Ear Food: Engaging Educational Podcasts

Podcasts are the perfect intermediary for someone who can’t sit still enough to watch the news or a television series, and doesn’t necessarily want to spend money on physical books, journals, or magazines. Podcasts are a great fit for students and young working people on the go because of the way they feed you information, entertainment, and eye-opening stories while you go about your day-to-day life. In recent years, the podcast industry has grown rapidly, with an influx of thousands of series ranging from stories about famous murders to comedic series of a few people talking about their craziest nights out.

I, along with many of my peers, have found the most meaning in the educational and storytelling genre of podcasts. Though there are endless series to choose from within this category, I’ve compiled a list of a handful of my favorites (in no particular order) for you to begin exploring.

1. “Revisionist History”rhog-e192bd5afa4d0002717fe090726a64d855923ff32f643571595cab029b285be9.jpg

“Revisionist History” is one of my favorite ideas for a podcast that I’ve encountered thus far. The series is hosted by the well-known Malcolm Gladwell, a famous journalist at the New York Times and non-fiction writer. Gladwell spends each episode recounting a specific event in “history” (sometimes as recent as a few years ago) that he feels has been extremely overlooked and needs to be rediscussed. He brings in his own points of view on the subject while providing evidence from the cases and emphasizing the underlying facts and messages of the events that he believes people shouldn’t have glossed over. This series is sure to have you thinking more deeply about a range of events that you never knew of, or thought you knew more about. The episodes are mid-length, typically 35-40 minutes. 

2. “Hidden Brain”

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If you have any interest in economics, anthropology, sociology, or psychology, “Hidden Brain” is sure to keep you on your toes. It is about human interactions, exploring the unconscious biases and motivations that make us who we are. “Hidden Brain” is perfect for anyone who, like myself, is interested in combining the humanities and business worlds and is curious about everything. The host, Shankar Vedantam, urges you to think critically about the “whys” and “hows” of the world, such as “how do children come to love spicy foods?” and “why do religions exist?” Each episode is between 30 minutes to an hour in length.

3. “Planet Money”

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“Planet Money” is, as you may have guessed, all about the economy. Though this may sound dull, the podcasts’ five rotating hosts keep you entertained and informed about the important events in the global economy in a fun and creative way. The episodes help listeners make sense of major economic events taking place around the world and can enlighten you on topics that go far beyond just economics. This is one of my favorites for more strictly educational podcasts, because of the way it puts major ideas into digestible episodes. I highly recommend this podcast for anyone seeking to know more about economics, business, and politics to carry with them for internships and various classes.

4. “This American Life”

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To me, “This American Life” aces the crossover between storytelling and education. For example, to discuss relevant political goings-on, such as recent conflict along the Mexican-American border, host Ira Glass will interview a plethora of individuals who have personal experience and anecdotes with the topic in order to create a story that is easy for a listener to understand. Other times, the stories can be mysterious, spooky, or appeal entirely to one’s emotions. What makes each episode special is the build-up of a singular point that comes from the collection of people’s different perspectives on a given topic. You’re guaranteed to find engaging, heartwarming, heart-wrenching, and eye-opening episodes throughout the year. The episodes are about an hour long each.

5. “Serial”Serial-logo-920x584.png“Serial” is unique relative to the others listed above for many reasons. One, it’s all about crime and justice. Two, it is divided into three clearly defined seasons, each with a different purpose. The first follows a small-town murder case. The second tells the story of a famous U.S. soldier who walked off his post in Afghanistan nine years ago and was captured and held by the Taliban for five years. The third season is an anthology of ordinary criminal justice cases held in Cleveland and the controversies and implications they hold. I enjoyed the first and the third the most and highly recommend them to anyone seeking an exciting, edge-of-your-seat storytelling experience about criminals. Sarah Koenig’s narration is thoughtful, simple, and touches all the necessary behind-the-scenes points. Each episode is about 45 minutes to an hour long.

COVER PHOTO: The Week

About Ella Swimmer

Ella Swimmer is a junior from Santa Monica, CA. This adventurous Economics major spends her time dancing to hip-hop and traveling—she went to Asia three times last year!

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