III. General Information
Literacy is the base on which all else is predicated. The ability to read and write and, in general, to communicate properly is a fundamental intellectual tool. With it, students can learn to think clearly and to some purpose. Without it, they cannot analyze properly nor develop an independence of thought. Literacy affords a means of access to the raw material upon which the critical or creative intelligence is to be exercised. It affords a means of communication, of shaping ideas and concepts, of selecting between different or competing formulations. It is a means of instructing others.
The most basic experience in literacy given to the student should be the writing of a short expository paper, or the oral presentation of an informational report, on a prescribed topic or on a topic chosen from a restricted list.
At the next level, the student should be required to write a paper (or give a seminar), critical and analytical in its intent, on a topic of the student's devising. The ability to devise a topic, to frame its bounds, is at the same time an aspect of understanding of first order importance.
At the highest level, there should be produced a paper, in an appropriate style, that analyses, synthesizes or argues from a hypothesis and itself generates hypotheses; that produces knowledge, insight, or understanding in the reader and manifests it on the part of the writer; that shows a breadth of understanding in drawing out implications and making connections between remote features of the domain; that, in short, demonstrates a love of learning and an intelligent creativity. This requirement may readily be met in existing senior honours paper courses and the like.
Over the course of an undergraduate education, the level of difficulty of the material which the student can read, comprehend, and utilize should increase. One way of securing this might be to encourage, in each discipline program where they do not now exist, reading courses requiring independent work at the 400 level.
In general, the ability to read and comprehend materials of the highest difficulty is enhanced in semester long research paper courses and in reading courses. Such courses contribute also to independence of thought and to depth and breadth of understanding. In its broadest sense, the objective of literacy implies that it is desirable that the student have skill in another language, so as to be able to comprehend material of the appropriate level of sophistication in that language.