Lodge System of Education
The Lodge System of Masonic Education was developed by The National Masonic Research Society in 1923. It embodied the experience of hundreds of Lodges and the Society's twenty to thirty thousand members in Masonic educational work in each and every American Grand Jurisdiction and in the majority of foreign countries (the Society had full members as far away as New Zealand, China, India, etc.), and was based on the principles which those experiences had revealed. The Educational Committee of the Grand Lodge of Michigan offered to test the System in two or three of its Lodges. At the end of two years this test hall proved so satisfactory that the Board of General Activities (of nine members) of the Grand Lodge of New York, which administered the educational services of some 1100 Lodges (they had 340,000 members at the time), recommended the System to the Grand Master, who in turn presented it to Grand Lodge which approved it without a dissenting vote. The Board prepared and printed the text-book which after receiving official endorsement was sent to the Lodges. The Masonic Service Association of America, with headquarters at Washington, D. C., adopted the System and issued a text-book of its own. At last report some fifteen Grand Jurisdictions had the System in use.
The theory of the System is that "Masonic Education" is to prepare a Candidate to play his part in the activities of the Lodge; that it should be an integral, official part of Initiation, Passing, and Raising; and that no Candidate could petition for membership in the Lodge until he had received the training. Many Grand Lodges had already written Masonic Education into their Constitutions; the Lodge System meant that Lodges had written it into their By-Laws.
The National Masonic Research Society had in its files a larger mass of data about Masonic educational work under circumstances of every possible kind than had ever been accumulated before; an analysis of the data showed that the universal weakness of the plans in use was that they were not official, were left to voluntary leaders and Committees, and that in this, as elsewhere in the Craft, the voluntary Committee system was becoming less and less reliable because Committees so often fail to discharge their promise-- grow weary, or forget to meet.
In the Lodge System a Standing Committee is placed in charge. It is a permanent, official part of the Lodge organization, on a par as to dignity, honor, and importance with Lodge Officers. When a Petitioner has been approved he spends an evening with the Committee before he receives the First Degree; and one evening each after each of the Degrees, making four in all. At a meeting each of the five members of the Committee reads to him (or to them) a paper about ten minutes in length. Each paper has been prepared and officially approved, and does not merely express the reader's personal views. A paper gives information on such subjects as the organization of a Lodge, how to visit, Masonic finances, the meaning of each Degree, the Landmarks, the Grand Lodge, history of Masonry in the State, general history of Masonry, etc. The Candidate can then ask questions By the end of the fourth meeting the Candidate is well informed, and also has five Masonic acquaintances by the time he is ready for membership; he has learned how interesting Masonry is in itself; has lost his shyness; and is equipped to take an active part in Lodge work.
To adopt the Lodge System: 1. It is endorsed officially by the Grand Lodge. 2. The Grand Lodge has the text-book of papers (including instructions to the Committee) printed and distributed. 3. A Lodge discusses the System under the Order of Business, and if it adopts it provides for it in the By-Laws. 4. The Master appoints a Standing Committee (usually of five). 5. After the Petitioner has passed the Ballot the Secretary mails him instructions when and where to meet with the Committee. There is nothing for the Candidate to learn by heart, but he is required to take this educational preparation as seriously as the Initiation ceremonies. The result of the use of the System is to give a Lodge a membership in which each man is trained in the thought and practices of the Craft.
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