Civics 101

By New Hampshire Public Radio

Listen to a podcast, please open Podcast Republic app. Available on Google Play Store.

Category: Government

Open in Apple Podcasts

Open RSS feed

Open Website

Rate for this podcast

Subscribers: 1576
Reviews: 2

 Dec 30, 2019
makes me hopefull

A Podcast Republic user
 Jul 12, 2018


What's the difference between the House and the Senate? How do congressional investigations work? What is Federalist X actually about? Civics 101 is the podcast refresher course on the basics of how our democracy works.

Episode Date
US vs: Two Party System

Americans often take issue with our two-party system. So what other options are out there? Today, with the help of political scientists Guillermo Rosas and Robin Best, we explore the reason why we have (and may always have) such a system, and compare it to other democracies around the world.  This episode contains an overabundance of Street Fighter 2 references. 

Support Civics 101 with a donation today!

Nov 30, 2021

The United States charges nearly 8,000 people with being good at relationships. These are our diplomats, or Foreign Service Officers. These are the people who make us look good, make sure the world gives us what we want and need and try to keep tensions at a minimum. To try to understand how this nuanced job actually works, we speak with Alison Mann, Public Historian at the National Museum of American Diplomacy and Naima Green-Riley, soon-to-be professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton and former diplomat.

Nov 23, 2021

The 2020 census has concluded, which means it's time for states to redraw their congressional districts. Today we're exploring partisan gerrymandering, the act of drawing those maps to benefit one party over the other. In this episode you'll learn about stacking, cracking, packing, and many other ways politicians choose voters (instead of the other way round). 

Taking us through the story of Gerry's salamander and beyond are professors Justin Levitt, Robin Best, and Nancy Miller.

Civics 101 is free to listen to, but not to make. Click here to make a small donation to support the show today!

Nov 16, 2021
After 9/11: The Department of Homeland Security

The terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, made one thing very obvious: our country’s national security strategy was flawed. What followed was one of the biggest reorganizations of our federal government in history: the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in November, 2002.

What about 9/11, the attacks, and their aftermath, made it possible for the government to transform, in just over a year? And how has that transformation changed how our government makes decisions about threats to our country, and responds to them?

Helping us untangle this story are: David Schanzer, the director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University; Darren Davis, a politics professor at the University of Notre Dame who studies public opinion and political behavior; and Eileen Sullivan, the Homeland Security Correspondent for the New York Times.

Support Civics 101 with a small donation today!

Nov 02, 2021
Government Shutdown

Congress agrees on a budget and the President signs it. Or… not. This is what happens when we don’t have a full and final budget or a continuing resolution. This is what happens when the government shuts down and how our idea of a shutdown has changed over time. Our guest this time around is Charles Tiefer, Professor of Law at Baltimore School of Law.

Oct 19, 2021
State Attorneys General

We often hear them referred to as the “top cop” of a state. The attorneys general are the chief legal advisors and law enforcement officers, the ones in charge of statewide investigations and asserting state sovereignty. They sue presidential administrations and big businesses, give press conferences and advise the legislature. But what is the daily business of a state attorney general? How does the “People’s Lawyer” actually work for the people?

Our guests are former New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney and New Hampshire policy experts Jackie Benson and Anna Brown.

Oct 05, 2021
After 9/11: The FBI

This is the story of where the FBI was on September 11th, 2001. This is what they did — and did not — have when it came to counterterrorism and how the tragedy of that Tuesday morning transformed the Bureau. Our guide is Sasha O’Connell, the director of the Terrorism and Homeland Security Program at American University who spent the bulk of her career to this point working for the FBI.

Please note: An earlier version of this episode identified Mohamed Atta’s connecting flight as being from Portland, OR. It was from Portland, ME.

Sep 08, 2021
John Marshall and the Supreme Court

John Marshall was the longest-serving Chief Justice in Supreme Court history. In today’s episode, we learn all about the man as well as the decisions that shaped the highest court in the land; from Marbury v Madison to McCullough v Maryland.

This episode features the voices of Susan Siggelakis, Robert Strauss and Randolph Moss.

Aug 24, 2021
Civil Rights: Obergefell v Hodges

It’s the most recent landmark case in our Civil Rights SCOTUS series, the decision that said the fundamental right to marry is protected under the 14th Amendment. How did it come about? What was the status of marriage before June of 2015? And why is the government so involved in the marriage business anyways?

This episode features the voices of Melissa Wasser from the Project on Government Oversight and Jim Obergefell, the named party in Obergefell v Hodges.

Aug 10, 2021
Civil Rights: Loving v Virginia

Mildred and Richard Loving were jailed and banished for marrying in 1958. Nearly a decade later, their Supreme Court case changed the meaning of marriage equality in the United States — decriminalizing their own marriage while they were at it. This is the story of Loving.

Our guests are Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui of the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C. and Farrah Parkes and Brad Linder of The Loving Project.

