Category:POLS 207-510

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State and Local Government
BLOC 102
TR 14:20–15:35

Instructor Information

  Instructor Teaching Assistants
Name Erik Godwin  
Office R 8:30–9:30, 12:50–13:50, OBA  


Tucker, Harvey J. and Norman R. Luttbeg. Comparing the States and Communities. 8th Ed. Spring 2011.

Other Supplies

Large Gray Scantrons for each of three tests

Supplemental Instruction

Time Location
Mon 18:00–19:00 HECC 202
Wed 18:00–19:00 BLOC 110
Sun 18:00–19:00 HECC 202

Open Letter to the Political Science Department at Texas A&M University

To whom it may concern,

My name is Matthew Barry, and I am a junior Computer Science and Mathematics double-major working on a University Honors distinction and an Honors Undergraduate Research thesis in natural mathematics representation. You have my permission to label me an over-achiever as I never settle for anything less than my best and enjoy overcoming challenges. In compliance with state higher education mandates, I was enrolled in POLS 207 during the 2012 Fall semester, and I am very disappointed to report that it was my worst education experience to date.

I have always considered myself a good student: I was reading by 18 months, went to sleep perusing my Science Encyclopedia at age 5, finished all 5th grade-level books at my elementary library by the time I was in 2nd grade. I was an all-A's (and often all-A+'s) honor roll student in elementary, middle, high school, and dual-credit humanities, and I graduated valedictorian of my class. At the end of my childhood education, I was blessed to have received a full scholarship to Texas A&M University.

I have continued this trend well into my higher education, maintaining a 4.0 GPA even through the courses most people report to have narrowly passed: I jumped into a year of what would have been sophomore-level calculus, biology, and physics and passed all with flying colors. I was also honored to have been the first-place recipient of the 2011 Addison-Wesley Mechanical Scholar award by what the proctor has told me was "a huge margin". By the trend on my transcript and this site itself, one might expect that I have formed excellent study habits and developed a good sense of critical thinking; and rightly so since my future as a software engineer depends on my ability to solve problems thoroughly, quickly, and creatively.

However, one discrepancy stands out on my transcript: a single B in POLS 207. As a token of appreciation for my scholarships and a lasting symbol of my dedication, I wanted to graduate magna cum laude, an honor from which Dr. Erik K. Godwin and the Political Science department has deprived me. I have been through the rigmarole of "weed-out" mentality and maintained academic excellence in spite of them, but the mentality exhibited by the aforementioned entities—at least my experience of it—is one of apathy and unmerited superiority: lectures had no structure, the book was abysmal, and office hours were of little help.

Lectures had no organized outline and prepared topics had almost nothing to do with the course. Instead, the professor would open with the reading and answering of email inquiries sent to him. These were often used as a starting topic for lecture/discussion, which he would then guide with questions that would result in conflicted opinions. Thus lectures seemed more like a lesson in public humiliation in which students were called out to voice an opinion or defend a position whether they agreed with it or not. My only reason for attending lecture was to hear the "write this down" freebies (represented in these notes as starred items in red boxes) that counted for 25% of our grade and could only be known by attending lecture. I sat in the front row, where I could pay better attention and was less likely to be targeted. However, my location and the acoustic properties of the room made hearing difficult as Dr. Godwin roamed up and down aisles. I never missed a lecture, but in hindsight I realize how much time they wasted. The remaining 75% of the course grade was from the textbook, and the questions seemed to cover all of the least important material.

The course textbook—more accurately a collection of photocopied and hole-punched kindling—was absolutely horrendous. Many of the presented "facts" were contradictory, whole sections dedicated to explaining why two concepts might be correlated were often nullified by a single "no relation" sentence, the text was very bland with very little emphasis on any main points, and spelling, grammar, and typographic errors too numerous to count. I am not an English major, but I have a profound appreciation for grammar and language such that colloquialism (written as one might speak in an informal conversation) is irritating to read. Furthermore, the data is presented from a blatantly biased perspective (often the reason why very few conclusions could be made, as they would contradict or reflect badly on the authors' viewpoint), and some of the data I know from my own experience and investigation to be incorrect. Each of the three tests covered an overwhelming amount of information, and any attempts on my part to clarify the confusion caused by the untenable text were often met with disregard.

Dr. Godwin's office (and the entire political science department) are extremely far away from campus, often requiring a 20-minute bus or bike ride. Therefore any visit to office hours requires a huge effort and a large block of time that often conflicted with classes. Undeterred, I visited office hours quite frequently, especially before and after exams and whenever I had difficulty with the book (which happened quite often). As previously stated, questions about conflicting evidence were often addressed as "know both ways" (a difficult feat since "both ways" are mutually incompatible) or "just memorize the final conclusion" (still unclear since such conflicts often had no reference of each other).

On the first day of class, Dr. Godwin promised, and I quote it here, that this class "should not get in the way of your life." On the exact contrary, this class "[got] in the way of [my] life" more than any other class I have taken to date. I studied harder for these exams than any other exam I have ever taken (including the SAT), I attended supplemental instruction (SI) sessions on a regular basis, I visited office hours often, I was in class every lecture period, and I took copious and thorough notes (attested by the information on this site). My performance in my other classes even suffered as a result of the effort I put into this class (even Dr. Godwin objected to this). One might expect such actions would result in stellar performance, when in contrast, I now have the worst grade I have ever received in my entire education.

While this may seem disproportionate, my self-esteem suffered as a result of my final grade. It was my first academic "failure"; the first time I experienced such utter rejection in that my best just wasn't good enough; my first blemish on my otherwise spotless academic record. At first introspection was that I was the problem, but as POLS 207 was an anomaly among my other grades, this surely couldn't be the case. A vast majority of my blame for failure lies on the book and its authors, but the professor, while I hold him in highest respect and find him a wholly amiable person, did not teach the material very well and did not seem to care much about the students' performance in his class. Regardless, the damage is done, and I will forever look in disgust upon that "hole" in my transcript—forever reminded of my worst class, but an indication of my inability to put up with [nonsense].

--Matthew (talk) 01:19, 18 January 2013 (CST)