Horizon House Blog

Lifelong Learning at Horizon House: Osher Lectures

Horizon House works with many partners to enhance residents’ lives and make our home a place of intellectual stimulation. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Washington is one of those partners. Aimed at adults over 50, Osher offers seniors a wide variety of courses, from global events, to the arts, to health science research. Classes—there are 50 different courses to choose from each year—are held on the UW campus, but also in locations all over the Seattle metropolitan area. Luckily for us, Horizon House is one of the “classrooms.” Osher brings us current, retired, and emeritus UW lecturers to teach four-part classes twice a year. An annual membership fee of $35 gives participants access to unlimited Osher courses; the cost of individual course is an affordable $30-$45 per course. There are no papers to write or tests to take—just the fun of sharing interests and ideas with a congenial group of new friends.

We’re currently enjoying the Winter Osher course, “The United States Constitution” taught by William Andersen, formerly a professor at the University of Washington Law School, and a Horizon House resident! Bill notes that his course focuses on the structure of the U.S. Constitution rather than on the steamier substantive issues, like free speech, same-sex marriage, and gun control because he believes working realistically with the substantive issues requires a clear view of how the system actually operates “on the ground.”

His first two lectures look at the constitutional convention in 1787 and outline the governmental structure the framers put in place. The next two hours look more closely at the legislative branch, the following two at the executive branch and the final two on the judicial branch, with some concluding remarks about the sources of the current “dysfunction” in Congress.

Bill favors teaching from original materials and students in this course are assigned several of the Federalist Papers (1788). The language is a little more formal than what students typically read but, being written for newspaper readers (like today’s blogs?), it is clear, honest, well-informed, and straightforward.  Besides, as Bill notes, it is “so cool” for students to discover that James Madison and Alexander Hamilton—these two giants in our constitutional history who were central players in the 1787 convention—sat down (with quill pens!) and explained for us what the constitution is and how they expected it to operate. Cliff’s Notes be damned. Bill aslo uses graphics to illustrate points and issues, such as this example showing some of the real-world steps in the legislative process.

The Osher courses, like Bill Andersen’s “U.S. Constitution,” are one of the many programs and activities that broaden our residents’ horizons and contribute to vibrant and creative retirement living at Horizon House.

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