TCU, Fall 2008

GS for Mass Communications Practitioners

Catalog Description: The application of the principles of General Semantics — how language affects the communication process — to the practice of journalism, advertising, and public relations.



General Semantics (GS) deals with how we perceive, construct, evaluate and then express  our life experiences through our language-behaviors. This course provides an introduction to the discipline, focusing on practical applications for mass communications professionals.

Course Objectives

Students will:

  • Demonstrate a working knowledge of the basic terms, formulations, and system of General Semantics.
  • Relate the principles of GS to their chosen professional fields.
  • Apply the methods of GS to their own individual evaluating, behavior, and self-awareness.
  • Critically evaluate various aspects of the mass communications processes and outputs.
  • Practice and demonstrate the skills and knowledge associated with their chosen professional fields (journalism, advertising, public relations, etc.).
  • Research and report on topics of interest using the analytical and communication techniques of General Semantics.

eCollege and Email

The resources and capabilities of eCollege will be used for important class communications, announcements, assignments, and posting grades. Critical functions and capabilities of the eCollege class shell will be covered in class, but you are expected to be proficient in using eCollege capabilities. For help with eCollege, please see: .   Email will also be an important communication means for this course.  Your official TCU student email address will be used for all course notifications.

Fall 2008 Schedule

The content for this course is somewhat fluid and may be determined based on current events, student interests, etc. Therefore I reserve the right to adjust the sequencing of the material based on the needs of the class. It is not anticipated that the dates for quizzes, projects, reports, and presentations will change. However, should they become necessary or desirable, changes to the Course Outline, or any other part of this syllabus, will be communicated to the class as soon as possible via eCollege Announcement.

Grades and Assignments

The grading philosophy for this course is that you earn points for completing assignments. Except as noted, the assignments are not “graded” other than to make sure the stated requirements are satisfied. The intent is to reward accomplishment of assigned tasks; in other words, you will determine your grade based on how much you choose to accomplish.

You will participate in two different Groups throughout the semester. You will be expected to participate in and contribute to each Group activity. You may lose points if, in my judgment, you fail to appropriately participate and contribute.

This course is worth a total of 1,000 points:

  • 930 points are required for an A
  • 840 points are required for a B
  • 750 points are required for a C
  • 660 points are required for a D

Assignments are divided into four types:

  1. Individual Assignments (625 points)
  2. Group 1 Assignments (125 points)
  3. Group 2 Assignments (150 points)
  4. Quizzes (100 points)

1)  Individual Assignments (625 points)

Attendance — 232 points. There is no primary textbook for this course. Some supplementary articles will be assigned throughout the course to reinforce material covered in class, but the primary source for course content will be class presentations, lectures, and discussion. Therefore attendance in this course is very important. Each class is worth 8 points. If you attend the class, you earn the points; if you don’t attend the class, you don’t earn the points. If you miss class due to an official university absence or if you have an extenuating circumstance as determined by the instructor, you may complete make-up assignments for no more than two absences.

 Journals — 168 points. You are expected to complete one journal entry after each class (except the final class, 28 total) throughout the semester using the eCollege Journal tool. An  entry for each class is required, regardless of attendance. Your class notes may be included in your journal, but the intent of the assignment is to write about more than just your class notes. Each journal entry should be at least 300 words and provide a summary of what you felt were the most important points covered in that class, or how something from the class applies to something that happens outside of class. This is an opportunity for you to reinforce what you are learning in class and relate class material to your own ‘real world.’ Each of the 28 entries is worth 6 points. Entries for each Tuesday/Thursday class must be completed by the following Monday to earn maximum points. Journal entries will not be scored qualitatively, but entries shorter than 300 words or entries submitted after the Monday they are due will receive only 3 points each.

