Junto [...]

“Juntos” were events organized by Ben Franklin in his youth that served to help spread academic and community knowledge among its participants. Pronounced “hoonto”, and derived from the Spanish for “to join”, the structure of these events has some lessons for those putting together informal learning today.

Franklin described the event in his Autobiography:

I should have mentioned before, that, in the autumn of the preceding year, [1727] I had form’d most of my ingenious acquaintance into a club of mutual improvement, which we called the Junto; we met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss’d by the company; and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased.

The group was far from elitist. It included in various incarnations cabinet makers, bartenders, printers, surveyors, and shoemakers. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junto_(club) cite] The men were all from Philadelphia and shared amongst them a spirit of inquiry.

Particularly of interest were the rules of debate, which Franklin devised to encourage free exploration of ideas rather than intellectual contest.

Our debates were to be under the direction of a president, and to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute or desire of victory; and to prevent warmth, all expressions of positiveness in opinions, or direct contradiction, were after some time made contraband, and prohibited under small pecuniary penalties.

Here, warmth refers to “heatedness”. And to prevent the conversation from heating up, no one is allowed to make direct contradictions of one another, or to declare their certainty that they are right. To engage with others, all must approach the conversation with an attitude of uncertainty.


The full text describing the Junto is here. [http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/becomingamer/ideas/text4/juntolibrary.pdf pdf]

Franklin limited the Junto to twelve members. Twelve Is an Interesting Number.

To gain membership, you had to answer affirmatively to the Four Junto Questions

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