On “you’re just bitter” and other challenges

Over at ace-education.co.uk, there’s a post entitled “10 Questions for Jonny Scaramana“. Here are my answers.

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Jonny Scaramanga is infamous for his anti ACE blogs. If you Google his name then you will find his Leaving Fundamentalism site and lots more info. I am responding to some of the false information given to the media ATM.

Before we get going then, a question of my own: Please could you detail this false information? It would be useful for all sides, I think, to correct any misinformation that’s floating around. Until now, I’ve seen accusations of falsehoods flying around, but a shortage of specifics.

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CEE announces plans to stop Leaving Fundamentalism

It’s always nice to be talked about. It’s particularly lovely when you’ve been campaigning against an organisation for two years and their public strategy has been to pretend nothing is happening. Well, mostly anyway.

But now Christian Education Europe’s Arthur Roderick has sent an email to CEE’s member schools discussing how they intend to deal with the menace that I present. It’s a fun read. Of course, Arthur doesn’t name me or link to any of the associated media coverage in his email. I presume he’d rather his customers didn’t read my blog. I, on the other hand, am all about the debate. I just think this is a conversation that needs to be had in public (not least because it’s one Arthur and other ACE teachers refused to have with me in private).

In that spirit, you should also check out ace-education.co.uk, a new blog by Christine Bradshaw which attempts to debunk many claims I’ve made about ACE (and quite a few I haven’t). Replies to posts like these will come soon. I realise that my linking to them will probably triple the number of people who see them, but like I said, I welcome the debate. Something CEE does not, as I will explain shortly.

Here’s Arthur’s letter. Since it’s online at a publicly available link, I have taken the liberty of reproducing it below. I know CEE are some of my most avid readers, so if they object, no doubt I will hear about it soon and have to replace the letter with a Jesus & Mo cartoon again. After the letter, I’ll tell you about some of my recent correspondence with Arthur and other people.

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Why ACE is awesome

I have a permanent running offer out to anyone who can offer a defence of Accelerated Christian Education: Submit it here, and I will post it on the blog. Well, the following comment got left recently in response to A Collection of ACE Survivor Stories, and I think it’s the best defence of ACE I’ve seen. I profoundly disagree with it, of course, but I am on holiday and don’t have time to explain why at the moment. So, readers, if you disagree, here’s your chance to respond: Leave your counterargument as a comment, and I’ll pick the best one on my return.

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ACE survivor becomes cultural anthropologist, dismantles curriculum

I am on holiday, so this is a scheduled post. So behave yourself in the comments, because I’m not around to moderate.

I recently had this great comment from an ex-ACE student who has since done a PhD in cultural anthropology. Their insights on ACE are lengthy but well worth reading. Unlike many of my guest posters (and me), Kachoukyori picks out positive parts from the ACE experience. This is something I’ll probably return to later. In order to understand why people turn to ACE, you need to understand what problems it is trying to solve.

If you search Google Images for “cultural anthropology” and choose only images that are free to reuse, this is the first result. No, I don’t know either.

This is a much-needed post, one I’ve circulated to friends over the years in trying to explain how global and curiously pervasive A.C.E. has become as a curriculum, adapting to shifts in contemporary fundamentalist culture, the growth of charismatic churches and aggressive right-wing politics linked to US hardline Christianity, and the anti-secular/social/government rise of homeschooling.

My father was a US military officer; we moved constantly. From the pre-K on I was enrolled in Baptist schools, by the 3rd grade I was placed in a school that used the ACE curriculum. I never experienced US public schools and was immersed in two peculiarly isolationist cultures: fundamentalist Christians and US military bases. What a combination, indeed! The Bible and the Sword.

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Christian educators suffering from amnesia

There seems to be a bit of a disparity between the facts and what some ACE teachers say. In this, my triumphant return to vlogging, I talk about Brenda Lewis, who seems incapable of getting her facts right when she talks in public.

Ex-con opens new fundamentalist school in Dover

There’s more bad news for ACE in the current issue of Private Eye. On page 36, there’s an article about Pieter Van Rooyen, the convicted slave master who opened an ACE school in Dover in January this year. Disappointingly, the phrase “slave wages” doesn’t appear in this story (as it does in most other coverage about Van Rooyen), but otherwise it’s pretty great. I won’t reproduce it all here for copyright reasons, but here’s a taster:

From Private Eye issue 1369, 27 June - 10 July 2014 -

From Private Eye issue 1369, 27 June – 10 July 2014.

What Private Eye didn’t report—and I can exclusively reveal—is that in addition to being a criminal, Van Rooyen is also a conspiracy nut and a plagiarist.