Jul 27, 2021
Civil Rights: Brown v Board of Education of Topeka

Five cases, eleven advocates, and a quarter century of work; Brown v Board of Education of Topeka addressed this question: does racial segregation in schools violate the 14th amendment?

Walking us through the long journey to overturn Plessy v Ferguson are Chief Judge Roger Gregory and Dr. Yohuru Williams. They tell us how the case got to court, what Thurgood Marshall and John W. Davis argued, and how America does and does not live up to the promise of this monumental decision.

Jul 13, 2021
Japanese American Internment

Japanese American internment, or incarceration, spanned four years. Over 120,000 Japanese Americans and nationals, half of them children, were made to leave their homes, schools, businesses and farms behind to live behind barbed wire and under armed guard. There was no due process of law, no reasonable suspicion keeping these individuals locked away. What does this injustice mean to our nation? To the inheritors of that trauma? Our guides to this troubling period of American history are Judge Wallace Tashima, Professor Lorraine Bannai and Karen Korematsu.

Jun 29, 2021
Civil Rights: Korematsu v United States

In 1942, approximately 120,000 Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans were ordered to leave their homes. They were sent to internment camps in desolate regions of the American West. Fred Korematsu refused to comply. This is the story of his appeal to the Supreme Court and what happens when the judicial branch defers to the military.

Jun 15, 2021
Civil Rights: Plessy v Ferguson

Today in our series on civil rights Supreme Court cases, we examine the anticanon decision of Plessy v Ferguson. Steven Luxenberg, Kenneth Mack, Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson walk us through the story of Homer Plessy, the Separate Car Act of 1890, an infamous opinion and a famous dissent.

Jun 01, 2021
Civil Rights: Dred Scott v Sandford

In 1846, Dred and Harriet Scott were living in St. Louis, Missouri with their two daughters. They were enslaved and launched a not uncommon petition: a lawsuit for their freedom. Eleven years later Chief Justice Roger B. Taney would issue an opinion on their case that not only refused their freedom but attempted to cement the fate of all Black individuals in the United States. Taney would ultimately fail and the Reconstruction Amendments would dash Taney’s opinion in Dred Scott v Sandford, but not before the case was forever cast as a Supreme Court decision gone wrong.

The Scotts’ great great granddaughter, Lynne Jackson, is joined by Chief Judge John R. Tunheim of the U.S. District Court of Minnesota to tell the story of the Scotts and their case.

May 18, 2021
There Ought to Be a Law: Student Contest Finalists

This year we asked students to submit a 1-2 minute audio or video clip telling us what there ought to be a law about, why this is a problem in their community, and how that law would fix that problem. We asked NH State Senator David Watters to weigh in on their proposed legislation.

Today we share our top five entries and announce our winner. Full details on our website,

May 04, 2021
The Chinese Exclusion Act

Between 1882 and 1965, a huge percentage of would-be Chinese immigrants were excluded from the United States. This is the story of how the U.S. came to exclude Chinese workers from immigration and Chinese immigrants from citizenship, the multi-generational reverberations of this practice and its extension to nearly all Asians and Pacific Islanders.

Jack Tchen of Rutgers University and Jane Hong of Occidental College are our guides to the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Apr 20, 2021
Right to Privacy: Roe v Wade

Mention of Roe versus Wade can silence conversation or incite heated debate. Candidates campaign on protecting it and getting it overturned. Your opinion of the case can define your politics. Ever since its ruling in 1973, we have told a story about Roe v Wade. But what are the actual facts of the case and what of that infamous opinion still stands today? Renee Cramer of Drake University and Mary Ziegler of Florida State University find the facts in the moral fable.

Apr 06, 2021
Right to Privacy: New Jersey v T.L.O.

Today we travel to the spring of 1980, where the Carter-Reagan campaigns take a back seat to an act of disobedience committed by a 14-year-old girl in Piscataway, New Jersey. The highest court in the land has to decide, how are your 4th Amendment protections different when you happen to be a student?

This episode features the voices of Professor Tracey Maclin from Boston University School of Law and Professor Sarah Seo from Columbia Law School.

Mar 23, 2021
Right to Privacy: Griswold v Connecticut

Despite the fact that they were written in the late 19th century, morality laws were still on the books in the United States in 1965. In Connecticut, one such law prohibited the discussion, prescription and distribution of contraception. After years of trying to get the courts to scrub this law from the books, medical providers had to find a way to get the question before the highest court in the land. It wouldn’t be easy, but in the end the case would transform our notion of privacy and the role of the Supreme Court when it comes to public law.

Renee Cramer of Drake University and Elizabeth Lane of Louisiana State are our guides.

Mar 09, 2021
Right to Privacy: Mapp v Ohio

In 1957, three police officers showed up at the home of Dollree Mapp and demanded to be let in. They had no warrant. Ms. Mapp refused. This landmark case about privacy and unlawful search and seizure defines our protections under the 4th Amendment today.

This episode features Vince Warren, Executive Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Boston University Law professor Tracey Maclin.

