By Julia Duin, Special to CNN
(CNN) – In Maryland, a group of students ponder which depiction of the Nativity shows true beauty: A 14th-century Giotto, a 16th-century Barocci or a 20th-century William Congdon. The students are in seventh grade.
Outside Houston, second-graders learn Latin amid the Doric columns, Romanesque arches and the golden Renaissance hues of a gracious brick building.
And in West Tennessee, a first-grade classroom lists virtues - reverence, discipline, diligence and loving kindness - along with Aristotle's "four questions," a simplified version of the Greek philosopher's four causes.
The students attend some of several hundred “classical” schools around the country - institutions designed to reflect the scholarship from the past three millennia of Western civilization, rather than the latest classroom trends.
Classical schools are less concerned about whether students can handle iPads than if they grasp Plato. They generally aim to cultivate wisdom and virtue through teaching students Latin, exposing them to great books of Western civilization and focusing on appreciation of "truth, goodness and beauty." Students are typically held to strict behavioral standards in terms of conduct and politeness, and given examples of characters from history to copy, ranging from the Roman nobleman Cincinnatus to St. Augustine of Hippo.
Parents like them, too; the number of classical schools - public and private - is growing. The curriculum has helped to boost enrollment at religious schools and inspired new public schools.
By David M. Hall, Special to CNN
Editor’s Note: David M. Hall, Ph.D., is the author of the book “Allies at Work: Creating a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Inclusive Work Environment.” Hall teaches high school students and runs a graduate program in bullying prevention and diversity at bullyingpreventionstudies.com. He is on twitter @drdavidmhall.
(CNN) - Times are changing for being openly gay or lesbian. The president has endorsed same-sex marriage, as are a growing number of politicians. The Boy Scouts are considering allowing Scouts to be out.
Even in the world of sports, Jason Collins, an NBA veteran, has come out of the closet.
But things don’t seem to have changed that much in some high school gymnasiums as it has on the NBA basketball court.
Carla Hale worked as a physical education teacher at a Catholic school in Ohio, but lost her job after being “outed” in her mother’s obituary, when she listed her female partner as her spouse. According to reports, an anonymous letter was sent to the Catholic Diocese of Columbus by a parent.
The next week, Hale was fired.
Sporting events and schools are the very places where people from every corner of our society come together. But in some ways, schools bring a different set of complications than the macho world of professional male athletes.
By Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Special to CNN
Wheaton, Illinois (CNN)– Combing through prayer requests in a Wheaton College chapel in 2010, then-junior Benjamin Matthews decided to do something “absurdly unsafe.”
He posted a letter on a public forum bulletin board near students' post office boxes. In the letter, he came out as gay and encouraged fellow gay Christian students – some of whom had anonymously expressed suicidal plans in a pile of the prayer requests – to contact him if they needed help.
In a student body of 2,400 undergraduates in the suburbs of Chicago, at what is sometimes called the Harvard of evangelical schools, Matthews said that 15 male students came out to him. Other students seemed somewhat ambivalent about his coming out, he said.
No one told him he was wrong or needed to change, Matthews said some students were obviously uncomfortable with someone who would come out as gay and remain a Christian.
“I don’t think most Wheaton students knew what to do because they've been given ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ rhetoric, but they don't know how that plays out in real life,” said Matthews, who graduated in 2011. “They would mostly just listen, nod and say, ‘Yeah man, that’s hard.’”
(CNN) - The letter is signed "cordially" but students who received the instruction to stop handing out condoms on campus say they were taken aback by demands they feel could go as far as threatening their rights.
Various dorm rooms at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, have a "Safe Site" symbol on their door. That signifies that inside are male and female condoms, personal lubricant and safer sex information, according to BC Students for Sexual Health. "If you are in need of condoms, you may knock (on) one of these doors and just ask!" the group's website says.
Lizzie Jekanowski, chair of BCSSH, told CNN that the college has always been aware of the group's activities. "We've had a positive and open relationship with the administration up to this point," she said.
