In the introductory paragraph to this essay about essays I will tell you that you don’t need an introductory paragraph, at least not of the 1) topic sentence 2) structural methodology 3) thesis statement varity that we were all taught in high school. What you do need is That Thing; maybe a question, a fear or a fury. It makes your blood boil. It’s all you can talk about when you sit down with your friends over a glass of wine or two or five, or maybe you can’t talk about it with anyone, just your own heart, alone with the impossible architecture of words. As Cheryl Strayed wrote in her introduction to The Best American Essays 2013, “Behind every good essay is an author with a savage desire to know more about what is already known.” I want to talk about essays. I don’t have a topic sentence or a thesis statement, just a savage desire to know. ***
In the first body paragraph paragraph of this essay about essays I will talk about how the writing of essays is currently taught: five paragraphs — introductory paragraph, three paragraphs of support, conclusion. Sound familiar? I’d wager we all learned this particular form, and yes, I think it’s vital to know how to organize our thoughts and back up an argument, however, the assumption that there’s only one way to do so is increasingly problematic, especially in light of this country’s current testing culture. We’re not teaching writing as a course of exploration and discovery, a way to follow your own passion and curiosity and then share that passion and curiosity with others; we’re teaching writing as a way to get a grade. Every year, thousands of high school students across the United States and other countries sit for the three hours and forty-five minutes required to take the SAT. Twenty-five of those minutes are spent writing an essay, which is then graded on a scale of 1-6 by two independent readers who, according to the Collegeboard website, score in a holistic manner, taking into account such aspects as...
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