Feb 23, 2021
Electoral College Addendum

Today we’re revisiting one of the most requested and controversial topics from Civics 101; the electoral college. High School social studies teacher Neal Walter Young talks about some of the points he debates with his class when they dissect how we vote for the people who vote for the president.

Feb 09, 2021
Insurrection, Protest, Terrorism, Sedition, Coup

When it comes to discussing the events at the Capitol building on January 6, teachers have risen to the challenge. Meredith Baker, who teaches social studies in Virginia, suggested the first step should be defining five very charged terms. And that’s what we do today.

Jan 22, 2021
The 25th Amendment

Members of Congress from both parties have requested that the Vice President invoke the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office. Today we explore all four parts of this relatively new amendment with constitutional scholar and author of The Bill of Rights: A Users Guide, Linda Monk.

Support our continued constitutional dives with a donation today.

Jan 08, 2021
The Election

What actually happens on the day of the election and in those that follow? Where did your ballot go and how is it being counted? Who keeps our election secure? This is the how and when of vote-counting in an American election, and what you need to know about Election Night 2020.

Our guides are New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, Casey McDermott, Miles Parks and Matt Lamb.

Oct 27, 2020
Freedom of the Press: Part 2

A free press, ideally, learns what is happening in our democracy and passes that information on to us. How, then, do we learn the truth about this country when there’s so much misinformation, so many opinions, claims of fake news and widespread mistrust of the truth? Joining us again are Melissa Wasser and Erin Coyle.

Oct 20, 2020
Presidential Debates

Today we’re exploring the relatively recent phenomenon of Presidential Debates. How are they run? When did we start doing them? Why was George HW Bush looking at his watch?? And most importantly, why should we keep doing them?

Our experts in this episode are debate scholar Alan Schroeder, and Executive Director of the Commission on Presidential Debates, Janet Brown.

If you enjoy political ephemera and deeper dives in our episode topics, subscribe to our newsletter Extra Credit.

Oct 06, 2020
Freedom of the Press: Part 1

The only working-class job enshrined in the Bill of Rights, a free press is essential to the health of the democracy. The citizens deserve to know what’s going on, so the framers made sure that news could be printed and information disseminated. But how does the press actually do that? Are they upholding their end of the bargain? What does the best version of the press and the news look like?

Sep 22, 2020
Declaration Revisited: The Declaration of Sentiments

The Declaration of Independence called George III a tyrant. And in 1848, a group of women’s rights activists mirrored our founding document to accuse men of the same crime. Today in our final revisit to the Declaration of Independence, we explore the Declaration of Sentiments, the document at the heart of the women’s suffrage movement.

Our guest is Laura Free, host of the podcast Amended and professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

If you’re a fan of Civics 101, you’ll love our newsletter, Extra Credit! Full of trivia, ephemera, and the occasional civic gif. Sign up at

Sep 08, 2020
Birthright Citizenship: US v Wong Kim Ark

Most of us know about birthright citizenship, but not many people have ever heard of Wong Kim Ark and the landmark Supreme Court decision that decided both his fate and the fate of a U.S. immigration policy that endures to this day.

Sign up for the Civics 101 newsletter

Aug 25, 2020
The Declaration Revisited: Native Americans

Today is our second revisit to the document that made us a nation. Writer, activist, and Independent presidential candidate Mark Charles lays out the anti-Native American sentiments within it, the doctrines and proclamations from before 1776 that justified ‘discovery,’ and the Supreme Court decisions that continue to cite them all.

Aug 11, 2020
The Declaration Revisited: Black Americans

Today is the first of three revisits to the Declaration of Independence; three communities to which the tenets of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness did not apply.

Byron Williams, author of The Radical Declaration, walks us through how enslaved Americans and Black Americans pushed against the document from the very beginning of our nation’s founding.

Jul 28, 2020
Civic Action: Voting, Part 2

Voting in America is not always straightforward, nor is its impact always clear. In this episode, we give you the basic tools to vote on election day, including tips for avoiding the roadblocks. And for those of you on the fence about exercising that enfranchisement, a word to the wise: your vote matters. We’ll tell you why.

Jul 14, 2020
Civic Action: Voting, Part 1

The United States is a representative democracy. The idea is that we’re a government by the people (we vote officials into office) and for the people (the officials in office are supposed to represent our interests). But it’s not so straight forward around here. Take that golden idea and add restrictive voter laws, billions of dollars and a whacky electoral system, and representation takes on a whole different hue.

Jul 02, 2020
Posse Comitatus

The Posse Comitatus Act was passed in 1878 as the Reconstruction drew to a close and troops were pulled out of the southeastern United States. The idea was to prevent the military from enforcing laws. After all, that’s what law enforcement is for — state and local police forces are the ones deputized to do that work. But what does it mean when the police use military gear and tactics to enforce that law? Ashley Farmer, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Sciences at Illinois State University breaks it down.

Jun 16, 2020
Civic Action: Protest

What is protest, constitutionally? Historically? What is protected, and what is not? And what do you have to know before you grab a sign and go outside? Today we explore the long scope of public dissent from the Boston Tea Party to the current #blacklivesmatter protests.