Online Discussion — 40 points. You have the opportunity to participate in a general online threaded discussion forum in eCollege. A maximum of eight (8) points may be earned for each three-week period in which you materially contribute to the general discussion. In this context, “materially contribute” means that you, during each three-week period, offer at least four comments that begin or propel a threaded discussion by expressing a well-stated opinion, observation, insight, or respectful argument.

Definition Task — 40 points (*a, *m). Two 20-point tasks related to definitions will be assigned. Details will be provided in class.

Current Event Task — 25 points (*f). You will be required to complete one assignment regarding a current event. Details will be provided in class.

Book Report — 75 points (*h). Select a book from the list of approved books, read it, and submit a 2,000-word book report that relates the contents of the book to material covered in the course.

Individual Report/Evaluation for Group 2 Project — 45 points (*l). Details will be provided in class.

2)  Group 1 Assignments (125 points)

Time-binding Timeline Task — 25 points (*b). Details will be provided in class.

Process Diagram Task — 25 points (*c). Details will be provided in class.

“100 Greatest Discoveries” Project — 75 points (*d). Each group will be assigned one of the eight subject areas for the Discovery Channel’s series featuring Bill Nye. Each group will be tasked to study the content of its respective video (approximately 45 minutes) and prepare a report to the class, according to the requirements to be provided in class. Depending on performance, your Group may receive 75, 68, or 60 points.

3)  Group 2 Assignments (150 points)

Project Plan — 25 points (*g). Details will be provided in class.

Dialogue Presentations (pairs) — 25 points (*i). Details will be provided in class.

Video Series Project — 100 points (*k). Each group will be assigned a major topic that includes a series of videos. Each group will be tasked to study the content of its respective video topic and prepare a report to the class, according to the requirements to be provided in class. Depending on performance, your Group may receive 100, 90, or 80 points.

4)  Quizzes (100 points)

Two Quizzes (50 points each, *e, *j) will be given and may consist of multiple choice, true/false, short answer/essay questions, or other activities to be graded individually.


  • In-class lectures, presentations, and discussion will constitute the major source of learning opportunities. These learning opportunities simply cannot be made up. Therefore class attendance is extremely important. Attendance will be taken.
  • Late work due to unofficial absences will be accepted within one week of the assigned date and automatically penalized by a 20% reduction in possible points earned.
  • Graded work missed due to an official university absence may be made up with no penalty provided the make-up work is completed within one week of your return. It is your responsibility to notify me immediately of an official absence and to initiate any make-up work.

Reading List

Select a book from the list of approved books, read it, and submit a 2,000-word book report that relates the contents of the book to material covered in the course. The report is due October 28 and is worth 75 points. *These titles may have limited availability; see me if the library doesn’t have it.

  • Asim, Jbari —  The N Word
  • Basevich, Andrew — The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism
  • Carneiro, Robert L. —  Evolution in Cultural Anthropology *
  • Carneiro, Robert L. —  The Muse of History and the Science of Culture *
  • Chase, Stuart —  The Tyranny of Words *
  • Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly —  Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
  • Draper, Robert — Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush
  • Fessler, Ann —  The Girls Who Went Away
  • Frank, Thomas —  What’s the Matter with Kansas?
  • Gelb, Michael J. —  How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci
  • Gilbert, Daniel —  Stumbling On Happiness
  • Gladwell, Malcolm —  Blink!
  • Gladwell, Malcolm —  The Tipping Point
  • Groopman, Jerome, Dr. —  How Doctors Think
  • Hawkins, Jeff, with Sandra Blakeslee — On Intelligence
  • Hayakawa, S.I. —  Symbol, Status, and Personality *
  • Hayakawa, S.I. — Language in Thought and Action *
  • Jacoby, Susan — The Age of American Unreason
  • Johnson, Wendell —  Your Most Enchanted Listener *
  • Kurtz, Howard — Reality Show: Inside the Last Great Television News War  
  • Lakoff, George —  Don’t Think of an Elephant
  • Lakoff, George —  Metaphors We Live By
  • Langer, Ellen —  Mindfulness
  • Lee, Irving J. —  Language Habits in Human Affairs *
  • Lee, Irving J. —  The Language of Wisdom and Folly *
  • Luntz, Frank — Words That Work
  • Mann, Thomas E. and Ornstein, Norman J. —  The Broken Branch
  • Maslow, Abraham —  Motivation and Personality
  • Maslow, Abraham —  Toward a Psychology of Being
  • Medina, John — brain rules
  • Meredith, Robyn — The Elephant and the Dragon
  • Nunberg, Geoffrey —  Going Nucular
  • Nunberg, Geoffrey —  Talking Right
  • Postman, Neil — Amusing Ourselves to Death
  • Robinson, James Harvey —  The Mind in the Making: The Relation of Intelligence to Social Reform *
  • Saunders, George—  The Braindead Megaphone
  • Selver, Charlotte and Brooks, Charles V.W. —  reclaiming vitality and presence *
  • Weinberg, Harry L. —  Levels of Knowing and Existence *
  • Whorf, Benjamin Lee —  Language, Thought, and Reality *

