Posts Tagged ‘college savings’

How to be a Comedian: Week 6: Meet the Right People – And Check Out the Right College Student Discounts Below!

Monday, November 30th, 2015

Before I start, I’d like to give a quick shout out to the Campus Clipper. The Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC, from the Upper East Side to Greenwich Village. The company helps support students in so many ways, from their coupon booklet to their Official Student Guide. Now, on to the blog!

Without a community of supporters, you won’t make it anywhere besides a counselor’s office and your parent’s basement.

Befriend fellow comedians at open mic nights and comedy classes. The few people who I’ve befriended at open mics have become supportive friends and offer me their much appreciated constructive criticisms. One of my open mic buddies even offered me a spot on one of the upcoming comedy shows he was producing.

A bond with fellow comedians creates an opportunity for you to keep each other accountable – to go to open mics – the expectation that you’ll both be there. Having someone to keep you accountable in going to shows will force you to not let any excuses hold you back, because you know there’s someone at the show expecting you to perform. You’re all in the same boat, so banding together to encourage one another and laugh at each other’s jokes will help push you towards your goals, and build confidence in your talents.

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Don’t be afraid to approach big name comics after their set and shake their hand. Sometimes a big name comedian will watch someone perform, like their style, and ask them to open up for them at a few shows.

Go shake some hands so more and more people know who you are, and have a face with a name.

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Meet club owners, talent managers, and comedy producers. Introduce yourself to these people and ask if they would have any time to talk with you about the industry, or ask if they need any help at their events. Offering free service is a great way to get people to love you, and you never know where that connection may lead you! The great connection that I’ve made was through my internship with a comedy producer at one of the clubs. He pays me in stage time and allows me to sit in on seminars and meet other comedians. It’s a very valuable connection because he has a strong network in the industry and is willing to help me grow as a comedian in return for helping him with social media and planning events.

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A few words from the Campus Clipper –

The Campus Clipper not only help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create these amazing E-Books, but we give them a platform to teach others. Follow each new blog post to read a chapter of our various books and to learn how the Campus Clipper can help you follow your dreams!

Craving student savings while you catch up on your reading? Click on the link to download the Official Campus Clipper Coupon Booklet! And check out our newest YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during this year’s Welcome Week!

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How to be a Comedian: Week 5: Teach Me How to be Funny – And Learn About College Student Discounts Below!

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

Before I start, I’d like to give a quick shout out to the Campus Clipper. The Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC, from the Upper East Side to Greenwich Village. The company helps support students in so many ways, from their coupon booklet to their Official Student Guide. Now, on to the blog!

If you’re funny, you’re funny; but trust me, it’s extremely helpful to have veteran comedians guide you and teach you how to harness your funny bone.

7th Annual "Stand Up For Heroes" Event - Inside

So, sign up for a few comedy classes. Don’t be afraid to break out of your comfort zone or comedic interests. Take some stand up classes, like at the Manhattan Comedy School; but also take some improv classes at a renowned place like the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. It will only benefit you to learn different forms of comedy, and it also might help you find out what you enjoy more and for what your talents are best suited.

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The only way you can become a master of comedy is to practice your material and watch others perform. If you really love stand up, then go to stand up shows every week to familiarize yourself with other comedians’ styles and how they interact with the crowd – you might learn something from them. If you’re interested in improv and sketch comedy, go to an improv show every week (go a few times a week if your budget and time permits).

Making comedy shows a weekly part of your schedule will help you stay focused on pushing yourself to the next level in your own career and will make you a lot more comfortable with the business. Watch shows, watch shows, and watch more shows.

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I find that the funniest comedians are those who I trust. What I mean is that I trust their ability to make me laugh – they’re reputable. They have confidence, which makes me have confidence in them. I’m not constantly anticipating them to mess up or break into a nervous fit. You have to gain people’s trust for them to believe that you’re funny, so it’s important to show confidence when you’re on stage to let everyone know that you’re in control. When I don’t feel confident on stage, sometimes I have to convince myself that I am confident, or at the very least act like I’m confident.

