SHORT TALK BULLETIN - Vol.VII September, 1929 No.9
SUGAR COATING MASONIC EDUCATION
Immediately thereafter the candidate usually develops a healthy
curiosity as to the "why" of that which "happened next." Entered
Apprentices and Fellowcrafts are generally hungry for explanations of
the reasons and for the motives behind the words and acts of a
Man is incurably curious; his desire to know and to understand is the
mainspring of invention, discovery, civilization and progress; it is
the driving force which leads men to learn.
Worshipful Masters can - and many of them do - make use of the desire
to know, to make better Masons of the brethren of their lodges.
Masters are charged with the duty of giving the Craft "good and
wholesome instruction," or causing the same to be done. But one of
the principal methods developed by Masonic educators, the
"educational meeting," is a method of instruction more injured than
helped by its name! For many brethren had boyish experiences with
"education" which lead them to associate with that word a process
which is dry, dull and uninteresting.
What is here called a "sugar coated" Masonic educational meeting is
just the reverse; interesting, intriguing, alive, vital and
satisfying a great curiosity. Lodges which have tried any of the
educational experiments here listed usually repeat them, and almost
invariably the repetition is to a "packed house."
Here are some suggestions for "sugar coated" educational meetings;
all of them have been tried, and all found successful methods of
interesting the Craft in the various phases of Freemasonry.
1. BREAKING RULES TO MEND THEM
Certain unwritten rules of Masonic conduct, as well as some specified
by Grand Lodges, become so much a matter of custom in lodges that
many brethren lose sight of the reasons therefore, if, indeed, they
ever knew them.
The Worshipful Master may arrange a program in which a number of
brethren, instructed beforehand, to deliberately commit or attempt to
commit infractions of the rules. When the error is made, the Master,
or some previously instructed brother (a Past Master), explains the
mistake and the reason for the rule. For instance, in most
Jurisdictions it is not considered courteous for a brother to pass
between the Worshipful Master and the Alter (except when in the
process of conferring a degree). When the instructed brother crosses
the lodge between the Altar and the East, the Master may admonish the
"culprit" that it is not considered proper, and call upon some
previously instructed Past Master to explain that, in theory, the
Great light and the Square and Compasses on the Altar; are dedicated
to God, the Master and the Craft; and, therefore at no time should
his view of them be interrupted. A brother who attempts to leave the
room during a ballot may be corrected and the reason given; Grand
Lodges usually hold that a ballot on a petition, interrupted by any
one entering or leaving the room, is invalid, since such an action
may interfere with the secrecy of said ballot. Similarly, a brother
balloting may object to the officer in charge of the ballot box
standing so close to the altar that he might discover how a brother
votes. Either or both of these incidents provide an excellent
opportunity for a little talk upon the sacredness and secrecy of the
Masonic ballot, and its importance. Others are: speaking more than
twice to the same question, speaking without being recognized,
speaking without rising, addressing an individual brother or the
lodge instead of the Master, making a motion to appoint a committee
with certain specified personnel, offering a resolution "to adjourn"
or to "lay a motion on the table," are suggested infractions of
Masonic law and custom, all of which may be corrected in an
educational meeting in an interesting way.
2. DISSECTING A DEGREE
Especially recommended for lodges which have little work to do is the
dissection and explanation of the first section of any degree. A
dummy candidate is initiated, and the ceremony interrupted at each
stage by some brother who offers a little explanation of the
symbolism of that part of the degree; entry, circumambulation, rite
of destitution, the antiquity of the Apron, origin of the Lesser
Lights, etc. Such dissection and exposition of parts of a degree
require some little study by those who take part, but by giving each
brother who offers an interruption only one subject, the work of
preparation is minimized and the variety increased by having many
It is suggested here that inquiry be first made of the District
Deputy, or the Grand Master; in some Jurisdictions the practice of
using a dummy candidate has been frowned upon, as derogatory to the
dignity of our ceremonies. When it is explained that the purpose of
the idea is educational, however, it is probable that no difficulty
will be experienced in obtaining cooperation from those in authority.
3. YOU MUST - YOU MUST NOT!
The average lodge member knows little about Masonic Law. The very
term "Jurisprudence" seems repellent. Yet Masonic Law is intensely
interesting, and may be made to appear so to the lodge by any brother
who will devote a little time and attention to developing a talk on
those parts of our legal system which most intimately touch the
brethren. Masonic Law is vastly different from civil law; most
Masonic Law is a matter of "thou shalt" rather than "thou shalt not."
