Posts Tagged ‘student savings’

The value of critical thought

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

If you think about it, nearly everything in life can be problematized. We have the power to scrutinize ideas that are normally left unexamined and unquestioned. If you’re like me, you’ll find this prospect invigorating.

Don’t get me wrong––gratefulness is a large part of the self-revolution. It goes against everything we’ve been taught since we were young, especially in terms of our relationships with material goods. Indeed, gratefulness can open us up to opportunities like college savings and college discounts. But the practices of critical thinking and gratefulness do not have to be mutually exclusive.

You can practice acceptance of certain conditions––for example, the not-so-great material conditions you may face as you pursue the path that you’ve chosen––while at the same time refusing the very basis upon which this idea is founded: that the pursuit of money above all else is necessary for a comfortable existence.

A critical thinker would pause and ask why this has to be.

Do you think as deeply as this guy?

“Hard work” has long been a foundational value of American cultural and political thought. You could say that it’s entrenched in the American consciousness. But if you reflect for a bit, you’ll see that the idea of “hard work” is often used to justify racism, classism, sexism, nationalism, and other forms of discrimination.

The Declaration of Independence is a list of completely subjective statements constructed by a group of individuals interpreting their history in an effort to legitimize the coming insurrection against their rulers. One very famous line that Jefferson uses in the Declaration is meant to stifle critique before even it has the chance to manifest: “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”

This phrase is a perfect example of “one-dimensional thought” in operation. As critical theorist Herbert Marcuse wrote in One Dimensional Man:

“The closed language does not demonstrate and explain––it communicates decision, dictum, command” (101).

Deeming certain principles “truths” and describing these “truths” as “self-evident” without explaining why they are effectively shuts down any possibility for critique. If you don’t believe in what Jefferson is about to lay down, you’re perceived as unreasonable.

How can you question truth, let alone truth that is visible to each and every one of us? C’mon!

The perpetuation of unquestioned ideas is certainly not limited to 18th century political documents. Each of us contribute to this process every single day without realizing it.

Right from the beginning, our education system attempts to suppress the curious and critical tendencies of each child by forcing them to adhere to unquestioned notions and behaviors through standardized tests and rigid modes of teaching.

In a socioeconomic system that relies on a mass of individuals who do as they’re told and not much more, there is a multitude of power in critical thought. Critical thinking works to subvert the blind acquiescence which is a necessary component of the political and economic systems under which we live.

Given the fact that some ideas and methods of thinking are so powerfully entrenched in our consciousness, how can you begin to think critically?

To answer this question, I turn, once again, to Michel Foucault. Foucault described the elements of his moral code as such:

“(1) the refusal to accept as self-evident the things that are proposed to us; (2) the need to analyze and to know, since we can accomplish nothing without reflection and understanding—thus, the principle of curiosity; and (3) the principle of innovation: to seek out in our reflection those things that have never been thought or imagined. Thus: refusal, curiosity, innovation.”

The first step, then, is to realize that some of the truths we accept as “self-evident” are not necessarily so.

We say certain things and behave in certain ways that conform to what we accept as the “facts of life.” These “facts” are, for the most part, accepted by everyone and perpetuated without question.

Questioning these assumptions which are so often taken for granted is a powerful practice. It’s what we must start doing if we wish to radicalize our selves and society.

You can use critical thinking skills to change the direction of your life. Hopefully you'll perform a bit better than this button-hungry parrot.

The third element in Foucault’s list––innovation––depends entirely on the first two, refusal and curiosity. Without rejecting and analyzing an idea that is assumed to be self-evident, it’s impossible to create something new. How can you innovate without moving past the artificial barriers you face?

Critical thinking enables you to be creative, to see things differently, and to define your true values within the midst of a monotonous society that encourages cookie-cutter modes of thought.

Part of the challenge is recognizing the need to think critically. The next part is in applying your critical thinking skills to your everyday life, thereby uniting theory with practice.

