Students Speak

Dr. Goldberg has affected many students, sometimes in ways hard to articulate. But  because his course is currently in jeopardy, it is up to the current and former students to make sure it continues. The next generation of students at UNC deserve to have the opportunity to encounter these great ideas, taught by Dr. Goldberg in a totally unique way.

We are starting an alumni appeal to the university to reinstate the course, directed towards the Chancellor and the College of Arts & Sciences Dean. Please use this space to share your thoughts, experiences, stories, or expressions of support. If you are a student who wrote a teaching nomination, or if you were part of the alumni letter campaigns between 1998 and 2008, please post the text here or send them to us in an email, since we no longer have those records. Please sign the letter, including your class year/major, the courses you took, and where you are now. Every voice makes a difference!

34 thoughts on “Students Speak

  1. I took two of Dr. Goldberg’s courses while at school from ’02 to ’06. Eight years later, after seven years in the Navy, now with a wife and son, and back in school (law), how did I even find this page? Because I grew curious of this course’s current status. I was mentioning works Goldberg taught while applying to be a research-assistant for a law school professor whose scholarly bent would benefit from RA’s so exposed to the classic western canon. Let me be clear, in case that was obscure: 1) I had not known, as a pupil of Goldberg, how my studies might help me along in my future. I certainly loved those classes at the time more than any others, as these other alumni/-ae testify. 2) And now, matured and changed as I am, it is those courses which shape my study of the law, such that I approach this current chapter of my life with confidence despite its newness, and with wisdom despite its constraints of “economic practicality.” Walking my path with an intellectual long-view, I commit fewer errors in my home life, civic life, and in my professional life. Had I not taken Goldberg’s courses, I would be contributing to the ills of today.

    By limiting Goldberg’s courses in the name of preparing youth for today’s challenges, UNC would seek to limit us to merely our day and age. But humans don’t serve ages. Humans don’t serve anything greater than themselves. Humans, with every generation, create their world, its gods, its taboos, its purposes, and its conflicts. Rather, humans create ages. (In setting out simply to serve a troubled age, a generation merely creates a next age that is similarly beleaguered). To censor timeless wisdom while apparently believing in the timeless value of molding students to merely current issues, a school besmirches itself, lies to human nature, and requests its prompt erasure from the memory of posterity, when it shall be cast into the great sea of past human follies. Education doesn’t solve problems. It precludes them.

    UNC ought to be ashamed of itself, but it won’t be. For who might convince a fool? The comfort is that because wisdom doesn’t die, where it’s stamped out by one group, somewhere else it will likely crop up. I for one am quite resolved to ignore UNC’s example and, instead, to raise my children and to create educational opportunities for their cohort in line with the intellectual rigor and honesty so embodied by, among others, Dr. Goldberg. Goodbye, UNC.

  2. On the first day of my freshman classes, I found myself running late for Dr. Goldberg’s class because of my unfamiliarity with the campus map. I came to the room two minutes late and attempted to gently open the door, lest I commit the faux pas of disturbing the class by being tardy on the first day. As I turned the knob, I found the door would not open. I thought to myself, “He’s blocked the door! My first class and I’ve found the professor who so hates tardiness that he’s blocked the door!” I would soon learn, however, that it was not Professor Goldberg who was blocking the door the door, but rather the sheer mass of students who had filled the room to the brim, attempting to be added to the roster on the first day.

    Once I forced my way into the room, I had the privilege of sitting through an enthralling hour of discussion. After the session had ended, Dr. Goldberg asked all who had registered for the class to come forward and confirm that they planned to remain in the course. All did, myself included. He then offered students who had already taken at least one of the semesters in the sequence (“the veterans”) the chance to add the class. Even then, Dr. Goldberg found himself left with a literal mass of students, all eagerly hoping to find their way into the course. Dr. Goldberg seemed perplexed. “Well, counting all of you there are 57, and I can’t possibly take you all. The fire code for this room is 41!” One of his former students suggested, in a joking tone, that he could always open another section of the course. Dr. Goldberg replied, “I could, but I’m already teaching two other courses this semester!” The crowd chuckled, obviously resigned to their fate. Then Dr. Goldberg said the words that we in the room least expected to hear: “But I guess that’s what we’ll have to do.” Dr. Goldberg then proceeded to take the names of every student in the room who was not signed up for the course and open another section immediately following the first. On this, my first day of school at Carolina, I knew I had come to the right university.

    The brief anecdote I have shared speaks in part to Dr. Goldberg’s great character as a professor, which is also attested to by the numerous teaching awards he has won from the University. But more than that, it demonstrates the enthusiasm that Dr. Goldberg’s students have for his teaching. As the existence of this website attests, the intellectual engagement that begins for students in Dr. Goldberg’s classes continues far past their time at Carolina. Many of us regard the time we spent in Dr. Goldberg’s classes as the most valuable part of our education at Carolina. I personally attribute my success in law school and several of my professional accomplishments to the writing and critical thinking skills I developed in Dr. Goldberg’s classes. And the works I read in Dr. Goldberg’s classes have done more to shape my thinking about the world than any other class or experience I had while I was at Carolina.

    If UNC will not allow Dr. Goldberg to teach a second class, then this spring the students who find themselves crammed into that room with a fire code for 41 will be turned away. And that will not only diminish experience of those students who would otherwise be fortunate enough to take the class; it will also undermine the mission of the university and the Honors Program to provide those students the education that they came to Carolina in search of.

