Monday, 9 April 2012

A Free University

I do it at home - but while I'm in Washington DC, I've been doing it more - and that is watching C-SPAN programmes. Although primarily known for its live broadcasting of the House of Representatives and the US Senate - C-SPAN has programming which goes out 24 hours a day on 3 TV channels and a radio station. It is available on cable TV in the US, but can be accessed via the internet or through an app (I use the app on my iPhone and iPad). There is also an extensive library of programmes from previous years.

All this adds up to a first rate free university, full of lectures - documentaries and a wealth of primary materials. As I write this I am in a home in Northern Virginia - it is 7.40 on Easter Sunday morning - and I am listening to a C-SPAN programme on my iPad - "Edmund Burke and the origins of modern conservatism". David Norcross is delivering an interesting, informative lecture to the Citadel Military College.

Each day I check the text schedules on the internet (and these have hyperlinks to the programmes themselves). I listen to, or watch programmes which look interesting - which will extend my knowledge and understanding. It may be a history documentary; or a lecture on political philosophy. Perhaps it covers a current controversy or the progress of the US Elections. I wish I had time to watch everything of interest that is on offer. I don't need to worry about time the broadcast is actually made - since I'm actually watching programmes in the video library. (Note for readers outside the US - you need to remember the time difference. Your browser in Britain may think it is noon, so shows you the schedule from 12.00 - wheras you need to look backwasrds at 7.00 (the 'previous' 24 hour schedule) which is the time in the Eastern US)

The complete covereage of Chamber proceedings of both Houses of Congress (plus many committee proceedings); plus broadcasts of political events gives an excellent source of primary materials. They are useful for learning about practice and procedure.

I thoroughly commend C-SPAN - and invite you to explore how it can enhance your understanding (and frankly) enjoyment of politics; history and many other related subjects.