Our guests are Alvin Tillery from Northwestern University, and Bakari Sellers, CNN commentator and author of the recent book My Vanishing Country.

Jun 09, 2020
The United States Postal Service

It’s the government on your doorstep — the only Executive Branch agency that visits every home in the country on a regular basis. So how does the USPS do it? And what happens when an agency this essential is in trouble? Our guests for this episode are Allison Marsh, history professor at the University of South Carolina and Kevin Kosar, a Vice President at R Street.

May 19, 2020
AP US Government Prepisode

Starting next week, millions of American students are going to be taking their Advanced Placement exams from home. One of those is AP US Government and Politics. This exam is usually taken at school, but this year students are going to take a significantly modified test from home.

We talked to three teachers to find out what is taught in the course, the nine foundational documents that students are expected to know, and myriad tips and tricks for taking the exam.

May 08, 2020
Emergency Powers of the Governor

All fifty states and many tribes in the nation have issued emergency or major disaster declarations in the past weeks. State governors have been issuing orders, offering condolences and rallying cries and clashing with mayors and the President as they navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and attempt to keep their citizens and their economies safe. So what are a governor’s emergency powers? State and local government reporter Alan Greenblatt leads us through the how and why of those powers, and what they mean for the future.

Apr 14, 2020
19th Amendment: Part 2

The Nineteenth Amendment was first introduced to Congress in 1878. It took over four decades of pleas, protests, petitions and speeches to finally get it ratified. We’re told that the Nineteenth granted all women the right to vote in America — but this was not the case in practice. How did the divides in the suffrage movement define the fight for women’s enfranchisement? And how did that amendment finally get passed? With a stern note from someone’s mom.

Apr 07, 2020
19th Amendment: Part 1

The prominent figures and events of the women’s suffrage movement of the 19th and 20th centuries can feel almost mythical at times. That’s in part because they are, in fact, myths. The telling of the Nineteenth Amendment tends to stretch from a convention in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848 to the amendment’s ratification in 1920, but the true story is a much longer one. We explore the myths and unveil the realities in part one of two episodes on the Nineteenth Amendment.

Mar 24, 2020

What do these green rectangles even mean? When did we start using them? And why are we talking so much about the peso? Today it’s the history of American money, from silver certificates to a greenback dollar. Featuring the voices of Stephen Mihm, Ellen Feingold, and Todd Martin.

Mar 10, 2020

What prevents someone from affiliating with a political party? What is the ideology of an independent? And how can these voters exist in a two party system?

Walking us through the world of the party outsiders is political scientist Samara Klar, head of, Jacqueline Salit and president of New Hampshire Independent Voters, Tiani Coleman.

Feb 26, 2020
The Republican Party

What role did slavery play in the formation of the Republican Party? How did a scrappy third party coalition create what became known as the Grand Old Party? And how did the party of Lincoln become the party of Trump?

Taking us on the journey from 1854 Wisconsin to the present day Republican party is author George Will and political scientists Keneshia Grant, Kathryn Depalo-Gould and William Adler.

Find more on our website,

Jan 28, 2020
The Democratic Party

How did the Democratic party become "blue?" Why were they initially called Republicans? And most importantly, how did the party that supported slavery become the party that nominated our first African-American president? Taking us on the long winding path from the origin of the party to the modern-day Democrat is author Heather Wagner, political scientist Keneshia Grant, and historian Paddy Riley.

Jan 14, 2020
Third Parties

When it comes to federal elections, third party candidates are almost assured a defeat. And yet the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, the Reform Party -- these underdogs always appear on the scene ready for a fight. So why run if you're not going to win? What do third parties do to American politics? Our mediators for this one are Marjorie Hershey, Professor of Political Science Emerita at Indiana University and Geoffrey Skelley, Elections Analyst at FiveThirtyEight.

Dec 18, 2019
Becoming a U.S. Citizen

The first step, the step that really matters in becoming a U.S. citizen, is becoming a permanent resident. Once you have that Green Card in hand, this country is your oyster. Become a citizen, don't become a citizen -- either way, you get to stay for as long as you like. We hear a lot about the legal path to citizenship, but what does that path actually look like? And why is it so much longer for some than for others? Has it always been like this?

Lighting the way in this episode are Allan Wernick, CUNY professor and Director of Citizenship Now, Mae Ngai, history professor at Columbia University and Margaret Chin, sociology professor at Hunter College.

Dec 03, 2019

It's just a survey; a handful of questions that get issued to every household in the country every ten years. So how does a countrywide headcount end up being at the core of power and money distribution in the U.S.? And why does it matter if you fill it out?

Walking us through the people, money and power at the heart of the census are national NPR correspondent Hansi Lo Wang and Chief Historian of the U.S. Census Bureau Sharon Tosi Lacey.

After you listen, why not stand up and be counted as a supporter of Civics 101? We're in the throes of our end of year fund drive and we're asking you, dear civics listener, to consider making a contribution to the future of Civics 101. It's easy, mere moments, faster than filling out the census! If you're so inclined, you can make your gift here:

Nov 19, 2019
Electoral College

When we vote for a president, we're not really voting for a president.