Things to put on your comedic to-do list:

- Practice in front of the mirror

- Practice jokes in front of your friends

- Record yourself and analyze the video

- Write, rewrite, edit, practice, rewrite, practice, rewrite, practice

- Open mic

A few words from the Campus Clipper –

The Campus Clipper not only helps our interns learn new skills, make money, and create these amazing E-Book, but we give them a platform to teach others. Follow each new blog post to read a chapter of our various books and to learn how the Campus Clipper can help you follow your dreams!

Craving student savings while you catch up on your reading? Click on the link to download the Official Campus Clipper Coupon Booklet to enjoy some great student discounts! And check out our newest YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during this year’s Welcome Week!

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How to be a Comedian: Week 4: Finding Your Funny Bone – And Find some College Student Discounts Below!

Monday, November 16th, 2015

Before I start, I’d like to give a quick shout out to the Campus Clipper. The Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC, from the Upper East Side to Greenwich Village. The company helps support students in so many ways, from their coupon booklet to their Official Student Guide. Now, on to the blog!

Go to the store and buy a few pocket-sized notebooks and a pencil. Carry these tools with you everywhere you go, even if you’re just taking out the trash. As a comedian, you have to constantly write out your thoughts and scribble down jokes as they occur, or else you’re going to forget them and you’ll be left trying to remember “that funny thing that happened yesterday.” Write down everything funny from your everyday life as soon as it happens, because when you react to something instantly your senses are heightened and you have the in-the-moment perspective that will fade with time.

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Personal experiences are where you get your material because it’s unique to you and no one else could possibly capture the way that you see things occur. Your friend sees someone spill coffee on their shirt, but you see a hilarious situation of a man who now has to deal with hiding an embarrassing coffee stain and he’s probably on his way to an important meeting. You have the ability to conceptualize a funny story or extract a joke out of a seemingly ordinary situation. Write down all of your funny insights because later you might be able to develop them into a stream of jokes or an elaborate anecdote.

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Find your sense of humor – goofy? Dry? Sarcastic? Physical? Cynical? Theatrical?

Watch shows, movies, and performances that use the humor that compels you the most and soak up the style.

Whatever type of comedy you most enjoy combined with the style of your sense of humor is how you need to shape your material. Sink into your comedic persona and take on the characteristics of humor by practicing in front of the mirror and writing down jokes in a way that reflect your personality.

Don’t try to copy or steal another comedian’s persona, because it won’t seem natural or funny, and will only make your jokes seem out of place. Do what comes naturally to you, and stay true to the funny bones in your body.

A few words from the Campus Clipper –

The Campus Clipper not only helps our interns learn new skills, make money, and create these amazing E-Books, but we give them a platform to teach others. Follow each new blog post to read a chapter of our various books and to learn how the Campus Clipper can help you follow your dreams!

Craving student savings while you catch up on your reading? Click on the link to download the Official Campus Clipper Coupon Booklet to check out some awesome student discounts! And check out our newest YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during this year’s Welcome Week!

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How to be a Comedian: Week 3: Go up There and Bomb – And Check Out some Bomb College Discounts Below!

Monday, November 9th, 2015

Before I start, I’d like to give a quick shout out to the Campus Clipper. The Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC, from the Upper East Side to Greenwich Village. The company helps support students in so many ways, from their coupon booklet to their Official Student Guide. Now, on to the blog!

Nothing beats experience. It’s incredibly important to get as much time as possible in front of a crowd. Unless you’re the reincarnation of Bob Hope, then you’re going to bomb the first few times you get on stage. We all do. It’s just one of those obstacles that you have to overcome; but don’t worry, it always gets better.

