Let’s take the discussion of literacies to a higher level. Why do we talk about so many different types of literacy: scientific, quantitative, data, information, ecological, technological, media, engineering, and many more? What do all of these discussion have in common?
One answer is professional interest. It is relatively easy to see that many of the literacies that are debated in the education community arise out of various professional groups who are interested in promoting the value of their own specialties. Scientists want more scientific literacy, information professionals, such as librarians, want more information literacy, and likewise for many other literacies and professions. The fact that professions promote their own expertise and educational goals is not automatically a bad thing. In fact, professional groups are often at the forefront of developing the standards and materials for educating people on particular literacies. The material produced by professional groups can be very useful for faculty who want to incorporate concepts and skills into their curriculum. Professional groups also play the role of bridge builders between the academy and businesses, who often want to influence the types of skills students obtain during their education.
But for Bucknell the question is a bit deeper. How are all of the competing literacies implemented in the intellectual development of Bucknell? From last week we know that some of these items are described in the core curriculum. Others may be implemented by particular departments or colleges, at the behest of local faculty or external auditors. The potential drawback of defining many different types of literacies and including them as part of a Bucknell education is confusion and a diluting of the key values of a liberal education. During our discussion we agreed that many of the different literacies promoted by various professions could be encompassed in the broader goal of providing a good liberal education to our students.