All posts by estoutt

Learning to Question

By: Ellie Stoutt

It’s September 20, 2016, the first day of Critical Thinking and Writing, my first college english class.  In high school, english classes were pretty simple.   You read books as a class, wrote papers based on a precise prompt typically related to the book, and maybe you had a couple grammar worksheets thrown in here and there.  Critical Thinking and Writing with Professor Leither completely destroyed this model I had known for so long and though I would not know it at the time, I would come out of that class with a new way to write and honestly a new way to think.

I have never been one to question authority.  I was that kid in high school who believed just about everything my teachers told me simply because they were my teachers.  They were older and wiser so obviously they knew best.  The same thing applied outside of school, most everything a superior told me I trusted.  For example, obviously my dentist knows what is best, after all, they are classified as a DDS, a Doctor of Dental Surgery.

So, when my first assignment was to read Pop Culture Freaks by Dustin Kidd, you could say I was thrown for a loop to say the least.

51L8eL4BQWL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Pop Culture Freaks by Dustin Kidd examines the concepts of today’s culture, what makes things “cool”, and what classifies people as outcasts.  Kidd uses Mercedes Jones, a character on the popular television show Glee as an example of someone who is not seen as “popular” by her peers on the show because she is in the high school glee club.  He made me as the reader question today’s social norms and what makes people seen as popular and how people will attempt to conform in order to become a part of that group.  Kidd then takes this idea of conformity and applies it to the entertainment industry.  He explains how at first glance there are hundreds of media companies: ESPN, TBS, ABC, CBS, TNT, The CW, HBO, FOX. However, in reality, there are in fact only five “major media conglomerates” (Kidd 10).  Most all TV channels, video streamers, magazines, movie producing companies, fall under five companies: Comcast, The Walt Disney Company, National Amusements, News Corporation, and Time Warner.  

This shocked me. The fact that these few companies have such a monopoly on the entertainment business and to some extent are controlling what we watch and subscribe to.  This led me to question other things in my life, like the brands, products and food I buy.  This thinking brought me to my essay one topic, a paper titled “The Sport of Eating” which discussed foods such as peanuts and hot dogs that have become synonymous with attending a baseball game.

Growing up an Oakland A’s fanatic I have attended my fair share of ball games and every game I went to, I had a hot dog and a malt.  It was never really something that I thought about; it was just kind of a habit and if there was a game where we did not get hot dogs around the second inning, it felt strange, like were we even at the game?  

When beginning the first essay I approached it the same way I had approached previous essays I had written.  I began with an introduction including my thesis, then moved into my body paragraphs and finished up with a conclusion.  I would soon learn that there was a better more efficient and effective way to write, the method known as Slant.  

enhanced-13593-1395332431-26One of the greatest take-aways I have from Critical Thinking and Writing is Slant.  The book and lessons taught me an entirely new way to write and broke me away from the rigid five paragraph structure. It taught me how to write like myself and not like a dictionary because your true voice comes in when you are sounding like yourself, a voice that is stronger and more passionate about the subject.  Although I thought it would be so much more difficult at first, the Slant method proved to be an easy to follow system beginning with an unbiased opening then moving into the opposition and then of course your Slant (Leither).  This method helped me in being more concise and organized with my writing while still letting my voice and personal opinions shine through.

My reliance and understanding simply about everyday events was again taken for a turn in Critical Thinking and Writing II with the reading of Dan Ariely’s The Honest Truth About 51WGWM1aSrL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Dishonesty.  The book discusses the different types of honesty and investigates the question if anyone is really honest.  He uses terms such as “we blow it when we’re tired” and the “fudge factor” to describe his theories.  For example, the “We blow it when we’re tired theory” explains how we make and rationalize poor decisions when we are tired such as getting take out food at the end of a long day instead of cooking something we know would be much better for us.  

In the book he tells the story of a dentist who was claiming patients needed treatment so he could use his new machine and make a return on his investment. However, in multiple cases it would be in the client’s best interest to avoid the treatment (Ariely 67).  This is something that really shocked me as I would never expect someone such as my dentist to give me false information.  Professionals such as doctors and dentists are supposed to be the ones we can trust most but with money on the mind how can we know for sure?

This curiosity and drive to know what is done truthfully and what is done with fiscal motivations is what led me to my final essay of CTW, one that I titled “Set Up to Fail”.  This essay examined the rise of obesity in America in correlation with the rise of packaged food consumption. Foods that come across as healthy or at least decent for you are in fact leading to a more unhealthy America.  

In the end Critical Thinking and Writing taught me to not only become a better writer but a better thinker in how I consider different aspects of life.  For example, the reasoning behind the arrangement of products in Safeway, with candy bars in the checkout line, your weakest moment of the shopping trip.  It gave me skills that will not only be beneficial throughout my college career but throughout my entire life.  


Works Cited

Amazon. Web. 19 Mar. 2017. <;

Amazon. Web. 19 Mar. 2017. <;.

Ariely, Dan. The Honest Truth About Dishonesty. New York: HarperCollins, 2012. Print

Buzzfeed. Web. 19 Mar. 2017. <;.

Kidd, Dustin. Pop Culture Freaks: Identity, Mass Media, and Society. Boulder: Westview, 2014. Print.