Jane Kagon
Executive Editor
Marion Brown
Managing Editor  
Mike Campbell
Social Media Editor 
Maureen Feldman
Social Enterprise Editor 
Karina Saravia
Science Editor 
Nadia Walker
Entertainment Editor 
Ariel Lapidus
Communication Design Editor 
Bob Lasiewicz
Education Editor 
Kris Slava
Entertainment Editor 
Marty Perlmutter
Journalism Editor
Richard Kroon
Education Editor 
Lisa Mattson
Science Editor 
Corine Ganem
Journalism Editor


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The JUST education section explores media literacy and education as they relate to the needs of learners attempting to interpret, react to, and affect change for their own personal development as well as for the  benefit of their respective cultures and communities.

Richard KroonBob Lasewicz



Democracy's Need for Education

Richard Kroon
August, 2012 

Thomas Jefferson is known for his belief that a democracy cannot survive without a well-educated electorate. He supported an educational Constitutional amendment and helped establish both West Point (during his presidency) and the University of Virginia (after leaving office). But what happens to a democracy without education?

As the franchise is expanded, it inevitably encompasses people who are not prepared for the responsibility. Education can fill this gap, but only if it is available and accepted. Failing that, you end up with people voting against their own self-interest out of ignorance.

  • Joe the Plumber became the conservative media’s darling as he railed against candidate Obama’s tax proposals during the 2008 US presidential election – despite the fact that he would not have been affected by the proposed tax, demonstrating a fundamental lack of understanding of how income tax is calculated.
  • Tea Party advocates are infamous for their calls to “Keep government out of my Medicare” – despite the fact that Medicare is a government program.
  • Actor turned political advocate Craig T. Nelson once said, “I’ve been on food stamps and welfare, did anyone help me out? No.” – despite the fact that both food stamps and welfare are government aid programs.

This is not just a liberal complaint about conservative voters, even if some of the more amusing examples do come from the conservative side of the spectrum. Conservatives themselves are also concerned that uninformed voters are polluting the democratic process and have their own proposals for correcting this imbalance.

In the end, this is a democratic issue. It affects the world’s largest and longest-established democracies, as well as its newest. Every time someone is given the vote – either by reaching their age of majority or by an expansion of the franchise to a previously unrepresented group – the potential danger to democracy posed by the un- or under-educated voter increases.


Jefferson, Education and the Franchise

Professor Thomas Jewett
Archiving Early America

[Thomas Jefferson] placed education as the foundation of democracy and a prerequisite to vote. Ignorance and sound self-government could not exist together: the one destroyed the other. A despotic government could restrain its citizens and deprive the people of their liberties only while they were ignorant. Jefferson could never completely separate education from government. With the fullest faith in the ability of man to govern himself, Jefferson nonetheless realized the responsibility of self-government could be assumed successfully only by an enlightened people. Read more...


If Democracies Need Informed Voters, How Can They Thrive While Expanding Enfranchisement?

Jennifer L. Hochschild

H.L. Jayne Professor of Government, Professor of African and African American Studies, and Harvard College Professor

Three uncontroversial points sum to a paradox: 1) ... Citizens need to know who or what they are choosing and why – hence urgent calls for expansive and publicly funded education, and rights to free speech, assembly, press, and movement.  2) In most if not all democratic polities, the proportion of the population granted the suffrage has consistently expanded, and seldom contracted, over the past two centuries. ... 3) Most expansions of the suffrage bring in, on average, people who are less politically informed or less broadly educated than those already eligible to vote.

Putting these three uncontroversial points together leads to the conclusion that as democracies become more democratic, their decision-making processes become of lower quality in terms of cognitive processing of issues and candidate choice. The paradox is both historical – why have democracies expanded the franchise to include relatively ignorant voters? – and normative – why should democracies expand the franchise to include relatively ignorant voters? Read more...


Help Wanted: Only Informed Voters Need Apply!

Dale Glading, 2010 Republican candidate for Congress in New Jersey's 1st District
July 24, 2012
… Simply put, the right to vote isn’t a right at all. It is not included in the main body of the Constitution, in the Bill of Rights or in the succeeding 17 amendments. Therefore, it is a privilege and not a right. And as such, it can be regulated by each state, providing that they meet certain federal and constitutional guidelines. …
Today, America is facing some of the most pressing and complicated challenges in our 236-year history. It is going to take the best candidates our country can offer to solve those problems and it is going to take an informed electorate to choose those candidates.
That is why I support a national civics test as a prerequisite for voting in a federal election.  Read more...

