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Civics 101

What's the difference between the House and the Senate? How do landmark Supreme Court decisions affect our lives? What does the 2nd Amendment really say? Civics 101 is the podcast about how our democracy works...or is supposed to work, anyway.

  • When the cats are know. In this special episode, Executive Producer Rebecca Lavoie and Senior Producer Christina Phillips follow up on some recent discussions sparked by our newsletter Extra Credit. How do you have a legitimate discussion with someone who has the facts wrong? And what's going on with all of these different trials involving former President Donald Trump?Click here to read Nick's essay on responding to someone who's wrong. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter!Click here to make a donation to Civics 101.
  • The president has the power to release someone from prison, restore their voting rights, or stop a federal criminal investigation with little more than the wave of a hand. How did the president get this power, and are there any limitations? What would it mean for a president to pardon themselves? Brian Kalt, constitutional law professor at Michigan State University, helps answer these questions.
  • Machine learning is being used in police precincts, schools, courts and elsewhere across the country to help us make decisions. Using data about us, algorithms can do almost instantly what it would take human beings both time and money to do. Cheaper, faster, more efficient and potentially more accurate -- but should we be doing it? How should we be using it? And what about our privacy and our rights?Aziz Huq, Frank and Bernice J. Greenberg Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, is our guide to the new world order.
  • Federalist 10 was one of the Federalist Papers, a collection of 85 essays that were published in New York to encourage ratification of the newly drafted Constitution. This essay is taught in classrooms across the country and often referred to as the most important. So what's it about?Taking us through the ideas of faction, republicanism, and Madison's inability to predict Facebook are Jeffrey Rosen, President of the National Constitution Center, Alison LaCroix, Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, and our dear friend Ryan Werenka, AP Government and Politics teacher at Troy High School in Michigan. Click here to listen to our episode on the Federalist and Antifederalist Papers.And click here to support our show and get yourself some wool socks and a hat!
  • Primaries, caucuses, conventions, court cases -- oh, it's a lot. Hannah and Nick have the most important dates and some crucial context for your calendar this election year. Buckle up, 2024 is already underway.Check out our recommended listening for more helpful info!Primaries and CaucusesConventionsStranglehold: Make Room (for context on New Hampshire and its hold on the first in the nation Primary)By the way, it isn't too late to snag a Civics 101 baseball hat! Donate now and show the world you know what's going on.
  • Government salaries vary an awful lot; from $100 a year to $11.5 million. So who makes what? Today we divide the issue of taxpayer-funded salaries in two. How much officials make, and then how much they really make. Why do so many politicians make money once they leave office? How much can you get from speaking at events? And how do lobbyists affect not only policy, but their career trajectory? Our guest is Anna Massoglia from Open Secrets, the "nation's premier research group tracking money in U.S. politics."Click here to get a hat and/or socks during our podcast fund drive!
  • In this double feature of two of our favorite episodes we cover misinformation, disinformation and propaganda -- three tricky truth-benders that come at you from every angle in American life. Our guides include Samantha Lai of the Brookings Institute, Peter Adams of the News Literacy Project, John Maxwell Hamilton (professor and author of Manipulating the Masses: Woodrow Wilson and the Birth of American Propaganda and Jennifer Mercieca, professor and author of Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump.
  • Expulsion from Congress is extremely rare. Nevertheless, NY Congressman George Santos was expelled on December 1, 2023. So how did that happen?Today on Civics 101 we are guided by Carlos Algara, who lays out the history of expulsion in both chambers, the process, the Ethics Committee, censure, and how Congress fills an empty seat after somebody is expelled.
  • Between the corporate interests, the politics, the infrastructure and the shaming, what can the grown ups in the room actually do to make the school cafeteria a safer, healthier place where kids want to be? Ross Wilson of the Shah Foundation, Jessica Terrell of the Left Overs podcast and Crystal FitzSimons of the Food Research and Action Center try to answer that.
  • Federal and state dollars pay for so much of what goes into the American public school education of our kids, but it isn't so straight forward when it comes to keeping them fed on school grounds. What movements and laws lead to American school kids accessing lunch? What does it cost, and who has to pay? Jessica Terrell, journalist and host of Left Over podcast and Crystal FitzSimons, Director of School and Out-of-School Time Programs at the Food Research and Action Center are our guides to the first part of our two-parter on school meals in America.
  • Today we answer this question from a listener, "Is Santa a criminal?"We get to the bottom of the myriad actions of the jolly old elf, and whether he could reasonably be tried for civil and criminal violations, including but not limited to trespassing, breaking and entering, voyeurism, stalking, surveillance, burglary, tax evasion, bad labor practices, emotional distress, and (in one instance) involuntary manslaughter.Taking us through this complex web of charges is Colin Miller, professor at University of South Carolina School of Law.
  • How does something go from an annual tradition to a mandated day off? Who decides to make a holiday official? Our guides to the holiday season are Jeff Bensch, author of History of American Holidays, and JerriAnne Boggis, Executive Director of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire.