I neglected to schedule a flight back to school after Christmas break, so my mom and three brothers volunteered to drive me back to Santa Clara University for my Winter Quarter.
It was the Saturday before classes started and we had successfully made the journey up the 5 Freeway from Los Angeles to the Bay Area. We arrived on campus ahead of schedule and I could tell my family was not ready to leave me yet. I told them they were welcome to stay as long as they would like, but I needed to go to the campus bookstore to pick up the books I’d need for the upcoming quarter. My nine year old brother, suggested we all go. (Knowing him, he was hoping he’d score some new Santa Clara gear).
I looked up the course codes for the classes I was enrolled in and then my entourage and I headed to the bookstore. I had found all the books I would need for my classes expect one, I showed my older brother the list I had with my course numbers written down and asked him, “Can you help me find the book I need for my CTW class.”
“Sure, what’s CTW?” he responded.
“It’s my Critical Thinking and Writing Class”
“Oh, so it’s like one of those required writing classes they make you guys take”
I nodded and responded, “yeah, they even pre-enrolled us in it”
My older brother and I searched through the aisles of books until I heard him call out, “Hey Ele, is your Professor’s name Leither.”
“I think so.” I called back.
“I think I found your book” he chuckled, “I think you’re gonna come home a vegan.”
I met him on theside of the aisle and noticed he was holding a green book titled, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. He started flipping through the pages and he teased, “Oh yeah, they’re gonna get you to stop eating meat.”
“Give me that” I grabbed the bookout of my brother’s hands and said, “no they’re not.”
Before I took two quarters of CTW, I thought of the class just as my brother had, just some writing requirement class I would have to take, and I supposed we would talk and read about food. But now, to describe CTW in that way would be unfair for it is too much of an understatement. I strongly believe over the course of my time in CTW the technicalities of my writing have improved, but more importantly I have learned to think critically about subjects and articulate the intricacies of various topics. And while the course material focused heavily on food and the agricultural industry, food was just a conduit to explore new ways of thinking critically.
In class our professor taught us, usually leading by example, how to get to the bottom of issues. We read various articles, along with Safran Foer’s novel and we watched videos such as Meet your Meat a video released by PETA. In class we would discuss the messages the videos and writings would convey. But we would delve deeper, we analyzed not only what the authors were saying and what they meant, but how they chose to present the information, what the information meant on it’s own, how it relates to the outside world and how it relates to ourselves.
Throughout the class I wrote essays on topics ranging from, the benefits of cooking a meal in a dorm, and the accessibility to do so, to finding intrinsic motivation to follow through on a new to diet plan, to the problems in our nation’s public school lunch program. Despite the various topics of my essay, they all came to a similar conclusion, that change starts with the individual, they all concluded with a lesson on personal responsibility.
Having to critically think about various topics requires you to look outward at issues but it also requires you to look inward. You must contemplate, how does this issue effect me? How am I affecting this issue? Should I be contributing to change, how have I neglected this issue?
When factory farming is clearly inhumane, torturous to animals, and unhealthy to humans, should I reconsider my eating habits, after reading this quotation from Eating Animals, “Needless to say, jamming deformed, drugged, overstressed birds together in a filthy, waste-coated room is not very healthy. Beyond deformities, eye damage, blindness, bacterial infections of bones, slipped vertebrae,paralysis, internal bleeding, anemia, slipped tendons, twisted lower legs and necks, respiratory diseases, and weakened immune systems are frequent and long-standing problems on factory farms.” I should probably reconsider my eating habits, and how I as a consumer contribute to factory farming.
After doing research for an essay on public school lunches and learning that, “About a quarter of the school nutrition program has been privatized, much of it outsourced to food service management giants like Aramark, based in Philadelphia; Sodexo, based in France;and the Chartwells division of the Compass Group, based in Britain. They work in tandem with food manufacturers like the chicken producers Tyson and Pilgrim’s, all of which profit when good food is turned to bad (Komisar)” I should analyze what I can do about this. I am a citizen of this country, a former public school student, and a sister to elementary school aged kids. What can I do to ensure this does not happen, not only at my local school district but everywhere. I had to contemplate where does personal responsibility come to play.
Critical thinking has expanded my abilities to analyze issues, but also realize the personal responsibility I have to change them. And while, I proved my brother wrong, I am not a vegan, I now view eating in a whole different perspective. I acknowledge the personal responsibility I have because of the knowledge I have acquired about factory farming. I recognize the system I am contributing to, and I acknowledge my eating habits effect far more than myself. The methods of critical thinking I have learned throughout my time in CTW will serve me well, I will always closely examine my role in issues I find troubling. Jonathan Safran Foer wrote, “Not responding is a response – we are equally responsible for what we don’t do” and now, I could not agree more.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York, Boston, London: Little, Brown, 2013. Print.
Komisar, Lucy. “How the Food Industry Eats Your Kid’s Lunch.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 03 Dec. 2011. Web. 10 June 2017.