Iowa Freemasonry is a personal journal of a Freemason in central Iowa. This blog documents my Masonic research interests, experiences, and reflections. Welcome!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Master Craftsman Part Two is Here!

(photo courtesy of Scottish Rite)
Master Craftsman II is now in progress. I ordered the program early last week and lesson one arrived just four days later. The program is a continuation of the Master Craftsman I. The Scottish Rite describes it as a “by-mail Masonic education correspondence course.”

I enjoyed the first part and am excited to begin part II. Already I notice that it is significantly different. First, the multiple choice questions are definitely more challenging. I write multiple choice test questions for a living (sort of- I’m a high school Social Studies teacher) so I have to claim credit for being able to recognize a good test question when I see one! Second, the essay questions in Part II require more analysis of each specific degree. And there are more of them. In my first quiz for Part II, there are two essay questions with each being 500 – 1000 words. That’s two to four pages of double-spaced, typed text…each! Oh my: I’m starting to sound like my students again.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Master Mason on President's Day at Operative Lodge

Operative Lodge #308 in Polk City, Iowa raised Brian Bever to the sublime degree of a Master Mason last night. Seventeen brothers participated in the raising, including the Master of Star Lodge #115 in Madrid, Brian Ahrens.

Yesterday was President's Day and I especially enjoyed playing a role in Brian's raising on such a day. The ceremony he went through hasn't changed much since George Washington became a Master Mason. Operative Lodge has a large painting of President Washington in Masonic regalia, in fact, our newest brother was seated next to it at the end of his degree.

Congratulations Brian!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Master Craftsman Part One is Done!

(picture copyright
Master Craftsman Part One is done! The administrators of the program emailed notice of my completion of the program this past week. I started the series of six quizzes back in November and it took me a little more than three months to finish. Finish part one, that is. There is a Master Craftsman II program. I’m eager to start!

New Masters of the Royal Secret

Members of the Robert E. Derby, 32° KCCH and Karl H. Killinger, 32° KCCH one day reunion class completed their work yesterday afternoon. Congratulations to the thirteen new Masters of the Royal Secret! I was excited to attend this reunion in part because it was my first; I was a member of the November 2010 Glen W. Lamb, 32˚ KCCH and Eugene L. Smith, 32˚ KCCH class.

Several other of my November classmates attended as well. Two participated in the degrees as candidates to complete work missed due to family and other obligations back in November. Four members of the November class, in addition to me, were in attendance, two of whom participated in the ritual. In total, five of the seventeen candidates from the November 2010 Glen W. Lamb, 32˚ KCCH and Eugene L. Smith, 32˚ KCCH class attended, not including the two candidates who needed to finish up some of the work. That’s about 30% of the class from the most recent reunion. I am curious how that compares. I hear and read about membership numbers and activity, and this makes me wonder if there is research regarding the participation of new Scottish Rite members. Do other Valleys track participation rates? How would participation be quantified? It’s easy to count the members of the class or even the numbers who attend banquets, but are there other elements of participation in reunions that are tracked by Valleys?

The most interesting part of the day for me wasn’t the numbers or what they might mean. The best part for me was this: I felt like I was seeing some of these for the first time! As a candidate back in November, I was excited, anxious, and maybe even a little nervous so I wasn’t really concentrating on the degrees. The significance of the lessons of the degrees overwhelmed me then, and it still does, but watching the degrees yesterday I feel like I learned much more than I did as a candidate. I’m looking forward to the April reunion even more now!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

One Day Reunion

The Robert E. Derby, 32° KCCH and Karl H. Killinger, 32° KCCH one day reunion is today and I’m looking forward to my first opportunity to attend a reunion. I was a member of the Glen W. Lamb, 32˚ KCCH and Eugene L. Smith, 32˚ KCCH class this past November and I can still recall the excitement I felt those two weekends. I’ve learned a lot from participating in the Blue Lodge degrees, or just watching them from the sideline, and I’m eager to experience the Scottish Rite degrees again as well.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The most valuable item in the Iowa Masonic Library?