    I strongly urge the administration to give the current generation of Carolina students the chance I had: to take a class that quite literally changed my life. Neither budgets nor fire codes should stand in the way.

  3. I didn’t take one of Dr. Goldberg’s classes until the first semester of my senior year. I had by this time completed my majors in Economics and Political Science, and, despite having access to high-level and graduate courses in both fields at UNC and Duke, I had decided to use my remaining classes on electives like Dr. Goldberg’s. I did this because, quite frankly, I had come to find the content and approach of Social Science, even at these highest levels, to be strangely unfulfilling. After spending the summer before my senior year at the Social Science Research Center in Berlin, I had began to suspect that this unfulfillment was not due to the quality or level of my particular exposure to these disciplines, but instead endemic to the content and approach of them. While working alongside some of the top social scientists in the world, it became clear that the field was important to most of them because of the practical ‘impact’ that it COULD have on the world. But when I tried to engage the scholars around me on the question that makes this one worthwhile – which practical impacts SHOULD we have on the world? – I was returned with a disappointing lack of enthusiasm. Without an answer to this question, my research and learning felt like at best a fun game and at worst a spinning of wheels.

    In the elective-filled senior year that these experiences provoked I also took other courses that asked versions of this ‘should’ question (e.g., political philosophy, art, literature, and even another ‘great books’ course). Yet Dr. Goldberg’s far outshone them all. I will, therefore, say something both about the content of Dr. Goldberg’s courses and about his specific manner of teaching.

    My first two classes with Dr. Goldberg came on the same day (I had enrolled in two of his courses). This single day was, for me, an intellectual revolution. The readings were Shakespeare’s As You Like It and the Book of Genesis; and although I enjoyed doing the reading on my own, it wasn’t until we actually had our first in-class conversation that I was knocked off my horse: it is not hyperbole to say that I learned more in those 3 hours about the things I most wanted to know than I had in my previous 3 years. In just this one day, I for the first time asked in a serious way some of the questions I had always had wanted to ask (without, to that point, really knowing it): What is love? What is friendship? What is the essence of a human being? Is human nature shameful? Is the world ordered and meaningful?

    I had already studied the Bible and Shakespeare on both the high school and college level. But Dr. Goldberg’s approach, quite literally, brought the texts to life: for Dr. Goldberg and the students who were familiar with his way treated Shakespeare and the Bible not as some distant historical or cultural artifacts but as expressions of deep insights that are still entirely available to us – despite the obvious differences in our cultures. That is, ‘all’ Dr. Goldberg requires is that you treat the books in front of you like you can understand them and that they are worth understanding. After a short time of practicing this habit, you no longer read with such generosity because it’s being required of you but because your own experience has proven over and over again that these texts are, in fact, entirely reasonable and entirely worth understanding.

    And just as Dr. Goldberg helps you to see for yourself that the texts he teaches are worth genuinely and devoutly considering, so does he help you to see that it is likewise with each of your fellow students’ opinions. For far from imposing his or any other opinion about the questions a text is raising, Dr. Goldberg considers the variety of heartfelt agreements and objections to what is being said with a seriousness and delight that can not be faked. So we students too begin to take one another seriously – and now, instead of just saying “I disagree [period],” we say “I disagree because…” or “How could say that say that considering…?”, we begin to give reasons and ask for reasons – because we now EXPECT that our fellow students, like these great texts, have insights worth considering and reasons for having them. And, just as with the texts, our fellow students reward us, so that, finally, we genuinely listen to and consider one another not because Dr. Goldberg requires it but because our own experience has taught us that our fellow learners each have something to teach us.

    It is no mistake, then, that so many students laud Dr. Goldberg’s class as not only the class in which they learned the most, but also the one in which they found their most meaningful community: for by practicing Dr. Goldberg’s example, we get to the heart of the questions that make all of our other activities – our studies, our social lives, and our worldly engagements – meaningful and fulfilling; and, likewise, by practicing Dr. Goldberg’s example, we learn that perhaps the most fulfilling thing of all is to share – to truly listen and to truly be listened to – the most important questions with people who also want to share with us – that is, with real friends.

    I lament this dilution – and perhaps incipient elimination – of Dr. Goldberg’s classes as a two-fold injustice: good things are not being done to a truly good man; and, even worse, great things are being taken from the future students of UNC.

  4. At graduate school here in Yale, I am finding that many of my fellow scholars have a rich background in the Great Books, coming from universities that support Great Books Programs. I have that shared background because of Dr. Goldberg’s Elements of Politics series, which is much smaller than the programs many other top universities offer. How horrific that even it is being pushed aside.

    As I approached the end of my junior year at UNC I was in line to graduate Phi Beta Kappa, with a double major, and eventually even with highest honors—but without an education. I had spent the past three years of college playing a game of challenging myself in math and economics courses but not really understanding what it meant to be educated and definitely not becoming any closer to being educated than I had been
    when I entered UNC. I loved UNC, but I blindly believed that solving world problems can be done without first educating oneself broadly. It terrifies me that a university can seek to form future problem-solvers without seeking to educate its students in the fundamentals of human interaction, without striving to invoke a love of beauty, truth, or goodness. How are we to know what problems are important? How can
    we begin to know what the proper solutions are? It is not that studying economics is unimportant, but that knowing theories and formulas devoid of wisdom is pointless and potentially very dangerous.

