Monday, February 11, 2008

Quality vs Quanity - A False Choice

In part, the following post will discuss the subject of Masonic Recruitment. For many brothers, this is a touchy subject, but I would like all readers to approach this post with an open mind. Although I won't go fully into depth on the subject of recruitment during this post, I will say that I am in favor of a limited form of Masonic recruitment. As defined in my previous post "Much Ado About Recruitment", I support passive strong recruitment. Personally, I don't believe that McMasonry is a good idea. We as Masons should not be jamming petitions into people's hands or asking every Bob, Joe and Harry to become Masons. However, I do believe that a Mason who knows of a man that he feels would make a good Mason, should talk to him about the lodge. Talking is not the same thing as asking and recruiting is not the same thing as pandering. However, even before we can begin a limited form of recruitment we need to increase our standards, our investigation processes and our methods of Masonic Education. I believe that more men should know who we are, but it needs to be more difficult to join.

I have made several attempts to broach the subject of Masonic recruitment with the members of my lodge. These talks have focused on learning how to talk with non-Masons about Masonry and inviting non-Masons to public lodge events. For the most part, these discussions are very positive and I believe that some of my brothers have taken my advice to heart. However, I do occasionally hear the argument that we don't need quantity, we need quality. Although I completely agree that the fraternity needs quality far more then it needs quantity, this response still really makes me upset. My reaction is not based upon a disagreement with the brother over the validity of actively recruiting (even in the reduced method that I promote). My reaction is towards a rebuttal that I feel is unjustified, continually repeated without thought, potentially dangerous for the future of Masonry and an obvious deference of responsibility for the dismal state of modern Masonry. "We need quality, not quantity" is a sure fire way to get me pink in the face.

So, why does this anger me so much? I am upset that brothers will rely on this poor argument to justify stagnation. I have found that the brothers who use this argument have typically done nothing to increase the level of quality we want in prospective members. Furthermore, this argument is an example of a logical fallacy. A logical fallacy is method used in debate that is dependent upon flawed logic. A false choice, otherwise known as a false dilemma, is a specific logical fallacy, whereby an argument is made that forces a decision to be made between one choice or another. Typically, the two choices are presented as being mutually exclusive, while in reality, there may be a middle ground or compromise that breaks this dichotomy. An example of a false choice is "either you're with us or against us."

When a brother cites "We need quality not quantity," they are really saying that these two states are mutually exclusive. In other words, if we choose to have quantity, we will not have quality. Furthermore, the converse is proposed to be true. If we choose to have quality, we can not have quantity. To me, this is utter hogwash!

To gain quality members, we need to display the positive attributes of our fraternity. The most positive attribute of our fraternity is the character and actions of our brother. If we don't have many Masons in this world, then we can't display our fine attributes and therefore it becomes difficult to gain quality members. Quite simply, to gain quality we need to be shown as a quality organization. But, to be shown as a quality organization, we need active members to show off this quality. It's a catch-22. To gain quality, we need a quantity of active quality brothers.

Another argument for a direct correlation between quality and quantity is that quality members are typically pulled from a pool of diverse members. This is otherwise known as the shotgun effect. This theory proposes that out of a certain population of new members, you will naturally get active members and non-active members. To clarify, I would prefer that all men who join the fraternity are of the highest quality and will become highly active, but that is not always the case. No matter how hard we try, we will always suffer from a shotgun effect. Some brothers find something they enjoy in Masonry and become active, while some brothers do not. However, the more members that we get in general, the more quality members we will receive. Unfortunately, the converse is also true, the more members that we get in general, the more poor quality members we will receive. To control this effect, quality control must be implemented, which would limit the number of poor quality members. However, to support a growth in the fraternity, the pool of prospective members must correspondingly increase. Therefore, once again, to increase quality, quantity must also increase. In this case, the quantity of prospective members must grow.

My educational background is in physics and mathematics, so please bare with me a moment while I use a graphical representation of our membership to summarize the situation our membership is in. In the following graph, the x axis represents the quality of our membership. Quality in this representation can range from 0 (the worst possible quality Mason) to 1 (the best possible quality Mason). The y axis represents the number of brothers in the fraternity. This graph represents the quality vs quantity distribution of our current membership.

