Do you enjoy talking? Does having a deep conversation with other high school and UNH students at a cozy café downtown interest you? Well, look no further than the JV Socratic Society.
The JV Socratic Society is a new club, where any middle or high school students can meet once a week at The Freedom Café downtown and participate in a civilized discussion about philosophical or controversial topics, like human nature, the meaning of life, or social media. It’s great for students who enjoy deep conversations, or for students who are just looking for something fun to do on a Friday afternoon. The club is run through the UNH Socratic Society, and anyone can join, but it is targeted towards a middle and high school audience.
Kaley Lambert, a senior at UNH and co-president of the UNH Socratic Society who is helping run JV, explains that the goal of JV Socratic is to “have a discussion that’s deliberately including multiple people with as varied perspectives as possible.” UNH Socratic functions virtually the same as JV, the only difference being the audience.
Each week, a different topic is discussed, like human rights, the death penalty, or veganism, but that doesn’t mean the conversation has to strictly stick to that topic. As Lambert explains, “all of our conversations are very winding, and they go a million different directions.” At one meeting with the UNH Socratic Society, the original topic was animal cruelty, and they ended the conversation by talking about aliens.
Lambert also makes it clear that the topics can be practically anything. “Literally anything that people are able to have a discussion about are potential topics for us.”
Ulysses Smith (‘25) and Orion Smith (‘27), two Oyster River students who attended the first meeting, both agreed that the meeting had an open and enjoyable atmosphere. Ulysses Smith found the club very welcoming. “In the beginning, I was trying to feel things out and see if it was that friendly type of vibe where you can just chime in, and I did feel that which I’m happy about. It makes you feel like you’re in a comfortable environment to share your ideas.”
Orion Smith was surprised at how open to new ideas everyone in the club was. “I thought it was very interesting, and I thought it was very polite and civilized, rather than a debate.”
The club tries to always maintain an accepting environment, even if there’s a disagreement. “Things can get heated, but we deliberately have a structure where every conversation has some sort of facilitator who’s guiding where the conversation is going,” explains Lambert. “We also deliberately instill the idea that it’s good and it’s okay to disagree, you just need to be respectful about it.”
The respectful and open environment is one of many reasons students are drawn to the JV Socratic Society. Ulysses Smith loved the first meeting and thinks everyone should join because “it promotes an environment where you can share big ideas and take new forms of insight into your mind and explore questions that aren’t usually asked.”
Andre Provencal, one of the other co-presidents for JV and UNH Socratic Society, thinks students should join because they will learn new skills. “It’s a really great skill to learn how to make good points and learn how to recognize when other points are bad, and going to this club will help you a lot going forward in life.”
Lambert also explains how joining JV Socratic is super easy. All you need to do is show up to one of the meetings on any Friday at 3:30 at The Freedom Café. “You just show up and participate. You don’t have to prepare anything; you don’t even have to know anything about the given topic.”
“Anyone who wants to come, even if [you have] a smidgen of interest, please do try it out,” implores Provencal. “If you don’t like it, it’s only an hour gone from a Friday.” He also explains how you don’t have to commit to the club to participate, you can show up one week and not go the next.
If you’re curious about the JV Socratic Society or the upcoming week’s topic, you can go to the JV Socratic Society’s Instagram page @juniorsocraticofdurham, or the UNH Socratic’s Instagram @socraticunh, to find out more!
– Micah Bessette