The training began with the two distinct groups, The District Education Officers and Area Education Officers, along with the Chairman of the Committee for Masonic Education in one room to discuss matters of Education, while the District Deputy Grand Masters, Assistant Area Grand Masters, and Area Grand Masters were in the other room along with the Grand Lodge Officers to discuss their business. From my perspective, the morning session was very informative. The Area Education Officers, the Chairman of the Committee on Masonic Education, and other members of the education committee that were present were able to roll out our new statewide educational effort, which is a newsletter that will be sent to all Master Masons in the State of Illinois. We named it "The Lyceum" after the Greek Temple to Apollo Lyceus, where Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle taught Philosophy. The hope being that the newsletter would encourage our Illinois Brethren to pursue their own philosophical pursuits.
Following the rollout of the new newsletter, we learned that many of the DEO's wanted a program first initiated by a former Stated Education Officer brought back. They felt that the program, which consisted of a few lines of ritual followed by some talking points or guided discussion questions, really helped them and their Lodge Education Officers provide education to the brethren in their Lodges. We learned that many felt frustrated at a lack of support from their Lodges when it came to education. It was a familiar tale and one I have discussed ad nauseam in previous articles. If they felt that they had no support during our session, what happened a little later would only prove they were right.
We broke for lunch at noon and learned that we would be joining the rest of the brethren after lunch for the afternoon session. I don't remember who announced this, but when it was announced by one of the Grand Lodge officers that the "Education Guys" would be joining the District Deputy Grand Masters, Assistant Area Deputy Grand Masters, and Area Deputy Grand Masters, there were audible groans and boos. So much for Brotherly Love.
The training session continued with a review of the newly instituted Lodge Leadership program, which is designed for Brothers who are Wardens or Masters of their Lodges. I think that the program is probably one of the best programs that the Grand Lodge of Illinois has put out. I look forward to personally taking it as soon as possible. However, one of the Brothers in charge of the program decided that the "Education Guys" should be the butt of his jokes throughout his portion of his presentation. That's when it hit me. The majority of the leadership of the Grand Lodge of Illinois does not take Masonic Education seriously. We are, as I have witnessed in my few years as a District Education and Area Education Officer, the proverbial: "redheaded stepchildren."
We continue to be treated as such, and it was on full display on Saturday. I do not attend the training sessions because of the "Goody Bags" that our Grand Lodge gives out at these training sessions, but just to illustrate my point about the way the Education Officers are treated versus the DDGMS, AADGMS, and ADGMS; They received the incoming Grand Masters Tie, while the "Education Guys" received a lunch box. The only reason I know this is because, during the closing remarks, they were told not to wear it until the "result" was official on the second day of the Grand Lodge sessions.
I have to be honest that I had a lot of thoughts go through my head on the hour and a half drive back home from the meeting Saturday. I was angry. I felt like I was fighting a losing battle. I had thoughts about resigning as Area Education Officer. Instead, I've decided to double down because Masonic Education is no laughing matter. It is the most important part of Freemasonry, and many of our members are laughing at Masonic Education because, let's face it, they don't understand what we do for Freemasonry. I feel that the prevailing view is that the "Education Guys" are nerds, and what pop culture made a trope out of? Movies like Revenge of the Nerds, Sitcoms like Family Matters and the Big Bang Theory, and songs by Big Al Yankovic have made it okay to make fun of Nerds.
I guess it doesn't matter that the Committee on Masonic Education is a committee that is required according to our Grand Lodge Constitution and By-Laws. I guess it doesn't matter that if it wasn't for "Education Guys," we would not have our current ritual, nor would we have Anderson's Constitution and By-Laws, Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences, Pike's Morals and Dogma, Hodapp's Freemasonry for Dummies, or any other writing on Freemasonry. Honestly, if not for brethren that were passionate about spreading the Light of Freemasonry by continuing to think about its application, symbols, history, ritual, and wanting to share these thoughts with their brethren to stimulate them, Freemasonry most likely would have died out a long time ago. It has always been the "Education Guys" that have pushed Freemasonry forward. It is their legacy that we build upon today. So while maybe the majority of my brethren might not care about Education, they are indebted to those that have.
One of the DEO's in our meeting said something to the effect that the majority of our members might not care about Education, but for many of us, it's the only reason we are showing up to stated meetings. I want you to think about that. It's the only reason that many are showing up to Lodge. You would think that after our Grandmaster spoke about the number of Lodges that are closing or consolidating in his closing remarks that it would be something that our membership would want to prioritize. Why? Because education, when done correctly, is engaging all of the membership participating in it. What happens when you engage your membership in such a fashion? You empower them. What normally happens when you empower someone? You give them a sense of importance and belonging. What happens when someone feels like they belong? They want to come back to the place where they have that sense of belonging.
So please continue to make us feel unwelcome, please continue to make fun of us, please continue to laugh at us. We'll be over here in the shadows, doing our thing, shining our Masonic Light, welcoming others with open arms to join us, showing them Brotherly love, and giving them a sense of belonging. Like we've always done. Masonic Education is no laughing matter, but we might even have a chuckle or two amongst ourselves along the way.