 

Amanda Fox-Rouch (Hunter College)

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Going Out in the City on a College Budget: Five Whys and Five Hows

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Growing up, going to “the city” (that is, New York City) meant dressing up in whatever dress I wore for Easter Sunday or Christmas Eve and going out to dinner at a Zagat-rated restaurant somewhere in Little Italy with my family.  In those days, Mom and Dad paid.  When I first moved to the city from Westchester four years ago, going out meant throwing on a shirt and skirt in hopes of looking somewhat decent on the line of an overhyped 18+ club that I or my roommates were “on the list” for, thanks to a Facebook group that boasted to keep us up-to-date on the hottest and cheapest NYC college-age nightlife.  I quickly denied the existence of such a life.

pitfalls of fake IDs

When I turned twenty-one, I retired my once-used, two-years-expired fake ID that flaunted the image of a girl who looks absolutely nothing like me except for the fact that we are both 5’4” and have brown hair and brown eyes. At 5PM on my twenty-first birthday, I entered a heavenly paradise: Trader Joe’s Wine Shop.  Knowing that I would, without a doubt, be carded there, I stood on line with two bottles of Three-Buck-Chuck and my awkward but somehow freeing sixteen-year-old smile staring at me from my driver’s license.

When it comes to going out, the city has much to offer besides Trader Joe’s Wine Shop.  Bars are everywhere, nightclubs are plentiful, and parties often literally happen in the streets and under them in the subways.  Having gone to Manhattan for college, I was faced with the challenge of the city in addition to traditional college distractions.  Still, I believe that the ups outnumber and outweigh the downs when it comes to the typical college student’s desire to celebrate the weekend, weekday, or lack of knowing what day it is.

  1. You can leave your apartment without a set destination.  Don’t know where to go?  Just go.  Look for “two for one” signs.  Follow crowds.  Gravitate towards noise.  Ask loud people you cross on the street where they just came from and hope they remember.
  2. You meet people (whether you want to or not).  Though you may unwillingly find out about a stranger’s hygiene, astrological sign, and pick-up techniques, you may also make some new friends or at least go home with an interesting story or characters for that screenplay you’ve been working on.
  3. You don’t have to designate a driver.  Subways, taxis, and sidewalks are a New Yorker’s best friends.  Because few people going to college in the city have a car with them, there is no need to draw straws at the beginning of the night (though you may want to designate a pack leader to lead the way home if you’re sleepily returning at three in the morning).

    Designate your shoes when you don't designate a driver. Walking in heels can be tough!

  4. You can always find a place to eat.  From cookies to dollar pizza to street meat to pretty much anything, food is always available and often cheap.
  5. Nowhere is off-limits.  Though you may have to wait a bit longer for subways to arrive the closer it gets to sunrise, every borough is at your fingertips.  This also allows for you to try a new place when “the usual” just isn’t enough. 

The bad news?  Money doesn’t grow on trees, and, if it did, you still wouldn’t have any because you likely don’t have any trees growing on your fire escape.  The city is always outside your door, always awake, and always hungry for your wallet.  Plus, the fact that you may or may not already be going broke paying for a college education doesn’t help any.

However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past four years, it’s that you should always be prepared.  If you plan out at least part of your night ahead of time, you don’t have to pay much for a night of fun.

  1. Eat dinner home.  Instead of going out to eat, make dinner with some friends in someone’s kitchen or have a potluck dinner.  This is often cheaper and healthier, and allows you to start the weekend celebration together and then head out when everyone is accounted for.

    Leave yourselves a large tip with all the money you save when you celebrate at home with friends.

  2. Buy your own alcohol. If you are 21 and drink, look online for which liquor stores or beer distributors have the best deals on your beverage(s) of choice, and hit them up before they close.  Make your own concoctions, which can be fun!  And, if you do go out afterwards, you’ll probably be less tempted to spend money on overpriced drinks.
  3. Arrive early.  Many locations (bars and clubs alike) that charge cover fees charge differently according to what time it is.  If your usual bar has a good happy hour, meet up with a few friends for cheap drinks.  If a club says that admission is free before ten o’clock, consider getting there early.  Don’t forget to account for the time it takes to wait on line!  Also, when possible, be female—you’ll probably pay less to get in to some places.
  4. Have your own dance/karaoke/movie/theme party.  Sometimes a night in can be even more rewarding than a night out.
  5. Take advantage of your college or university.  While you might associate school events with middle school dances when the sexes stood on opposite sides of the room and stared at their feet or giggled in circles, school-sponsored events can often be fun.  The people putting them together are probably either paid to do it (and probably at least somewhat good at it) or they are college students just like you with similar ideas of fun.  Check your school events calendar, as well as any deals that your school and local businesses offers like student-price movie tickets, coupons, brochures, and other student savings.  You’ll be surprised what you can find!

