In this article, Michele Moses and Lauren Saenz explore a growing trend in education policymaking — the ballot initiative. Specifically, the authors question whether information presented to voters is sufficiently substantive to permit educated decisionmaking about influential policies. Their study, a content analysis of print news media related to the 2006 Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, shows that coverage of this initiative was largely superficial, documenting procedural or topical matters rather than addressing the deeper moral, practical, and historical issues involved. These results, they argue, highlight the important role that mass media should play in a direct democracy, currently an overlooked responsibility. Moses and Saenz end with an appeal to education researchers to monitor the media coverage of education policy debates and, upon finding insubstantial coverage, to present an alternative that is meaningful and accessible to the general public.
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Michele S. Moses
is an associate professor in the educational foundations, policy, and practice program at the School of Education at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her research focuses on education policies related to issues of educational equity and social justice, such as affirmative action. Her recent publications include Embracing Race: Why We Need Race-Conscious Education Policy
(2002), which won the American Educational Studies Association Critic’s Choice Award, and she was recently a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, as well as a Fulbright New Century Scholar.
Lauren P. Saenz
is a doctoral candidate in the educational foundations, policy, and practice program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her research interests center on education policy, philosophy of education, and issues of equity, diversity, and social justice. She previously served as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer in Denver and worked as a research assistant at the Center for Applied Special Technology in Wakefield, Massachusetts.