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Civics 101


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.

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.


United States




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.






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.


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.


Civics Shorts: 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. The country was in an economic and political crisis. So fifty-five men gathered to determine the shape of the new United States. The result was the Constitution, supreme law of the land. Sign up for the Civics 101 newsletter! Support Civics 101 with a donation.


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...


Civics Shorts: The Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence laid out the reasons the United States wanted to separate from Great Britain… and the ideals on which a new nation was founded. What led to the break up? What did the document say? And who was included… and excluded? Get more Civics 101 in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter! Support Civics 101 with a donation!


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.


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.


How a Bill (Really) Becomes a Law

Today AP Gov teacher David Olson shares his favorite episode, How a Bill (really) Becomes a Law. Here is a link to his paired lesson plan, three pages that will get anyone, student or not, up to speed. 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...


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.


Inauguration Day

The Constitution makes it clear that the four-year presidential term begins and ends at noon on January 20th. The time, date and the words of the presidential oath are committed to ink in the law of the land, but the rest of it? The pomp, the circumstance, the parade, the balls, the crowds? Yeah, we invented the rest of it. Journalist and media consultant Brenna Williams takes us through the day that the incumbent or the President-elect becomes the leader of the free world.


Who are the United States Capitol Police?

With the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol Building, the United States Capitol Police (USCP) have been thrust into the spotlight. That leaves some people wondering who the United States Capitol Police actually are. How is this agency different from the Secret Service? We explore the founding of the USCP and some of the challenges they have faced while protecting Congress and the Capitol grounds.


What is moving day like at the White House?

When a new first family sets foot inside of the White House on Inauguration Day they are walking into their new home for the next, usually, four to eight years. That means their furniture in the living, their pictures on the wall, their clothes in the closets. The only hitch is that the outgoing first family is supposed to feel at home up until the moment they leave the White House — also on inauguration day. What does that mean? Approximately six hours while the cat’s away to totally...


What are democratic norms?

Not every guiding principle in the United States is a law. Many are traditions, customs and best practices that someone came up with at one point and we all stuck to. These democratic norms are in place to facilitate a peaceful, respectful, smoothly-run government (they may not do a perfect job, but we need them nevertheless). So what happens when norms like respectful deference on the Senate floor or accepting election results are broken? Susan Stokes, professor of political science at the...


Has the U.S. Capitol been ambushed before?

The U.S. has a long history of politically motivated violence. And the U.S. Capitol building, as a symbol of the nation, a very public building, and a working office for thousands of people, can also be a target, as we saw in the unprecedented insurrection on January 6th. Has the U.S. Capitol been ambushed before? Get more Civics 101 in your inbox! Sign up for our newsletter


What happens when one party controls Congress and the presidency?

Once President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on January 20th, the Democratic Party will be in control of the presidency and both chambers of Congress. What does that mean for legislation? Dan Cassino of Farleigh Dickinson University breaks down the pros and cons of unified control as well as divided government. Support our show today, and thank you!



The House has (again) drafted articles of impeachment against Donald Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors. What does that mean? How does the process play out? This episode was recorded in October 2019, before President Trump was impeached on October 31, 2019, so our statement that only two presidents have been impeached in U.S. history is now inaccurate, that number is up to three. Linda Monk (the Constitution Lady), Frank Bowman (author of High Crimes and Misdemeanors) and Dan Cassino...


The Peaceful Transition of Power

It has long been a proud claim of American democracy — that we are committed to a peaceful transition of power from one president to the next. That after all is said and done, the results tallied, the legal challenges resolved, a winner is declared and certified. That their challenger will concede and we will move on to the next chapter in our government’s executive branch. What does that signify and why is it important? What is at risk when it doesn’t happen? Constitutional scholar Linda...


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.


Why does the vote certification take so long?

Even in an election year where it took weeks to count and recount the public’s votes, the United States seems to play a particularly long waiting game when it comes to finally certifying that vote in Congress. Who sets our first Tuesday after first Monday, our first Monday after second Wednesday, January 6th and January 20th? Why does the whole process take so long?


What role does Congress play in the Electoral College?

The Constitution requires Congress to meet and count the electoral votes on January 6th. It’s the final step in an election process for president that began in early November with citizens casting ballots, continued with election officials counting (and in some cases, recounting) ballots through November, and carried into December with the Electoral College meeting to cast their votes. What happens on January 6th? And can an election result be changed? Subscribe to the Civics 101...