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Are ACE schools using misleading advertising?

The world has learned that ACE schools teach that evolution is a lie, wives must submit to their husbands, being gay is a sin, and abortion is murder. But for some ACE graduates, that might not be the most damaging thing.

During the Newsnight investigation into Accelerated Christian Education, Anjana Ahuja noticed that many ACE schools were claiming that you could get into university with their (unaccredited) qualification, the ICCE (International Certificate of Christian Education). So she contacted some of the universities alleged to have accepted the ICCE for university entrance, and of those who replied, none of them said they accepted the ICCE.

Imperial College London: Does not recognise the ICCE. (Image credit: Man Vyi, via Wikimedia Commons.)

So can you get into university with an ACE education? Despite claims that more than 50 UK universities have accepted ICCE graduates, this is obviously still a controversial question among parents at ACE schools. The ICCE board is at pains to insist you can, and many ACE schools’ websites describe it as a “university entrance qualification”. Actually, it’s not as easy as they make out. If students have been accepted, often it’s because the universities made an exception to their usual policy, or because the students had additional, recognised qualifications, and it was these that gave them access to higher education.

The reality of the situation is that UK students leave ACE school with no officially recognised qualification whatsoever.

Here’s Anjana with the full story:
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“How a Christian education caused me to lose my faith”

That’s the title of an interview with me at Christian Today.

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When they approached me for an interview, I immediately said yes, but I wasn’t sure what they would say about me. As I write this, my interview sits alongside other CT articles with titles including “Why we must not let fundamentalist atheism destroy our Christian education system”, and “Trojan Horse: Forget Islam, the real threat is from secularists who want faith removed from schools”. They also recently ran an article by ACE school owner Adrian Hawkes, a man for whom I don’t have a lot of time. It didn’t seem like the sort of site where my line of thinking would be automatically welcomed.

Not that Christian Today is a mouthpiece for traditional fundamentalism. There’s also a recent interview with Vicky Beeching arguing in favour of marriage equality. So it seems like at least some of CT’s readers are the kind of evangelicals who would give me a fair hearing. And I’ve always said that to end abusive fundamentalist education, we need evangelicals on board. Some of the people who have been most shocked by ACE have been evangelicals. After all, its their religion that ACE gives a bad name.

Here’s the article.

TUC LGBT conference condemns Accelerated Christian Education

The TUC (Trades Union Congress) LGBT 2014 conference is currently underway, and yesterday the delegates unanimously passed an emergency resolution condemning Accelerated Christian Education’s teaching on homosexuality.

The LGBT conference represent the LGBT sections of all the unions in the TUC. Twenty-nine unions were represented in the voting, with six trades and regional councils observing. The anti-ACE motion was passed unanimously, with no abstentions or objections. The Prospect union tabled the motion, seconded by the University and College Union, which referred to ACE as “faith fascism”. The National Union of Teachers also spoke in favour of the motion, along with ATL, CWU, Unite, and CSP.

This means that the resolution is now adopted as policy for the TUC National LGBT committee.

David Waldock presents at the TUC LGBT Conference 2014 (Photo: Gillian Donaldson-Selby)

David Waldock presents at the TUC LGBT Conference 2014 (Photo: Gillian Donaldson-Selby)

The real hero of the day is ACE survivor David Waldock, who has previously written movingly of his experiences as a gay teenager in an ACE school. He tabled the emergency motion, and he spoke in favour of it. The text of the motion and his speech script (which may differ from what he actually said in the heat of the moment) are below.

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Christian Education Europe must be loving all this ‘persecution’

It’s fair to say the last ten days have not been the best for Christian Education Europe. The coverage continued over the weekend, with stories from The Times, Independent (syndicated in the Times of India), Huffington Post, and Yahoo News (although most of these seemed to be largely plagiarised from the Manchester Evening News). There was local coverage in both the Windsor Observer and Express. Following this, the shadow education minister, Tristram Hunt, branded the schools “backward” on Twitter:

He expanded on these comments in an interview with Pink News:

“There is absolutely no place in our schools for these sorts of backward views.

“Labour will not allow these dangerous ideas to go unchallenged. I will be writing to Michael Gove to demand that action is taken.

“If there are schools using these materials in receipt of public funds, then serious questions need to be answered.”

Either Hunt believes, as a matter of principle, that teaching this to children is wrong, or he senses there is political capital to be made from attacking fundamentalist educators at the moment. I have no wish to cast aspersions on him as a politician, so I assume it’s the latter. Either way, the quality of education in private Christian schools finally appears to be on the political agenda.

How will Christian Education Europe be taking all this? Well, if they listen to ACE’s founder, they’ll be loving it.

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