When I was a child, I talked an incessant amount to everyone within earshot. The poor souls around me were trapped into conversations my younger self found interesting and my parents, in particular, were subjected to question after question about why the sky is blue, how planes fly, and if we could have McDonald’s for dinner. One night, on the way home from ballet, I distinctly remember apologizing to my father for the constant stream of inquiries, suggesting that I had asked “too many questions.” My father chuckled, looked back at me, and stated that was impossible and that I should never be ashamed for wanting to know more about everything around me. I am lucky to have been blessed with educated parents who support me in all my endeavors.
Sometime around middle school, my curiosity grinded to a halt as I became more concerned with social status and the drama of those around me. Three years into high school, I was still affected by this superficiality. Thankfully, senior-year me received a wake-up call from my leadership teacher that there were more things to be concerned about in life than only those that immediately impacted me. I put that wake-up call on snooze.
Before I started my first day at Santa Clara University, I already knew I was enrolled in a class that’s focus would be on food and violence, or so I thought. Instead, CTW 1 and 2 was about so much more: it was a wake up call that actually worked, shedding light on ignorance, indifference, awareness, and action which brought back my pressing need to question. By reading about the factory farm industry and then about Columbine, I was pushed to inquire more about things I assumed I knew, like how we treat animals, and ask why.
The start of CTW 1 should have signaled to me that this class would not be what I expected. We began the fall quarter listening to a commencement speech by David Foster Wallace in which he states “If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is and who and what is really important-if you want to operate on your default-setting-then you, like me, will not consider possibilities that aren’t pointless and annoying. But if you’ve really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options.” After twelve years of education, I thought I had already learned how to think and pay attention. I was wrong.
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer was the first book we read in CTW I and it shed light on an area I knew nothing about. Foer, an omnivore in a moral dilemma, discussed the reality behind factory farming and provided countless accounts of animal abuse, like injured cows being dragged by their hind legs, that made me proud to be a pescatarian. But that wasn’t enough. After reading Foer’s testimonies and statistics on how our farm animals are treated and slaughtered, I started asking myself why I, and others around me, were ignorant about something so important like where are food came from. Maybe some parts of us already know and we just don’t want to question the status quo like Foer states “Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand, without all the science I’ve discussed, that something terribly wrong is happening” (Foer,143). Through research and personal experience, Foer was able to educate me in his book Eating Animals about the background of a majority of meat and dairy products, which made me conclude that something must be done about the current situation. By starting off the quarter with Eating Animals, I was both inspired by Foer’s writing style and research, which pushed me to question everything I was exposed to.
Shifting gears in CTW II, our class discussions and assignments revolved around Dave Cullen’s masterpiece Columbine, which shed light on the massacre in Littleton, Colorado, and the teenage boys behind it. Because of what I had learned in CTW I, I was able to notice details like how Dave Cullen’s writing style fed information and helped make-up reader’s minds about the incident and who was to blame. Inspired by what I had learned fall quarter, however, I was not content and asked questions like what was wrong this seemingly close-knit community? did religion play a part in the massacre? and where were the parents? More, importantly, we as a class discussed the universal question of “Where does the violence come from?” and used our newly learned research and writing skills to do our best in answering it. Unlike in my other classes, I was pushed to find reliable sources that I deemed qualified based on a number of characteristics like if the authors were intellectuals, had written on the subject before, or were published by a major outlet. For my first individual essay on Columbine, for instance, I discussed hypermasculinity and its correlation to violence where I cited nine sources from professors all over the world. By having so many sources, I was exposed to different opinions and controversies like how the increased violent crime rate and decreased amount of hypermasculine characteristics may suggest hypermasculinity does not cause violence. After more research, however, I discovered mass shooter Elliot Rodger’s manifesto, in which he cited hypermasculine ideals, such as entitlement for the attention women, which inspired his violent acts.
Earlier in the year, our class read another David Foster Wallace piece titled “Consider the Lobster.” We discussed the article for weeks and I really wasn’t sure why until Professor Leither explicitly explained that, by focusing on one small event, Wallace was able to call attention to something greater. See, that was what CTW was like for me. Even though the course curriculum focused on food and violence, and we only had to read two books for class, I learned so much more. By focusing on a narrow Slant, two quarters of this English course brought back a desire, no, a need, to question, care, and act on the things around me.
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Cullen, David. Columbine. New York: Twelve, 2009. Print.
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Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.
Rodger, Elliot. “The Manifesto of Elliot Rodger.” NY Times. New York Times, 2016. Web.
“Startup Expo – Santa Clara University.” ServiceRocket. Santa Clara University, 2 Mar. 2016. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.
Wallace, David Foster. “Consider the Lobster.” : 2000s Archive : Gourmet.com. Gourmet Magazine, Aug. 2004. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.
Wallace, David Foster. “This Is Water – Commencement Speech by David Foster Wallace.” YouTube. YouTube, 2005. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.