Where is the largest Masonic Library in the U.S.? According to Masonic scholar Paul Bessel, a Fellow of the Philalethes Society, it's right here in Iowa! I visited the Iowa Masonic Library this weekend during the Masonic Education Conference in Cedar Rapids. Brother Bill Krueger, the librarian, is always friendly and helpful, and this past weekend with more than a hundred Freemasons wandering in and out was no exception. Many Iowa Masons know about the library, but I wonder if they know just how unique our library is?

I wrote back in August about one of the resources we have at the Library- Index Rerum. It is an index to periodical literature (magazines and journals). Nothing special, you say? I used those old, green covered Reader's Guides when I was in high school, huh? My son uses EBSCO on the school's internet to find magazine articles so what's the big deal? Just google it? Well...

Masonic magazines and journals are not indexed by EBSCO, Reader's Guide, or other commercial on-line or paper indexes. A google search will bring up many sites with lists of periodicals and even a few on-line indexes. But if you spend more than a few minutes examining these links, you find that most are just links to the home pages of magazines; the few indexes that are available are not nearly as comprehensive as Iowa's. For example, I searched the topic symbolism of the Ashlar at the on-line index for London's Library and Museum of Freemasonry. There were three hits. Three. The Iowa Masonic Library has 96 separate entries on this topic referencing articles back to the 1850's.

Comprehensive, professionally maintained indexes to Masonic periodical literature just aren't readily available. guessed the Iowa Masonic Library in the form of the Index Rerum. This index covers Masonic periodicals back to at least 1857 and probably further; I know it goes back at least to 1857 because I used the Index to find an 1857 article. The Index Rerum was created by librarians of the Iowa Masonic library over the years. Each index card is done by hand. Now, other Masonic libraries might have an index similar to this, but the sheer volume and age of the material indexed makes this one unique. It truly is one of the most valuable resources we have in our Library. There are tentative plans to digitize the Index Rerum to make it available to scholars world-wide, and to protect this one-of-a-kind research tool from damage.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Lighthouse Restaurant in Cedar Rapids

The Lighthouse is a Cedar Rapids restaurant with a long history and great food. I arrived in CR the night before the Masonic Education conference so I could visit with my brother and his family. He suggested we try the Lighthouse for supper and I’m glad we did. I had a New York Strip steak with blue cheese and it was delicious and perfectly cooked. My brother had the Filet and it was also cooked just the way he ordered it. His wife ordered scallops and said they were wonderful.

The history of the Lighthouse goes back 99 years to 1912 when it first opened. During prohibition, gangsters from Chicago would retreat from the city to “beat the heat” and stayed in cabins behind the restaurant. The cabins are long gone, as is the bullet hole in the restaurant’s wall near the lounge where John Dillenger’s gun went off, but the history of the place lives on along with great food.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Reobligation night at Operative Lodge

Twenty-one brothers participated in Reobligation night at Operative Lodge #308 in Polk City Thursday evening. This was my first opportunity to participate and I found the ceremony impressive. As a new Master Mason, I'm learning about the Craft at every Lodge meeting I attend, and Reobligation Night continued my education. The solemnity of the event combined with the obligations had an impact on me, but joining with other Masons to reobligate ourselves together is what I'll most remember.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

New Master Mason at Star Lodge in Madrid, Iowa

Star Lodge #115 in Madrid, Iowa raised David Jensen Saturday morning, Feb. 5. Those participating in the degree did a great job and all enjoyed lunch afterwards. I was most impressed by the support of area lodges. At least seven Past Masters from Star and other nearby Lodges attended, as well as many members of the Craft. Lodges represented included Mt. Olive #79 in Boone, Mirza #609 in Pilot Mound, Cyrene #325 in Clarion, Nevada #99 in Nevada, West Gate-Adelphic #509 in Des Moines, and Operative Lodge #308 in Polk City.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

New website for Iowa York Rite

The website for Iowa York Rite has been redesigned and can be seen here.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Masonic snow blower

This picture doesn’t do justice to the size of the drifts in front of Operative Lodge #308 in Polk City, Iowa this morning after the blizzard went through. Although the snow didn’t drift to quite two feet, my old-fashioned snow blower made it seem like the drifts were much deeper. Snow blower? Yep, look to the far right in the picture above.

