Talking About a Functioning Democracy

April 3, 2018 at 3:04 pm 2 comments

A functioning democracy is a work in progress with many moving parts, one of the most important being vibrant debate and discussion.

That’s just what political science professor Michael Berkman, director of the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State, and Jenna Spinelle, the Institute’s communications specialist, are hoping to encourage with a new podcast series entitled “Democracy Works”

The series—which will air weekly at https://www.democracyworkspodcast.com, and can also be found on Itunes, Google Play and Stitcher—will look at the many issues impacting democracy, and how they work together, through discussions with Penn State faculty, alumni, and guest speakers.

“There are so many overtly partisan podcasts out there—we saw a niche that we could fill by stepping back from the daily news cycle to look at the bigger issues in a democracy, and what different people are doing to make democracy work,” says Spinelle.

“We’re not coming at those issues from a partisan perspective or playing pundits,” Berkman says. “We’re just talking to people about the work they are doing, and putting that in a larger context so that we can all understand what a functioning democracy is.”

Berkman and Spinelle say they were greatly inspired by Pennsylvania’s iron and steel workers: “They came together to build something bigger and better. Similarly, each of us has a role to play in building and sustaining a healthy democracy,” Berkman says.

Upcoming podcast episodes include a conversation with Daniel Ziblatt, associate professor of government and social studies at Harvard, about his recent book How Democracies Die, and interviews with students at State College Area High School who attended the recent “March for Our Lives” event in Washington, D.C..

The Democracy Works Team invites anyone from the broader Penn State community who has an idea for an episode, or who would like to speak to any aspect of democracy, to contact them at democracyInst@psu.edu.

“We know that there are so many great Penn State alums doing interesting work that we don’t even know about, so we encourage people to come in,” Spinelle says. — Savita Iyer

 

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bob Krieger  |  April 3, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    We’re not a democracy, functioning or otherwise. We’re a constitutional republic. There’s a difference and it’d be helpful if we started teaching that in our schools.

  • 2. Michael Berkman  |  April 4, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    Bob, a republic is a form of democracy. Of course, we are not a direct democracy. And because we have a written constitution there are limits on the power of our government. You raise a great point about civics education. Check out our forthcoming podcasts where we talk with an education professor about civics education in America.

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