Today in our episode on the Electoral College, we explore the rationale of the framers in creating it, its workings, its celebrations, its critiques, and its potential future.

This episode features the voices of Northwestern Professor of political science Alvin Tillery, University of Texas Professor of political science Rebecca Deen, and former 'faithless elector' Christopher Suprun.

Nov 05, 2019

The primaries are over, the caucusing has closed, the results are in. Now it's time to party. Nominating conventions are, by and large, a chance for political elites to get together, network and celebrate. The American public has picked a presidential candidate and the convention is there to give it all some pomp and circumstance. But what are all those fancy folk up to in that convention center? And what happens if there is no clear winner after primary season is over?

Taking us out onto the convention floor are Domenico Montanaro (NPR Political Correspondent), Alvin Tillery (Northwestern University), Bruce Stinebrickner (Depauw University) and Tammy Vigil (Boston University).

Oct 22, 2019

We have never actually fired the President of the United States. But we sure have tried. It’s the biggest job in the country, so the road to termination is a long and fraught.  What happens after Congress initiates the process?

What is impeachment? How does the process play out?

Our brilliant friends Linda Monk (the Constitution Lady), Frank Bowman (author of High Crimes and Misdemeanors) and Dan Cassino (Political Science Professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University) are our guides to the Big Show.

Oct 08, 2019
Primaries and Caucuses

It's one of the most democratic aspects of our nation, not to mention extremely recent. In this episode we explore the snarled history of how we select party nominees; from delegates to superdelegates, and from gymnasiums in Iowa to booths in New Hampshire.

This episode features political scientists Bruce Stinebrickner (DePauw University) and Alvin Tillery (Northwestern University), NPR's Domenico Montanarro, Iowa Public Radio's Kate Payne, and Lauren Chooljian from NHPR.

Sep 24, 2019
How to Run for President

The job description is pretty sparse, the laws are convoluted and the path from A to Z seems fraught with peril. So how does a person go from candidate to nominee to Leader of the Free World? We asked some heavy hitters for the inside scoop on running for President. 

Settle in for a long and strange ride with Former Governor and Democratic nominee for President, Michael Dukakis, CNN political analyst Bakari Sellers and founding partner of Purple Strategies, Mark Squier.

Sep 10, 2019
Starter Kit: How A Bill (really) Becomes a Law

We at Civics 101 adore Schoolhouse Rock and that sad little scrap of paper on the steps of the Capitol. But today we try to finish what they started, by diving into the messy, partisan, labyrinthine process of modern-day legislation.

This episode features the voices of Andy Wilson, Adia Samba-Quee, Alizah Ross, and Eleanor Powell. 

Aug 06, 2019
Starter Kit: Federalism

A tug of war, a balancing act, two dancers dragging each other across the floor. This is the perpetual ebb and flow of power between the states and the federal government. How can things be legal in a state but illegal nationally? Are states obstinate barricades to federal legislation? Or are they laboratories of democracy?

Today's episode features Lisa Manheim, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of Law and co-author of The Limits of Presidential Power, and Dave Robertson, Chair of the Political Science department at the University of Missouri St.Louis.

Jul 30, 2019
Starter Kit: Judicial Branch

The Supreme Court, considered by some to be the most powerful branch, had humble beginnings. How did it stop being, in the words of Alexander Hamilton, "next to nothing?" Do politics affect the court's decisions? And how do cases even get there?

This episode features Larry Robbins, lawyer and eighteen-time advocate in the Supreme Court, and Kathryn DePalo, professor at Florida International University and past president of the Florida Political Science Association.

Jul 23, 2019
Starter Kit: Legislative Branch

There are 535 people who meet in the hallowed halls of Capitol Hill. They go in, legislation comes out. You can watch the machinations of the House and Senate chambers on C-SPAN, you can read their bills online. But what are the rules of engagement? Where does your Senator go every day, and what do they do? What does it mean to represent the American people?

Our guides to the U.S. Legislative branch are Congressman Chris Pappas, Eleanor Powell, Stefani Langehennig and Emmitt Riley.

Jul 16, 2019
Starter Kit: Executive Branch

In this episode of our Starter Kit series, a primer on the powers of the President, both constitutional and extra-constitutional. Also, a super inefficient mnemonic device to remember the 15 executive departments in the order of their creation.

Featuring the voices of Lisa Manheim, professor at UW School of Law and co-author of The Limits of Presidential Power, and Kathryn DePalo, professor at Florida International University and past president of the Florida Political Science Association. 

Jul 09, 2019
Starter Kit: Checks and Balances

We exist in a delicate balance. Ours is a system designed to counterweight itself, to stave off the power grabs that entice even the fairest of us all. The U.S. government is comprised of humans, not angels, so each branch has the power to stop the other from going to far. The only catch being, of course, they have to actually exercise that power.

In this episode, with the inimitable Kim Wehle as our guide, we learn what those checks actually are, and how the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches (ostensibly) keep things democratic. 

