Masonic Education – when is good, good enough?

by Don Paterson

Let the imagination fly. In that wonderful world where dreams seem real you dream that you would like to improve your lodge. You dream that the knowledge and skills of your members, especially your officers, are improved and that there are changes of attitudes.

If you think, you can picture a program that would seem to cover comprehensively many of your problems:

Worshipful Master Purpose and history of Freemasonry. Duties of Officers. An overview of all lodge functions with an emphasis on leadership, decision-making and delegation. Candidate identification and induction. WM’s ritual. Design of lodge activities programs.

Director of Ceremonies Conduct of ritual, delivery of charges, coaching techniques, knowledge for and ceremonial prompting, leadership, management of Lodges of Instruction. Masonic dress. Mentoring newer Freemasons.

Lodge Administration Secretary’s and Treasurer’s duties, Constitutional requirements, GL Benevolence provisions, Almoner’s duties, building and Temple management, catering sourcing and management. Newsletter production. Contact with non-attending members. The application of information technology.

Wardens and Floor Officers’

Coaching Own ritual, movements and candidate prompting

Past Masters Techniques and suggestions to support Masonic charity and benevolence. Lodge development and rejuvenation.

Correspondence/Mobile Correspondence courses and instructional tours for and in remote areas.

On reflection, you realise that this is not what is available to lodges now. But the question remains: what is the right course content? Something as imagined or what is now done.

The answer is that nobody knows unless there has been a comprehensive “needs analysis” and the rigour of the well established training technology which should be applied in course design, development, implementation, testing and validation. Obviously only an egotist, or the naïve, would today write and conduct a course without such a methodology.

Gone are the days when a syllabus was about filling up the timetable, biased towards things that interested the instructor or things he best knew. A good course will have a pre-entry test so that only those things that are not known are taught rather than "teaching" that which is already known. Or sticking to a syllabus simply because of previous use. Other times it was constructed to enable the instructor to demonstrate his competence (but that all too often turned out to reveal his lack of it!), rather than designed to achieve student outcomes.

It is reasonable to ask a few questions. Training cannot simply be a process. Courses are not about providing student or instructor “feel-good” programs or even just “busy” programs. How valid is the Masonic Education in Victoria? Are we confident that the educational support now adequately covers all aspects of our activities and our future? Where is the report on the lodge functions that have been identified and show where and how they have been attended to in the education program? The whole responsibility cannot just be dumped on new Worshipful Masters and Wardens; problems many of which have been created by, or allowed to occur, by Freemasons of much longer standing.

What is the training and education development methodology used today for Masonic Education? How do we know that what many think is good now, is good enough to ensure our future? Where is the statistical evidence reporting on the success or otherwise of the current Masonic education program. Reports on how many attended courses are of little value. Let us provide reports on the performance on graduates on the job who have attended the courses compared with those who have not attended. Let us report on all lodge tasks identified and how they are taken into account in the education program. Are they not things that we should know?

I would be interested in your comments on this matter.