    I was blessed to be introduced to Dr. Goldberg in time to register for his courses my senior year, and though I had limited time to take courses with him and wish I could have known of him earlier, he has blessed me by educating friends with whom I can continue to grow and through whom I can continue to be educated. He has set me on a path of continuous education. The two courses I took were the best courses I
    ever took at UNC; there is really not even a comparison. They also best prepared me for my graduate studies now. How can we continue to call ourselves a liberal arts university when the authorities seek to eliminate the study and open discussion of the most important works? It is absurd to think that a program is being threatened when a single student will take 8 courses that are not even in pursuit of a major. The need for this movement to exist to preserve the Elements of Politics series makes me ache for future students who will be denied what was one of my only experiences of true education at UNC.

    I hope to be the problem-solver that Holden Thorp desires of his students, but my math and economics majors and even a future PhD in economics are the simple part of my preparation; the crucial part is the education I received in Dr. Goldberg’s courses.

    Katie Beam, Class of 2011
    Carolina Scholar

  5. I was honored to be a member of the eight courses Goldberg teaches. Each and every class was extraordinary, and I cannot quite understand which of these classes the university thinks is unnecessary. These courses are irreplaceable. Do we do away with the course exploring Churchill’s biographies or the Ancients course exploring the work of Aristotle and Plato? The answer should be that none of the Elements of Politics courses should be cut. I double majored in mathematics and economics, but I suppose I also majored in Goldberg’s courses. He was and will always be one of the most extraordinary professors I have ever encountered. He manages to engage every student in his class, and all are welcome. To this day, I do not know his political leanings or his favorite work, because he made such an effort to ensure that all points of view were welcome and all discussion was allowed, provided the discourse was respectful and addressed the work under review. This is an amazing talent, and few can achieve the level of openness combined with the depth and intensity of discussion that take place every day in Professor Goldberg’s classrooms. I understand that times are tough, and I have contributed to the University since I graduated. In light of the tough times, I have just made an additional contribution for this year in the hopes that it will allow the University to retain its high academic standards, starting by committing to continue to offer all of Professor Goldberg’s courses.

    Emily Nix ’09
    PhD Candidate in Economics, Yale University

  6. As I stand on the precipice of taking my comprehensive exams in political theory, I am grateful daily for the lessons and guidance that I gained from my many semesters as an undergrad in Professor Goldberg’s Elements of Politics courses. Although the courses had a particular impact on my hopes for a career as an academic, the value of learning alongside my peers and Professor Goldberg far surpasses my improved capability to read texts. Many others have left much more thoughtful commentary than I could reflecting on how valuable the education from these courses is beyond the mere professionalization that often dominates the contemporary academic landscape, but I would like to echo that sentiment. It would be a terribly unfortunate commentary on the priorities of the University as a whole if these budget cuts limit the overwhelmingly positive force that these courses provide for the university community.

    Over the past couple years, the University has done enough to embarrass its alumni, students, faculty and all of those who hold a special place for it in their hearts. I sincerely hope that the University does not make another mistake by denying a number of future students the ability to enrich their education with these courses. It will be very easy to ignore the wound that this decision causes when the budgetary concerns are met and next year’s rankings come out, but the long-term detriment to the quality of education that the University provides for its most engaged students will be immeasurably great.

    Ben Peterson, Class of 2008

  7. I attended UNC from 2000-2004, and when I think back on my time at Carolina, I think of Professor Goldberg’s courses and the community of friends they fostered. I majored in English & minored in Creative Writing, but if I could have majored in the Elements of Politics, I would have.
    Professor Goldberg is remarkable & one of a kind not only because he is incredibly sharp and able to skillfully search the depths of great philosophical literature with his students; he is an excellent teacher and uniquely gifted with care for each student and sincere passion in helping them birth new ideas. The ideas themselves are not new; they are the same challenging ideas & questions that so many have wrestled to realize. But they are new, fascinating, and life changing to each student who uncovers them in Professor Goldberg’s classes.
    Professor Goldberg cannot read his students minds (though sometimes it seems he can), but he makes a point to really know & remember his students (from semester to semester & after graduation)–he remembers their insights, questions, & struggles. Professor Goldberg sees his students’ strengths & encourages them. He furthermore challenges his students to grow as writers, thinkers–as themselves.
    I was so struck by Professor Goldberg & fascinated with the growth & learning I experienced in his courses (plus, they were so fun!), that I took all of the Elements of Politics sequence, as well as a Shakespeare course with Professor Goldberg. I went on to write my honors thesis on Shakespeare with Professor Goldberg as my advisor. After graduating from UNC, I taught secondary school English for 4 years, and I sought to teach like Goldberg teaches. Middle School students don’t know what to think of being called by their last names, but I nonetheless modeled my teaching after Professor Goldberg because I wanted to inspire, encourage, and challenge my students as he does.
    When friends have asked me for recommendations on what to do / what not to do at Carolina, I have consistently and whole-heartedly recommended The Elements of Politics and/or any class taught by Professor Goldberg.
    Please consider how valuable these Elements of Politics courses are at Carolina. While I certainly learned a lot in 4 years at UNC, I have never loved learning, admired & esteemed a professor, and found such a rich community of friends as I did through The Elements of Politics. Being a part of this sequence, in its fullness, is undoubtedly the highlight of my time as a student; I hope Professor Goldberg is able & encouraged to continue teaching the full course for as long as possible.