In this model, we have very few truly high quality members and very few truly low quality members. The largest portion of our brothers are of medium quality. In our current situation, we practice little to no quality control and little to no quantity control. This evaluation is simplistic at best and is open to interpretation. However, I am using this representation of our current membership as a baseline for future possibilities, where the comparison to the baseline is more important than the baseline itself. (Note to the Math buffs out there. This is a standard Gaussian Distribution with a height of .25, a center peak position of .5 and a standard deviation of .17)

Now, one possible recruitment method is the shotgun effect. In this approach, the fraternity would simply instate quantity control and no further quality control. Here, I define quantity control as knowingly implementing processes to control the level of the membership. In this case, the fraternity is attempting to increase its membership. This approach is characterized by one day classes, large scale advertisements and openly asking potential members to join the fraternity. In my previous article "Much Ado about Recruitment", this would be defined as Active Strong Recruitment.

In this model, the hope is that more quality members will be gained by simply increasing the pool of brothers. This may be true, but the adverse is also true. We will gain more poor quality brothers as well. Overall, the median quality level stays the same. This model is represented in the following graph by the red function with the blue function as our original baseline. (Note to the Math buffs out there. This is a standard Gaussian Distribution with a height of .5, a center peak position of .5 and a standard deviation of .17)

The next possible recruitment method is implementing quality control, but not seeking to increase the membership. This is the method that is proposed when brothers state that we need quality, not quantity. In this model, the standards of membership are raised and poor quality candidates are denied membership. The effect of this model is that we will have less members, but the members we do have will be of high quality. (Note to the Math buffs out there. This is a standard Gaussian Distribution with a height of .25, a center peak position of .75 and a standard deviation of .1)

Heretofore, we have reviewed three possible recruitment models for the Masonic Fraternity. The first model is our current state, where neither the quality nor quantity of our membership is increased. The first model is obviously flawed because this model has failed for the past fifty years. There are very few brothers that feel that this is a good solution.

The second model is promoted by several Grand Lodges in the United States. This model proposes that the membership difficulties will be solved by making it easier to become a Mason. I have often referred to this model as the "Field of Dreams" model, because it promotes a "build it and they will come" mentality. However, it is also flawed, because it will bump our numbers in the short run, but the Fraternity will lack in overall quality members. In essence, this would return us to our post-WWII membership situation, which would correspondingly suffer the same fate. This model would only prolong the inevitable demise of the fraternity. The success of the "Field of Dreams" model is only a dream.

The third model is typically promoted by Traditional Observance Organizations and European Style Masonry. This model proposes that the membership difficulties will be solved by making it more difficult to become a Mason. Commonly, this school of thought supports that all men must seek to join without any interference by the Craft. They interpret the "free will and accord" clause as meaning that Masonry isn't allowed to promote itself to potential members in any form. Although I believe that this is a better option than the previous two models, it is also flawed. The Masonic Service Association of North America recently conducted a survey that showed that the majority of Americans are completely oblivious to the existence of Masonry. This means that there are good men out there that do not know that Masonry exists. How can we expect good men to knock on our door, when they don't know there is a door to knock on? This model will eventually suffer from a lack of critical mass to support making new men interested about the fraternity.

I will now hypothesize a forth option. This model proposes that Masonry can have both quality and quantity at the same time. This means that we can have more members, who are of a high quality. This can be accomplished by limited recruitment, while implementing strong quality control. The following graph represents this model of the fraternity. (Note to the Math buffs out there. This is a standard Gaussian Distribution with a height of .5, a center peak position of .75 and a standard deviation of .1)

This "best of both worlds" model is possible. It will take hard work, dedication and creativity from the fraternity to achieve it, but it can be done. In my next post, I will give my proposal on how Masonry can achieve both an increase in active membership and an increase in the quality of its members. In the meantime, please give me feedback on the models that I have proposed in the comments section.


Frederic L. Milliken said...