When you start out, you’re nervous, doubtful, and go up there and totally bomb – fumbling over your words, forgetting punch lines – but each time you do it’s a learning experience that will help you progress to the next level.

stage fright

In comedy, you have to have thick skin and roll with the punches. The best way to toughen up your emotionally fragile skin is to endure several cold audiences (most open mic crowds). Few situations make my lip quiver and face turn red like a stale room while I’m telling jokes. Blank stares, silence, and the sound of your heart beat. I hate performing for a cold crowd – I’m up there baring my soul and sometimes the best reaction I get is a lady sneezing.

One of my worst bombs was my second time ever performing stand up. A comedian I had befriended, Steve Brown, offered me a 5 minute opener spot at one of his shows at the Nashville club “Jazz ‘n Jokes.” I was the only white person there and felt extremely intimidated because I was most certainly not the person whom the audience paid good money to come see. I hadn’t rehearsed and my delivery of jokes seemed like I was trying to tell everyone about a dream I could barely remember.

The result: blank stares and a few pity laughs. Lesson learned: always be prepared! Any reaction is better than no reaction though, because you’re trying to create a dialogue with your audience and get a response from them. If you can start off with a strong opener and get a laugh in the beginning, then the rest of your set will run more smoothly – you broke the ice and they trust you. To gain the trust of the audience, I use self-deprecating humor to humble myself and let them know that I’m confident as well as comfortable talking to them.

There’s hope from these grueling moments though, because you’ll find that you continue to grow more and more jaded to a cold crowd. The less you allow cold audiences to affect you, the more you rely on yourself and the less you rely on their validation. Plus, each time you bomb, you become more aware of what areas in your routine need improving. Also, you know that the next time can’t possibly be any worse!

My best advice to avoid letting a cold crowd affect your stand up, is to fully immerse yourself into your monologue and become so consumed by your jokes that nothing can damage your mojo. I’ve found that when I’m fully consumed by my monologue, I believe in myself more. You’ve got to sell yourself on your act. If you can’t sell yourself on your own jokes, then you can’t expect anyone else to buy them.

How-to-Get-Stand-Up-Comedy-Gigs1

There’s no shortcut to gaining confidence on stage and becoming famous. Everyone I’ve talked with has told me the same thing: get up on stage as often as possible.

A few words from the Campus Clipper –

The Campus Clipper not only helps our interns learn new skills, make money, and create these amazing E-Books, but we give them a platform to teach others. Follow each new blog post to read a chapter of our various books and to learn how the Campus Clipper can help you follow your dreams!

Craving student savings while you catch up on your reading? Click on the link to download the Official Campus Clipper Coupon Booklet to check out some awesome college discounts! And check out our newest YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during this year’s Welcome Week!

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Where to Go After Graduation

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

By Daniela Bizzell

While it may seem years away, and maybe it actually is, graduating from undergrad will eventually happen. For some of you, this may seem like the happiest day of your life – those entering senior year probably could have graduated yesterday and been satisfied. For others, however, the mere thought of leaving the four walls of a classroom, the comfort of dining dollars, and the sanctity of scheduling, is traumatizing.

What do you do after you graduate?

For some, internships turn into full time positions. An office job at 22 in a field you may actually like? I’ll take it. In fact, I’m currently working for the Campus Clipper, an internship I took sophomore year of college – I graduated this past May.

There is nothing wrong with settling in right after you finish school; if anything, you may feel a whole hell of a lot more secure by doing so. However, it isn’t the only step you could take in your path towards creating a meaningful post-grad life. Finding a job, settling in, planning your 401 K isn’t the only direction you can take when you finally get the diploma. Spending 10 hours a day scanning Linkedin, SimplyHired, or your school’s career site for some sort of paid position isn’t the only way of life once you can no longer call yourself a student.

There are other options.

One option – in addition to a plethora of others; get creative here, folks – is to travel. Granted, the idea of travel most likely sparks images of plane rides and dollar signs. “I’m going to Paris to find myself,” “I’m backpacking through the Swiss Alps because I need a little adventure in my life.” If this is your lifestyle, more power to you. If it isn’t, don’t worry. After I finished school, my travels were cheap, within the country, and in my 12-year-old Toyota Corolla. Yes, money was spent, that, my friends, is unavoidable. However, less money was spent, and just as many experiences were had.

