The War on Politics-Free Thanksgiving


What is it about America's greatest holiday that political buttinskys feel the need to issue conversation-fer-dummies guides on how to make sure your politics prevail at the dinner table? I guess some questions answer themselves….

Last year, if you recall, we had a Michael Bloomberg group giving pointers on—I swear I am not making this up—"Talking Turkey About Guns," while President Barack Obama's Organizing for America group sent out email guides to whipping up familial support for Obamacare. MSNBC's Chris Hayes also got into the act, as did the Democratic National Committee. The year before saw similar efforts from The Huffington Post and NPR.

This year, aside from the usual grim survival tips, we at least have the innovation of The New York Times publishing dinner-table tips from—also not making this up—crisis negotiators. And today the leftysplainers at Vox.com have issued instructions on "How to Survive Your Family's Thanksgiving Arguments." Judging by their entry on Common Core, the answer appears to be "Dodge the criticism, then bore them to death with questionably relevant context." Sample:

Your niece says: "Why do I have to learn fractions on a number line and read more nonfiction in school?"

Response: Somehow, the Common Core is written about more as a political phenomenon than an educational one. So it's important to know that it does two new things in American education….

Aaaaaand CUT! First of all, your niece won't be the one saying that; in my experience the people bitching about Common Core are the parents struggling to explain to their elementary-school children why Daddy and Mommy don't understand the math homework. Second of all, what's with that "somehow"? A majority of public schools are now pushing the same style of New Math, as a direct result of a decision made by the federal government—isn't that the definition of "political"?

Hundreds of words down, here's how Vox contextualizes/euphemizes that process, and the president's involvement in it:

President Obama bragged about how many states had adopted the Common Core in his 2012 State of the Union address, and it's come back to haunt him. But the federal government wasn't involved at all in the writing of the standards. The Common Core started as a group of states working together through two national groups: the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.The US Education Department thought the standards were a pretty good idea, and offered several healthy incentives for states to adopt them. States had to adopt "college- and career-ready standards" to compete for Race to the Top grants or to get waivers from No Child Left Behind.

In theory, states could have written their own standards to meet the criteria, as Minnesota did. They didn't have to adopt Common Core. But the federal encouragement certainly helped. 

Read their talking points on the midterm elections if you dare.

Here is my Mattsplaining guide to talking about politics at Thanksgiving: What the hell is wrong with you?