  8. I majored in Economics and work in management consulting —I think I understand that resources are finite and the times are tough. But it seems even hard-pressed corporations only cut costs where resources are least productive; further, they invest in their strengths even in bad times. If the University is concerned with the quality of undergraduate teaching, I don’t see how Dr. Larry Goldberg’s classes could not count as strengths. In fact, it pains me to have to argue the obvious: so long as undergraduate excellence is a goal, these classes are far too high on the list of many top students and alumni to be the targets of even very tough cuts. At the very least, therefore, cutting them—even if only partially—cannot be justified now or in the foreseeable economic future. His impact is too large and his cost tiny in proportion. His course would be one of the last measures I would take up so far as undergraduates are concerned.
    On my first year at UNC it was easy to realize the obvious: the course had the best students in the University—by far the most impressive students I had seen in my 20 years. I later concluded that these students comprised the most serious undergraduate intellectual community at UNC, as far as I could tell from living on campus for 4 years.

  9. I do not have much to add, as the previous students’ comments have echoed my experience exactly. Dr. Goldberg’s class, to a saddening degree, was unlike too many instances in my UNC experience–I was not sitting in a crowded lecture hall listening to a professor speak or in a smaller classroom, taught by a graduate student worried about her comprehensive exams. I was engaging in thoughtful dialogue with other very intelligent students, becoming more enlightened through the tutelage of this inspiring man. We became that poem by Thomas Wolfe, talking and talking and talking, talking about things that I hoped to talk about in college, not for a grade but for the experience and expansion of knowledge outside of the class itself. Dr. Goldberg’s class re-ignited my passion for learning, arguing and critiquing. If you take away the Elements of Politics class, future generations of Tar Heels will miss out on what I consider a defining characteristic of my undergrad experience.

  10. I took all four (as it was in my day) semesters of the Elements of Politics, and to this day am intensely grateful for the lasting and profound influence it has had on my life. Many of the conversations from that class I still recall word for word, and still have occasion to use every day. One of them was a discussion of whether virtue can be instilled through education, or must be innate. The answer to that, to me, seems evident given the conviction so many of us evidently hold that Dr. Goldberg taught us something of fundamental importance – how to be. Not only did the lessons of this course become my moral compass, but through its extraordinarily rigorous and challenging method I also gained skills that help me stand out professionally. Just this week, for example, my boss’s boss complimented me on my ability to analyze complex arguments and explain them clearly, accurately and concisely – an ability I would not have if not for Honors 32. I sincerely hope that the course will be available for many future generations of Tar Heels, and that they will take fullest advantage of it – as I’m confident they will, in droves.

  11. At UNC I benefited from an extraordinary undergraduate education that enabled me to obtain a Rhodes Scholarship and pursue a graduate degree at Oxford. Professor Goldberg’s course, The Elements of Politics, was the cornerstone of my Carolina education. I pursued this course for all six semesters that were then available, and I cannot sufficiently emphasize its impact on my intellectual development and academic training. The authors and works that we covered were so important to my understanding of diverse philosophical traditions and to the role of politics in the world. In this class, I learned to grapple with difficult primary texts, think critically about the ideas they contained, and synthesize these ideas in concise writing assignments.

    Our seminar discussions were simply the most intellectually stimulating conversations that I experienced at UNC. Professor Goldberg was the ideal instructor, guiding us through these challenging texts and supporting us in discovering their meaning. There were so many “Goldberg moments” when we would all realize that the discussion had uncovered an important insight on the human condition. The engagement of the students in the room was palpable.

    It was a privilege to be a part of Professor Goldberg’s The Elements of Politics. The dozens of books that we read are still on my shelf as a constant reminder of the remarkable education that UNC gave me through this course. I cannot believe that the university would consider terminating the very kind of course that makes Carolina a top caliber academic institution. Professor Goldberg’s course on The Elements of Politics should be steadfastly supported.

  12. Dr. Goldberg’s classes have by far been the best I’ve taken at UNC, not only because of their content, but also because they provide a lens for me to see and analyze other pursuits through. I think that his courses have given me a kind of sound backdrop that, when in doubt, I try and test myself against. Even with other coursework, I feel as if a semester without a Goldberg class would feel somewhat empty now.

  13. Throughout my time at Carolina, Elements of Politics was consistently my favorite and most thought compelling course. Even today, two years after graduation, I cannot go a week without thinking about a passage I read in his class and the lessens I learned form Dr. Goldberg and my fellow classmates. My only two regrets about the course are were not being able to dedicate myself entirely each semester to just those classes and not having enough elective credits to take the entire eight semesters (I took three).

    The UNC culture would suffer from having the course reduced, please reconsider.

  14. When I was a freshman, I had the good fortune to befriend a group of wise upperclassmen who insisted that I take a class with Dr. Goldberg before I left the University. Seven courses later, I was one of the wise upperclassmen, informing anyone who would listen that Dr. Goldberg’s classes were a University treasure not to be missed. And what happened in between was just the sort of intellectual transformation that so many others on this board have already described. Equipped with a common vocabulary, inspired and encouraged by Dr. Goldberg, and challenged by the texts themselves, my classmates and I grappled with the same political and philosophical issues, the same thorny questions about human nature and self-government, that have connected thinkers and artists for centuries. I cherished my Monday and Wednesday afternoons, when between the hours of 3:00 and 5:45 (and often long after that, when the discussions continued past the official end of class), I was lucky enough to be a part of this intellectual community, led by Dr. Goldberg, and consisting of many of Carolina’s brightest students. While these seminars undoubtedly sharpened my critical faculties and opened my mind, they also nourished my soul, due in no small part to Dr. Goldberg’s unfailing dedication to his students and to the texts to which he introduces them.