Yes, after graduating a university tucked away in Manhattan’s West Village, I travelled back upstate, grabbed my car, a couple of good friends, and hit the road for a five week journey across the country. As impulsive as this may seem, and as impulsive as I’d like it to seem, so much – and I mean so much – meticulous planning went into this.

Therefore, as a survivor of my five week crusade to see America, “research new places to live,” and inevitably find myself, I have a bit of knowledge on how to travel after college. Because knowledge is needed, graduating is, in fact, terrifying, and you’ll never realize you’ll need help until you’re in immediate need of help.

So keep up with my weekly posts on travelling after school, because you can do it while still being a real person after the travelling comes to a decided stop.

For some specifics, follow my confessional story here.

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College Savings: How to Afford a Study Abroad Trip as a Broke College Student

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Whether my friends ask me if I want to go to the movies or out for an expensive meal, my answer is always the same: “I’m a college student.” This is the universally known phrase meaning, “I’d love to, but I can’t. I’m broke.” College expenses can really weigh down on my desire to have a social life. Between tuition, books, Metrocard fare, and food, there’s really no wiggle room for anything extra and I’m always trying to find college discounts wherever I go. When I learned about study abroad options through CUNY, my friends asked me where I wanted to go. “China,” I replied smiling. “But I’m a college student.”

Eating a bowl of noodles in Nanjing, China that cost 7¥ (yuan): less than $1.50!

Eating a bowl of noodles in Nanjing, China that cost 7¥ (yuan): less than $1.50!

Studying abroad, although costly, is not necessarily as impossible as one might think for the ‘poor’ college student—and it certainly has its perks. One way to help pay for your study abroad trip is to get scholarship money. Just like when you were applying for college, scholarships are diverse, obscure and available to a multitude of people. You just need to be willing to look for them. One great place to start is CEA Scholarships, which are scholarships specifically for students who want to study abroad. There are multiple merit based scholarships available and also financial need based scholarships.

Often times when applying for these scholarships you are required to write a personal essay. In order to get the money you need to make yourself stand out. Write several different essays, share them with your writing major friends, revise, and edit. The more work you put into your essay, the better chance you’ll have at getting that money. Other scholarships to look into for studying abroad are the SIROCS scholarship and the SASA Travel Abroad Scholarship.

You never know when you're going to stumble upon some interesting souvenir like a Communist Obama Tshirt!

You never know when you’re going to stumble upon some interesting souvenir like a Communist Obama Tshirt!

Don’t be afraid to go and contact the financial aid office at your college. Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, go anyway. Sometimes the financial aid rules and regulations differ for certain study abroad programs and it never hurts to ask! Taking out student loans might also be a viable option to look into. Loans are a really great way to give yourself some time to save up your money after you take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Start saving up now! Even if you get fully covered by scholarships or financial aid, there’s still the matter of having spending money in a foreign country. Whether you want to buy a cheap bowl of noodles, or a memorable souvenir, you’re going to end up wanting to spend some cash on your trip. In Shenzhen, China I came across an amusement park called Windows of the World. I was definitely glad that I had some cash to pay for the admission. Get a part time job while you wait for the start of your program and put that cash aside. You’ll be happy you did once you get to your new temporary home. You want to be able to take care of yourself while you’re away and have some fun too!

 

 

My friends on the train ride at Windows of the World in Shenzhen, China.

My friends on the train ride at Windows of the World in Shenzhen, China.

-Sam Levitz is a graduate of Brooklyn College and went on the CUNY Study Abroad trip to China the summer of 2013. Follow her on Instagram: slevitz

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Finding the Perfect Place to Stay

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Accommodations

One of the biggest costs of a trip will always be the housing costs.  Food costs, the second biggest enemy to a wallet, will seem small compared to the daily rent payment to a hotel.  This creates a big issue to all travel plans.  So how can one overcome this obstacle?

