Excitement. It ran through my veins, replacing my blood. A new chapter, a new start, a brand new adventure. If you couldn’t tell, I was beyond excited for college. However, along with the excitement came fear, fear of not fitting in, fear of not being able to keep up academically, and the fear of making friends. I had gone to the same school for the past ten years and so I knew everyone and everyone knew me, something as elementary as making friends hadn’t been an issue of mine for many years. Amidst the mix of emotions, frantic packing and meeting friends before we all went separate ways I decided to check the SCU student portal to see if anything had new had been added. To my surprise something had! Under “Fall 2016 Schedule” was the class Critical Thinking and Writing.
I had just endured two years of critical thinking courses and I had to go through two more quarters of it in college?! More “discussions” where the room was silent and students looked awkwardly at each other until someone spoke, more reading where the books we read put us to sleep, and (the worst of it) more essays where no guidance was given, just “go”. I was not pleased.
I had no idea then, but this class would open my eyes not only to the realities of food production in America but also to writing essays I actually enjoyed writing.
Critical Thinking and Writing (or CTW) was one of the most unique classes I’ve ever taken in my 13 years of education. The objective of this quarter was to examine and analyze the food industry through different forms of media such as books, specifically National Bestselling Novel Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, articles, such as Consider The Lobster by David Foster Wallace, and documentaries like Fed Up and Food Inc. I began to assume that this course was about vegetarianism or veganism and how eating all meat is evil, which impacted how I felt about the course and the work assigned quite negatively. To add on to this, essay writing has never been a strength of mine and so I struggled with the first essay and following the Slant model. Slant guided readers through each step of a modernized essay writing process that moved away from the traditional hook, body, and conclusion. As tedious as I first found following this model, it actually made the process of writing essays painless due to its laid out structure. Over the course of ten weeks, we wrote three essays, all of which drew topics from our reading materials and videos we watched.
For the third, and final essay of the quarter, I had a change of perspective and decided to write about something I was interested in which also linked to our topic of food, rather than just writing about a topic I only kind of cared about for a grade. This topic had to do with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and its place in bread. Through my research, I found that high fructose corn syrup acts as a food preserver which can delay the expiration date of most foods. It also improves and maintains the texture and flavor of most foods as well (Economics). I also learned that the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” links food containing HFCS to obesity, because the better tasting the food, the more we will want to eat or overeat it. I started to understand that this class was not about hating on meat eaters but more so on educating us about the realities of the food industry as a whole, including factory farming and how it is not only detrimental to the environment and animals but also the people who work in these environments.
I noticed a shift in focus when we started this quarter which started with reading Dan Ariely’s The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty. It was clear that we had moved on from the food industry to the broader topic of honesty and how it relates to the food industry. Over the quarter I learned more about honesty and the role it plays in food, such as food companies lying to protect their products and consumers lying to themselves to justify their eating choices, such as The “What-The-Hell Effect” as described by Ariely in his book. Ariely put it best when he described a situation: “The moment you give in to temptation and take that first bite [of a slice of cake], your perspective shifts. You tell yourself, “Oh what the hell, I’ve broken my diet, so why not have the whole slice”” (Ariely 127). We justify this thought by saying we’ll start the diet tomorrow, but tomorrow never really comes and we are merely lying to ourselves to feel better.
This led me to write essays that I cared more about because I felt like I was approaching a larger issue, lying in the food industry in relation to the problem with factory farming rather than just the latter on its own. I wrote my final essay on the topic of the gluten free diet and how we sometimes lie to ourselves about needing such a diet like this. Through my primary and secondary research, I learned a lot about how dangerous this diet can actually be, for example, a gluten-free diet can lead to certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies, such as vitamin B9 (folic acid), zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium (Shoemaker).
Finals Week, Winter 2017(Tree)
Much like how the seasons had changed, my feelings toward this class had done a total 180, from not looking forward to class to actually being excited to go. With each essay that I wrote my confidence in writing grew and I had more fun with titling my essays, like using puns and mimicking click baits. My essay on HFCS was titled “Corn-fusion” and my essay on the gluten free diet was titled “Doctors Hate Her! Woman Loses Pounds of Belly Fat!” – both of which I was proud of. When I was faced with my first writing assignment six months ago I struggled and dreaded handing it in. Now I feel confident and proud of the work that I have done, not just the final essay for CTW I submitted only a couple days ago, but with the all the essays I’ve crafted, group presentations I worked on, and debates that I built. My eyes have been open to the realities of what the food industry of the 21st century has become and I have the power to make more informed decisions about my food. But most importantly, I have learned the invaluable skill of, to quote our Professor’s book Slant, writing essays (actually) I want to read.
Ariely, Dan. The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone–Especially Ourselves. New York, Harper Perennial, 2013.
“Changing Seasons.” Bay Arts Alliance, bayarts.org/blog/changing-seasons.
(Featured Image on this post)
“Economics of High Fructose Corn Syrup.” Corn Naturally, http://www.cornnaturally.com/Economics-of-HFCS. Accessed 21 Mar. 2017.
“Fed Up.” Wikipedia, 26 Feb. 2016, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fed_Up_(film). Accessed 21 Mar. 2017.
“FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER GIF.” Giphy, giphy.com/gifs/filmlinc-nyff-michel-gondry-microbe-et-gasoil-xTiTnslZ0E5sqMbEac/. Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.
“Going on an Adventure Gif.” Just a Box of Rain, windandwater.tumblr.com/post/32075692995. Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.
Reilly, Phoebe. “He’s Not Gonna Let You Finish.” Los Angeles Magazine, 28 Feb. 2014, http://www.lamag.com/culturefiles/forget-the-orchestra-how-to-get-the-oscar-winners-off-the-stage/. Accessed 21 Mar. 2017.
Shoemaker, Emily. “Is Any Bread Actually Healthy? A Must-Read Before You Buy Your Next Loaf.” Greatist, Greatist, 6 June 2016, greatist.com/eat/best-healthy-bread. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017
“Tree In Four Seasons.” Photobucket, s63.photobucket.com/user/roxymusic_221/media/Quarter%20Shots/TreeInFourSeasons.jpg.html.