Jul 02, 2019
Life Stages: Death

It's also the final episode of our Life Stages series, and its euphemism-free. We speak to a doctors, lawyers, professors, and funeral professionals about the rules of death; pronouncing, declaring, burying, cremating, willing, trusting, canceling, donating.

Featuring the voices of Dan Cassino, Ken Iserson, Leah Plunkett, Mandy Stafford, and Taelor Johnson. 

May 14, 2019
Life Stages: Retirement

The prospect of retirement -- of leaving the work force, aging, confronting a new body and a new way of life -- is peppered with concepts and requirements so unwieldy they can make your brain turn off. So how do we make retirement prep easier? Shed the dread and face the future armed with a plan? Our guides to the next stage of life are Bart Astor, Tom Margenau and Cristina Martin Firvida. 

May 07, 2019
Life Stages: Marriage

Today, what does it really mean to be married? Divorced? What changes in the law's eyes?  What do you have to do? And, most importantly, how and why has the government decided who is allowed to marry whom?

And while we're at it, what does love, Pocahontas, or a credit card application have to do with any of this?

Today's episode features the voices of Stephanie Coontz, Kori Graves, Dan Cassino, Leah Plunkett, and dozens of County Clerks. 

Apr 30, 2019
Life Stages: Work

The modern day workplace is the product of a centuries-long battle for fair wages, reasonable hours and safe conditions. Today's episode tells the story of the labor in the United States -- from slavery and indentured servitude to the Equal Pay Act and the weekend. What did Americans workers have to go through to make their voices heard, and how did they change labor in America?

Our guests include Priscilla Murolo, Philip Yale Nicholson and Camille Hebert.

Apr 23, 2019
Life Stages: School

As Adam Laats said, "when it comes to schools, the most important thing is who you are, and where you live."

In today's episode, we explore how K-12 education has developed in the US since the 1600s, what teachers can and can't teach, what rights students have in public school, and how the federal government gets involved.

Today's episode features Mary Beth Tinker, Dan Cassino, Kara Lamontagne, Adam Laats and Campbell Scribner. Subscribe to Civics 101 here!

Apr 16, 2019
Life Stages: Birth

What does it take to be born an American citizen? And then, once you are, how do you prove it? And what does it get you? Today on Civics 101, we talk to Dr. Mary Kate Hattan of Concord Hospital, Dan Cassino of Farleigh Dickinson University, Susan Pearson of Northwestern University and Sue Mangold of the Juvenile Law Center to find out where (American) babies come from, and what that means. 

Apr 09, 2019
Founding Documents: Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments to our Constitution. Why do we have one? What does it 'do'? And what does it really, really do?

Our guests are Linda Monk, Alvin Tillery, David O. Stewart, Woody Holton, David Bobb, and Chuck Taft. Visit our website,, where you can get Chuck's wonderful Bill of Rights SURVIVOR lesson plan, along with our favorite Bill of Rights resources.

Each Amendment could be (and has been) its own episode. Except maybe the Third Amendment. So if you don't know them by heart, take two minutes to watch this video.

Feb 26, 2019
Founding Documents: The Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers

Ten days after the Constitution was signed at the Old Philadelphia State House, an anonymous op-ed appeared in the New York Journal. Signed by "Cato," it cautioned readers of the new Constitution to take it with a grain of salt. Even the wisest of men, it warned, can make mistakes. This launched a public debate that would last months, pitting pro-Constitution "Federalists" against Constitution-wary "Anti-Federalists." It was a battle for ratification, and it resulted in a glimpse into the minds of our Framers -- and a concession that would come to define American identity. 

Feb 19, 2019
Founding Documents: The Constitution

After just six years under the Articles of Confederation, a committee of anxious delegates agreed to meet in Philadelphia to amend the government. While the country suffered recession and rebellions, a group of fifty-five men determined the shape of the new United States. The document that emerged after that summer of debate was littered with strange ideas and unsavory concessions. The delegates decided they'd be pleased if this new government lasted fifty years. It has been our blueprint for over two centuries. This is the story of how our Constitution came to be. 

Feb 12, 2019
Founding Documents: Articles of Confederation

While a famous committee of five drafted the Declaration of Independence, a far more unsung committee of thirteen wrote America's first rulebook. The Articles of Confederation was our first constitution, and it lasted nine years. If you prefer Typee to Moby Dick, Blood Simple to A Serious Man, or Picasso's Blue Period over Neoclassicism, you just might like the Articles of Confederation.

The fable of its weaknesses, strengths, rise, and downfall are told to us by Danielle Allen, Linda Monk, Joel Collins, and Lindsey Stevens. Also, Paul Bogush tells us how to play Articles of Confederation the Game with a sack of blocks.

Subscribe to Civics 101 for all your civil needs. Find out more at

Feb 05, 2019
Founding Documents: Declaration of Independence

America declared independence on July 2, 1776. But two days later it adopted this radical, revolutionary, inclusive, exclusive, secessionist, compromising, hypocritical, inspirational document. What does it say? What does it ignore? 