Hostels

Being a youth and a college student, hostels and guest houses are the cheap option to hotels.  Hostels and guest houses are cheaper living alternatives which might sometimes include shared rooms and bunk beds.  Shared bathrooms, shared showers, old living quarters and poor guest services are sometimes the tradeoff for a discount living accommodation.  Normally, hotels costs range from $100 to $300 per night while a stay at a hostel or a guest house would only cost 1/3 of that!  Although definitely not as luxurious or as comfortable as a hotel, remember that the goal of travelling is not to live in a luxurious hotel but to rather see a new place.  Check out hostels.com to find all the housing options hostels have to offer!

Hotels and Inns

Hotels and Inns can be a viable an option for many travelling.  Although a little more expensive than hostels, hotels are usually more enjoyable and comfortable.   Sometimes there are discounts and deals which might cut some of the high costs which come along with staying at a hotel.  Search for discount deals and promotions online for great discounts.  Call a hotel beforehand and asking the management if there are such options can open doors for discounts and deals!  There are many low priced hotels, usually ranging from $50 to $70 a night, but risk being a very poor accommodation (bed bugs anyone?).  Of course, if there really is a desire to stay at a hotel while being budget conscious, travelling with a buddy or two can easily cut hotel costs.

Your hotel room won't always look like this

Your hotel room won't always look like this

Staying with Friends

Remember that one Swedish exchange student or that person from California in that Statistics class from a year ago?  Well, go and call them up!  A great option to budget travel includes staying at a friend’s house.   Staying at a friend’s place cuts down on so many costs that sometimes it is downright stealing! Not only that but friends can prove to be very good tour guides.   However, remember to be courteous and not to overstay your welcome.   Be considerate of the friend’s own schedule and remember that they have their own lives to worry about.  Even if a friend offers to provide free lodging, bringing a gift and leaving behind a small token of appreciation (like $20 a night) can make a big difference from being a friend and a great friend.

Couch Surfing

Although I have never actually done this before, another option for the budget conscious traveler is couch surfing.  Couch surfing is a way to stay at homes for free by allowing travelers to “”surf” on couches by staying as a guest at a host’s home, host travelers, or join an event.”  Usually free of charge, couch surfing is the least stable of most accommodations as there are many risks associated with it.  Conflicting schedules with the host, potential creepiness, awkward situations or unsafe situations might arise with this method.  However, if this is an option for consideration, check it out here.

This couch was probably more expensive than a bed

This couch was probably more expensive than a bed

With these options to consider for a trip, don’t forget to be flexible!  If the stress of living in poor living conditions or urge to sleep on a really comfortable bed does come up, a plan for 4 nights in a hostel and 1 night in a hotel during a week vacation can be an option!  Don’t forget, travelling is an experience, not a chore!

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This was written by Gary Chen of Stony Brook University

Follow the Campus Clipper on Twitter and Like us on Facebook!

Interested in more deals for students? Sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter to get the latest in student discounts and promotions  and follow our Tumblr and Pinterest. For savings on-the-go, download our printable coupon e-book!

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Locating the Right Schedule

Monday, April 14th, 2014

    It was 7A.M. in Niigata, Japan.  I had written down my destination for the day and how long it was going to take.  I had planned everything, wrote down all the things I needed, made sure there was plenty of time for all that I wanted to do.  There was going to be a major card tournament that I was not going to miss.  Despite being a location over 6000 miles away from my home, I was able to find my destination and have a great time.  Because of my careful scheduling and planning, it was one of the best days I had in Japan.

    Scheduling is the next step of the travel process.  Using the list of goals and locations of interest as a guideline for your trip, creating a timetable based on these lists will save lots of time and money.

