Each acim school Grand Lodge and its constituent Masonic lodges throughout the state proclaim one month to be “Public Schools Month.” A proclamation is routinely delivered by the sitting Grand Master, read aloud in each constituent lodge during one or more monthly stated meetings. Its purpose has always been to encourage lodges to plan a program publicly supporting Public Schools in a way that reveals for all to see the depth of Freemasonry’s commitment.
Until 2011, each constituent lodge was generally left to decide for itself what to do without the benefit of also embracing a statewide Masonic project in which it could become involved. That effort has been a rather haphazard implementation of a series of different activities by different lodges working independently of each other. The programs ranged from elaborate and energetic interaction with selected Public Schools to nothing at all.
There are many various reasons why certain lodges have done little or nothing. In some lodges the members have not been particularly active outside of lodge ritual or lodge social events. In other lodges the past leadership simply did not provide adequate vision. And in yet other lodges financial resources were inadequate to do much more than struggle to support the bare minimum of activities.
But all of that changed in 2011 for California Masons and their lodges. Grand Master William J. Bray III led the way to implementing a statewide Masonic commitment to the state’s public schools. Although it was his leadership that provided the energy for implementing the programs, the plan came from ordinary Masons who work in the trenches of Freemasonry throughout the state.
The most recent Grand Lodge Strategic Plan is the product of a survey taken by its Executive Committee and staff delivered to each and every member of a constituent lodge. Woven into the fabric of that plan was the overwhelmingly most popular response: Masonry should become a force for profoundly invigorating our Public Schools. Masons up and down the state concluded that it was important to save public education, make it better than ever before, and prove to our communities that Masons believe that a successful system of free public education is essential to the continuation of a free society.
To better understand why such a diverse group of men and women from differing political, religious and cultural backgrounds stand linked arm-in-arm in support of public schools, it is instructive to first learn how and why public schools came to dominate America’s educational system. A great deal of credit for that goes to Horace Mann – the “Father of the Common School Movement” – who also happened to be a Mason. It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that Mann’s dedication to the public school cause was due to his being a Mason. It would also be a mistake to infer that Freemasonry supports Public Schools simply because Horace Mann was a Mason. The truth of the matter is that Masonry embraces values that Mann found appealing enough to be initiated into the Craft. Freemasonry and Mann shared the same reverence for virtue, morality and the advancement of an enlightened public.