Dixon Arnett has served as adjunct professor of gerontology at San Diego State University where he guest-lectures and has taught courses at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. He also teaches courses on California and national issues and politics at the Osher Institute of Lifelong Learning. Arnett has completed over 40 years of public service in the health and human service fields and in education. He has served at local, state and federal levels – in both elected and appointed positions. He has also served as an administrator at the Claremont Colleges and Stanford University (from which he graduated in 1960).
What do you teach and why do you like teaching for Osher?
I teach current affairs and politics. In five years teaching at Osher I have covered presidential and midterm elections and major issues in California. Bernie Osher’s devotion to lifelong learning is a hallmark in education. He has funded Osher Institutes throughout our nation. In doing so he has sparked continuing curiosity in older students and the full engagement of people who care about their intellectual lives – one of the best ways to enhance a full quality of life.
Can you share a few fun anecdotes about why Osher students are wonderful to teach?
As an Osher instructor, you better be on your game. Remember, your students are mostly people who have had full careers of their own and some may be more experienced in your subject-matter than you are. I recall at one time teaching a health care topic and quoting a few statistics I had pulled from an article about the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. When I asked for student comments, one gentleman said the article wasn’t entirely accurate and he proceeded to gently correct me. His knowledge of the topic was obvious so I asked him what he had done for his career. It turned out that for the last decade before he retired, he had been the Deputy Director of the CDC. Needless to say, I stood corrected!
Would you recommend teaching at Osher to others?
My Osher instructor colleagues are an exciting panel of experts, many of whom (like me) have been teaching at Osher since it began at SDSU. I have already encouraged others to make imaginative proposals for courses. This includes my encouragement to my wife, who last semester was a student in four Osher courses and is an expert in nonprofit transportation programs for older adults.
The chance to teach, for me, is a lifelong dream come true. For 40 years I had a career in elective and appointive public offices − local, state and federal − but I always wanted to teach at the college level. And where better to teach than in San Diego and at SDSU.
What are the top reasons why students should take an Osher course?
The person who follows his/her interests in a wide variety of topics − art, music, film, books, history, psychology, comparative religions, travel, current affairs, etc. − will find fulfillment in the SDSU Osher offerings. They will find that the classes are not just lectures but ones inviting student participation, including one class where students are given the opportunity to write short essays. Keeping the mind active and curious in older age is one of the best prescriptions for quality of life.
What makes Osher classes unique?
The quality of the topics, the faculty, and the students. We are all really like a family enjoying each other and learning at the same time. The level of enrichment never ends.
How has teaching Osher students inspired you personally?
In the musical The King and I, Anna sings the song, “Getting to Know You,” which starts, “There’s a very ancient saying, but a true and honest thought, that if you become a teacher, by your pupils you’ll be taught.” Thus, every time I teach at Osher, I am learning, too.