Location

    When there are areas of interest close to one another, this allows for the chaining of activities.  For example, Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho, and Saint Mark’s Place are cool locations which are within a reasonable distance from each other.  Because these locations are all so close to one another, someone can set up a route between these locations and visit all of them within a few hours.  If one were to make a trip to lower Manhattan, they can go to Chinatown to buy some souvenirs, grab lunch at Little Italy, shop for some clothes at Soho and then finish it off with some dessert at Saint Mark’s Place.  In this example, creating a route lets planners visit three major tourist destinations while saving a bunch of  time due to their distance.  Furthermore, it can be advantageous to list down extra routes in case plans backfire.  Leaving an area early, road construction, closed locations and such problems can hinder a route.  Don’t forget to make sure the neighborhood is safe as well!

A map route created using Google Maps

Look at the Times

    Always check down the hours certain locations are opened.  Imagine travelling for an hour just to see a closed sign hanging on the door of the museum!  A few simple Google searches can provide the times and dates for many locations.  Calling a restaurant, museum, store and hosts can save a lot of wasted time.  Not only that but the staff can give recommendations to cool events in the area!  Finally, it is my advice that plans should be given an extra hour for breathing room time.  Sometime it just takes a little longer than an hour to eat lunch.

Travelling with other people

    Travelling with friends and other people can create great and lasting memories; however, doing so can also create terrible experience.  Different people can have conflicting ideas, personal preferences and conflicting interests can cause a good plan to go bad.  While one person might want to check out the ancient castles of Europe, another might want to spend a day on the beach to catch some rays.  Despite all this, travelling with many people provides great company, security and can cut costs.  Travelling by yourself can get pretty lonely and dangerous in a foreign area.  Having friends to lean back on in case of trouble can be worth all the possible drama by itself.

Sometimes it's hard to get along

 

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This was written by Gary Chen of Stony Brook University

Follow the Campus Clipper on Twitter and Like us on Facebook!

Interested in more deals for students? Sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter to get the latest in student discounts and promotions  and follow our Tumblr and Pinterest. For savings on-the-go, download our printable coupon e-book!

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The Decision Making Process

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Now that the goals for a trip are set up, it is time to get into the gnitty gritty details on how to plan for the trip!  So the question being raised now is where should I go?

Deciding where to go

Now, this is normally not a hard question to answer because people usually have destinations in mind when they want to travel, but what about those who have no idea where to travel?  What about those who don’t think they have enough money to travel?  Well, here are some tips to consider:

-There is always the option to travel locally.
-Make sure the travel plans are within a reasonable budget.
-Use goals to help decide where to go.

For those who have never traveled before, the first suggestion I will give is to travel to somewhere close by.  Whether it is only fifty miles away or just to the next state over, short distance travelling is also travelling.  Travelling a short distance allows people to get a feel on how it is to travel.  If your hometown is New York City for example, travelling to Long Island and staying there overnight can give one a new outlook on how different somewhere so close can be.  Even going to Philadelphia and checking out their town hall and market can be an amazing travelling experience!

For those who wish to travel some longer distances, it is important that the location is within budget range.  Being a college student strictly increases the financial impact that money has on travelling.  When planning for a trip, one must always take into account how much money is available.  Realistically, it is near impossible to plan a trip to India with only two-hundred dollars.  Travel costs, accommodation costs and food costs are some of the obstacles that might get the way.  My rule, although not always applicable, is to add two-hundred dollars to a trip costs after making it.

 

Remember the goals list?  Use that to help create the best personal plan.  A list of goals is the first step in creating the skeleton for a good travel plan.  It is the foundation and first step in creating a good travel experience.  Don’t forget that Tripadvisor is a great tool when looking for places to go.

Deciding where to go will ultimately depend on the individual.  Do not forget that although travelling can be a great adventure, the process will have some expenses on way or another.  Traveling takes time, effort and energy.  As other issues are delved upon, it will greatly impact the trip and help solidify the need for planning.

 

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This was written by Gary Chen of Stony Brook University

Follow the Campus Clipper on Twitter and Like us on Facebook!

Interested in more deals for students? Sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter to get the latest in student discounts and promotions  and follow our Tumblr and Pinterest. For savings on-the-go, download our printable coupon e-book!

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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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