Teaching Democracy: A Media Literacy Approach
Dilemmas + Decisions
An Educational Process for Empowering
Youth Citizenship in a Media World
"…problems are the stimulus to thinking."
John Dewey (1963, p.79)
Dilemmas + Decisions (D+D) embodies an educational process developed at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy for use with middle and high school students throughout the United States. It’s a model for critical media literacy, involving both media analysis and media production, that aims to deepen students’ ability to identify, analyze, and act upon issues in their community. Engagement with community concerns and giving voice to marginal or alternative points of view contributes to the public good and thus is an important act of democracy.
As a transformative pedagogy, Dilemmas + Decisions uses a problem-posing & approach that begins with a genuine problem of student interest and unfolds, ideally, to encompass four underlying objectives:
Students intellectually engage with socially relevant subject matter and act upon it by creating their own alternative media production expressing their point of view.
Creating a media product gives students practice in the art of public dialogue and shaping a message to motivate others to act.
Presenting their production to a real-world audience increases the capacity to see themselves as responsible members of society capable of shaping democracy.
In this way, active, engaged citizens are born—empowered with the media skills they need to communicate effectively to both peers and others. It is such communication savvy coupled with a deep understanding of the democratic principles of equality and justice for all that will characterize the effective world citizen of the 21st century.