10/05/2012 02:19 pm ET

Table Talk: Political Debates

This week's Family Dinner Table Talk, from HuffPost and The Family Dinner book:

The first presidential debate of the 2012 campaign took place on Wednesday night in Denver.

President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney answered questions about their plans for the future -- and pointed out the ways in which those plans differ -- in front of a live audience and tens of millions of people watching on TV.

Presidential and vice presidential candidates spend the months leading up to an election giving speeches across the country, but debates give them a rare chance to discuss their policies face to face. Even though no points are awarded, the media and public opinion usually declare one candidate a “winner” -- and in the past few years, candidates have been judged in real time on social media like Twitter and Facebook.

Debating isn’t just for presidential candidates or government officials, of course -- far from it. It’s also offered as an activity at schools and colleges all over the U.S. and around the world, and it happens all the time in more informal contexts, like around the dinner table. Learning how to develop an argument and find facts to support your opinions can help you think more clearly about the issues you care about (big or small) and lead to challenging and rewarding conversations.

Here are a few debate topics to try around the table tonight:
  • Should kids under 18 be allowed to vote?
  • Should kids have to wear uniforms at school?
  • Is it fair for teachers to assign homework?

In her cookbook, The Family Dinner, 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."

We couldn't agree more. So HuffPost has joined with Laurie and every Friday afternoon, just in time for dinner, our editors highlight one of the most compelling news stories of the week -- stories that will spark a lively discussion among the whole family.