Your use of the term McMasons is derogatory and a put down which regulates your position to one of "hate speech". Is it necessary in your promotion of your point of view to degrade those who do not believe as you do. I find such similar degradations to be: "nigger", "kike" and "wap". You do not have to make your point by putting down innocent participants.

Unknown said...

Dear Squire Bentley,

I am unsure what you believe I meant by the term "McMasonry." The first possibility is that you believe that I used this term as some sort of derogatory ethnic epitaph. I know that some people use the term "Mc" as a negative term for someone of Irish decent. If this is your belief, I must assure you that you are incorrect. My reference here is that the style of Masonry that includes one-day classes and open large scale recruiting is akin to the fast-food industry. I used the term "McMasonry" as a play on words because Masonry is becoming like "Mc"Donalds. I, in no way, was using this term in a racial sense and I apologize for not clarifying this term in my post. This term is often used by e-masons that disagree with what they see as the degradation of our fraternity by making it too quick and easy. I will be sure to clarify in future posts. Furthermore, if this is the case, please ignore the rest of this post except for the last paragraph.

The second possibility of your misunderstanding is that you understood the true intention of this play on words. If this is the case, then your mischaracterization of myself is both insulting and ridiculous. First, I never used the term "McMasons", I used the term "McMasonry". The difference between these two terms is profound. I am referring to the process, not the brothers. I do not have any problems with the brothers who have become Masons in this method or with the brothers that promote this method. I do, however, disagree with the brothers that promote this style of Masonry, because I believe that it cheapens the experience of becoming a Mason. There is a large difference between "hate speech" and disagreement. I know a few brothers who were initiated in this manner and they all wish they were initiated in the normal fashion. One day classes do a disservice to our candidates, to our brothers and to the fraternity and they should stop.

Second, to compare my disagreement to horrible racial terms such as the ones you mentioned is ludicrous. Comparing one-day classes to the fast food industry is not even in the same category as racial hate speech. Those terms are based upon hating someone for something they have no control over and is the epitome of ignorance. My disagreement is with something that is a choice. Some brothers have chosen to implement Masonry in a fashion that I believe is detrimental to the fraternity and does nothing to assist making a "good man better." It is a quick way to boost membership and dues, but it doesn't help the underlaying problems of poor active retention and the dismal state of our leadership.

Third, your comparison is another prime example of a logical fallacy used in debate, specifically a argumentum ad hominem attack on me. By comparing my belief to that of simple (yet despicable) racism, you are attempting to discredit anything I have to say, because by juxtaposition I am a dirty, filthy racist. This is not only false, it is a truly disgusting attempt to win an argument. Poor form indeed!

I have witnessed racism and have been a victim of it. I believe it to be a crime against humanity in all of its forms. To compare my disagreement to this travisty of humanity, shows that you have no understanding of racism or the effects of it. Even if I was attacking other Masons based upon their beliefs, which I am not, it pails in comparison to the pettiness and hatred shown by racists.

Basically, you have displayed another example of a false choice. Either I must discontinue my disdain for "McMasonry" or I will be perceived as an intolerant, racist-like ass. I will now propose a third option. I can discredit your simplistic argument and make you look like an idiot. I believe I have easily broken out of your diametric choice system.

Furthermore, if you read the rest of my post, instead of only the first paragraph, you will see that my disagreement is based upon a solid foundation. In addition, I disagree with other implementations of Masonry that I believe are harming it. If you are so vehemently against brothers that disagree with one-day classes, please go find another of the hundreds of posts about it and discuss it further. There is no shortage of brothers that agree with me.

In closing, if you mistakingly misunderstood my reference of McMasonry as stated in the first paragraph, I am deeply sorry that I was not clear in my statement and I apologize. If you did understand my reference as assumed in the rest of my comment, then I am deeply sorry for your dismal understanding of the human condition. I hope that the harm caused by your lack of common sense is limited to yourself and that no one else must fall victim to your lack of an ability to reason.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Accuosti said...

I hope that the harm caused by your lack of common sense is limited to yourself and that no one else must fall victim to your lack of an ability to reason.

* snerk *