In today's political climate and with our oversaturation of information and media outlets, bias is inescapable. The mainstream rhetoric regarding our news media denotes it to be "fake," with some going so far as to call it the "enemy of the people." Although it seems extreme, this trend is not without reason. There have been several instances, particularly in recent years, of news outlets breaking stories too early only for them to later have to retract these stories and announce that the information reported was inaccurate because it was unverified before publication or broadcast. As younger and older generations alike find themselves using the media as their primary source of political information and as their basis of understanding of our government and how it operates, the clear bias, opinion, and often unreliable news Americans consume is a dangerous movement. It threatens the integrity of our democracy and the rectitude of American voters.
While this tendency has become more widely known, it still feels impossible to find broadcasts, newspapers, websites, or podcasts where American voters can simply learn without the burden of our current politics. For Americans who wish to be truly informed and to recognize how our institutions work, the rights citizens are given, and the limitations and extensions of our law so that they may form their own opinion and present or argue that opinion clearly with a foundation of knowledge rather than ignorance, mainstream media has failed them.
For an outlet to serve that purpose, however, it would be necessary for it to not only be unbiased in its presentation of information, but for it to support the topics it discusses by teaching the fundamentals of our government and our Constitution so that audiences can entirely understand and individually analyze what they are given, forming their own political identity. Who better to create such an outlet than a government teacher.
"The Government Gurus" Podcast was founded and is run by advanced placement and dual enrollment (meaning he teaches college-credit classes in the high school) government teacher Alex Bennett, from Woodgrove High School in Purcellville, Virginia. A Central Michigan graduate with a double major in Social Studies and History, Alex Bennett has two master's degrees in science and Political Science and wanted to fill the void of an audience he felt was underserved and contribute more as a teacher. (Disclosure: I was a student of his in AP government during my senior year of high school.)
Bennett began his podcast with hopes of reaching high school students who take advanced placement government classes as well as their teachers, but his podcast has the potential to expand far beyond that.
After seeing other "teachers on social media platforms working with their students in so many wonderful ways," Bennett saw the ways in which classes such as AP Government were changing, and he could adjust to add something of his own to the new curriculum. Even though "Government Gurus" is still relatively in its early days, the lineup of guests on the show so far is nothing short of impressive. Constitutional scholar, Harvard Law graduate, journalist, award-winning author, and two-time recipient of the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel award Linda Monk appeared on the podcast in September of 2018 to discuss the "history and purpose of the Bill of Rights and its importance it has in achieving full protections of civil liberties and civil rights for all."
Other notable past guests include Executive Director of the Constitutional Source Project Julie Silverbrook, acclaimed historian Tom Richey, and member of the Council of Islamic and American Relations Carolyn Homer. Keeping with the original intention of "Government Gurus" as a way to augment the evolving U.S. Government classroom curriculum, Jenifer Hitchcock, a Political Science teacher from Fairfax, Virginia, appeared on the show in April of 2018 to discuss Federalist Paper No. 78 with Bennett. Additionally, listeners can look forward to future episodes with Mary Beth Tinker, the defendant in the momentous Tinker v. Des Moines case and constitutional professor and author Garrett Epps.
Particularly considering the prevalence of media that surrounds politics today that caters to relatively partisan opinions, the content of "Government Gurus" is what makes it exceptional and pertinent today. Avoiding discussion of political controversies and judgment, the dialogue is based on the AP curriculum used in the classroom and endorsed by the National Constitution Center with the premise of presenting totally unbiased information, meant to inform on several viewpoints rather than persuade to adhere to one. Bennett says of his style, "…my teaching isn't designed to change the minds of people, it's to get them to understand the other side. My listeners do not need another political pundit articulating bias opinions, what they need, I feel, is a solid foundation of government and its function."
In a world of fake news, this adage is refreshing. As popular discontent with mainstream media grows amongst voters and Americans in generals, podcasts and news media like "Government Gurus" will continue to see surges in listeners and viewership. Bennett fills a critical void by straying from what media believes listeners want, to producing content they can actually value and trust. Listeners of the "Government Gurus" can expect quality content without the struggle of having to determine what can be taken as fact over speculation.
Further, listeners can expect the podcast to grow and expand into current events but while maintaining the consistency of being a source of information that excludes bias. As Bennett continues to develop "The Government Gurus," he hopes to give congressmen and women the opportunity to appear on the show and reach out directly to government students and other avid learners across the country and begin to promote podcasting in national conventions as well.
Listeners can support "The Government Gurus" through PayPal using the email firstname.lastname@example.org, listening, and rating the podcast on your listening app. You can access the show through Apple Podcasts, Google Playstore, and Spotify, and follow @thegovgurus on Twitter and Facebook.