But earlier this month, college administrators sent letters to students whose dorm room doors have the logo saying that distributing condoms on campus "is not in concert with the mission of Boston College as a Catholic and Jesuit university."
"Should we receive any reports that you are, in fact, distributing condoms on campus, the matter would be referred to the student conduct office for disciplinary action by the University," concluded the letter sent by dean of students Paul J. Chebator and director of residence life George Arey.
(CNN) - In a ruling that could reverberate nationwide, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the state's voucher program, which gives poor and middle class families public funds to help pay for private school tuition, including religious schools.
Indiana has the broadest school voucher program available to a range of incomes, critics say, and could set a precedent as other states seek ways to expand such programs.
Supporters say it gives families without financial means more options on where to educate their children.
However, opponents of the Indiana program had sued to block it, describing it as unconstitutional and saying it takes money from public schools.
Teresa Meredith, the vice president of the Indiana State Teachers Association and one of the plaintiffs, said she was "very disappointed in the ruling."
As many as 9,000 students statewide are part of the voucher program and more than 80% use the funds to go to religious schools, according to Meredith.
But in its unanimous 5-0 ruling, the Supreme Court said that was not an issue.
It said it did not matter that funds had been directed to religious schools as long as the state was not directly funding the education. The tuition, the court said, was being funded by the parents who chose to pay it with their vouchers.
"Whether the Indiana program is wise educational or public policy is not a consideration," Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote. The public funds "do not directly benefit religious schools but rather directly benefit lower-income families with school children."
By Jason Morris, CNN
Dallas (CNN)– Cheerleaders from a small eastern Texas town have won the first battle in their crusade to display Christian religious messages on banners at their high school's football games.
State District Judge Steve Thomas of Hardin County implemented a temporary injunction Thursday in favor of the Kountze High School cheerleaders, and by setting a trial date of June 24, 2013, Thomas effectively allows the cheerleaders to keep displaying Bible-quoting signs at Kountze athletic events through the end of this current school year.
Macy Matthews, a 15-year-old Kountze sophomore, was eating lunch at cheerleading camp last July when her friend Megan became inspired by images she saw on social media.
"She saw a picture on Pinterest of a team that had made a run-through sign with a scripture on it, and as we were sitting down eating, she showed us and asked if we would be interested in doing that for the football season. So, we all talked about it," Matthews remembered. "We all loved the idea and thought it was really cool and encouraging."
Macy's mother, Coti Matthews, said the girls were excited to use Biblical phrases they considered motivational and uplifting for both the Kountz Lions and their opponents.
"It's their Christian belief, and they liked the idea and thought it was very positive, instead of doing traditional banners that say things like, 'Cage the Eagles,' or 'Bash the Tigers,' she said.
Instead, before the first three home games this season, the football players bolted onto the field through banners bearing New Testament verses such as "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13; "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14; and "If God is for us, who can be against us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31.
By Tomeka Jones, CNN
(CNN) - Dozens of faith leaders from across the country recently gathered to attend The Stand Up Education Policy Summit in Atlanta, Georgia, to talk education reform. The daylong conference was hosted by education organzations StudentsFirst, founded by Michelle Rhee and Stand Up, led by her husband, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. The purpose of the event was a call for action for clergy to take part in the national movement to transform public education.
CNN spoke with some prominent religious leaders in the African-American community to find out their views on the role faith institutions should play in public education.
Rev. DeForest Soaries, Jr., a senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey, laid out what he believes are three roles of the church in education.
"One is programs. Some churches have their own schools that would be on the programmatic level, after school programs and literacy programs. The second is political dealings with the various political forces that impact and control public schools: Making sure people run for school board, making sure people vote for school board, and monitor what's happening. And, the third is policy: Advocating for policies that enhance the likelihood of success."
According to Rev. Soaries, who was featured in CNN’s "Black in America: Almighty Debt", not every church will engage in all three roles but there’s a common theme for each religious institution and that is “to do something.”