    Unlike so many other brilliant intellects, Dr. Goldberg has a true commitment to teaching, to the education and improvement of each young mind that steps into his classroom. During the three years in which I was his student, he truly listened to every comment I made in class and carefully read every precis I submitted. He took the time and energy to gain a deep understanding of my intellectual and moral disposition, to the point where he could, at the appropriate moments, and with his trademark mischievous smile, proclaim “I know Ms. Gurvich is thinking. . . ” — and he would be right, every time, occasionally even before I could articulate what it was that perplexed or exhilarated me about the text.

    I recently visited my parents’ house in North Carolina, where I have rooms full of relics from the past. But the only thing I brought back with me to my condo in Boston was every last precis and essay that I had written in my Elements classes (most of my favorite books from the seminars made the trip years ago and are now taking up space we don’t have). Rereading those papers, I am amazed by the quality of the analysis that Dr. Goldberg elicited–and demanded–from each of his students. It is my sincere hope that he will continue to do so, and in the process to improve the lives of Carolina students, for many years to come.

  15. Cutting Dr. Goldberg’s course load would be a phenomenal mistake. I am confident that the $7,500 spent per semester will result in exponential returns for the University, its students and alumni. There is a substance to Dr. Goldberg’s courses that is rare and valuable. The courses teach students to look past superficiality and search for the essence of a matter.

    I am reminded of Shakespeare:
    “Man, proud man, dressed in a little brief authority, most ignorant of what he’s most assured…plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven as make the angels weep.”

    Don’t cut the course University, proud University.

  16. For the past few weeks, I have been preparing to teach a “Great Books” course to undergraduates at the University of Michigan. I found myself digging out my notes and texts from Dr. Goldberg’s “Elements of Politics” courses, and as I read these texts again from the standpoint of an instructor, I find myself even more grateful for Dr. Goldberg’s contributions to my career as a life-long student of literature. As a graduate student in the university’s English program, I often teach College Writing, a course which encompasses far more than the basics of structure, grammar, and lucidity. Teaching students to express themselves in writing also involves teaching critical thinking skills and an understanding of argument, persuasion, and rhetoric. In short, to write well, one needs to be able to read and think well. In Dr. Goldberg’s classes I was able to develop all of these skills, while gaining the unique perspective of fellow students from different majors and backgrounds. Perhaps this is why the University of Michigan allows a similar course to fulfill the first-year writing requirement for students in the honors program. As both an alumna of Dr. Goldberg’s courses and as a current instructor of undergraduates, I sincerely believe that courses such as the “Elements of Politics” and instructors such as Dr. Goldberg are invaluable to students in any major, pursuing any career.

    Leila Watkins, 2008
    PhD Candidate, University of Michigan

  17. Professor Goldberg’s classes have meant more to me as both a student and a human being than anything else in my life. His education is one of the mind and the soul, one that seeks to give students both the gifts of truth and the skills with which to carry forward a life of incision and fulfillment. It is essential to the thriving of this great University that we continue to support a person who has given his life to others, blessing all of those who have been lucky enough to enter his classroom.

  18. I stumbled blindly into the Elements of Politics my very first semester at UNC and I had the great fortune to take 3 of the 4 (at that time) courses in the series as well as a special elective Dr. Goldberg offered on the philosophy of education during my time at UNC. I can say, without a doubt, that these classes were among the most important and rewarding of any classes I took at Carolina. Indeed, more so than almost any other undergraduate course (and most graduate courses), Dr. Goldberg’s Elements of Politics challenges students to read carefully, grapple with important and difficult concepts, and write cogently and concisely, all while addressing timeless and crucial questions that all of us must face and answer for ourselves the best we can.

    Dr. Goldberg’s dedication to his students was unmatched and, today, when I am preparing for and teaching courses of my own, I regularly think back to my time as student in the Elements of Politics as an example of undergraduate education of the absolute highest quality. I am a better person today because of my experiences in the Elements of Politics and I strongly hope that UNC will continue to support this course and provide these unique opportunities to students as long as Dr. Goldberg is willing to teach the course.

    Aaron Levine
    Assistant Professor, School of Public Policy
    Georgia Tech

  19. It can be a challenge today to find what was once called “a liberal education” in a modern university. The Elements of Politics course at UNC has provided students with the increasingly rare opportunity to delve into the great works of poetry, philosophy, political theory and literature, wrestle with the authors, and then approach politics and modern society a bit wiser from the struggle. My time in the course has been a continuous resource as I have approached academic choices, politics, and even personal life decisions. I cannot imagine my university education without the course.

    I imagine one reason the course is occasionally in peril is the difficulty of classifying it with the complex “department” scheme and finding a place for it at the university. For those who have taken the course, finding that place is easy — it belongs at the center. A mandatory four semesters in the course for every student, regardless of discipline, would be a perfectly reasonable solution that elements alumni would most likely support. That unlikely outcome aside, any university devoted to critical thought, learning, and preparing its students to be scholars and citizens in a democracy should preserve and support the course for all those who wish to take it on an elective basis. While the course may not be “core” in the organizational scheme of the university, it is exactly that for students who take the course.