Americans Too Stupid to Vote for Ron Paul


How Facts Backfire

Joe Keohane, July 11, 2010

The Boston Globe (
It’s one of the great assumptions underlying modern democracy that an informed citizenry is preferable to an uninformed one. “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1789. ...  [I]t’s an article of faith that knowledge is the best remedy [to ignorance and misinformation]. If people are furnished with the facts, they will be clearer thinkers and better citizens. Maybe not. Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. ... [W]hen misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger. Read more...

Tempering Knowledge with Values

Richard W. Kroon

May, 2012

At first blush, “values-based education” sounds like something that would be championed by the arch-conservative right or of interest only to faith-based institutions, but the concept is actually politically neutral and secular. Rather, it promotes the notion that education that focuses solely on imparting knowledge is incomplete and that society is better served if education also teaches universal social values, including “love, peace, respect, tolerance, forgiveness, co-existence, and non-violence.”

The real difficulty is that people have no idea of what education truly is. We assess the value of education in the same manner as we assess the value of land or of shares in the stock-exchange market. We want to provide only such education as would enable the student to earn more. We hardly give any thought to the improvement of the character of the educated. … As long as such ideas persist there is no hope of our ever knowing the true value of education. — Mahatma Gandhi

In the US, programs such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top represent “outcomes-based” or “standards-based” education, where the focus is often on academic achievement as measured by standardized testing, while values-based education takes a more holistic, if not directly measurable, approach. Sadly, as government budgets in the US continue to tighten at all levels from federal to local, educational goals contract to the “fundamentals” of reading and math, generally at the expense of music and art and often at the expense of educational diversity, including literature, history, and social studies.

Educational programs stripped bare will educate, but they will not enrich. They will turn out students with knowledge, but not necessarily students who will be beneficial members of society. A broader view to education is called for. One that enriches and nurtures the entire student with the goal of producing a well-rounded adult, such as values-based education.


What is Values-based Education?

Dr. Neil Hawkes

A values-based school seeks to promote an educational philosophy based on valuing self, others and the environment through, the consideration of an ethical values vocabulary (principles that guide behaviour), as the basis of good educational practice. It encourages adults to model values and to give time for reflective practices that empowers individuals to be effective learners and good citizens…

Values-based Education is a great success… because it is based on the soundest principles of pedagogy, educational philosophy, brain research and common sense. It helps pupils to develop holistically, nurturing a secure sense of self, respect for self and others and supports the raising of academic standards. Read more...


Value Based Education in the New York City Public School System

Part I:

 Part II:


Values-Based Education. What is it and why would it benefit the education of your children

An introduction to Values-Based education, how it is taught, the impact it has on the students, how parents view the approach, and what a school needs to do if it wishes to incorporate Values-Based Education using Washingborough School in Lincolnshire, UK as a representative example.


The Importance of a Values-Based Learning Environment

Christopher Drake
The Journal of Moral Education Trust

If education is to cater to the full development of the student as an individual, a member society and a citizen of the world community,  there is, to quote the Report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century, or Delors report: “every reason to place renewed emphasis on the moral and cultural dimensions of education, enabling each person to grasp the individuality of other people and to understand the world’s erratic progress towards a certain unity”. Read more...


"Powerful Learning Practice" Actualizes Educators, Improves Schools, One Project at a Time

Bob Lasiewicz,
April, 2012

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

I recently sat down (virtually via webcam, that is) with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, CEO of Powerful Learning Practice, (PLP) a Virginia based company she co-founded in 2007 with Will Richardson. PLP utilizes a unique palette of research, group process and social technology to support educators bravely marching into a challenging digital future. It’s an approach that can be applied to many learning communities.

By incorporating elements of action research, appreciative inquiry and distributed communities of practice, PLP has created a laboratory for self-actualization via collaboration that extends past the boundaries of traditional education systems. They blend elements of connectivism and the “wisdom of the crowd” to educate as well as impact systems and processes that effect the communities of participants as well as the educational landscape at large.

In this interview you’ll find out about the genesis of PLP’s approach, some of the obstacles and solutions encountered, and how choices were made.