This episode features many scholars with differing opinions on the Declaration: Danielle Allen, Byron Williams, Cheryl Cook-Kallio, Woody Holton, and Emma Bray. 

Jan 29, 2019
Founding Documents: Magna Carta

Magna Carta was sealed on a field in England in 1215. It's purpose was to appease some frustrated Barons, and it was never intended to last. Over 800 years later, this document is credited with establishing one of the most foundational principles of our democracy. So what does Magna Carta actually say? And how did it get from dubious stalling tactic in the 13th century to U.S. Supreme Court arguments in the modern era? 

Jan 22, 2019
Midterm Edition: Why Vote?

We've told you that midterm elections matter. But the truth is, midterms only matter to you -- and you only matter to your legislators -- if you show up at the polls. It's the first step in making yourself heard. And once you have, you mean that much more to the people who make our laws. 

In this episode, you'll hear what voting actually does for you and your demographic. Plus, how to make sure your voice is heard, whether you're eligible to vote or not. Our experts this time around are Cheryl Cook-Kallio, Edgar Saldivar and Peter Levine.   

Nov 06, 2018
Midterm Edition: Propositions

Regardless of how you choose to vote on Prop 1, you'll finish this episode knowing all about ballot measures. These are bills and amendments initiated by the people, and voted into law by the people. What could possibly go wrong when we sidestep our famously pedantic legislature??

Today's episode features our eminently quotable teacher and former California Assemblymember Cheryl Cook-Kallio, political correspondent at KQED Guy Marzorati, and frequent initiative proposer Tim Eyman. 

Oct 30, 2018
Midterm Edition: Campaigning

How do you stand out in a sea of lawn signs, or make yourself heard above the roar of a thousand ads? Campaigns are hard enough when the whole country is watching -- so what does it take to get the vote when most people couldn't care less? That's the mystery of the midterm campaign. We asked some experts to help us solve it.

In this episode, you'll hear from Inside Elections reporter Leah Askarinam, CNN political analyst Bakari Sellers, politics professor Barry Burden and state house candidate Maile Foster. Plus, Brady Carlson walks us through a midterm of revolutionary proportions. 

Oct 23, 2018
Midterm Edition: House v Senate

Two houses, both alike in...well, many things.  But oh so different in many others. We go from absolute basics to the philosophical differences that exist in the Legislative branch. This episode features the opinions of former staffers from both chambers, Political Science professors, and political analysts. 

Also, Brady Carlson tells the tale of the biggest loss in midterm history, and its relation to a federal holiday.

Oct 16, 2018
Midterm Edition: State and Local Elections

Midterm elections don't have the glitz or drama of presidential campaigning. They're full of aldermen and comptrollers, state senators and governors. These offices seem meager next to national government. But most of the time, it's state and local officials that have the most palpable impact on our lives and on our future elections.

In episode two of our five-part series on the midterm elections, we're taking a good look at the state and local offices that have a big-time impact on your life. 

Oct 09, 2018
Midterm Edition: 5 Things to Know about the Midterms

Today we launch our five-part series on the midterm elections! Keith Hughes, creator of Hip History, tells us the five things he thinks every American should know about midterms and why they matter.

Each episode in this series concludes with a snapshot of an historic US Midterm election, delivered by Brady Carlson. Today, it's 1826: Good Feelings and Hard Feelings.

Oct 02, 2018
The Death Penalty

On today's episode we're looking into a practice that sets the U.S. aside from all other Western countries: Capital Punishment. So, is the death penalty a part of the constitution? How has the Supreme Court ruled on the issue? And ultimately, what can we learn about ourselves from the practice?

Our guest today is Carol Steiker, Harvard Law Professor and author of Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment.

Jul 31, 2018
The Equal Rights Amendment

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a proposed Constitutional amendment that would explicitly guarantee legal equality under U.S. law, regardless of sex. But almost a century after it was first proposed, the ERA has still not been ratified. What's the hold-up?

Lillian Cunningham is a journalist at The Washington Post. She's also host and creator of the podcasts Presidentialand Constitutional.

Jul 24, 2018
The Affordable Care Act

On today's episode, we tackle a defining law from the Obama administration, the Affordable Care Act -- better known as Obamacare. Some people love it, others hate it, but what did the law really do? Is American health care actually more, you know, affordable? And why is there so much talk of repealing the ACA? Our guide today is Julie Rovner, Washington correspondent for Kaiser Health News

Jul 17, 2018

Today on Civics 101, Ron Elving takes us through Tariffs. What are they? What are the pros and cons of taxing goods that enter our country? What is the effect on the consumer? And finally, how do trade wars end?

Jul 10, 2018
Contest Winner: Unconventional

Adia Samba-Quee is the winner of our first ever student contest. She wrote, narrated, and cast a "Parks n' Rec-style mockumentary about the arguments surrounding representation at the Constitutional Convention in 1787."


Jul 03, 2018
The Draft

Do you believe in the power of an informed citizenry? Click this link to support Civics 101 today.

