Podcasting for Democracy: Civics 101
November 8, 2019
“If you don't understand the system you're in, you can't change it.”
Hannah McCarthy and Nick Capodice host Civics 101, the podcast refresher course about the basics of how American democracy works. We discuss the importance of empowering citizens and understanding the rules of our complex system, as well as the lasting repercussions of slavery in the United States.
Civic education for all
Many Americans are unsure of how their government works. Civic education is the manual for democracy, and Civics 101 offers it in the form of a popular podcast. Civic learning is a unifier that promotes democratic ideas and a more connected populace. In fact, listeners of the podcast span across the ideological spectrum, equally motivated to learn all about how they can utilize our democracy. Civics 101 also produces classroom materials for a growing number of high schools around the country.
Lasting legacy of slavery
The institution of slavery and the needs of slaveholding states were given weighty consideration in the founding days of the nation and were, therefore, baked into the Constitution. One important holdover is the Electoral College, which was originally designed to grant outsized electoral power to slaveholding states. The system continues to give about one third of American voters an advantage at the expense of the majority.
The United States became more democratic as time progressed. Even though the Bill of Rights was adopted in 1791, it was not always considered to be the bulwark of our democracy. The Supreme Court did not even hear a case with the First Amendment until the 1920s. However, over the last hundred years, concerned and well-educated citizens have bolstered and protected it through activism and litigation. Our responsibility is to understand the rules, participate, and empower ourselves to make this democracy work us.
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Hannah McCarthy and Nick Capodice host and produce Civics 101, a production of New Hampshire Public Radio. They work with the Civics 101 team to brainstorm topics, as well as research, write, and record episodes.
Each episode explores topics – the secretary of state, the NIH, the vice president, the midterm election – through interviews with experts and teachers. The hosts ask the questions you’ve been wondering but may be too afraid to ask – what exactly does the vice president do? How do executive orders work? – and stitches them together into engaging narrative stories.
Civics 101 is used as a key classroom aide around the country, and episodes have been downloaded more than 13 million times.