Monthly Archives: July 2012

Vlog: Accelerated Christian Education on Ancient History

… in which I get fired up and go on a bit of a rant.

Education is about learning concepts and how they interrelate, to build a personal understanding of how the world works. The disjointed facts approach taken by ACE can never generate this. The method of education is as much at fault as the content.

This is my third vlog. There others were on:

The latter has received fewer views despite being clearly the better video, proving that the success of my posts has little to do with what I say and a lot to do with whether I get mentioned on Andrew Brown’s Guardian blog or retweeted by Roger Ebert:

That tweet drove 3,000 hits an hour. Even in the new, democratic Internet world of communication, you still can’t compete with the power of celebrity.

So it would be delightful if you’d tweet about this. Especially if you have half a million followers.

The Key to Understanding Fundamentalist Psychology

Why do fundamentalists persist with untenable doctrines? After all, the foundation of fundamentalist belief is Biblical inerrancy, and it’s not hard to demonstrate the problems with that. But, as you’ll know if you’ve tried, getting a fundamentalist to consider problems with her beliefs is… challenging.

Enter Robert Cialdini, Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University. His classic book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, is fascinating to me. It discusses what Cialdini calls “weapons of influence”: psychological factors which influence our behaviour, and which are open to exploitation. I think all of these help to explain fundamentalist behaviour, but one stands out to me: Commitment and consistency. There are enormous internal and external pressures for us to think in ways which our consistent with our past words and actions. Once you’ve made a declaration of fundamentalist faith, and done a few things that fundies do (attending church, evangelism, giving money to religious causes), that’s a strong driver to keep doing the same thing. After twenty years, it’s almost immovable.

Robert Cialdini's Influence front cover

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A Collection of ACE School of Tomorrow Survivor Stories

Here are all of the Accelerated Christian Education/ School of Tomorrow survivor stories I’ve received on this blog. Since many of them have been buried way down in the comment threads of old posts, most of my readers will not have seen them. You’ll notice positive stories about ACE are rarer. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the tone of my blog, I don’t get many messages from ACE’s supporters.

I realise there are more here than anyone is likely to read in one go, but I want to leave them here in one place as a resource. The order is random.

I’d like to thank everyone who’s commented on this blog since I began. The standard of comment has been unbelievably high, and there are many comments not here that have really contributed to the discussion. Please keep giving me your thoughts.

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Five Most Epic Creationist Fails

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Carl Baugh. This “Creation Scientist” (a term found in the oxymoron dictionary between “American culture” and “Microsoft Works”) is so spectacularly full of bull that even other Creationists have tried to distance themselves. Seriously, even Answers in Genesis wants nothing to do with him.

So you may feel I’m attacking a straw man. And, well, if I were, it would still be a fun straw man to attack.

Actually, there are a couple of serious reasons to discuss Baugh. For one, he was brought to wider fame by my childhood hero Kenneth Copeland. I watched the two week TV series they made together as a child in the mid-90s, and I believed every word of it. VHS copies are still out there. I think I saw it still for sale on Copeland’s website earlier this year, but it’s not there now.

The other reason this is relevant is that it seems Carl Baugh had some influence on the Creationism taught in Accelerated Christian Education. Admittedly, I never saw the most barking of these claims in my PACEs, but Baugh was mentioned by name. Several of the claims that he makes which are denied by other Creationists show up in the PACEs. It’s not surprising; Baugh’s Creation Evidences Museum is just 69 miles from ACE’s Texas HQ. Both Baugh and ACE are at the loonier end of the already unhinged Creationist spectrum. They are the only Creationist groups I know of who still support the Paluxy tracks idea, for example.

So, here are some outstanding claims Baugh makes in his Evidences for Creation series, with Kenneth Copeland.  Read the rest of this entry

Questival!

Come and see me at Questival! It’s going to be a great weekend. Alom Shaha is the headliner, if you like, but the real attraction is doing fun stuff and hanging out with cool people. Also I will give a completely awesome talk, and the whole Pod Delusion team will be there. In fact, this will be a historic meeting, as it will be my first ever public talk on leaving fundamentalism. The first of many, if my rapidly burgeoning diary of public speaking engagements is anything to go by (I now have three bookings).

