An Assessment of Ageism in Images from Japanese ELT Materials

Conference: The Asian Conference on Education (ACE2021)
Title: An Assessment of Ageism in Images from Japanese ELT Materials
Stream: Education, Sustainability & Society: Social Justice, Development & Political Movements
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Charles Brown, Purdue University, United States


Unique in its potential to affect everyone no matter their culture, ageism is especially recognized as widespread in the mass media with older individuals often simply being invisible. When the elderly do appear they are often stereotyped. Ageism is important for many reasons: Because of its impact upon older people's equitable access to resources, for its especially potent discriminatory effects upon aging women, and for evidence of heightened intergenerational friction. Despite such concerns, the literature on English language teaching (ELT) is silent on ageism in ELT materials. In light of this, and given the recognition of the power of visual culture in the media, I conducted a content analysis of visual depictions of people in materials from online collections of teaching resources created for ELT teachers in Japan. I focused on ascertaining how these materials reflected or disrupted ageism. Results largely demonstrated ageist tendencies. Representation was biased against the elderly with only 238 of the 7350 representations of people being those of individuals appearing to be over 70. Older women were especially underrepresented. Also, while these materials depicted many interactions between children and adults, depictions of such interactions between children and the elderly were scant. In terms of the manner of elderly depictions, many were stereotypical in showing the elderly as weak and dependent. Others, though, did portray elderly people positively, as involved and vigorous. The power of images suggests that such materials represent a hidden curriculum reinforcing ageist notions with shortcomings documented in this study implying areas for redress.

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