Proceedings of The 6th International Conference on Future of Teaching and Education
Time Travel in the Composition Classroom
Kristin Rozzell Murray
The pedagogical challenge of any opinion essay is that students tend to think critically only about the past and present in connection to a problem. Their ideas about the problem concerning the future often contain no critical thinking: they focus on the simplistic notion that a problem will continue to be a problem and get worse. True, students cannot know the future, but they can speculate about it in a careful and responsible way. By guiding students with a series of questions to look more deeply at the future in relation to a particular problem, students will gain a deeper understanding of a problem. These questions have been developed over the course of five years of teaching an assignment I call “Opinion Essay from the Future.” This assignment fosters students’ critical thinking about the future and can illuminate a problem in the present and the near and distant future. Students need to use logic in their speculating, but speculating in and of itself is also a creative act. The paper concludes that writing about a problem in the future makes students in many ways similar to science fiction writers. Their imaginings about a problem, when encouraged strategically, recontextualize a problem, letting them see the problem through a wider lens, a lens that will show them that looking ahead makes the here and now clearer.