What is a Junto?
The word ‘Junto’ (pronounced [ˈjəntō] or jen-toe)
derives from the Spanish word, ‘Junta’ which roughly translates to a ‘Meeting’.
What is the Southern Junto?
The Southern Junto is a website created to foster structured, civil discussion and issue analysis online. It is fashioned after a debate and civic improvement club often called The Philadelphia Junto or The Leather Apron Club established by 21 year old Benjamin Franklin in 1727 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania.
What was the Philadelphia Junto
The Philadelphia Junto aka the Leather Apron Club, was created to foster civil discussion for mutual and civil improvement by discussing, in a structured, animosity free manner, questions of morals, politics, natural philosophy and economics.
The twelve members were of diverse occupations. Over the decades those occupations included, printers’ apprentices, a shoemaker, clerks (scrivners) , surveyors, farmers, a cabinet maker, a glass blower, mathematicians, ministers, a poet and a young wealthy man of leisure. These men met weekly, first in a local tavern and eventually in a room in one member’s home.
From the Philadelphia Junto’ sprung numerous American institutions we know today. Among those were:
- The first lending library
- The first fire brigade
- The first private security firm
- The first police department
- The first American public university
- The first public hospital
The Southern Junto is a site created to capture that same spirit of improvement, in both self and community.
Through member and guest submitted essays, online meeting sessions, debate forums, and the provision of news and specific events, we hope to provide a civil, structured method of discussing and examining issues.
Today’s highly aggressive methods of discussion, especially on the internet, are not conducive to honest evaluations. They rarely result in any consensus or deeper understanding. In large part because of algorithms that push content and ads we often only hear from sources that spin and cherry pick facts to fit our preconceptions. On internet venues such as comment sections, message boards or social media we frequently just yell slogans and conclusions at one another. We rarely make honest evaluations of issues and rarer still come to agreement.
Why imitate the Philadelphia Junto?
The Junto founded by young Benjamin Franklin shaped American life for centuries. The rules they established for discussion discouraged ‘heat’ (that is anger), discouraged ‘positievness’ (that is preconceived certainty) and penalized members for derogatory statements towards one another. The format the Philadelphia Junto used to conduct meetings consisted of 24 questions about issues, local success stories they had encountered, local cautionary tales, whether they knew anyone new in the community that deserved help, injustices towards any members or the public that other members could help address, good stories, health remedies and regimens and whether any had heard any attack on the reputations of any members that could be addressed and perhaps set right.
Additionally at every weekly meeting, members were encouraged to submit and essay on any topic they felt was of importance and that other members could discuss. The clever combination of common sense rules and weekly questions to guide members in looking for important events and topics kept the meetings civil yet absolutely current.