Probably any teacher of college freshmen is familiar with the student who turns up on registration day with a strong emotional urge to be a professional man but with complete disdain for the step-by-step process for reaching his goal. He may be an aspiring scientist who wants to remake the world—but can’t stand math; or a would-be physician with a burden to serve humanity—as long as he can stay away from chemistry; or a ministerial student who yearns to preach—if only he can escape Greek.

The human urge to bypass the process by which things happen and believe that “wishing will make it so” is a comfortable rationalization which helps us avoid work. We all indulge it at times. But when a Christian minister asserts, in effect, “Our purposes are so important and lofty that we will not be distracted from them by examination of the means by which we reach them,” the evasion may become dangerous. I am talking about the minister’s knowledge of communication process.

The study of communication theory as an integrated body of information constituting an area of scholarship in its own right is a relatively modern development. Given recent impetus by the growth of huge nationalistic propaganda organizations and astronomical advertising budgets, study of the communication process has attracted increasing attention from a variety of disciplines. Modern communication theory gathers together from relevant traditional areas of scholarship (such as sociology, linguistics, psychology, semantics, literature, anthropology, logic, and rhetoric) all available information about the transmission of ideas, and applies scientific information-gathering techniques to the study of the process. The classic definition of communication study as “the study ...

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