It’s only £50, which for three days is cheap. What else are you going to do with your churchless weekend?

Questival: 3-5 August. www.questival.org.uk

www.questival.org.uk

Vlog: The War on Reason

In this week’s vlog, I discuss the way ACE attacks logical reasoning within its curriculum materials. This is not something I expect from a good educational system.

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Psychological Abuse, Torture, and Other Fun Bedtime Stories

One thing has become obvious since I started this blog: I got off lightly.

I began writing because I thought I had an important story to tell – and I do – but what happened to me is nothing compared to the abuse some of my commenters have encountered. Timothy Allman bravely shared this:

“My parents had their own ACE school that ended up being a home school just for us. There was no way out. My mother had me convinced that all public school children were evil drug addicts. It was more like a Polish orphanage than a nurturing home. Here is the kicker. After my fathers death, one of my sisters let me know that my father had molested her. From there it did not take much to figure out that all three of them had been molested. And it is clear from my mothers many actions like keeping us isolated and not wanting us (especially the girls) to see a doctor that she was compliant in this. Large numbers of people who say things like, we must abstain from all appearance of evil, might be protesting too much. These schools can safely harbor men and women who abuse children in ways that are just as bad as any catholic priest scandal in the news.”

The stories I have to tell from my youth are generally fairly amusing (to me at least), but most thoughts of my blog being entertaining are flying out the window. I’m going to have to find some Creationist hilarity for you next time to lighten the tone.

As I said in my last post on physical abuse, it wasn’t just spanking. Here’s an example I got emailed by an old schoolfriend, describing her brother’s experience:

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Why Fundamentalists Have No Social Skills

In recent weeks, the online skeptical-thinking community has been knee-deep in controversy. There have been accusations of misogyny within the movement, such as Skepchick’s mentioning that she received an unwelcome approach from a strange man in an elevator. Following this, we have seen some pretty unenlightened responses.

What’s clear from the comments is that there are a large number of men out there who have no idea how to relate to women healthily. I wonder if that’s because atheist conventions have a concentration of ex-fundamentalists like me. Fundamentalism is devastating to the ability to form relationships, and without help, most survivors won’t recover. I really want to weigh in on the Skepchick issue, but it will probably be more helpful if I explain where I’m coming from.

When I left Victory, my ACE school, my social skills were crippled, especially with girls. This is unsurprising. Sixty percent of my working week had been spent in an isolated carrel, working in silence. There was almost no co-operative learning. At break times, the school enforced the standard ACE six-inch rule – this being the minimum distance between members of the opposite sex at all times. And there were only 45 pupils in the entire school, aged 3-18, so I had almost no experience of meeting and interacting with new people – especially teenage girls.

Carrels, or "offices", at a ACE school

More than half the working week at a typical ACE school is spent in silence in carrels like this.

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Vlog: Inside Accelerated Christian Education’s Politics

I have decided to make the radical move into vlogging. For my technophobic readers, this is video blogging. Don’t worry, I’ll still be doing written blogs too.

My experience has been that people struggle to imagine Accelerated Christian Education from mere descriptions, so I’m going to show you.

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Beating Children: Still Normal in Accelerated Christian Education?

In 2001, the BBC reported that the British parents of one ACE homeschooler had been convicted for child cruelty.

“The jury had heard that the youngster, now 15, was made to live under a strict regime which included fasting to cleanse his body and regular punishment for failing to carry out chores.

“The court heard that the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was made to kill his pet chickens and stand outside for hours in freezing weather with no socks on.

“They had taught the youngster at home since he was 10 under the “Accelerated Christian Education” system and he had experienced little contact with the outside world.”

The biggest concern with all fundamentalist schools is their propensity for physical abuse of children. While I’m sure even my old educators would condemn this level of abuse, in reality, the difference is not that great. This is just the extreme conclusion of a theology that believes children are evil by nature, and that physical punishment is the solution.

In 1999, spanking was banned in British private schools. Does that mean that no spanking is occurring today? There is reason to suspect it may be. Read the rest of this entry

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