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Teaching Gerontology, May 2011
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Saturday, 19 Oct 2019

Teaching Gerontology, May 2011

In this issue:

- Can We Teach with Balance?
- Teaching about the Affordable Care Act
- Dreams of Older Americans
- Getting Students to Talk 
- Bioethics and Aging
- The Aging Workforce
- Web Sites to See


At the recent AGHE Conference, I presented as part of a session on teaching about the Affordable Care Act.  As a staffer with AARP, there should be no doubt about where my own political sympathies lie regarding healthcare reform.  But I was dismayed that virtually every member of the panel took if for granted that we should be teaching about the law from a liberal or progressive perspective.

I wondered: Is this really the best way to educate our students about public policy?  Can we be sensitive to our own bias or presuppositions as teachers?  How do we achieve some degree of balance in approaching controversial topics?

For the Affordable Care Act, the challenge is clear because there is much misinformation at large about that law.  Moreover, older people, as a group, have tended to be more negative about the law than others, and their reasons need to be better understood.

An article in INSIDE HIGHER EDUCATION reported on recent studies of political leanings among college faculty as follows:

"Few aspects of faculty demographics generate more attention than their politics. Why is it, many want to know, that professors are far more likely than the general public to be liberal? Many theories have been put forward, including the view (much discussed
in conservative circles) that academe is hostile to conservatives and tries to either weed them out or convert them.

Two studies being released today provide more evidence that bias is not the cause -- and the studies provide some additional evidence to back the theory (put forward last year by one of the authors of the new work) that 'self-selection' is the primary reason so many academics are liberal.

In brief, the self-selection idea holds that some professions have become 'typed' in American society in various ways that may relate to gender or class but could also relate to politics. Academe is seen as more liberal, so liberals are more likely to identify being an academic as something to which they aspire. The argument is significant because it does not contest the lopsided political nature of many faculties, but also suggests that higher education is open to those conservative scholars who want careers there."

(From "Liberal) Academic Self-Selection" at http://ntserver2.geron.org/t/62737/395346/3966/0/)

It's fair to assume that most faculty who teach courses in aging come from a liberal standpoint.  My concern is not how to achieve balance among faculty members but how to make sure we have balance in the way we teach our students.  Controversies will not go away, as we see in the case of healthcare reform.  The task of good teaching is up to us.


Yes, the new healthcare reform law (Affordable Care Act, or ACA) is complicated and, yes, opinions are polarized. Here are some websites with good source material, including contrasting perspectives on the law:

SUMMARY. For a "Summary of Affordable Care Act" visit http://ntserver2.geron.org/t/62737/395346/3967/0/

Also see the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll (March, 2011) for public attitudes toward the law, at: http://ntserver2.geron.org/t/62737/395346/3968/0/

For a balanced overview of the ACA, visit:

"The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" (Wikipedia Article): http://ntserver2.geron.org/t/62737/395346/3969/0/

"Provisions affecting Medicare" at: http://ntserver2.geron.org/t/62737/395346/3970/0/

Advocates for the ACA include Families USA.  For their views visit: http://ntserver2.geron.org/t/62737/395346/3971/0/

AARP has been a prominent advocate for the ACA.  Some resources here include the following:

"Fact Sheet: The Health Care Law and Medicare http://ntserver2.geron.org/t/62737/395346/3972/0/

"New Health Care Law Helps Protect 18 Million Medicare Beneficiaries from High Drug Costs" http://ntserver2.geron.org/t/62737/395346/3973/0/

"Health Care Reform Improves Access to Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services" at: http://ntserver2.geron.org/t/62737/395346/3974/0/

There are critics of the ACA who have advanced substantive policy arguments about the law.  See, for example:

"Discussion of Proposals to Repeal the Affordable Care Act" http://ntserver2.geron.org/t/62737/395346/3975/0/

"Arguments for Repeal: What Most Needs Repealing and Replacing" at: http://ntserver2.geron.org/t/62737/395346/3976/0/

The author of a new book, WHY OBAMACARE IS WRONG FOR AMERICA, offers critical comments at: http://ntserver2.geron.org/t/62737/395346/3977/0/

In the last two weeks, the House of Representatives approved a bill that would fundamentally change Medicare as we have known it, changing it into a voucher plan.  President Obama has offered his own approach to budget issues as well. In next month's edition of "Teaching Gerontology" we will focus on resources for teaching about Medicare in light of current debates about its future.


Would you like a data set showing what older people in your state are most concerned about and what they expect in the future? AARP has announced "Voices of 50+ America: Dreams & Challenges," which is now available.

In January 2011, AARP interviewed 50+ Americans from every state, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Respondents were asked about their dreams as they think about what is next in their life as well as the challenges
they see themselves facing. Additional questions were tailored to the unique challenges facing the 50+ in each state, so every survey is different. Results are available for every state, and additional information on Hispanic and African-American individuals 50+ is available for some states.  To see the results, visit: http://ntserver2.geron.org/t/62737/395346/3978/0/


In a recent column, academic David Brooks asks the question "So how do we stimulate the kind of vibrant conversation in the classroom that we hear every day outside of it?"

His answers:

-Require students to recite passages
-Have students give talks.
-Hand out questions in advance, and ease in to discussion.
-Set rules for discussion.
-Have a chat (allow informal conversation)

(From "Getting Students to Talk," CHRONICLE OF HIGHERE EDUCATION, Mar. 21, 2011)


There's an e-newsletter available (no charge), "The Soul of Bioethics," covering topics such as end-of-life care, dementia, family obligations, ethics and aging, and dilemmas of autonomy.  The newsletter is now distributed by the HealthCare Chaplaincy in new York. For a sample copy or free subscription, send a message to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


The number of people in the labor force aged 55 to 64 is PROJECTED to increase grow by 33% between 2008 and 2018, and the number aged 65 and older is projected to grow by 78%. By contrast, those 45 to 54 year-olds and 35 to 44 year-olds will decrease by 5% and 1%, as Boomers grow older.

Thanks to the BLS for these figures, from the Sloan Center for Aging and Work at Boston College.  Visit them at: http://ntserver2.geron.org/t/62737/395346/2603/0/


HEALTH CARE COSTS. The Hastings Center has launched a site "Health Care Cost Monitor" to provide in-depth analysis of cost dimensions in health reform.  Available at: http://ntserver2.geron.org/t/62737/395346/3979/0/

ROGUE SCHOLARSHIP.  Read "Post-Aging: The Role of Technology" at the site devoted to "Rogue Scholarship in Aging" at: http://ntserver2.geron.org/t/62737/395346/3746/0/

DATA ON OLDER AMERICANS.  For a "Profile of Older Americans: 2010" visit: http://ntserver2.geron.org/t/62737/395346/2369/0/

This electronic newsletter, edited by Harry (Rick) Moody, is published by the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) and co-sponsored by the Office of Academic Affairs at AARP. The information expressed in this newsletter was not composed by AGHE or any member of its staff. To submit items of interest or request subscription changes, contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Association for Gerontology in Higher Education
1220 L Street, NW, Suite 901, Washington, DC 20005
202.289.9806 • This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it • www.aghe.org

** Used with Permission **