AWARENESS // JIM O’BRIEN

A college degree is worthless.  The classes you take? Not applicable to your life whatsoever. The benefits of the “prestige” of your university? Probably won’t help you beyond getting your first job.  From an objective perspective college looks like something everyone who wants a successful career just has to do to check the box.

 

But the real issue is that if you value college by the content of your coursework, you’re missing the point.  Even this Critical Thinking and Writing Class, which has illuminated us on some serious issues, is not about factory farming or environmentalism and is certainly not about writing papers.  With all the challenges and issues in the world, how much better off are you really for becoming a vegan and having a good slant if you still wear Nike and have no idea what’s going on in Syria?

What CTW and classes like it do is give us a taste of being aware.  We are given information to the point where the issue at hand cannot be ignored.  If you don’t believe me, why don’t you ask Porky and his friends:

meet you meat(Officialpeta)

With this awareness we need to learn to act appropriately, which is where the critical thinking comes in.  If one person walks away from CTW a vegan and goes on to be an animal agriculture reform activist in their professional life, then that’s great. But what makes this class important is that, regardless of our stance, we were forced to seriously think about the issues in front of us.  These two quarters will not go wasted if every student takes that mental process and applies it to whatever they are passionate about.  Looking back, CTW helped us students build an insatiable hunger for information that will lead us to the truth and give us the opportunity to critically think in hopes of a solution.

The structure of the papers we did this year provides a good template for problem solving in the real world.  First off, you have to acknowledge the opposition.  If you don’t recognize opinions different than yours, how can you argue against them? Furthermore, support is everything.  Time and time again, we relied on support in our essays in order to not overstep our own qualifications. To put it in the context of life, just stay informed. Relying on rhetoric and conjecture is a house of cards that will be blown over by those who stay attuned to the happenings of the world. Last but not least, always have a slant.  Stating objective facts with no opinion makes your input have no added value compared to the sources they originated from. An argument must be, quite obviously, arguable.  In life, taking stances I am well informed to take has given me tremendous confidence in my ability to relay my ideas.

I think it is important to realize that awareness in other situations will not come as easy as it did in CTW.  While I stated previously that the majority of what you learn in college content-wise has no value, which I stand by, there is something to be said for being a well-rounded, educated individual. The point of college is to help us think and be aware of the problems in the world, and at times that has to be founded in some knowledge. In so many of my classes, CTW included, I was shocked at the gaps of knowledge us students had in world events, both present and past.  Everyone is quick to take a side on nearly any topic, but only the small minority is capable of supporting their claims.  However, I think a side effect of this class is that it made me afraid to continue my ignorant ways.  In regards to food safety, what I once thought was a bunch of noise coming from pretentious vegans turned out to be one of the biggest threats to our environment and the longevity of our society. While I walked back to my dorm after a 7:30 PM premiere of Meet your Meat in the regal O’Connor Theater, I thought had two thoughts.  First, thank GOD someone showed me this movie and lifted the curtain I had grown so comfortable with.  Second, if I knew nothing about a multi-billion dollar industry, what else don’t I know? This thought is terrifying, but perhaps it’s the kind of terrifying that we need. By craving more information, we crave truth and a solution.  But ten years from now in our professional lives, no one is going to sit us down and tell us all the information we need to know.  As we mature, the critical thinking will become imperative if we want to maintain this level of awareness.

If there is one thing to be taken directly from the content of our CTW readings, it is that we don’t seek these answers to tough questions for ourselves.  Every single one of us could eat five pounds of meet a day and recycle absolutely nothing and we’d most likely die in stable conditions.  The majority of issues like food safety, tough issues that are often unspoken of, will affect our ancestors because we refused the call to action.  In line with the Jesuit philosophy of nurturing men and women for others, I think that the type of thinking fostered in CTW should be used for the betterment of others.  If you want to be rich, there’s some pretty clear cut ways to go about that.  If you want to be powerful, you can achieve it easily if you are willing to disregard ethics.  But there is no Meet your Meat-type tell all on how to help others.  Or how to be a good father.  Or how to leave the world a better place than you found it.  If it were that easy, it wouldn’t be that important.

The best part about looking past the actual content of CTW is that it makes the world your oyster.  This feeling of empowerment through knowledge does not have to end at factory farms.  This is not what it feels like to experience a college education; this is what it feels like to be college educated.  Since I have already tarnished the university system’s name enough, let me assure you that this is what your parents are paying for and it is well worth the money.  As we move onto other classes, some may not demand this skill in such a direct way.  Graphing supply and demand curves may not be the most cerebral activity, but perhaps it will engage your mind to critically think about the economics of the world and question their fairness and stability.  The bottom line is, there is always room to apply critical thinking.  Ignorance may be bliss, but awareness is fun.

 

Works Cited

Officialpeta. “Meet Your Meat in 30 Seconds.” YouTube. YouTube, 02 June 2014. Web. 15 June 2017.

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