Since 2011, an Education Committee was established and charged with the responsibility of advancing the design and structure of Masonic education programs for all members of Lexington Lodge #1 for each degree: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason classes. The approach was simple and based on the concept that our beautiful degree rituals serve as the passport to knowledge in each degree, but not necessarily all the Masonic education essential for the man who journeys into Freemasonry. In essence, while the ritual makes a man a Mason, it is through continued education that he becomes a Mason.
The primary objective of our degree education program is to assist in the learning process such that the Mason strengthens his character and displays this in his daily life through information and experiences which promote individual growth in moral thought and actions. How to bring this about through classes was the charge. We began by defining Masonic Education from the learner’s perspective.
Studying the Issue
We examined numerous successful Masonic education programs throughout the nation in other regular lodges and jurisdictions and asked our new members what they sought in their journey. What men wanted and what was found in other successful degree education programs were the same: a deeper knowledge of the history of Masonry and its evolution, (specifically in Kentucky); formal instruction on Masonic protocol and etiquette; additional and deeper discussions of Masonic principles and core ideologies; specific duties of lodge officers; and, guidance on an abundance of other topics along a basic written guide, handouts to supplement the lessons of the degrees; recommendations on suitable reading materials, web sites and books offering fact-based information about our fraternity; and, more opportunity for fellowship at lodge beyond Stated Communication meetings. The findings were a clear message: men today seek to learn more than required as they advance through the degrees; to participate more in their on-going education; and, wish to become more involved and engaged in the lodge and in service to others during their work as Entered Apprentices and Fellow Crafts.
The Degree Education Program
Today, Lexington Lodge No. 1 has formalized Masonic education for all three degrees. New members receive orientation before receiving and immediately following rituals. Classes are structured, meeting at least once a week at the lodge, sometimes more depending on the respective schedules of the members and instructors. Each class is assigned a lead instructor and a second-chair, who assumes the role of apprentice instructor and then assumes the lead instructor role in a subsequent class, helping to develop an experienced pool of instructors from which to draw.
Each member of a degree class is given a guide book which provides the basic lessons of their respective degree. Accompanying the book, are numerous handouts provided throughout the length of the class which correspond with the lessons of the degree and designed to broaden the knowledge and spur further class discussion on the subjects. Opportunity as a class to provide service to the lodge while participating in any of the degrees is offered by volunteering to occasionally prepare and serve our monthly fellowship meals. In addition, all members, regardless of degree are invited to participate in the Masonic History and Study Group meeting at the lodge each month. Classes that wish to create and perform other special projects for service as a class are encouraged to do so – all of which assist in the further bonding of our class participants and earlier introductions to other members of the lodge. Each class is asked to attend lodge when open in their respective degree, to observe the ritual and other particular events or presentations, which again, further promotes earlier introductions and acquaintances with other members.
At the center of all classes is the requirement to commit to memory the ritual of their degree. All instruction and memory work is presented mouth-to-ear. A proficiency examination is delivered in open lodge at the conclusion of the class work by the entire class as a whole. The typical length of a degree class is eight to ten weeks largely depending on the season, holidays and other variables affecting the involvement of each participant. Practice sessions for the memory work are arranged on flexible schedules in addition to taking place during class meetings. To accommodate schedules and enhance opportunities for class participants to work closely with instructors and class mates, conference calls, Skype and or individual practice sessions are arranged.
Importantly, we have replaced lecture style teaching with facilitation style instruction, wherein students become more involved and engaged in classes, thus resulting in participants experiencing more interaction, discussion and direct involvement in their on-going education.
Results of our program can be seen in the number of men who become Master Masons and then seek to become instructors; immediately pursue opportunities to involve themselves in service to the lodge in committee work or other special projects, who often credit the degree education programs as providing them the impetus to continue a daily advancement of their Masonic knowledge on their own.