[Square & Compasses]

Too Much Schooling and Not Enough Education

by Bro. Burrell McKelphin, 32°
by St. Johns' Lodge No. 16 F. & A.M. (P.H.)

In 1996, Bro. Benjamin D. Jones, 33 the Grand Historian of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, New York at that time stated,

"The primary function of a Masonic Lodge (Whether Prince Hall or otherwise) is to train and educate its members on the basic truths which its rituals and its ceremonies are designed to inculcate; to develop its members as benevolent men; to cultivate social virtues among men; and to propagate the knowledge of the art. It is of great importance that all Prince Hall Masons know and appreciate the history of Prince Hall Masonry. It is not the primary function of Freemasonry to initiate candidates or to enlarge membership. If this were, in fact, a truth, there would be no basis for our laws against proselytizing.

The chief concern of the lodge is with the welfare, happiness and the Masonic development of its members; not with the admission of those who seek entrance to its doors. Its success as a "true Masonic lodge" cannot be gauged by the length of its membership roll or by the size of its accumulated funds; or even the status of certain members in the community. It then is a truism that it is the duty of every Masonic Lodge to put into action a plan for the education of its members in Masonic history, symbolism and philosophy. "

Every week as an Entered Apprentice we learn our First Degree work repetitiously until we make our suitable proficiency to pass to the Degree of Fellow Craft. The cycle repeats itself until we are raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason and when this moment comes into fruition, we return to the first degree to prepare a new class. What is wrong with this pattern? Are we making Masons or members and more importantly brothers? Is the cement of Brotherly truly adhesive in the bonding process of men within our lodges? Does the zenith of our "education" ends with us just being made Master Mason in name only? We made suitable proficiency in the First and Second Degree but what about the Third Degree? Should we not make suitable proficiency in the third degree? These are matters that the serious Brother Prince Hall Mason should be concerned with and address within his respective lodge.

Each lodge must reflect on the content of the program in which a new brother will or is going through during initiation and transformation. Many of us have found ourselves complacent with the process, which is presently established within the walls of our lodge. Due to this complacency and lack of sustenance, our membership has decline significantly, unqualified men assume roles of leadership who makes the attempt to govern a lodge only to have the lodge in an even worse condition than when they had inherited it.

Many of our Brothers seem to find themselves by the waste side because the momentum they had as Entered Apprentices and Fellow Crafts was lost after becoming a Master Mason. With all the repetitious training given to the E.A. and F.C. with their Ecce Orienti I and II there is no education, which compels them to understand all three degrees in its entirety and their connection to one another. Why? A very good reason is because there is too much schooling and not enough education. We do not have a constructive orientation process for the newly raised Prince Hall Master Mason, which can provide one with a smooth transition into full membership status. Training is good but it is not enough. Education is essential to the development of a brother who enters the ranks of Prince Hall. There are three areas, which should be covered in the educational process of a Prince Hall Mason and they are:

1. The Ritual

2. The History

3. The Business

The Ritual.

The ritual is considered first because it is the basis in which a brother is duly examined for proficiency and it is a tool which helps enhance a Brother's mental capabilities. Two things should occur in this area when properly administered, which one being the training of the ritual and the other the understanding of the ritual.

Training a brother in the questioning and answering lecturers is essential to his conditioning to Masonic practices within a Lodge. He should be very familiar with his environment such as the station and places of the Lodge, know what officers sit in the stations and places, how a brother should entered the lodge, what he should be observing on the altar and etc. This is quite primitive but this is where he begins to build his Masonic work.

When educating the brother in this area, he should be given the reasons for this type of training. He should know why he did the things he did in his degree, why do he give the Tyler and the Junior Deacon the PW when entering the lodge, why the Four Cardinals of Virtues are the perfect points of his entrance, why he needs to observe the Great Lights in Masonry, understanding the importance of the scriptures which are relevant to each degree, why he shouldn't leave or come through the outer or inner door at certain times, and many more other areas of ritualistic practices should be explained to the brother. These things should be explained to a brother because it causes him to think more critically about what he does in the work in which he will be engaged within the Lodge.

Every degree in which a brother obtains, he should be engaged in projects which reflects the symbolism of the degree itself. Also it should be noted that the ritual work is only a small percentage of what is necessary for a brother to function properly with in his Lodge. Many Brothers are not ritualistically inclined and there is nothing wrong with that so long he compensates in his participation with his Lodge's activities and business.

The History.

In Prince Hall Freemasonry, history of this fraternity is extremely important and essential. We are the oldest African American secular and fraternal organization within the United States and in fact we are older than the United States itself. Unlike mainstream Freemasonry, Prince Hall Freemasonry has originally been designed for the purpose of liberation African people living in America. Since its inception on March 6, 1775, the three areas, which the Founder Prince Hall and the fourteen brothers who were initiated with him focused their energy on, was slavery, education and the church or the morality of the people. When we as Prince Hall Masons study the history of our Brotherhood, one can feel the pride of being a Prince Hall Mason and also one can see the universal trestle board among Prince Hall Masons, which is the blue print for other trestle boards to be designed within our respective Prince Hall Grand Lodges and subordinate lodges as well.

When we understand our history and make suitable proficiency in this area as we do in the ritual we develop a closer and stronger kinship with the Founder. There is no reason why any brother from the 1 to the 33 should not know their history as a Prince Hall Mason. Anyone who leads our fraternity and do not know the history of our fraternity accurately should be embarrassed to lead other men within our ranks. This must be and should be included within the educational process of our fraternity. As Bro. Marcus Mosiah Garvey once said, "A people without history is like a tree without roots." The brother should know the following things:

1. Who was Prince Hall?

2. When was African Lodge established?

3. What were his achievements individually and collectively with other brothers?

4. What are the highlights of the Prince Hall Fraternity?

The Business.

Every regular and well govern lodge within Prince Hall should take the bold initiative to have some form of a New Master Mason orientation process. Too many times we raise brothers to this degree and leave them clueless to understanding their work within the third degree. It should be the business of the lodge to begin educating them on the structure of government of the lodge and Grand lodge, how the business of the lodge should be conducted according to the constitution and by-laws, review the several committees which the lodge has operating, knowing Masonic protocol, how to properly investigate prospective candidates, and knowing the importance of being financial within the lodge and making new brothers apprentices to jobs carried out by well seasoned brothers.

Educating our brothers on the ritual, history and business of the lodge will be an investment in the future prosperity of the lodge. Education through participation and mentoring are the best methods, which one can bring out the best in the new Master Mason. It has been said that education was one of the Jewels, which Prince Hall was concerned about; are we making education our ritual? Is education not our history and more importantly is education being made our business? Only time will tell.

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