Petunias and blizzards

I started my petunia and impatiens seed yesterday. Not that a blizzard warning makes for a good time to start seeds indoors, but it was comforting to me. I suppose it was the promise of spring that brightened an otherwise cold and snowy evening. Or maybe it was the nature of a seed that sparked my imagination, and not just any seed, but a petunia seed, which has to be about the smallest seed I’ve ever started indoors. These tiny, somewhat ugly, specks will turn into months of colorful flowers.

This is just the third year I’ve started seeds indoors under lights for replanting later in our garden. I wanted to try petunias and impatiens this year in part because of the economy of planting seeds instead of buying transplants. Even after the cost of my additional seed starting equipment, I’ll save money. Now, I’m not sure I’ll consider that such a strong reason in the future. I wasn’t thinking about dollars and cents last night while the wind howled and my 2 ½ year-old son watched as I planted these tiny seeds. And when I see their first blooms this spring and think back to that cold winter’s night, I doubt I’ll be thinking money, either.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Deresiewicz, Entitled Mediocrity, and the Master Craftsman Quiz #4

I received my graded Quiz #4 in the Scottish Rite Master Craftsman program last week. Each quiz includes 20 multiple choice questions and 1 essay over selected degrees in the Scottish Rite. Quizzes cover approximately 100 to 250 pages of reading and are open book. When you finish a quiz, you mail it back and it's graded and returned to you. Up to this point in the program, I scored 100% on all of the quizzes- perfect. The labels on the graded quizzes even said so- “Perfect Score 100%.” But Quiz #4 changed my perfect record; I answered one of the questions wrong. I now have one quiz with just an A.

I suppose that is still okay, though: “A” is the mark of excellence while an “A-“ is the mark of entitled mediocrity. That’s what I read in William Deresiewicz’s essay: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education. Deresiewicz argues that educators do students a disservice by not teaching them to be independent thinkers. Instead, we focus on those marketable skills which allow for success from inside the system. I probably shouldn’t use the term “we.” I am a teacher and I do work in an excellent school, but it is a public school after all and we probably have too many students on free and reduced price lunch to qualify as an elite institution.

Still, I fall into the trap Deresiewicz describes. And not just as a teacher, but as a student. My first reaction on seeing the one missed question on my recent Master Craftsman quiz was to find the passage which justified my answer and compose an email to those in charge of the program. I wasn’t about to settle for just an “A.” I worked hard and deserved a perfect score. To me, at least at first, it didn’t matter that my answer was wrong. I was more focused on how hard I worked and thought that should justify me- I was entitled. Ironically, Deresiewicz makes just that point in his analysis of many of today's students who attend elite universities. They feel they are entitled simply because of the effort they put into an assignment. Scores on assignments are changed after a student argues that his answer was based on some other assumption that the question stated, or assignment deadlines are modified for the student who simply can't get it done on time. Deresiewicz writes that exams, research papers, and speeches aren't graded based on whether or not they meet standards of the professor but rather whether or not they reflect the effort of the student, and since the student has already proven their worth by getting into an elite university, that must mean that the grade should a least be an "A-."

This has been another benefit of the Master Craftsman course for me. I've learned to study with more patience and I've also learned that even though I have worked hard reading the assigned material, multiple times in some instances, my score still is dependent on whether or not my chosen answer is correct.

However, I still think that the meaning of Master of Kadosh is none of the above!