It's who you're with that counts most.

Of course, there is no perfect formula for saving money, but over time you should discover what works for you and learn your own methods along the way.  While you’re in college, remember that you’re in college.  Remember that you’re not the only one concerned about saving money while having fun, that there are whole schools of students worried about the same thing.  In this realization you can find your savior—your friends.  No matter where you’re going or what you’re doing, surround yourself by good people and you can’t go wrong.

 

Take advantage of a great happy hour at Cuba!

———————————————————-

Carina, New York University. Read my blog and check out my Twitter! FOLLOW ME!!

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Book Review: About a Mountain by John D’Agata – “To whomever I did not help.”

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

"...one of the most significant U.S writers to emerge in the past few years." - David Foster Wallace

It seemed to us we we’re a very great people” - The United States of America

John D'Agata

      A week into November of last year at the University of Arizona, right around when the leaves of date palms litter the walkways all over Tucson, I found myself in a familiar place: nose wedged in a book, eyes drowned in its ephemeral words, limbs temporarily frozen and forgotten; I was lost. My wasteland: the nuclear storage fields at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. My drug: our future. My spirit guide: John D’Agata. About a Mountain is one of those rare firecrackers of books that not only sparks  widespread controversy, but does so for a reason only other writers, penetrating thinkers, acerbic comedians and unattractive vampires can appreciate – being misunderstood. It took all of 10 pages before someone who didn’t fall into one of those categories – ironically, a geology professor (who is a leader in his field, and thus remain unnamed) – was overwhelmed by what could only have been a personal agitation that superseded general human etiquette, to point out – let’s say less than eloquently – that an entire book was dedicated to fact-checking the 200 pages of brilliance that laid in my hands, and unequivocally supported a conclusion that many readers had come to: in About a Mountain, John D’Agata is at his best, and John D’Agata is  completely full of shit.

      It isn’t hard to see why. Consider the book’s opening lines, describing Las Vegas’ centennial: “If you take the population of Las Vegas, Nevada, and you divide that by the number of days in the year, there should be 5,000 people in the city and its suburbs with a birthday on the same day that Las Vegas began. On the hundredth anniversary of its founding, however, Las Vegas had only gathered twenty-nine of those people.” Alongside lines such as the dedicatory inscription at the beginning of this review – in particular, one’s seemingly intended for an exceedingly enlightened, mysterious audience somewhere in the distant future – D’Agata immediately introduces readers to his favorite (and, unsurprisingly, most misunderstood) move: bending time and place while simultaneously trapezing between the ledges of fact and fiction. It is in this uncomfortable domain of the known and unknown where D’Agata’s peculiar logic, his idiosyncratic mind, and fascinating personal experience are employed (and shine) to reexamine not only where we are, but also where we’ve been; and most portent – where we are going.

      You might have noticed that I’ve reached several hundred words without actually diving into the masterful narrative that Charles Bock of The New York Times called “unquestionably art, a breathtaking piece of writing.” A review that reprimanded – and derided – the artist only a few paragraphs later for the same reasons for which it initially protruded with admiring jaundice: “I don’t know what to think. What’s specific or representative or smudged? Pandora’s box is wide open.” What Mr. Bock fails to realize, despite his awareness of D’Agata’s explicit claim that “I[He] is in search of art” and not fact is that this was precisely the book’s purpose – one that (perhaps without the reader’s acknowledgement) it polemically fulfills.

