Imagine this. You walk into a grocery store and you go to the produce section and you look at the red apples. Now look away and think about this. Are the apples still red?
This example was given in my psychology class last year. It was very intriguing to me because the answer seemed to be so easy. Yes, of course the apple will be red. I just saw that it was red. I know from seeing thousands of apples that it will be red. But then I thought again. How would I know that it is red? I just assume it is red because that is what I’ve been told or seen for my entire life. I never questioned this concept of color and how it really only exists in our brains. I will never know if the apple is red or not when I’m not looking at it, but this made me start to question more things just like my Critical Thinking and Writing class at Santa Clara University did.
I never looked forward to any of my English classes. I dreaded reading and analyzing texts like Shakespeare and Heart of Darkness. Those, to me, were uninteresting and pointless. I did not see any value in reading those books, except maybe developing my critical thinking and writing. I expected this writing class to be the same; reading a book and writing an essay by analyzing what the author was trying to convey. But I was wrong. It was nothing close to what I expected to be. I was not going to analyze what the scarlet letter means, but instead discuss a very relatable topic of food.
At first we read Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer and that was actually mind blowing. I knew that factory farms were environmentally bad, but no one ever talked about the ugly and horrific treatment that these animals face during their rather short and poor life. Foer brings out what the factory farms don’t want us to know. For example, he explains that free range chickens are not chickens that roam fields in fresh air and in the sun, but are just like any other factory farm chicken, but with a door that can open to let in air and sunshine. Foer is trying to show how the food industry is misleading and making you believe in their created misconceptions.
Reading Foer’s book made me to question everything that food labels said and so did The New York Times Bestseller, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, by Dan Ariely, who is a professor at Duke University. Ariely covered a wide range of reasons why everyone lies, including you. This seemed like an irrational claim, but thinking about it in my daily life, I see it. When someone asks you what you got on a test or the SAT, you always round up to make you appear smarter to others and feel better about yourself. Relating back to food, in one essay I wrote about Cup-o-Noodles and how it says “No MSG added.” For all my life I believed them, but that is a lie because the ingredients, yeast extract, hydrolyzed corn protein, hydrolyzed soy protein, and TBHQ preservative, all contain MSG in them already (Douillard). The company outright misled the consumers and therefore we cannot trust them. We need to research and know what we are actually eating.
After reading about dishonesty, I looked at why people perceive foods to be healthy like apple juice and farmed salmon. The lack of education that we are receiving is a major part, but also because of the government’s conflicted interests like in Ariely’s book. In regards to farmed salmon, the Canadian government invested heavily into aquaculture and denies that farmed salmon spreads sea lice and other diseases to native salmon. In fact they covered up data that showed that farmed salmon were endangering native salmon. Furthermore, Canada almost passed a law that would allow for fish farmers to kill native fish in order to ensure the safety of their farmed salmon. The Canadian government was willing to go to that extent to protect their fishing industry which contributes to $2 billion to their economy (Government). This was shocking to me since Canada seems to be environmentally friendly, but this further exemplifies why we need to look into things more closely and not believe what is told to us.
The biggest difference between this class and all my other class was the freedom. I could write about anything. At first I wrote about more serious topics, but then I just wrote about whatever I thought of: Cup-o-Noodles, apple juice, and farmed salmon. I would never have guessed that I could write an essay for a class about these topics. And the freedom that was given led to picking topics that I could personally relate to, which led to being motivated to write the essays. I could see my improvement as a writer and could tell that my research for topics was different than before. I was researching many different approaches to the topic like how governments are controlled by corporations through campaign donations or how you test apple juice for arsenic. The freedom I was given in this class enabled me to grow and develop in my own way.
Furthermore, reading Professor Leither’s book, Slant, did not make sense to me at the beginning. I thought it was unconventional and I was not on board with his new essay structure or lack of one. But after awhile, I understood. Essays aren’t supposed to be five paragraphs like what we were taught all throughout our education. Essays could have pictures in them or charts, whatever you wanted. Just like the idea of an essay, the apple may not be the red we are told it was. It could be anything and we won’t know unless we question and think about it. If we don’t, it will be what we were told our entire life, and that itself, could be a lie.
Ariely, Dan. The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
“Caged vs Cage-free vs Free-range vs Oraganic Chicken and Eggs.” Caged vs Cage-free vs Free-range vs Oraganic Chicken and Eggs – Difference and Comparison | Diffen. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.
Davis, Monica. “Chicken Feces Main Ingredient In Farmed Fish Feed Video and Picture | Food and Farming.” Before It’s News | Alternative News | UFO | Beyond Science | True News| Prophecy News | People Powered News. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.
Douillard, John. “Sneaky Names For MSG (Check Your Labels!).” Hungry For Change. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2016.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York, Boston, London: Little, Brown, 2013.
Government of Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Communications Branch. “Canada’s Sustainable Aquaculture Program.” Government of Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Communications Branch. N.p., 03 Mar. 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.
Jaiswal, Shalini. “Top 5 Health Benefits of Apple.” Ayurveda and Yoga. N.p., 01 Apr. 2016. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.