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A smarter citizenry in six easy, School of Communication-produced lessons

Confounded by the progressive tax code? How about Social Security? Worried that it won’t be around by the time you need it?

There are so many misconceptions about government policies and functions, said associate professor of radio/television/film Eric Patrick, “we tend to have trouble discerning between fact and fiction.” Enter Citizen Primer, a series of six videos produced by Patrick with the help of six School of Communication students that demystify common myths about things like Medicare and the national debt.

Call it a six-pack for a smarter citizenry. The first of the videos launches this week. You can watch it here.

The project was funded by the Chicago Digital Media Fund, the School of Communication, and other sources—and a lot of sweat equity went into it. Meredith McGowan (C14) did research on the Medicare segment. “I thought the poor girl was going to bang her head against the wall, trying to get to the bottom of how Medicare is structured and funded,” Patrick said. “It’s very complex stuff.”

McGowan and Daniel Johnson (C14) worked on research and screenwriting. Kara Reddy (C13), Andrea Schmitz (C14), and Olivia Peace (C16) worked on animation. Jordan Scherer (C17) covered marketing. Citizen Primer got an additional big-league boost when Tim Forrest, an award-winning radio producer who has worked at NPR, loaned his voice to the project.

Patrick, who did animation for the program Blue’s Clues on the Nickelodeon network and has been nominated for several Emmy Awards, isn’t stopping with just the government-related shorts, slated to be posted on YouTube between now and the end of May. He has already recorded voice tracks for other subjects like vaccination, conspiracy theories, and incarceration rates. “I’ve got about fifty of these in my pocket,” he said. “I don’t want to stop here.”