In 2016 I was asked to contribute an article to the Trowel magazine discussing my thoughts on Masonic education.
One Size Fits None: Apple vs. Android and the Argument Over Free Will.
Apple iOS is the best operating system. You don’t need the freedom to choose. They’ll choose for you. Only they know what is best for you.
Android is the best operating system. You need the freedom to choose. You should have complete control over your experience. Only you know what is best for you.
The argument over “free will” most likely started with Aristotle in the fourth century BCE. Since this time philosophers, politicians, and gadget enthusiasts have been debating the multiple facets of this concept. Usually today the argument is not over whether man has free will, it is whether or not he should be trusted to use it.
For two-hundred years Freemasonry has explored this concept and celebrated its merits. Freemasons however, in regards to jurisprudence and practice have often fell victim to more base inclinations.
When I was in school it seemed like all the big questions had been answered. I thought that my school books contained the agreed upon answers to whatever subject they addressed. It was solid logic at that point in my development. How could they grade me on mastery of material that was not universally accepted as the right answer?
I know now that I was victim of a logical fallacy known as appeal to tradition. This fallacy posits that something is true simply because it has always been accepted as true. You have experienced this argument if you ever had a Past Master tell you that, “We’ve always done it that way.” Over twenty years have gone by since I left school. I’m sure that today my thirteen-year-old daughter shares the same misconception.
If you have a teenager in your life, you are familiar with the opposite fallacy known as the appeal to novelty. This fallacy posits that something is true simply because its new. Those Past Masters that are still reading have likely experienced this argument from a young line officer. Often this argument centers around the use of technology or social media.
Whether a young line officer or a Past Master we must admit that whether we are more comfortable with tradition or novelty that they are both flawed positions. The truth, to again reference Aristotle, lies in the “golden mean” which is acquired by the application of the cardinal virtue we know as prudence.
As a new Mason, I fell back on familiar fallacies. It seemed like all the big questions had been answered. I thought that the books I read on Freemasonry contained the agreed upon answers to whatever subject they addressed. It was solid logic at that point in my development. How could something be accepted as mainstream if it was not universally accepted as the right answer?
As I entered the adolescent period of my Masonic development, I relied more on novelty than tradition. It seemed logical. The argument was that Freemasonry was broken. We had always done things the same way. That way was no longer working. We needed a new way. Ironically, many of us felt that new way was to embrace the old way.
This sentiment has precedence in history. It is just this sentiment that led to a fracture in the craft which was marked by the formation of the “Antient” Grand Lodge in 1751. While there were many reasons for this rift some say it simply came down to the preference of the use of chalk over tape when laying out the form of the lodge.
Last year I was asked by Most Worshipful Waugh if I would serve as Chairman of the Lodges of Instruction. On accepting I considered well my situation. I was intimately familiar with the novel approach, having had a fairly experimental approach to LOI as a District Deputy. I immediately researched the Constitutions and Proceedings of the Grand Lodge so that I could learn the traditional structure. I talked to everyone I could to get their opinions about what was wrong. I learned one thing from all of my research. There is no easy answer or off-the -shelf solution to educating the craft.
It is my feeling that the best approach to Lodge of Instruction is one of engagement. As you have seen so far, I prefer hands-on instruction to lectures and power points. This is not surprising considering my education in a vocational high school. That being said, I feel an effective educational program should have a prudential mix of means and methods. It should prefer neither the traditional or novel approach. It should prefer the “golden mean” of the two which will likely be different for each district.
I don’t have all of the answers. I don’t even have all of the questions. What I have is a trust in the men who make up this Fraternity.
Under my care, the Lodges of Instruction will trust in the student as much as the teacher. The individual Lodges of Instruction will have opportunity to work with the District Deputy to self-determine their syllabus as well as their method of delivery. They will together determine which questions to prioritize as well as which methods will be most effective to answer them.
In an uncertain world there is one thing for certain. One size fits none.