What are the two things Masons do not discuss while in lodge together lest harmony be disrupted?
We all know the answer. Religion and Politics, and sometimes Nationality and Borders. Never under any circumstances should these be discussed, right? Well, not exactly.
What should not be discussed are the particulars, the ideologies that create exclusiveness, the differences. Ritual draws upon many religious ideas, but they are inclusive, universal, and find similarities with many other traditions. However, there is one political issue that can and should be discussed openly in a lodge of brethren. An issue that has been of the upmost importance for Freemasonry in America. That political issue is our public school system.
Under the California Masonic Code, matters concerning the public schools are the sole exception to our Lodges becoming involved in political issues in our communities. The Lodge is a proper forum for discussing problems in the schools in our local communities. It is proper for a Lodge or a group of Masons to act publicly in support of school bond issues and similar matters before the electorate. And individual Masons are encouraged to assist their local schools to make policy, by volunteering to serve on advisory committees or even seeking election as a member of the school board. These are only a few of the ways Freemasons can influence public policy pertaining to our free public schools (calodges.org)
Recently, I posted a meme on a Facebook Masonic group page that shall remain nameless, which indicated the reason Masons fight for public education is because certain groups believe that by attacking education, calling informed people elitist, and attacking proven history and science, millions can be made off of the ignorant public, because they won’t have the knowledge to speak out.
It was initially met with a mix of support and hostility. Some brothers indicated that it was appropriate to discuss supporting Public Schools, but how that support should occur was not appropriate. Other brothers said that my meme was political in nature and should be removed. I had to defend it, indicating that it was not a political stance, other than saying this is why we support Public Education. I was not specifying a group or a way to support it, but indicating the necessity of fighting against tyrannical leadership that may want to keep their populace ignorant and easily pliable (see STB 90-11). I couldn’t comprehend how some brothers did not know that Public Education was a Major Cause of Freemasonry.
Today, I opened my lodge’s trestleboard and found “The Short Talk Bulletin” from April 1923 Our Public Schools attached. It reminded me about that previous interaction on Facebook, and I felt like it was a sign. I was searching for a topic to right about for My Masonic Education today, and I decided this was it.
The 1923 short talk makes the point that Public Education is something we all have stock in. Our tax money pays into the system, so we should be getting the best our money can buy. This was as much a concern in 1923 as it is today. Are our children getting the best education our tax money can buy?
Your child goes through the public school – how does he come out? You pay more actual dollars and cents for the maintenance and upbuilding of the public school than you do for any other peace work that you are interested in as a taxpayer – what dividends do you get back? Your child is graduated from your high school – and what sort of a job does he get? More important still, what kind of a job does he hunt for?
We have the right of any stockholder to see what we are getting for our money.
I will not summarize this paper here, but refer those brothers who did not realize how important Public Education was to Freemasonry to read it. Many of those concerns in 1923 are still important to us today, like efficiently run systems and universality in education. Further, the recommendations for how we can support Public Schools is the same today as it was back then.
As individuals we have three ways in which we can become a constructive force for the betterment of the public Schools.
We can do it as voters, supporting measures which benefit the Public Schools, and voting against the measures which are opposed to their welfare.
We can do it by making our lives touch the lives of those directly connected with the schools. This does not mean working through a committee or an association. It means finding out for ourselves what the schools are doing. It means becoming acquainted with, and learning to know, the aspirations and the abilities of the teachers who guide the destinies of our children during school hours.
Finally, we can give our support as parents. The child is a healthy animal as a rule, and has very little natural desire for an education. We must show him that the way to success in the world lies down the long road of education. We must make this road reasonably attractive. We must show him the education is his greatest asset.
As Freemasons we have led this charge for Public Education (Freemason.org). It is the most personal and far-reaching cause we have endeavored, as we are the force behind the establishment of such a universal education in America. To be sure, the “father of the California public school system,” John Swett, was a brother Master Mason. He championed such public education issues as organizing teachers’ institutes, establishing teacher certification, advancing school taxes, revising school law, and providing textbooks to schools.
For more on California Freemasons starting Public Schools in California read this article in California Freemason.