    A final note on Dr. Goldberg: I cannot imagine a person better suited to approach the great topics of politics through the ages with the exact mix of humility and critical thinking that draws students into thoughtful discussion (and back for more semesters) again and again. To willingly lose Dr. Goldberg would be a tragedy and a discredit to the university.

  20. I read Plato, Aristotle, Friedrich Nietzsche, The Elements of Euclid, Adam Smith and a number of the writings of the American Founding Fathers with Dr. Goldberg while I was a graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill and then for many years after that. He is the most remarkable teacher I have ever met both in his learning and in the precision and care with which he approaches learning and teaching.

    John Hogan
    Ph. D., Classics, UNC-Chapel Hill 1989

  21. Before I took the first of my three courses with Dr. Goldberg, I had the good fortune to hear a frank description of the course from a friend. I’ll be honest and say that my initial response was one of incredulity; there was no way I was going to read that much, write that much, and participate that fervently for an entire semester. “And you don’t even get credit toward your major for it?” I asked, trying to remain polite. “Why would you take this course?

    Her response has stuck with me for 5 years: “Because it will become the reason you attended this university.”

    She was right. And I love the way she phrased that: “it will become the reason.” Pushing myself through mountains of text, entering into the philosophical through-line that has inspired debate from Plato to Dewey, was certainly not my reason for showing up on UNC’s campus. But, after entering Goldberg’s class, I couldn’t approach my education in any other way. Classes that spent whole weeks on mere snippets of primary sources, or lingered on secondary sources, became tiresome to me–wastes of my time. In the words of another alumnus of Dr. Goldberg’s course, “it just makes me so angry to think about my other classes, thinking about what they could’ve been.”

    Now, granted, not all alumni will need the kind of education that Dr. Goldberg offers. If they will never need to write well, they will not need Dr. Goldberg. If they will never need to summon genuine devotion to a complex and protracted endeavor, they will not need Dr. Goldberg. And if their lives after college will not require them to display a sophisticated faculty for critical thinking, they will not need Dr. Goldberg.

    The rest of the student population, however, deserves and requires Dr. Goldberg’s teaching. And UNC owes it to them.

    James Fritz, ’08
    English teacher
    Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy

  22. My name is Tadd Wilson, and I am a 1996 alum of UNC currently working as a senior manager for a large global technology company. Let me state bluntly: cutting Honors 32 would a huge mistake for UNC. Professor Goldberg’s class was a foundational aspect of my education, and as these testimonials show, it has been for many others as well. I understand the tradeoffs UNC is trying to make, both in terms of overall cost and in how it delivers “education.” I appreciate that the industrial model of instruction (hundreds of people in one large room augmented by overworked grad assistants) is inescapable at an institution of UNC’s size. Let me ask the University to appreciate that the content and concepts (and the interactivity with superiors and peers) that have lingered with me for a decade and a half were not those delivered in mass fashion. I have worked on six continents in technology and public policy – and the vast majority of my interactions resemble a “Goldberg class” in size and intensity, not the large-scale and largely passive feel of the industrial survey course. Honors 32 does not strive for cheap relevance in content or pedagogy, but it acheives real relevance in both through a time-tested curriculum and a time-tested classroom experience.

    Four names spring to mind as fully embodying the best of UNC in the classroom: Professor Goldberg for Honors 32; Reid Barbour for Shakespeare, Milton; William Keech for Advanced Political Science; and Craig Calhoun for UNITAS. These four professors differentiated my education beyond what I could have obtained at any large state school. Sadly, two of the four (Keech and Calhoun) left for greener pastures at Carnegie Mellon and NYU respectively, and while I understand their decisions, I also recognize the loss of quality in the classroom and the ultimate cheapening and commoditization of the UNC experience. Directionally, more erosion of that quality through the reduction or elimination of Honors 32 seems misaligned with UNC’s educational mission.

    I would also add, on a personal note, Honors 32 provides much more than a class at UNC – it builds a community that extends across classes and beyond a student’s time at UNC. Many of my cherished friendships – the most enduring – were either initiated or solidified in Honors 32. I know UNC alumni who started after I graduated who took Honors 32. Be cognizant of cutting more than a line item on a budget. Or put another way, as Professor Goldberg has advised on many occassions, “Be wise.”

  23. As an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I took two honors seminars of Dr. Goldberg’s “The Elements of Politics.” As a comparative literature major, I always had a thirst for great books and I was drawn in by the course readings which bring texts like Freud, Plato, and Turgenev into dialogue. As many former students above have noted, Dr. Goldberg’s seminars exceed the mastery of continental philosophy through weekly reading and precis. What “The Elements of Politics” offers UNC students is space for conversation. Every single student that takes a seat in the circle of desks in the top of Greenlaw with Dr. Goldberg makes a commitment to themselves and to each other. Students of philosophy make a commitment to living the examined life. And I truly believe a commitment to critical reflection and analysis it is one of the most important pacts you can make with yourself as an undergraduate. Furthermore, it was in Dr. Goldberg’s seminars where I met some of the brightest, thoughtful individuals I have ever encountered in my academic career. It was Dr. Goldberg and his students who taught me how to ask questions, how to begin and continue a conversation about abstract concepts like justice, truth, and beauty. This website is a symptom of why “The Elements of Politics” is so legendary at UNC. It draws the philosophically minded and critically reflective students at UNC, and keeps them coming back for eight semesters of reading and conversation. In the face of budget cuts, we have to ask ourselves questions that extend beyond the numbers and the money gained. If we allow the honors program to cut The Elements of Politics, what is really being lost? I truly feel that cutting TEP would mean snuffing out space for intellectual conversation at the University of North Carolina. Sadly, I fear this is only a symptom of a larger problem in the current cultural moment. Wishing Dr. Goldberg all the best, and many thanks for his dedication over the years.

