Here is a letter I penned, but never sent, to M.W. John L. Cooper, back when he was the Sr. Grand Warden. It was in response to a piece he wrote for California Freemason in April of that year. Other than correcting a typo or two, it is exactly as I wrote it a few years ago, and the observant reader might notice some slight changes in my word choices. There is much of it I would write differently today; ah well. Enjoy…
July 15, 2011
John L. Cooper III
Grand Lodge F.&A.M. of California
1111 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
RE: Public Schools’ Month
Right Worshipful Sir,
I write as a member of a constituent lodge, for which reason I have adopted a pseudonym. Please note that the criticisms contained herein are offered respectfully.
Your recent contribution to California Freemason concerns me greatly. It reminded me of the first time I witnessed a DeMolay installation. Until that day, I was unaware of the divergence between that order and our own. Perhaps “Dad” Land did not “make innovations in the body of Masonry,” but he certainly added a new dimension to the Masonic family, one which, in your opinion, seems to obligate all Masons to the maintenance of the public schools for all time. If they are failing, we will prop them up. Rather than abolish and build anew, we will devote further resources. The message is: mediocrity is good enough for Masons.
If you propose to continue to the Grand Oriental Chair, may I kindly suggest that you would do well to separate your DeMolay teachings from your Masonic principles. While they not wholly incongruent, neither are they entirely complimentary. Masonry is supranational, not solely American. Demolay was born here, and during the dark night of the Progressive Era. Masonry originated long before the creation of Western public schools. No Masonic principle calls for the redistribution of wealth. For DeMolay, it is a cardinal teaching. You taint Freemasonry when you suggest it is obligated to “protection and perpetuity” of “free” public schools. Masonry was not established to bring schooling to children.
For Masons to contribute in a meaningful way to universal education is charitable and generous. To do so within the existing systems of government-run schools – while simultaneously pretending to be apolitical – is self-deceiving and dishonest. The public schools are indeed government creatures, whether or not you choose to recognize it. Your insistence that they are not is illustrative of the cognitive dissonance which we encounter each day. These contradictory notions tell us: taxes are freely given by patriots, affirmative action is not discriminatory, our schools are even better when the students speak as many as 70 different languages, and that schools run by the government are not, in fact, run by the government.
Either you cannot see it, or choose not to. If it is the latter, your assertion is nothing short of a willful suspension of rational thought. Equivocation serves no one, least of all the students you mean to help. Politics and platitudes have no place in the lodge.
Perhaps it is not a coincidence that “Dad” Land, Frank Marshall, and even M.W. Charles Adams were products of the Progressive Era, when scientific advances and “progressive” ideas promised a new utopia, if only individuals could be molded to society’s purposes. It was the time when the myth that schooling is directly correlated with success became prominent. It was the time when the socialist manifestos called for public schools funded by coercive taxation. Masonry, on the other hand, was being organized in the time of Natural Law, the Enlightenment, and the Classical Liberalism of our forefathers.
What subservience DeMolay teaches our boys, rather than the rugged, yet circumscribed, individualism of the Masons. We learn contemplation; they learn that teacher knows best. We are taught the potential of the human mind; they learn to cower in the “citadel of our safety.” Are the “free” public schools truly “the source of the only real freedom possible?” We need to rewrite the history of Western Civilization in order to square such a statement with truth. Our founders, the English, the Romans, the Israelites, and the Greeks, each had the beginnings of individual liberties. Their principles – which did not include free schooling – comprise the foundation of American liberties. In many ways, we are less free today than our forebears. Yet many of them never attended a free public school. Which is wrong, recorded history or the romanticized ritual of DeMolay? Both cannot be right. A is A.
Each of us who is a product of the public schools would like to believe that they are of the same quality today as they were in our times. It is uncomfortable to entertain the thought that our schools, our government, even our state are in decline. So we tip-toe around the issue, rather than lead by example. What a poor lesson. Let’s not avert our eyes, when we should be working to restore. Shielding our sons from painful and objective truths is both unbecoming and, dare I say, un-Masonic. They deserve better.
Respectfully and fraternally,