Opinion, Staff Editorial

From Jeffersonian dinners to group chats, reviving the lost art of conversation

“Wow, did you hear about what [person you do not care about]did last night? He [drunk action you do not care about], and everyone put it on their Snap stories.”

“Yeah I did. Hey, remember that time [genuinely meaningless intoxicated interaction]happened?”

(Repeat until you both retreat to the warm comfort of Instagram)

According to all of those college brochures your mom left on your desk senior year, college students spend their days sitting on the grass having passionate discussions about Proust and post-colonialism. But more likely than not, you have probably found yourself eavesdropping or participating in a conversation more like this one. Aside from the occasional classroom debate, it seems that college students today may indulge in cotton-candy conversations much more often than the meaty ones: easy to consume but ultimately completely insubstantial.

Conversations that consist of anecdotes about times that you’ve gotten drunk or generic responses mumbled while scrolling through your Facebook feed are hardly the pinnacle of human interaction and thought. When the conversations end, you’ve learned nothing about the other person, yourself or the world.

In a time of emoji sentiments and Facebook flame wars, is the art of conversation dead? The way we speak to each other nowadays seems a world removed from the conversations that some of our country’s founders enjoyed.

Thomas Jefferson, whose 274th birthday falls on Thursday, would have been particularly disappointed. The third president, known for his role in purchasing both Louisiana and other human beings (with a recent boost in popularity thanks to a smash Broadway musical), was an avid supporter of intellectual conversation.

Jefferson enjoyed inviting people to his house for what would become known as Jeffersonian Dinners, parties of four to eight people that centered on a single topic of conversation. Jefferson encouraged his guests to engage in heated discussions and strived to create energetic conversation between political and ideological adversaries. His hope was that, through meaningful conversation, guests from all sides of the political and social spectrum would find common ground.

We can learn a great deal about conversation from these dinners. Great conversations require a diversity of ideas and a willingness to listen to ideas that make us uncomfortable. They also require us to be comfortable with challenging each other, calling out inconsistencies and weak arguments. Great conversations are impossible without a degree of disagreement.

Truly meaningful conversations take real effort. The ease of casual, brief conversations make them a mindless part of our everyday lives, but genuine conversations can be transformative. Jeffersonian Dinners were planned, organized and regulated; they didn’t just happen on the spot. As college students, we would benefit from putting forth the same effort toward our own interactions. So sharpen your wits, dust off your talking points and set the table for some interesting conversation.

 

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.

 

April 12, 2017

Reporters

Editorial Board

The Miami Hurricane


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Former NFL and University of Miami star Kellen Winslow Jr. was arrested Thursday for numerous allege ...

Trevor Darling's perseverance paid off. After not being selected in the NFL Draft, the former U ...

Father's Day has never been a big holiday in the Larranaga household because basketball always ...

The start to former Miami Hurricanes defensive end Chad Thomas' NFL career is going through a m ...

At one section of Miami's Richmond Park, Hurricanes offensive line coach Stacy Searels taught a ...

Teachers tackle challenging questions at the Holocaust Studies Summer Institute. ...

A University of Miami lecturer explores the role of the front porch in black communities. ...

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, two public health sciences students traveled to Puerto Rico to ...

Colder Atlantic temperatures could change hurricane season forecasts, but the trend isn't expec ...

UM neurorehabilitation expert David S. Kushner, M.D., who helps modern patients recover from brain s ...

Gino DiMare was officially introduced as the 10th head baseball coach in program history Tuesday in ...

Jaquan Johnson was named to Athlon Sports' Preseason All-America First Team, while Shaq Quarter ...

An outstanding showing at the USATF Championships earned Symone Mason a trip to the World U20 Champi ...

UM alum returns to lead Canes' MBB strength and conditioning efforts. ...

Amy Deem was recognized for the third time as the ACC Women's Outdoor Track and Field Coach of ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.