Beginning this Sunday NHPR is airing special seasons of the Civics 101 podcast. History buffs, teachers, and students can tune in to learn more about the basics of American democracy.
NHPR’s Emily Quirk spoke with Nick Capodice, co-host of the Civics 101 podcast.
So can you tell me what's different about this new season of Civics 101?
Yeah. So our show has been around for a while. What we were doing this summer is we've curated a series of episodes in the run up to the presidential election. These are episodes that are going to have you be the most informed voter in the state, when you step to that ballot box in November.
Do listeners need any sort of background info before starting the series, do I need a history degree to follow along?
Absolutely not, Emily. We strive to make our program as accessible as possible to as wide an audience as possible. It's a little bit goofy. It's sometimes a little bit sad. But our show, even if you do have a history degree, I daresay there's something that you didn't know that you can take away from each of these episodes. We recently have shared our show with eighth graders in a couple of different states across the country, and they get it. So I truly think that every listener in the state can get it to know there's hope for me, then that's good.
So could you tell me what topics will the series cover?
Yeah, a whole bunch of topics. First, it's going to be our founding documents series. These are the six sometimes difficult to read, sometimes really hard to interpret pieces of writing that define us as a nation. And after that, we have the starter kit series, which was the six things that every American has to know to begin to understand how our government works. That's a primer on each of the three branches, its checks and balances, federalism, which is everything, and how a bill really becomes a law. And last but not least, as we sort of run up to the election, we're going to have a primer on running for president.
So will the series cover the 2020 presidential election specifically?
Yeah, in a bit of a roundabout way. It's not going to be sort of your news coverage as who's in the lead and who is winning and who has what policies. This is going to be, how the process works of running for president. You get to see how much money's involved in running for president. And it is a thorough history of the two parties, Democrat and Republican.
All right. So this Sunday's episode is covering that Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence. Why are these old documents relevant to civics today?
Right. You may think that a charter signed in the muddy battlefield of Runnymede in 1215 bears no relevance to your vote in 2020, but it sure does. So, first off, Magna Carta. I didn't know the assembly. It's actually not the Magna Carta. It's just Magna Carta, blew my mind. But more importantly than that little tidbit, Magna Carta laid out something called the rule of law, which is a wonderful phrase that is at the cornerstone of our democratic republic, which is that all people should be equal in the eyes of the law. Kings do not rise above the law. And after Magna Carta, it's the declaration, apropos, tomorrow is when we celebrate it. It wasn't really signed on the 4th. The resolution was adopted on the 2nd. But the declaration can teach us a whole lot. There's a whole lot of voices in that piece of writing. You've got pro-slavery voices in that document. You've got anti-slavery voices in that document. So you have radical voices in that document demanding for secession from the British crown. And we have scholars sort of break down the entire thing from beginning to end. It's a very short documental, about 1,300 words, but we really tackle it full on in that episode. And you'll find it's tied to so many of the things that we're talking about today, because in every one of these episodes, we really try to sort of home in on the people who are on the outsides of these documents, the people who are on the margins of these documents, people to whom these documents did not apply and why and how that continued to support the power structure as we have today in the modern era.
Well, it sounds fascinating, and I can't wait to tune in this Sunday, beginning this Sunday at 2 p.m. here on NHPR.
NOTE: The Civics 101 series will replace Hidden Brain in the broadcast lineup. Hidden Brain will move to the Best of Public Radio spot Saturdays at 10 p.m. Listen to Civics 101 right here on NHPR every Sunday at 2 p.m. or find every episode online at civics101podcast.org.