Push Back Against NPR Series, “This American Life”

The video for this lesson contains time sensitive information. Developments in the project discussed in the video which occurred after the release date are not covered in the video or this curriculum. See “Follow-Up Assignments” below for a way of addressing this fact in your lesson plan.

Lesson Title

Push Back Against NPR Series, “This American Life”

Video title, link, and release date

Push Back Against NPR Series, “This American Life”, May 25, 2013

Video Length

Three minutes, Forty Seconds

Grade Level

High school


  •  National Public Radio recently sparked controversy when it aired an episode of “This American Life” that disability advocates see as very misleading of federal disability programs.
  •  The six part series on federal disability programs, entitled “Unfit for Work: The Startling Rise of Disability in America,” focused on the recent spike in applicants to the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs that has coincided with recent economic recession.
  •  The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities has issued a letter criticizing NPR for implying that the rises in these numbers are due to people without “true” disabilities entering the market; instead, they assert that the changes can be attributed to demographic factors.
  •  The Consortium points out that it is generally difficult to get disability insurance with fewer than 40% of applicants getting approved for benefits.

Review Questions

1. How many different advocacy groups is the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities made up of?


2. What demographic shift does the story cite as a main factor in the rise in disability insurance numbers?


3. What myth about certain people who qualify for disability insurance does the article debunk?


Freewriting “Journal” Prompt

What about this report do you have questions about?

Why do you think the disability advocacy community is outraged over the material in the series even though it does not directly attack or condemn them?

What do you want to know more about?


Will is the editor for the Galaxy Awareness and History pages as well as one of our pollsters. He is a sophomore at Seattle University majoring in philosophy. His home is La Crosse Wisconsin.