This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Demography Now and Then

It has been my pleasure recently to become acquainted with Professor Alan Berstein at Gordon State College in Georgia. His doctorate is in demography from the University of Pennsylvania and he taught at Washington University in St. Louis for several years before leaving academics for a couple of decades. He then returned to academia a few years ago and just this past year was able to teach demography again. He recounted his experience to an audience of colleagues at Gordon State and at my request has provided a link to the essay that he shared. Since he's only a little younger than I am, his perceptions of changes over time in how demography is taught mirror mine very closely. The essential ingredients of demography are not much different now than they used to be--these are universal principles we're talking about--but the approach to teaching is a lot different (and I think better) now that it used to be. Here is one of my favorite paragraphs from his essay:
It’s the change in doing demography that has transformed my teaching it. Fifty years ago, my first forays into demographic research as a sophomore in college inevitably led me to library stacks and dozens of census and vital statistics volumes; armed with magnifying glass and legal pad, I withstood the ravages of book dust in pursuit of quantitative truth. Today, a few weeks into my class, I took my students to one of our computer labs to visit, hands on, data sites at the U.S. Census Bureau’s magnificent American Fact Finder, the CDC's "WONDER" (which actually isn't really), the Georgia Department of Public Health’s OASIS, and the Vinson Institute, where it’s all there for the clicking! Students can engage with the data and hence the field immediately and in real time. Further, we can all follow developments in the field not only with online access to scholarly journals, but with resources more intellectually accessible to all my student like the population blog maintained by John Weeks, the author of my textbook (Weeks 2017). Hence demography today jumps out from the textbook and data to motivate students to look at their world through a demographic lens almost as soon as the semester starts.
I have devoted my entire adult to understanding how the world works, and I am convinced that demography is in the center of everything. When I see other teachers and students as excited as I am about learning I know that everything is going to be all right.

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