Following are end-of-semester comments written by students in my General Semantics for Mass Communications Practitioners class, 2005-2008.
General semantics is by far the most relevant class I have taken toward my B.S. in Communication Studies. No other class has provoked the amount of interest and relevancy in the scope of human interaction, both interpersonally and worldly. Understanding abstraction and evaluation has been far more beneficial in comprehending human interaction than studying Maslow or Skinner.
In a way, GS is a way of life. I realize now that there are so many things in general semantics that I can use on a daily basis. The presentations in class also proved that GS can relate to so many things that only a fool could argue that it is not applicable to us.
So far in my college years I have had three classes that have molded the future me. My world religion class influenced the way I perceive religion, my communication graphics class influenced the way I perceive my visual surroundings, my general semantics class influenced me in my understanding all these and realizing there is always more that meets the eye.
I still plan to work in the communications field one day, and what I will take from this discipline into that career is, most basically, a heightened sense of awareness of both the words I choose to use and the words used by those with whom I am assigned to communicate. An awareness that the same word can mean different things to those two parties. An awareness that I can never know all about anything — and neither can anyone else. An awareness that each issue has more than one side and more than one possible solution, that no issue is black and white. An awareness that true objectivity is unattainable and that bias must therefore be examined in all communication.
I wish I had been taught earlier about some of the general semantics principles, such as to recognize that the word is not the thing and that what we see is only a fraction of what is happening “out there” (and that what other people — namely parents, teachers, news anchors, reporters, movie directors, politicians, ministers, anyone who seems to be “all-knowing” or speak about “irrefutable truths” — see and share is only a fraction of all that occurs).
This course has given me a new lens to view life through, and has expanded what, in sociology, is called my cultural capital. Just as I have been able to relate what I learned in sociology to just about every course I have taken since then, I know that I will be able to apply general semantics principles to courses I have yet to take. I feel that I will be less susceptible to misinformation and miscommunication because I often ask myself questions such as “So what?” and challenge myself to look more skeptically at what is presented as fact.
This class was so much different from any class I’ve taken in college thus far. In my opinion, it was a class teaching us HOW to think, rather than WHAT to think.
There is one aspect of GS that discourages me. It seems as though GS could benefit society, or even the world. Now I know that we have only discussed the tip of the iceberg, but wouldn’t we be better off if our schools actively taught this subject? Why is this a secret? Just look at the greatest problem in our world to-day, Iraq. If either side employed some of the approaches of GS, perhaps there would be a possibility of resolution. It would be naive, in my opinion, to think that GS could create a society without problems, but it could help.