I walked into Creative Thinking and Writing “Food Porn” on my first day of classes as a freshman at Santa Clara University. I thought to myself “Great, another English class I can write mediocre papers about topics and books I don’t really care about and get out with at least a C+.” just like every other English class throughout my twelve years of Jesuit Education. Yet our professor, Nick Leither, immediately shattered my hopes of coasting through my mandatory college writing courses. I knew it was going to be hard, but I was certain my twelve years of practice, hard work, and refinement of my one skill would suffice, bullshitting. Every English course prior to this course was simple and asked very little of the students. Read
Throughout the past two quarters of CTW here at Santa Clara, I have been given the opportunity to do a lot of research along the lines of human tendencies to dishonest behaviors. The sum of these observations come together to form a picture of a modern society where we are faced with dishonesty in many basic components of our lives.
Throughout CTW 1 we analyzed inadequacies and corrupted systems in the factory farming and food industry. As we dove into discussions of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, we ran into many different insights into this industry that are inherently broken, and have far-reaching effects. One of the most relevant topics to the arguments against factory farming that we discussed was the topic of health and the effects eating factory farmed food has on it.
As factory farming grows to be more and more worldwide, the scale of the operations become so big that they far outstrip the agencies tasked with regulating them. With this opportunity for little oversight, these businesses capitalize on their freedom, and proceed to engage in dishonest behaviors to increase profits.
In a study done by Dr. David B Allison, Dr. Stanley Heshka, and Dennis Sepulveda, they discovered that the nutritional labels found in supermarkets on foods showed that “across the board” the labels understated the true caloric values of the foods that they were describing (2). With such widespread inaccuracy, we cannot be surprise when we try to diet or change our lifestyles and for some reason our calorie counting techniques aren’t working. With such widespread inadequacy, we cannot hold our regulatory institutions to a high standard, however we can’t blame them, because they are far outstripped in manpower and funds. This has become a fact of life that, if we do not remain diligent to filter out, will have a negative effect on our lives. Soon we as a country must make a decision to empower those institutions to make a more meaningful difference in our lives, or begin changing industry practice to a higher moral code.
We have many opportunities to encounter dishonesty resulting from negligence that are completely unrelated to food and to public health.
In CTW 2 we dove more deeply into the direction of dishonesty as a part of our culture and the affects that that has had on the way we approach decisions throughout the day. One of our most useful references to dishonesty in this type of behavior came from our readings of Dan Ariely’s The Honest Truth about Dishonesty, where we were mostly introduced to a term “fudge factor” which inspired my last essay and was one of the most critical aspects of the course.
When we look at large scale financial scandals, we can be left in the wake looking at how such large catastrophes could go unnoticed. In the case of Bernie Madoff, who’s Ponzi scheme was busted in 2009, after $65 Billion stolen, investors were left wondering how they could’ve been so totally duped (Arvedlung 10).
There was a lack of oversight, again, when a highly esteemed investment banker who was well known and trusted to federal agencies such as the SEC was able to operate the largest fraud operation in the history of the United States. Through further research into what caused such dishonesty in the operation that led to this scandal, I discovered that the same phenomenon occurred in this case as did the nutritional labels mentioned before. As the operation expanded, and became a multinational, with a total tens-of-billions of dollars, it becomes too much of a burden for regulatory agencies to pay proper attention to dishonest behavior, and vast injustices, such as this one, are allowed to occur under their noses.
This, and a culmination of the other lessons of this course, have helped me to understand what the premise of the class is in a much more clear way. What these discoveries have uncovered are the fact that many things, though they appear one way, actually can actually be completely different. The implications of this, which we have finally discovered is that we can’t take things at face value. What this research has done for me as a student is that it has allowed me to develop a more substantive writing process, with more emphasis on research and real brainstorming. What I’ve learned from this class, as cliché as it sounds, is to think in a more critical capacity, and to proceed with caution, because the world isn’t exactly as it seems.
Allison DB, Heshka S, Sepulveda D, Heymsfield SB. Counting Calories—Caveat
Emptor. JAMA.1993;270(12):1454–1456. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510120076034
Arvedlund, Erin. Too Good to Be True: the Rise and Fall of Bernie Madoff. Penguin Group,
Ariely, Dan. The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone – Especially
Ourselves. HarperCollins, 2013
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. Access and Diversity, Crane Library, University of
British Columbia, 2013.