    Emily O’Rourke, Class of 2008
    PhD candidate in Rhetoric at the University of California at Berkeley

  24. If the university follows through on its short-sighted plan to cut this course in half (as this website is indicating), it’s doing a colossal disservice to the the entire student body.

    Dr. Goldberg’s “Elements” Courses were life-changing classes that have forever affected the way I look at the world. They are educational in every sense of the word and remain the best courses I have taken in any academic setting–which explains why I took 6 of the 8 courses during my time at UNC. These courses explore the most important questions that we can ask of ourselves, delving into the very mysteries of human existence and human nature via some of history’s greatest works of philosophy and literature. If that’s not an important component of a college education, then I really don’t know what is.

    Dr. Goldberg also served as my C-START adviser and provided guidance as I worked on my thesis on Shakespeare. He has been an enormous influence on my academic career and, in my experience, he has been nothing but the consummate professional academic instructor–someone more concerned with actually TEACHING his students than anything else.

    If there’s anything I can do to help the cause, let me know.

    Michael Morrill ’10
    University of Chicago Law School, Class of 2014

  25. In deciding how to allocate scarce funds, I hope administrators will remember that a fundamental purpose of undergraduate education is to produce critical and objective thinkers.

    I can say without hesitation that any course within Dr. Goldberg’s Elements of Politics series will produce critical and objective thinkers. The reason for this is that the course requires students to read original “Great” works in political thought, form their own understanding of the works (i.e. how the particular “Great” views humanity and society), discuss the implications of this premise on society with their peers, and finally distill that material to its essence via a precis. Nothing is oversimplified or watered down.

    I remain awestruck by the brilliance of Aristotle, Swift, Kant, and the other “Greats,” and because I have been directly exposed to and challenged by their writings, I choose to live consciously instead of instinctively–to rationally analyze my decisions to benefit myself and others. I use the critical thinking and reading skills that I developed in Dr. Goldberg’s classes daily in my work as an attorney.

    In expressing strong support for the Elements of Politics, I do not wish to demean the value of any other courses at UNC-Chapel Hill. I am grateful to all of my professors and for the invaluable lessons that they have imparted to me (and continue to impart as I grow older). My undergraduate experience was greatly enriched by Dr. Goldberg, and I hope that future generations of students will have the same opportunity. Recognizing that resources are scarce, if the University needs alumni funding to help maintain the Elements of Politics, you can count on me.

  26. Dr. Goldberg’s class taught–and teaches me still–how to be a better person in the world. There are so many things I carry with me that I can hardly list them here. I learned to think clearly, even when scared, to appreciate the beautiful, love the good, to show mercy. I learned to make my thought more precise and to choose my words with care, since these are our tools for getting at the true nature of things. My semesters in Honors 32 were the very heart of my undergraduate experience. Dr. Goldberg is a rare person and the best teacher I’ve had. UNC is lucky to have him on board, and should keep in in the classroom as long as he is willing to be there.

  27. I’m so honored to have been a part of these experiences described here, and am deeply moved in reading them. I was a student of the course between ’95-’98, with Mr. Storey (above), Mr. Wilson, Ms. Thayer, and other greats. Dr. Goldberg taught me to read, write, and wonder at a time when I was a bit too certain of some things. I’ve just finished a phd in philosophy and truly wish I could return and take the course again – it is so rare to be in a room where the love of truth trumps ideology, and where the moral trajectory of all questions is seen and felt as a vital thing.

  28. Dr. Goldberg’s course was by far the best I had at UNC. He is the inspirational educator that students hope to find in college. His passion for learning was contagious and inspired me in every aspect of my life the semester I had him. I learned not only about the texts covered in the syllabus but how to be a better person and a better citizen. UNC would be doing a disservice to its future students if it does not continue to offer his course.

  29. I was recently back home after having been overseas for years and took a moment to look at the books on my bookshelf. As I browsed, my eyes landed on Nietzsche, Kant, Heidegger, Descartes, Sartre, Aristotle, Tolstoy…. Although years had passed since sitting in Dr. Goldberg’s courses, I felt such a deep appreciation for Dr. Goldberg. What he managed to teach us went beyond what every other lecture or class could – he taught us how to think for ourselves, how to effectively analyze the world around us, how to become better citizens, how to explore our role in society, and gave us thirst to learn more. After a day of sitting in one of Dr. Goldberg’s courses, a student is already changed – a student matures into a responsible, thoughtful member of society. During my first semester at UNC, I began to hear about the legendary Dr. Goldberg. I could not grasp why so many students could be this excited about a course and why so many students across all different majors felt the need to enroll in his course. With curiosity, I went ahead and took his course. When that one ended, I took another. And then, I wished I could take them all. I became part of his growing fan club and will continue to recommend his class to any newcomer who has not experienced the Goldberian education. It is important for educational institutions to shape the leaders of tomorrow, not just increase the knowledge base of its students. Dr. Goldberg achieves what I think few professors across the nation can – he inspires students to be passionate about education and as he engages students in discussions, he reminds us all about the true point of education. No matter the budget cuts, UNC has the greatest asset of all, it has gold at its feet – it has Dr. Goldberg.

