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Raia thinks that the rooms she lectures in are haunted by figures of the occult. When I took History of Science and Religion, I thought she was joking, but after Western Civ I realized that she does in fact believe her microphone and PowerPoint presentations are possessed. This should be some indication that this professor is rambling, nonsensical, and completely useless at teaching anything related to her topic.
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This is one of those classes that you either love, or hate, but there's no middle ground. Personally, I LOVED it! Seriously, it was one of the best classes I've ever taken at UCLA. Even though I loved it, other people I know hated it. The subject matter wasn't easy, but it's so interesting that it's not hard to learn. Also, she gives you a study guide with everything listed out for you a week in advance. Other history classes are not like that at all-- in my world history class, we just got handed 3 focus questions and were told to write some essays. Professor Raia's study guides are way better! Professor Raia is such a poised instructor, who really cares about what she's teaching. She's passionate about the topic, and is a great lecturer who knows her stuff. Seriously, she's the kind of person you would NOT want to take on in a debate, because she's very articulate, and draws on facts that she just pulls out of nowhere! We learned about some of the most famous thinkers in history, and their involvement with the occult (hermeticism, emmanationist ideas, and more than you'd ever believe). We also studied the development of different religious sects, and the tenuous relationship between science, magic, and religion. The main point of the class was that Science, Magic, and Religion struggle for power over the public sphere. Religion used the be institutionalized (educationally, governmentally), but now science has started to take over, pushing religion to the private sphere (mostly). And magic has always been there, but was pushed aside by religion (all though today it's still very much alive). If hypnotism, religious sects, historical figures interested in the occult, hermeticism, techno pagans, and scientific investigation of the paranormal, doesn't interest you then don't take this class! I'm a pretty artistic north campus person who's very spiritual, and I loved that this stuff was approached from an objective academic perspective. People who were more south campus science-types didn't seem to like it as much. . .
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I would be one of the aforementioned game players (Resident Evil 4, Command & Conquer, Chess; Internet is limited in the Dodd lecture hall I was in) in the lectures. And sleeper. And yes, what basically kept me going to the lectures were the random attendance checks, aptly called "attendance quizzes"; they were worth 10% of the grade, with around a total of six during the quarter. I had little interest going into the class and came out with the amount of interest.
Breakdown of grade during F08 quarter: 10% - Attendance, 25% - Discussion (further breakdown of that depends on TA), 15% - Midterm, 15% - six-seven page paper, 35% - Final.
Depending on your TA, you could potentially get an easy buffer for your grade with 100% in the first two listed categories (Attendance + Discussion = 35% of total grade). Discussions covered the primary source readings assigned each week; because it's a history class, there's a crapload of "reading." My midterm consisted of one essay (45 points), five lengthy paragraph descriptions for key terms (40 points), and 15 fill-in-the-blanks-without-a-word-bank (15 points); the essay topic, key terms, and word bank is provided beforehand as a study guide. The final is similar but much more tedious. It consisted of FOUR essays (three short ones, meaning approximately two blue book pages, and one long one, meaning talk about as much as you can), six key term paragraphs, and 20 fill-in-the-blanks-without-a-word-bank; again, a similar study guide is provided around a week in advance of the final. During my quarter, the paper was on Oedipus Rex and how one of its themes is related to the society it was written in.
If you pay attention in lecture during the period the paper is assigned, you'll get information about the societal aspect of the comparison for the paper. Attend the discussion to get info on Oedipis and you should be able to pretty much formulate a paper in your head. Failing to pay attention during class or ditching discussion will result in research on the society and Oedipus. If your TA's looking for style in the essay, then it might be troublesome. But if the rubric is straightforward with organization, grammar, thesis, etc., then it should be an easy A/B.
I managed to get an A in the class through much preparation for the midterm and final and a stupendous TA. I probably spent hours to prepare for those tests, but paying attention in class would drastically reduce the amount of study time. For both history fanatics or students forced to take a history class as a GE requirement, the tests cannot be a kick in the balls/ovaries because they're basically the same as the study guides; the difference is that the tests are official and the study guides aren't.
As for Professor Courtenay Raia-Grean, I would say that she's an energetic professor. She's young and she brings in a dog to accompany her. Her voice doesn't bore me; sadly, the subject just wasn't very exciting to me so I slept and/or played games.
All in all, this is an easy class to get a B, and even an A. It should be fairly easy if you're interested in history (this class covered the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Mayans, Persians, Chinese, Indians, Greeks, and Romans), but it requires a substantial amount of memorization for the tests for those who aren't interested or don't pay attention.