by Eileen Pollack, Jeremiah Chamberlin, Natalie Bakopoulos
Nothing is more important to writing and academic inquiry than learning to ask good questions. Questions guide our research, they lead us to uncover deeper truths about our subjects and ourselves, and they are fundamental to developing strong critical-thinking skills. However, our students often arrive in our composition classrooms with the notion that they must start their essays with a thesis statement, that they must begin the writing process from a position of knowledge and authority, and that their primary task as writers is to find evidence that supports their argument while ignoring anything to the contrary. No wonder, then, that the writing process feels so artificial.
Once students learn that we use writing to arrive at a position, they not only change the way they think about writing as a discipline, they discover the very real pleasures and rewards of academic inquiry. And no approach is more fruitful in changing the way students view writing and intellectual discourse than using creative nonfiction to teach rhetoric and composition.