  30. Six years out of undergrad, I still credit Dr. Goldberg’s class as being the one that taught me to read for the first time, back in my final semester of college. I had never before experienced a professor with so much respect for a text and its author, and being guided to sit at an an author’s feet and learn from him/her before casting stones was one of the most moving experiences I had in my intellectual development. The skills Dr. Goldberg taught me all those years ago are ones I use every day as a PhD student in English literature at Notre Dame, and I can say without a doubt that his class changed my life.

  31. Dr. Goldberg’s class taught me how to think more so than any class I’ve attended at Carolina or in graduate school. I actually enjoyed reading War and Peace (a lot), which is probably not something many people who are not students of Goldberg’s can say. It would be a real waste of a mind and a tragedy if Dr. Goldberg was not able to share his keen ability for desiphering literature with undergaduates.

  32. I can wholeheartedly say that Dr. Goldberg’s classes were always among the most enjoyable, intellectually stimulating experiences of my undergraduate education. The passion with which he approaches literature, moral philosophy, and the great questions of Western thought is unparalleled in our current watered-down, research-driven academic climate. I cannot thank him enough for the gifts he gave me both as a writer and as a critical reader. It would be an absolute shame if the University of North Carolina cannot find a way to keep The Elements of Politics going. If we lose the opportunity to study great thinkers through the unadulterated lens of these classes, we might as well give up the whole project of a university education.

    Recommended, poignant reading from my studies with Dr. Goldberg: Cardinal Newman, “The Idea of a University.”

  33. Larry Goldberg’s modest, genial art of teaching consists mostly of setting the best that has been thought and said before his students and then, Columbo-style, asking “one little question.” Dr. Goldberg’s little questions — say, for example, “what is justice?” — turn out not to be so little upon examination. Once one attempts to answer such a question, one discovers that one’s text and one’s teacher has another little question behind that one, and still another behind that.

    Real teaching, a great teacher once told me, is the art of erasing: erasing all those things we think we know from the scribble-filled whiteboards of our minds. Dr. Goldberg’s little questions were his erasers; I knew much less when I left his class than I thought I did when I started. The experience was immensely liberating. Why it is that coming to discover one’s own ignorance can feed the soul as well as humbling it is a mystery I do not well understand, but I am grateful beyond words to Dr. Goldberg for introducing me to that mystery.

    The University of North Carolina possesses a treasure in this man. I have never met a teacher who surpassed him, either in Chapel Hill or among the luminaries I encountered during my graduate studies at the University of Chicago.

    Although I still do not know what justice is, I learned from one of the books that I read with Dr. Goldberg that “giving to each what he deserves” has something to do with it. Not out of generosity, but out of simple justice, it is time for UNC to give this man the honor he so deeply deserves.

    Benjamin Storey
    Associate Professor of Political Science
    Furman University

  34. Under the guidance of the late Robert Kirkpatrick, I took four semesters of Honors 32 during my time at UNC, from spring ’02 to fall ’04, and can attest that Prof. Goldberg’s course was one of the two most intellectually exciting things to happen to me while I was at UNC (the other being my acquaintance with Robert). The course is an education unto itself; while Dr. Kirkpatrick taught me to read poetry, Prof. Goldberg taught me to read prose, a skill that other courses would also have developed, but nowhere so effectively as in that meeting of minds that occurs when confronting a great text one-on-one, without the filter or fetter of any discipline, theory, or technical jargon, in a passionate search to discover what is fundamental, essential, and necessary about each author and work. ‘Without filter or fetter’ but not without guide: Prof. Goldberg has long been that guide for so many of this University’s most talented and impressive students. As a lowly freshman I was amazed and inspired by the level of discourse in his classes, and as a returning alumnus I felt the same inspiration on meeting students drawn to him from all different eras of his teaching. Prof. Goldberg is a TEACHER in a time when academic specialization and the scramble for tenure make that quality increasingly endangered at research institutions; because I’ve kept in touch with him over the years, I know how deeply he cares about all of his students, current and former, and I come back to visit because I know how rare it is to be simultaneously in the presence of such brilliance and such goodness. A teacher myself, I admire his profound belief in every student’s ability to confront challenging ideas, wrestle with them, and emerge enriched, while his focus on the heart of a work, its first principles and reason for being, imparts to his students a sense of passion, urgency and importance so often lacking from more technical or scholarly approaches. The need he filled and fills for so many of us is real, profound, and may well go begging without him. It seems to me that Prof. Goldberg teaches not only intellectuals but also citizens; that his students are consistently among the cream of UNC’s crop; and that any teacher with such an army of passionate, gifted and vocal partisans surely should be allowed to continue the work he is doing for the University and the world. I loved and am grateful for my time at UNC, and much of that love and gratitude rest squarely with Prof. Goldberg; years from now, many incoming students will say the same, if only they are given the opportunity.

    Chris Childers ’05

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