General Semantics Methodology in College English Teaching: Report of Results in a Freshman English Course at Syracuse University

By Chisholm, Francis P. | ETC.: A Review of General Semantics, December 2004 | Go to article overview

General Semantics Methodology in College English Teaching: Report of Results in a Freshman English Course at Syracuse University


Chisholm, Francis P., ETC.: A Review of General Semantics


General Context of the Experiment

AT SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY during the academic year 1940-1941, we have based the course in English for freshmen upon introductory training in general semantics. In this report, I will attempt to formulate some of the 'results' of this experiment, and to report some of the techniques employed to train students to analyze language in its context and to become aware of word-fact relationships. Our experiment involved approximately fourteen hundred freshmen and twenty instructors, and hence represents a rather large scale application of methods suggested by general semantics, under the classroom conditions of a large university.

In such a large scale preliminary experiment, of course, there are too many uncontrolled factors for us to state that we have 'proved' any one definite hypothesis, nor indeed did we set out to do so. However, in the working out of the course we planned, some very interesting results occurred. We believe that some of the changes in the 'attitudes' and orientations of the students are definite and important enough to be reported to this Congress.

At Syracuse, English I is a course 'required' of all freshmen in the University. The course is taught, in sections of thirty students each, by about twenty instructors. The selection of texts and a generalized statement of course content and 'aim' is made by a committee representing the department. However, in teaching practice each section is independent of the others and instructors have freedom and authority to select methods and to plan the actual content of the class hours to implement the general 'purpose' of the course. In the sections, students from all colleges and departments come together, and normally each section stays together all year--i.e. the freshman has the same instructor for both semesters. The sectioning is not done on any special basis of 'intelligence' or 'ability' in the first semester, so that sections generally form rather representative samplings of the University's Freshman class.

In the Syracuse University curriculum, English I is considered a 'tool subject' rather than a 'content' course. In other words, our staff is supposed to teach the freshmen to read and write. Like most other college English departments, we have in the past used a variety of methods and of textbooks, and our instructors have differed about what the English course 'ought' to be. Very generally, our practice has been to concentrate on the study of language and on reading and writing problems in the first semester, and on the study of 'modern literature' during the second.

In this course, we wanted a method which would be more efficient than the traditional techniques of instruction in grammar and usage and the traditional 'literary analysis' of essays, poems, etc., for helping students attain a 'balanced mental outlook,' a method of proper evaluation of situations, the 'cultured' and 'educated' liberality and efficiency which higher education is by some people supposed automatically to confer. These desired characteristics have been perhaps more frequently the 'ideals' rather than the 'results' of education as practiced by the humanities divisions of universities, partly, we felt, because traditional methods and content did not force the student to uncover and take account of the basic assumptions and identifications which he brought to situations. The work of Korzybski and others convinced us that a very hopeful suggestion for improving this unfortunate situation lay in teaching the student a general scientific attitude toward the language in which he formulates his problems.

For student difficulties in English are only partly a matter of 'bad grammar' and 'inadequate vocabulary.' Many students have a fluent verbal skill, and yet betray mis-evaluations and a complete lack of awareness of verbal traps. For some of them, their linguistic habits, semantic reactions, patterns of behavior and 'thought' prevent a satisfactory adjustment to their new college environment. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

General Semantics Methodology in College English Teaching: Report of Results in a Freshman English Course at Syracuse University
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.