Signs and Wonders
David Brooks
Associated Press/Photo by Nam Y. Huh (file)
David Brooks

Signs and Wonders: Yale Humility, virtual ed, Iowa options, Bible ban

Newsworthy

Humility. Columnist and pundit David Brooks is teaching a course this semester at Yale University called “Humility.” The reading list includes Edmund Burke, Dorothy Day, and David Brooks himself. On his reading list, Brooks said, “I picked books from or about people who I admired and who exemplify successful lives of self-restraint and self-distrust.” Now that’s what I call humility. In all fairness, Brooks’ own entries are four columns that feature lessons sent to him by his readers. “I asked readers over 70 to send in life reports in which they describe what they’ve learned over the years,” he said. By the way, if you’re interested in taking Brooks’ class, be forewarned that he requires two 2,500-word papers and weekly participation at a discussion group at a nearby coffee shop.

Another choice? Online or “virtual” K-12 schools are drawing growing numbers. Many of them are public schools. Florida first pioneered the idea in 1996. Today, the schools boast more than 275,000 students nationally. Many of these students are children of Christian homeschooling parents who like—or who can at least tolerate—the curriculum of the public schools but who also want to keep their kids at home to prevent the other negative influences of public schools. Virtual schools employ state certified teachers and require up to 10 hours of online instruction from these teachers. The schools require another 20 or more hours of reading and independent class work.

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Student orientation. The University of Iowa has apparently become the first public university in the nation to ask questions about a student’s sexual orientation and gender identity in its admissions applications. The Baptist Press reports that the school’s application offers “transgender” as an option along with “male” and “female” and asks the optional question, “Do you identify with the LGBTQ Community?” Michael Barron, the University of Iowa’s assistant provost for enrollment management and executive director of admissions, said, “The new LGBT question on our undergraduate application reflects our foundational commitment to inclusion of all students, no matter what their origin or orientation.” The school said it was also the first public university to offer insurance benefits to employees’ domestic partners.

The last shall be first. The Phillipsburg (N.J.) School District Board suspended a longtime middle school substitute teacher, Walter Tutka, for breaking two district policies—handing out religious literature on campus and not being neutral when talking about religious material—when he gave a student a Bible. CitizenLink says the incident started last September when a student came to school late. Tutka, who was standing by the door of the building, said, “The first shall be last, but the last shall be first.” The student asked about the quote, and Tutka said it came from the Bible. Later, the student asked more questions about the quote. Tutka had his Bible with him, so he showed the student the verse. The student said he did not have a Bible, so Tutka gave him his. The board made its decision on Monday, but Tutka and the Christian law firm Liberty Institute are considering an appeal or other action so Tutka can keep his job.

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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