The Internet TESL Journal

Socially Responsible Teaching Against Ageism: Some Practical Solutions

Arda Arikan
Hacettepe University (Ankara, Turkey)
Web Page:
ELT coursebooks represent the world of the youth, a fact that may cause many social misconceptions. Coursebooks’ portrayal of the elderly can be regarded as negative stereotyping as this paper exemplifies. The solution can be found in teachers’ willingness to create a classroom atmosphere in which he or she carries out a more socially responsible way of teaching. In this paper, some portrayals of the elderly in coursebooks are given, followed by some suggestions to minimize the negative effects of such materials.


Coupland (2007: 38) writes that media driven public discourses related to ageing causes anxiety and threats about the ageing body in which ‘individuals are pressured into attempting to retain their appearance of youth, into staving off visible signs of their ageing. It should be noted that it is not the biological signs of ageing but the cultural ones that bring such anxiety most of which come from media and other societal images.  Coupland & Coupland (2001) found the following in their review of societal verbal and nonverbal images of the people of old age:
Cunningsworth’s (1995) review analysis of ELT coursebooks show that the world of the ELT coursebooks is that of the young while little attention is paid to the other members of the social strata. My previous pilot study showed that ELT coursebooks tended to show the elderly in terms of their age related qualities rather than as whole persons with multiple positionalities (Arikan, 2005). The findings and arguments raised by Arikan (2005), Coupland (2007), Coupland & Coupland (2001), and Cunningsworth (1995) point that in various texts the elderly are portrayed in negative terms.

What is the role of ELT materials in this socio-educational problem? Do coursebooks, for instance, act against or for retaining such negative and anxiety bearing images of ageing? What can teachers of English do to minimize the negative effects of such materials and examples? In this brief paper, I first show how the elderly are portrayed in some ELT coursebooks, then, I give some practical solutions to minimize the negative effects of such materials.

Coursebooks’ Portrayal of the Elderly

We as foreign language teachers may sometimes see some passages in our coursebooks in which the elderly are portrayed as weak individuals who ‘cannot’ do certain actions because of their age. Here are some examples.

Practical Solutions

Here are some solutions to minimize the negative effects of such negative portrayals.


      The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. XIII, No. 8, August 2007