So why should you, or anyone, really care? The overarching message of About a Mountain serves as a messianic compass as we attempt to successfully navigate our way through this precarious storm of cultural and technological chaos. More than ever, the ability to critically parse between fact and fiction, numbers and art, truth and wisdom is paramount to our continued existence; one that is worth preserving anyway. The book itself weaves an in-depth coverage of the political suave and maneuvers used to re-interpret a million year problem into a 10,000 year solution (an absolutely stunning metaphor for the pattern of thinking that has lead us here) along with the tragic story of Levi Presley – a boy who jumped off the Stratosphere tower in Vegas – and the connection of his death to D’Agata’s own experience answering calls on a suicide hotline. It is because, not despite, this discordance that D’Agata’s ambition and pursuit of art is realized. Here, the details that are debated  (resolved with end notes in later editions) – from the significant, such as the day of Levi’s death, to the minuscule, such as the actual color of hills in the Nevadan autumn – are irrelevant. Keeping up? Good. Because it is through this very deliberate and aesthetically striking ridiculing of fact, or knowledge, that any of the information is made relevant.

credit: IowaNow

      Creative Nonfiction is not journalism – D’Agata despises the term, instead championing the “essay”, invoking Montaigne’s “essai”, meaning ‘an attempt or trial’ to route the journey of consciousness throughout a narrative; a provocative stance to say the least. His elastic perspective regarding this paradigm is manifested in the titles of the book’s chapters: starting with the journalistic staples of “Who, What, How, Where and When” and concluding with a trifecta that outlaws objectivity entirely, “Why, Why, Why.” Certainly, this complex concept is beautifully articulated when he writes, “Clear that if I point to something like significance, there is the possibility that nothing real is there. Sometimes we misplace knowledge in pursuit of information. Sometimes our wisdom, too, in pursuit of what’s called knowledge.” Indeed this is a hefty price to pay for maintaining the beloved boundary, the artificial security, between objectivity and subjectivity, where intellectual vertigo and doubt are priceless casualties in the name of conventional tradition. D’Agata’s perspicacious observation is further reflected in the portrayal of back-door politicians who recommend the feasible option instead of confronting the truth with wisdom. Despite the borderline infinite data on Yucca Mountain, “a place that we have studied more thoroughly at this point than any other parcel of land in the world… still it remains unknown, revealing only the fragility of our capacity to know.”

“When we are not sure, we are alive.” - Graham Greene

While I can’t direct you anywhere in the city with palm trees year round, there are plenty of opinionated strangers everywhere. So why not grab a copy of  About a Mountain  and head to Cafe Mocha, fill up with a great sandwich, then focus in with a free Cappuccino (using the coupon below), and if you absolutely can’t help yourself, ‘fact-check’ this monumental work with their free WiFi.

Mahad Zara, The University of Arizona and Columbia University, Read my blog and follow me on Twitter

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Spring is Abloom with Sunshine

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Spring is here!

The First Day of Spring, Tuesday, March 20th, was welcomed with a huge helping of sunshine and fresh air.  Spring kicked off earlier this year than in the past, meaning a brighter, warmer time for everyone this season.  I left for work this morning in a long sleeve floral print tee, tossing on a dark gray hoodie just in case, and was pleasantly surprised by the sudden shift in temperature in just a mere two days.  The weather dares me to slip into a pair of strappy sandals and rock the cat-eye sunglasses like a boss, a challenge I gracefully accept with the coming months of clear skies and occasional breezes.  I prepare to retire my favorite leather boots in favor of Rainbow flip flops, sandals that pile up in front of every Southern Californian’s door mat.

Quintessential Southern Californian

Biking around Central Park.  Watching the sun set over the East River.  Eating a not-quite-yet-defrosted ice cream sandwich in front of the Bethesda Fountain.  These are all the things I’ve done since winter has slyly slithered away with its tail tucked between its legs.  With the exception of the $4 ice cream brick, the newfound sun is promising.  The liberation from wooly socks is refreshing, as are the crisp breezes that send a chill through my fat stubby toes.  My sandals harbor no bitterness while they’ve been in storage for the winter months; in fact, I swear they hugged me when I took them out for a brisk walk to the market.  As confident as I felt, no pair of sandals is complete without a clean set of digits.