When you hear 'the draft' you might think about the Vietnam War... but the history of compulsory military service goes all the way back to before the Constitution was written. In this episode, we start from the beginning: How did conscription change over the years? When was the first national draft law? Who was most likely to be drafted? And the big one: Will the draft ever come back?

Answering those questions and more is Jennifer Mittelstadt: professor of history at Rutgers and the Harold K. Johnson Chair of Miltary History at The U.S. Army War College. 

Jun 26, 2018
The Federal Register

Show your support for Civics 101. Click here to donate:

Today a listener opens up a rabbit hole, and we immediately jump down it. We're learning about the Federal Register, a dense, cryptic document published every single day that records all the activities of the Executive Branch. It's a lot. Joining us is Oliver Potts, the director of the Federal Register, along with Kevin Kosar of the R Street Institute and Nick Bellos of the Regulatory Review. 

Jun 19, 2018
National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Hey folks! We're raising money to support this podcast. Please click this link and donate today!

Remember the Human Genome Project? The massively complicated international undertaking that aimed to map the entirety of human DNA? It was funded and coordinated in large part by the NIH, or National Institutes of Health.

The NIH is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and is the nation's foremost government funded medical research agency. So how does it work? What do they actually do? Do politics influence their research? To find out, we turn to  Dr. Carrie Wolinetz,  Associate Director for Science Policy at the NIH. 

Jun 12, 2018

Norm Stamper was a past-Chief of Seattle's Police Department and an officer with the San Diego PD. He joins us to talk about the history of modern policing, the role of police today, and how to make sense of controversial police killings. 

Jun 05, 2018
Infrastructure – Water!

Drinking water in the United States is, according to the EPA, among the world's "most reliable and safest supplies." Its delivery involves a complex infrastructure of pipes, treatment facilities, aqueducts, dams, and reservoirs, and it operates on a local, state, and federal level. How did we get here? How is the U.S. public water system legislated? And, how is "potable" actually pronounced?

We spoke with James Salzman, author of Drinking Water: A History. He is also a professor of environmental law at the UCLA School of Law and the Bren School of Environmental Science at UC Santa Barbara.

This episode is part of our occasional series on American infrastructure. Listen to our first installment on roads.

May 29, 2018
Freedom of Information Act

On today's episode: What exactly is the Freedom of Information Act, better known as FOIA? Can anybody use it to get their hands on... any public documents? What kind of government secrets have come to light as a result of FOIA? We talk shop with Jason Leopold, a senior investigative reporter for Buzzfeed News. 

May 22, 2018

Space is big - like, insanely, incomprehensibly big - so it's understandable that NASA can seem divorced from the world of cabinet secretaries, White House press briefings, and presidential tweets.

Amy Shira Teitel is the host of the YouTube channel Vintage Space and author of Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight Before NASA. In this episode, she explains how despite its lofty aims, NASA is a lot more political than you might think. 

May 15, 2018
The White House Press Secretary

Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent for NPR, has reported on White House press briefings for 3 administrations. She tells us about the role of the Press Secretary, and how the job has changed from president to president. 

May 11, 2018

ICE, or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is one of the nation's youngest law enforcement agencies. It's also become one of the most controversial. But what does ICE actually do? 

Dara Lind, a senior reporter for Vox, walks us through how ICE got its start, some of its responsibilities today, and what we can expect from the agency moving forward.

May 08, 2018
The National Guard

Miranda Summers Lowe, Military Curator at the Smithsonian and active National Guard soldier, tells us the history of the Guard, the process for calling them out, and what sets them apart from other branches of the USAF. 

May 01, 2018
Presidential Transitions

On today's episode: what happens when the incumbent president leaves office and the president-elect enters? How is information shared? What laws or guidelines govern the transition of power? We talked with Max Stier, President and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, on the written and unwritten rules of presidential transitions. We also explore our own transition, as hosting duties for Civics 101 transition from Virginia Prescott to Hannah McCarthy and Nick Capodice.

Apr 24, 2018
IRL 2: The Flag and the Pledge

Today, our second IRL puts it up the flagpole and sees if anyone salutes it. Hannah goes into the history of the flag and the Pledge of Allegiance and how they've changed since their inception. Then Nick talks about four times behavior towards the flag and the pledge were the subject of Supreme Court decisions. 

Mar 06, 2018
IRL 1: Free Speech in Schools

This is the first in a series called Civics 101 IRL; special episodes where we explore the historic moments connected to our regular podcast topics.  Today we're digging into four incredibly important Supreme Court cases - four cases that have shaped how we interpret the meaning of free speech in public schools.  Is political protest allowed in class?  Is lewd speech covered by the First Amendment? Can school administrators determine what students can and can't say in the school newspaper? Listen in, and find out how students and schools have gone head to head over how First Amendment rights apply in a public school setting.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this episode inaccurately stated that Justice Abe Fortas was Chief Justice. While Fortas wrote the Tinker decision, Earl Warren was the Chief Justice at the time.

Nov 24, 2017