As preparation for the interview, I set the stage with a short background on the social action/social justice nature of the JUST journal. When I mentioned that “educators are at the forefront of such issues,” Sheryl jumped right in…

One of the things that I often think about is the legacy teachers could leave, if just half of them organized their curriculum around an outcome relating to social justice or working with marginalized populations or doing something that left the world a better place

Read the full interview


Looking at Connectivism as a New Learning Theory

Justin Marquis, December 29, 2011 

Connectivism incorporates the additional dimension that learning happens more rapidly in a connected, information rich world through technological mediation. The new and significant aspects of the theory of Connectivism set forth by George Siemens are the implications of the way in which the human brain is being rewired through interaction with digital technology, the concept of “knowing where,” rather than “knowing when” or "knowing how," and the need to make connections in the absence of actual experience. Read more...


Appreciative Inquiry Commons

Appreciative Inquiry is about the coevolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them. In its broadest focus, it involves systematic discovery of what gives “life” to a living system when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable in economic, ecological, and human terms. AI involves, in a central way, the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential. It centrally involves the mobilization of inquiry through the crafting of the “unconditional positive question” often-involving hundreds or sometimes thousands of people. Read more…


Center for Collaborative Action Research

Margaret Riel
Center for Collaborative Action Research

Action research is a way of learning from and through one's practice by working through a series of reflective stages that facilitate the development of a form of "adaptive" expertise. Over time, action researchers develop a deep understanding of the ways in which a variety of social and environmental forces interact to create complex patterns. Since these forces are dynamic, action research is a process of living one's theory into practice. Read more…


Media Literacy Begins With Education

Richard W. Kroon
March, 2012

When the written word was the primary means of recorded expression, the focus was on written literacy – the first two of the 3 R’s. Mass communications media (first newspapers and magazines, then motion pictures, radio, and television) are one-way media distribution systems that do not invite a free and open exchange of ideas. The Internet, as the first bi-directional mass communications medium, has fundamentally changed the nature of literacy. Now one must be fully media literate to be an informed and active participant in democracy or an effective advocate for social change. The critical role of social media in the democratic revolutions of the Arab Spring and the more recent grass-roots KONY 2012 movement are typical examples. In American politics, the rise of the mud-slinging Super-PAC has made informed consumption of media more important than ever for American democracy.

To have a media literate populace, one must have media literacy education that is up to the challenge. The rate of media change is accelerating exponentially and the emphasis on media literacy education must rise to keep pace. There was a time when media change could be measured in centuries, then it was measured in generations, then in decades. Now it seems to be measured in CPU clock cycles.

With the rising importance of media literacy and its inexorable link to education, it is only natural that JUST brings these two topics together under one banner. Now we can better explore developing trends in education and media literacy, how one impacts and depends upon the other, and how both promote social change in a democratic society.


The European Charter for Media Literacy

[M]edia literate people should be able to:

  • Use media technologies effectively to access, store, retrieve and share content to meet their individual and community needs and interests;
  • Gain access to, and make informed choices about, a wide range of media forms and content from different cultural and institutional sources;
  • Understand how and why media content is produced;
  • Analyse critically the techniques, languages and conventions used by the media, and the messages they convey;
  • Use media creatively to express and communicate ideas, information and opinions;
  • Identify, and avoid or challenge, media content and services that may be unsolicited, offensive or harmful;
  • Make effective use of media in the exercise of their democratic rights and civic responsibilities.



The Importance and Challenges of Universal Media Literacy Education

Mark Hannah
MediaShift: Your Guide to the Digital Media Revolution

Elizabeth Thoman, the godmother of the "media literacy" movement recently told me that the Internet has endowed her field with a sense of salience, if not urgency. "As long as media literacy education was about television, it was perceived to be fluff," she said. "But when the Internet came along [it] sparked serious safety concerns." If Thoman and her colleagues' work over the past half century can be credited with establishing media literacy as an academic subject, it's possible that the digital media revolution will catalyze this subject's introduction into the mainstream curriculum. Read more...


The Re-Politicization of Media Literacy Education

Benjamin Thevenin
Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Colorado, Boulder

Despite the efforts made by the media literacy movement in the U.S. to institute media education as a means of addressing social issues, there still exists the potential for a more politically empowering media literacy education. … This paper argues that by reexamining the foundational philosophies of Plato and John Dewey, tracing the development of their ideas in contemporary social theory and media scholarship, and identifying their application in media literacy scholarship, we may be able to create a media literacy education that more effectively confronts injustice and promotes social change. Read more...

RIP! A Remix Manifesto


History of Media Literacy in the USA - Decade by Decade

Center for Media Literacy

While not an exhaustive survey, these historical papers, original source documents, conference reports, articles and reflections trace influences on the growth of media literacy in the USA. Even before the term "media literacy" was coined, pioneering teachers and thinkers were making important connections that would prepare the way for a new vision of literacy for the 21st century. Read more...