A few salient points chosen for their interest to the average Mason,
and explained; first, as to their origin; and second, as to their use
or necessity will interest the lodge. It is not at all an arduous
task for a clever brother to arrange such a talk. He may use any
good book on Jurisprudence as a foundation, Mackey or Pound for
choices, as both are complete and concise.
4. COMPETITION IS THE LIFE OF - EDUCATION!
The more brethren that take part in an educational meeting, the
greater the enjoyment. No scheme for an educational meeting yet
developed exceeds the lodge contest in this respect, since it gives
everyone in the lodge room an opportunity to participate.
The educational contest is conducted by a Master of Ceremonies asking
a series of questions, carefully prepared in advance, the correct
answers to which can be given in a word or two, a date or a name.
Supplied with paper and pencils, the brethren write and number their
answers to the questions, as they are asked. Then they exchange
papers, the correct answers are read, and the brethren mark the
replies "right" or "wrong" according to the facts. The winners, of
course, are those who have the greatest number, the next greatest and
the third greatest answered correctly. Interest is such a contest is
increased by offering prizes. These may be very inexpensive; a good
Masonic book, a subscription to a Masonic Magazine, a Masonic lapel
pin are all appreciated.
The questions should not be complex; answers should be facts, not
opinions. For instance, "In what lodge was George Washington
raised?" "Who is the Grand Master in this state?" "How old is this
lodge?" "How many lodges in our Grand Lodge Jurisdiction?" These
are the type of questions that need only a word or two for an answer
with facts. Such questions as "Do you think Masonry is a religion?"
should not be included, since any answer must be an opinion, not a
fact. Questions like "Explain the part Freemasonry played in the
Revolution" should not be asked, as it would require a lengthy reply.
In giving out the correct answers, a clever Master of Ceremonies will
be able to offer some "good and wholesome instruction" of Masonic
value; for instance, if the question is: "How many landmarks are
recognized in this Jurisdiction?" If the correct answer is "twenty-
five", the Master of Ceremonies may explain that some Jurisdictions
have less, others more; that many Jurisdictions have adopted Mackey's
list, while others have condensed Mackey's twenty-five into a lesser
number; which, never the less contains all of Mackey's points, and so
A lodge debate will draw a crowd and keep it interested for the best
part of an hour, with pleasure and profit to all. Debating teams may
be composed of two or more brethren on each side of the issue; two to
a side usually produces a snappier debate than three. Some questions
of universal Masonic interest should be chosen; such as "Resolved,
that dual membership is advantageous to the Fraternity," or
"Resolved, that Masonic trials are better conducted by a Grand Lodge
Commission than a particular lodge."
Such debates should be planned well in advance. An impromptu debate
often produces amusing results. Two captains are chosen; each
captain chooses six debaters. The Master then announces the subject.
Each debater is given two minutes and must sit down when the gong
rings at the end if his time, even if in the middle of a sentence.
The simpler the subject, the more lively the debate. Such questions
as "Resolved, that this lodge should start a library," or "Resolved,
that the fees for the degrees are too low" (or too high!) will
produce more debate than more abstruse questions, because brethren
seldom argue well on difficult matters unless they have previously
spent some time in preparation.
It is not suggested that these "sugar coated" methods of holding
Masonic educational meetings should replace older, tried and true
forms in which some learned brother delivers an address upon a
Masonic subject, or presents an illustrated lecture. The speaker and
the lecturer we have always had with us; illustrated lectures on
Masonic subjects will always be of interest to the Craft, as will the
well conceived and delivered address.
But we tire of anything in too great qualities. Quail is considered
the best eating, yet it is a restauranteur's tradition that no man
can eat a quail a day for a month!
The Masonic educational meeting conducted on new, different lines -
of which the above list is only suggestive, not complete - will
largely "take the curse off" the word "educational" meeting.
Brethren who are provided with "sugar coated" education do not stay
away on "educational nights" but come out in full force. Once the
lodge members begin thinking "I wonder what new idea the Master will
spring tonight!" when an educational meeting is announced, and the
Stewards will have to go to the basement after extra chairs.
Sugar coated pills do the same work as those more difficult to
swallow - and they are much easier to take!