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Friday, April 08, 2016

Masons Help High Schoolers Understand Civics

Do you have a group of retired brethren at your lodge who might really enjoy getting involved with a daytime program that costs little but helps the community? Check out what these Masons in Palm Beach, Florida who are members of their evening High Twelve Club came up with.

Bernhard Kainer couldn't believe what he was seeing on his television. 
Everyday Americans, approached by Jay Leno during a popular segment of The Tonight Show, couldn't name the vice president or the three branches of government. 
"I was thinking, 'How can these people not know anything?'" recalled the 89-year-old Boca Raton resident. 
The sight sent Kainer and other South Florida retirees on an unlikely mission to make sure students understand civics.
They went to the Palm Beach County School District with the idea of starting a tournament that would encourage kids to learn more about the government. Kaiser even made up a list of 50 questions, from "Who is the present president?" to "What is the date of the Declaration of Independence?" 
School district leaders were sold on the idea. 
So from July to March, Kainer and a handful of other white-haired friends, all members of the Masonic High Twelve Lake Worth Club, visited schools, created a gold trophy and raised money for a $500 cash prize. 
Last month, they hosted the first-ever Government Bee, complete with Jeopardy-style buzzers and a bonus round. 
"It was something they were so passionate and lively about," said Shawn Servos, a district administrator who helped plan the bee. "It was their everything for a while."The project fit nicely into the Masonic group's mission to support education – especially in government. 
And they had a good time with it. One of the questions involved the Magna Carta, a document signed in 1215. When none of the students knew the answer, 84-year old Sidney King piped in. 
"I said, 'You know how I know? Who do you think lent him the pen?' I said, 'I'm that old,'" recalled King, president of High Twelve. 
With November just months away, Kainer thought the bee was especially important: "The elections are coming on and adults don't know what the heck is going on, who is who, et cetera." 
He pointed to a survey of college graduates that found barely half knew the Constitution establishes the separation of powers, 43 percent could not identify the Chief Justice and 62 percent were unaware of the correct length of congressional terms of office. 
That convinced him that the quiz segment on The Tonight Show was not a set-up, as he'd originally thought. 
But the local students, all seniors at four Lake Worth area high schools, knew quite a bit. School district administrators tossed out Kainer's questions in favor of tougher ones, including, "Where are tax bills required to originate?" Some of them stumped Kainer. 
"The questions I thought really had the students think hard about the workings of the government," said Santaluces High government teacher Colleen Gleason, whose students won the competition. "There were a number of questions where I was like, 'Oh my God, are they going to know this?' But they pulled it off."

According to a newsletter post, they  work with four area high schools, and each school fields a team of five students.

The Lake Worth #316 High Twelve Club meets at 6:30PM on the 2nd Tuesday at the Tom Sawyer Restaurant, 3208 Forest Hills Blvd., in West Palm Beach. They have been meeting since 1959.

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