The Irving J. Lee Method of Teaching General Semantics
Sanford I. Berman
Someone once said, "The trouble with Adam and Eve was not a red apple but a green pair! Today I want to talk about ignorance and stupidity, or what is more commonly called, in general semantics, a "misevaluation." What we try to do in teaching general semantics is to lessen stupidity or misevaluations and substitute proper evaluations in our thinking, communicating, and behaving.
To teach proper evaluations or "intelligence," we should have certain teaching techniques that will catch the student's interest, make him or her realize that their old ways of thinking are inadequate, and motivate the student to learn more about general semantics--"this new way of thinking."
The best lecturer that I have ever heard in teaching general semantics was my professor at Northwestern University, the late Irving J. Lee. Dr. Lee was a marvelous lecturer, teacher, and trainer, he was a professor of public speaking and communication and he was a master at using the techniques that he taught. I studied his teaching techniques closely in three different classes and was going to audit his introductory class Language and Thought again, before he died too suddenly at the young age of forty-five. I told him that I wanted to audit his class to analyze his teaching techniques to see why he was so successful. As a student and teacher of public speaking, I saw that some of the other professors, even speech professors, were not effective lecturers. They were not even applying what they were teaching in their speech classes.
What did Irving Lee do to make himself such an effective lecturer and teacher of general semantics? First of all he was a tall and handsome man with a low, booming voice. His vocal projection was outstanding and you could hear him from all corners of a large auditorium. One of the major reasons why public speakers fail is because they do not speak loudly enough. Those of us who teach must continually be cognizant of vocal projection.
Irving Lee had over 300 students in his introductory class. I know; I graded the papers! He told me that if the Language and Thought class had been held in