I hope my parents don’t read this.
Santa Clara University has been the place where I can go to sleep as late as I want, eat and drink whatever I want, watch all the Netflix I want, be on my phone all I want and most importantly think however I want. These are all freedoms that I did not have before when I was living at home. The freedoms that college brought were for the most part counterproductive, but I have had to learn to work efficiently. At the beginning of the year, I struggled with time management, balancing my social and academic life, but for my class, Critical Thinking and Writing, this was not the case.
When my parents and other adults asked me, “what is your favorite class this quarter?” I would always answer, “Critical Thinking and Writing.” Usually this would surprise them because I am a business major. They would then inquire about the class, and I would explain why I enjoyed it so much. When 5:15 P.M. would come around on Mondays and Wednesdays, I would be walking to my evening class ready to discuss what I had read the night before or with a paper in my hands. I had never had a class that focused so much on the student’s opinions, analysis and discussion. I found that this teaching style was extremely effective for me and that it kept me engaged. Also, the topics we read and discussed gave me a better perspective on consumerism, food, sustainability and violence.
Before taking Critical Thinking and Writing, taught by Nick Leither, I thought to myself, “Great… another English class.” I already knew how to write essays, read proficiently and use MLA format. What else could I really learn?
I had no idea how deep this class went. Looking back I was so naïve when it came to all the subjects we discussed in CTW such as animal cruelty and environmental issues. I had a mind that was sheltered by my high school and parents. Aside from learning how to think on my own, I learned how to connect two ideas that seemed completely opposite and research effectively in order to prove my point. Having been in college for three quarters now and having to watch and care for myself, CTW has positively shaped my decisions when it comes to being a consumer.
Before taking Critical Thinking and Writing, I lived in an ignorant bliss when it came to the topic of food. My parents taught me to eat the food that was placed in front of me during meals, and I never questioned them. I had no idea of the personal health and ethical implications that my eating habits had.
One of the homework assignments that we had early on was to watch Fed Up. I was excited for this because we got to watch a movie that was on Netflix, but unlike most movies, it did not even have a happy ending. Fed Up exposed the food industry for what it was, advertisement and half truths. The movie shows how the message is pushed upon us, that health is our responsibility, when it fact it is manipulated by the food industry. Fed Up follows the stories of several young individuals that were unhealthy and working on getting healthy, but their efforts seemed to bare no fruit. Children and teens see more than 40,000 advertisements a year that have swayed over approximately 500 billion dollars a year in household purchases, which ultimately shows how the youth could influence an entire family’s buying decisions (Calvert). The foods they thought were better for them were processed and seemed to have less carbs and fat, but they still contained the same amounts of sugar, which is an additive. Half of the U.S. population is sick or pre-sick, and honestly if people were informed and knew how the food industry was affecting them, we could collectively be productive in regulating ourselves (Fed Up).
After watching the film, I felt hopeless, but it didn’t end with the film. Professor Leither took it a step further; the class then went to Safeway to gather data and see for ourselves the way the food industry was infiltrating what we consumed. We saw all the colorful boxes, reduced calorie and fat labels, and sugar snacks that had labels with kids exercising on the front. Some products at Safeway were not the safe way.This opened my eyes. Not only was I part of the crowd that consumed nonchalantly, I was also on the path of setting myself up to be obese.
The humble voice of Jonathan Safran Foer educated me on factory farming. I read about how chickens, pigs, turkeys and cows were raised and murdered unnaturally. When I found out how pigs were slaughtered (Foer 155), that was the tipping point for me. I became a vegetarian. This did not sit well with my parents. When I told them, my mother first said, “You need the proteins and meat to be strong and healthy,” and my dad just downright explained how he thought the school was changing me and that how can eating an animal is natural and it would die anyways. They were both wrong, there are many other ways of getting protein that are ethical, and my father fit the exact consumer mindset that Foer explained against. On an ethics standpoint, I was able to see a side of food that I had not before because I had grown up eating meat. Critical Thinking and Writing also provided a safe and positive discussion environment that I really valued. When we discussed eating animals, I was able to see what others thought, and I felt comfort when there were others who had not yet ever been exposed to the dark side of the food industry. Although I was only able to keep it up being a committed vegetarian for three months, I am now very conscious about my decisions when it comes to eating meat, I have cut back as well as looked for the best option.
CTW taught me how to think on my own but most importantly, the class taught me how to prove those thoughts. I am very proud of every essay that I have written in this class and I believe that my points have gotten progressively stronger and more in depth. Coming from a home where a lot of what I knew about the world was sheltered and not so thought provoking, my essays were where I could speak freely and argue what I have researched. When Nick told us in our final essay that we would have to relate violence and food, at first I was stumped. How could two topics be so far from each other but still relate, but I was able to break it down then build up, a skill that had been taught throughout the year.
I am grateful to Critical Thinking and Writing for bursting my bubble. Nick Leither gave our class a wide array of excellent materials such as videos, articles, podcasts and books, and each one brought up controversial topics and provoked deep thought. CTW has been one of my most mind opening college experiences. I am officially done with naive, blissful thinking.
“Change My Store.” Safeway. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 June 2016. <http://www.safeway.com/>
Calvert, Sandra L. “Children as Consumers: Advertising and Marketin.” Futureofchildren.org.N.p., Mar. 2008. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.
“College Application Process.” Hamilton Wenham Regional School District:. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 June 2016. <http://www.hwschools.net/page.cfm?p=2028>.
Fed Up. Dir. Stephanie Soechtig. Producer. Katie Couric, Laurie David. 2014. Film.
“Fed Up Is Not Giving Up, It’s Getting Up!” Dr Diva PhD Online. N.p., 09 Oct. 2012. Web. 08 June 2016. <https://drdivaphd.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/fed-up-is-not-giving-up-its-getting-up/>.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.
“Richard Heeks (Bubble Pop).” Todays Juice. N.p., 15 Oct. 2012. Web. 08 June 2016.