Please Pass the HuffPost Family Dinner Download

Arianna Huffington wants to have you over for dinner — virtually, anyway. The Huffington Post co-founder and editor-in-chief announced the first serving of HuffPost Family Dinner Downloads, which will highlight one story from the past news week every Friday afternoon, complete with questions to discuss. The midterm elections are the subject of the first HuffPost Family Dinner Download.

From Huffington’s announcement:

In her new book, The Family Dinner, my dear friend Laurie David talks about the importance of families making a ritual of sitting down to dinner together, and how family dinners offer a great opportunity for meaningful discussions about the day’s news. “Dinner,” she says, “is as much about digestible conversation as it is about delicious food.”

I couldn’t agree more. So HuffPost has joined with Laurie to launch a new feature we’re calling HuffPost Family Dinner Downloads. Every Friday afternoon, just in time for dinner, our editors will highlight one of the most compelling news stories of the week — stories that will spark a lively discussion among the whole family.

Our kitchen table was where my views of the world began to be formed. And there was something very comforting in the pace of these family dinners. They were leisurely; we weren’t rushing — quickly wolfing down the meal and hurrying off to someplace we’d rather be. Indeed, there was no place we’d rather be than sitting at that table — eating, talking, laughing, or tearing up. It was the opposite of our fast-food culture. And even when the meals where short (there was homework to be done, after all!), they weren’t rushed. There were no BlackBerrys to check, no TV blaring in the background (or hypnotizing us in the foreground). We were all very much present. (As my mother would later say, “I abhor multitasking.”)

Something magical happens when you are talking over a meal — instead of making a specific point of meeting in order to talk. Your whole body relaxes. The food has a truth-serum effect. Things come up and are dealt with that wouldn’t have come up anywhere else.

And the family dinner is a wonderful place for teaching and learning. Dinner-table learning doesn’t come from didactic teaching … pass the feta cheese, please … it’s a more natural form of learning … more avgolemono soup? … learning that’s unforced and organic.

From the initial HuffPost Family Dinner Download, on the midterm elections:

This week, everyone was talking about the midterm elections, in which Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives and added a number of seats in the Senate. President Obama described the results as “a shellacking” — a slang term for a thorough beating (no one is sure how the word, which originally referred to applying a coat of shiny polish to something, came to mean the same as “thrashing,” “drubbing,” or “pounding.” Bonus discussion: how do you think “shellacking” came to mean a big defeat?).

One of the key factors in the outcome of the election was who turned out to vote — and who didn’t. In 2008, more young people voted than old people. But this week, twice as many voters 65 or older showed up at the polls than voters 18-29. That’s a very big change!

Why do you think so few young people turned out to vote this time? What would you do to encourage more young people to vote?

Another interesting development this year was the way some of the losing candidates reacted. There is a long tradition in American politics of defeated candidates calling the winner to concede and congratulate them. But as campaigns have gotten nastier, with millions of dollars spent on TV commercials that paint your opponent in very negative ways, that tradition seems to be in danger of coming to an end.

One losing candidate brought a baseball bat to his concession speech Tuesday night and had some menacing words for his opponent. Another insisted that her victorious opponent watch her 30-minute campaign commercial. And one candidate decided to not concede at all, saying the race was “too close to call” — even though she ended up losing by more than 700,000 votes.

Do you think it’s wrong not to admit that you’ve lost and warmly congratulate the person who beat you? Or do you think after saying mean and nasty things to each other month after month, it’s phony to put on a big smile and act like everyone is good friends? Is it important to be a good loser?