Quiz 1:

Referring to the assigned readings:

  1. About General Semantics
  2. Alfred Korzybski and General Semantics
  3. Language Matters
  4. Principles and Benefits of General Semantics
  5. Overviews by Wendell Johnson, Francis P. Chisholm, Dr. Russell Meyers
  6. An Explanation of the Structural Differential
  7. Interview with Charlotte Read on Sensory Awareness
  8. 17-screen Tutorial on my website

1. Explain or describe something significant that you took away from Reading e).

2. In Reading f) I described a hypothetical situation in which a driver was “cut off” by another driver. What’s the point of that story?

3. In Reading g), Charlotte Read talks about a cartoon (which is shown in the article) and a Zen story. Each illustrates a different principle. Give a short explanation of either the cartoon or the Zen story and the principle it illustrates.

4. From Reading f), what does “Differential” refer to; what is being differentiated?

5. Briefly explain two principles or examples you found significant from Reading h).

Quiz 2:

1.  How do you reconcile these two seemingly contradictory statements:

“I know I’m wasting half of my ad dollars. I just don’t know which half.”

“Good marketing research works.”

2.  Based on what you saw of the consultant Frank Luntz, would you say that his work has primarily “clarified” or “obfuscated” the issues he has been hired to advocate? Support your answer using a GS principle(s) or example(s).

3.     From what you’ve learned this semester about GS and what you’ve observed in “The Persuaders,” which ONE of the following groups do you think would most benefit from applying GS in their own  domains? Give at least one example from the documentary that supports your answer.

Advertisers                  Consultants                 Consumers                  Politicians                    Filmmakers

4.  John Sparks demonstrated a principle of GS. Describe or explain his demonstration.

5.  Korzybski warned that “who rules the symbols, rules us.” From what you just saw in the documentary, would you say this warning was appropriate? Why or why not?

6.  John Sparks admitted to feeling  defensive about something; what was it?

7.  What did Olive Talley say about objectivity as it relates to journalists?

8.   Olive Talley named two attributes in response to my question about what kind of person she would be looking for if she had budget to hire someone right out of college. Name one of the two attributes.

9.  Dr. Clotaire Rapaille, the French market research guru, said, “The reptilian always wins.” What was he talking about and how does it relate to what we’ve talked about in class?

10.  What is one of the reasons why people join cults, according to consultant Douglas Adkin?

11.  Advertising CEO Kevin Roberts said his objective was “loyalty beyond reason.” What does this mean to you as a consumer?

12.  Who or what initiated the story line for the “Absolut Hunk” episode of “Sex and the City”?

13.  What problem does the Acxiom company in Little Rock, AR, promise to solve?

14.   According to one of the people in the documentary, what threat does the micro-segmenting of demographic groups pose to our democracy?


*Some content may be considered objectionable and inappropriate for younger viewers.*