long paper/10% discussion is the grade breakdown. I saw a lot of other freshmen like me lured by the single review that called this class a "breeze" last year. Well, there are no more quizzes or extra assignments to raise your grade now. Only papers, so the class got tougher to get an A in.
and finally, if you are reading THANK YOU AMBER!!!!!
Okay everyone is hating on Kim Johnson as a TA but she honestly was not the worst. I only attended maybe 6 lectures and they were the lectures that we got our essay prompts. The only work you ever have to turn in for this class is 3 essays. So, even though there were at least 2, often lengthy readings per week, you only have to read what you choose to write about for your essays. While Kim was often confusing in discussion, she usually told you the exact structure she was looking for when it came to essays. Also, if you go to her office hours with a draft, I often found that she helped me solidify what I was writing. If you were writing something that was not correct or relevant, she would often come right out and tell you to delete it, which is helpful since she is the one grading them.
You don't have to understand everything that is said in lecture because at the end of the day you are only graded on your understanding of 3 pieces. Also, the class is Bruincasted so you can always go back and re-watch the lectures about your essay topic. I would not recommend this class as just an easy GE to take but if this class is required for your major or if you need a philosophy course, this one is completely doable. Just go to office hours and discussion.
If you are taking this class for a GE, there are so many better ones. If you are taking it for Cog Sci of Psych, take Philosophy 1 - 9 not this one. This class is very boring, repetitive, and not fun to be in. The materials are very complicated and I believe that this part of philosophy is not interesting at all.
Professor Armstrong is very monotone and I believe that out of 150 people taking the class, only about 70 shows up, and 10 of them sleep through the lecture. There are 3 papers that make up 90 percent of your grade, and they are very challenging.
If you have Kim as a TA, try to switch your section. She makes everything way too complicated, argues with the professor a lot (like she knows better), and grades very harshly. If you have Amber, you are good because she explains everything very clearly and you can attend any of her discussions and get the attendance credit.
Overall, not an easy class.
I took this class as a freshman in fall quarter, as did many others, and I'm sure most of us came in thinking this would be an easy class (as the single review from 2018 seemed to imply, thanks fam). It isn't.
This class is made up of three papers (20%, 35%, 35%) and discussion participation/attendance (10%). Attendance is not required for lecture, and if you know the material/chosen the prompt you want to write for a paper already, it isn't a terrible idea to skip a lecture here and there. No online quizzes as of Fall 2019, so everything really does depend on the papers.
The first part of the class (mostly theory) was not easy at all. The second part was more bearable, as the readings became more modern and thus accessible and easier to take apart. I struggled on the first two papers, receiving low Bs, but managed to get a 90% on the last paper after finally getting the hang of how my TA grades and how she prefers points to be argued. I stopped trying to read the readings before lecture and focused on taking notes and reading only the readings related to the prompt I chose for my paper around week 6, which definitely lessened the stress and improved my performance.
Positives: All the readings are uploaded as PDFs by Armstrong so no money was spent. Armstrong himself seemed like a nice person. While at first, she seemed a bit cold, my TA Piera did try her best to clarify the material during discussion/office hours.
Negatives: As mentioned before, the readings aren't all that easy. Paper prompts aren't really too well explained. Lecture slides are posted on CCLE but don't really make much sense if you didn't attend the lecture itself. Grading guidelines/rubric are on the subjective side, so it's better to figure out your TA and tailor your writing style towards them. Armstrong's voice isn't very engaging so it was difficult to focus in lecture.
I came into this class expecting to do decently because I was good at high school English and liked language. Those two things really didn't help much. I can't say this class didn't teach me a lesson about how to adjust though, so I'm thankful for that.
TD;DR This class was not an easy A. Do not take this class if you're a freshman or just looking for an easy GE. If you have taken a philosophy course before and are genuinely interested in the material, you'll probably do fine in this class.
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