Vada Spa has got you covered with a full array of beauty services.  For beach babies looking to hit the waves, you can get a Brazilian or full leg wax special for just $18.  To top it off, get your toesies in shape with a pedicure for $18 as well; don’t forget that a hot shade of nail polish goes a long way on your toes!  These student savings are available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays with your student ID.  Take advantage of the quickly-rising Spring heat with Campus Clipper student discounts today!

Go get your beauty on, girlfriend (or gentlemen.  Hey, even guys need a spa day)!

Angeline Dinh, Pepperdine University

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Eating Out and Vegan: Incompatible?

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

image credit: animalsuffering.com

New York City: a going out paradise with lots of student discounts on food, entertainment, books and clothing. If you wish, you can try different cuisine every day. There is such a great variety of cultures here: Italian, Thai, Cuban, Dominican, Moroccan and what not. However, where do you go if you are strictly vegan?

Always being a passionate carnivore, I have never faced this problem. However, I suddenly decided to take on a challenge: Christian Orthodox religious fasting that I was always supposed to do, but never cared to limit my diet to vegan only. Eating is just one part of the fasting, but it seemed overwhelming to cut back on milk products especially, as I love them so much.

But the time came, and I felt like doing it for the first time in March of 2009. I enjoyed it a lot, as fasting made me feel healthy and energetic, and my favorite part was that I had to cook for myself all the time because I didn’t trust food from outside (who knows if it’s really vegan).

There came the problem: I had a hard time going out with my friends and my boyfriend. I have experience working in restaurants, and I didn’t want to be a pain in the neck for the waiters asking, “Is there cheese in my spaghetti?” Once my boyfriend persuaded me to eat at a small Chinese-Latin (what a combination) restaurant, and I ordered a plate that was specified on the menu as “rice, lettuce, tomato and fried plantains.” When I actually got my food, there were pieces of pork and shrimps in it (I never eat either of them even when I’m not fasting), and I felt bad. When I complained, the waiter replied that the dish comes with it, took it back and brought it within 2-3 minutes, which made me come to the conclusion that the kitchen staff merely took out the meat and send the plate to me (did they use gloves, at least?). I didn’t eat anything there but plain white rice that came with my boyfriend’s dish, and I never went out while fasting again.

The whole experience was embarrassing. There are a lot of products that I refuse to eat because I don’t like them, for instance, seafood and yellow cheeses (sounds crazy, right?), but I’m not used to being extremely picky while ordering a meal at a restaurant. There always happen to be a steak with mashed potatoes on the menu for me. I rarely ask for more. But with the fasting in mind, this choice is automatically excluded. I was at a loss about where to go and I felt terrible for the people who have to (due to allergies or something else) or choose to eat vegan all the time.

The most difficult thing was to get around my sweet tooth, as most pastries contain eggs and dairy. I would wander around my college cafeteria studying the labels and always finding “eggs” there. The good thing was that I learned how to make pancakes from just flour, yeast, water and vegetable oil. They were delicious, even though people who tried them said they were “too healthy.” The bad thing was I didn’t have time to make them often.

But as the fasting continued, I started hearing about different vegan places in the city, and I talked to a couple of people who gave me useful advices on where to find those products I could eat. I realized that it was so difficult because it was my first time and I had no clue about vegan culture in the city. Now I feel more confident about going out and I learned to like salads a lot more than during my first fasting session, and I found out that a lot of vegan places also offer student savings menus or give discounts to those in college.

There I was yesterday, my Easter fasting 2011 day one, sitting at Whole Foods cafeteria drinking a fresh squeezed orange juice and munching on vegan cookies (no eggs and no dairy, hurray!), feeling happy and wholesome. Therefore, if you are a vegan like me (whether temporarily or permanently), life in the city is a little bit more difficult for you (if do your research, though, it will become easier), but not impossible.

Ekaterina Lalo

For more about my experience with Christian Orthodox fasting, read http://hubpages.com/hub/Healthy-Body-Healthy-Mind

Visit my blog at http://nycvalues.blogspot.com.

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