Top 3 ACE School of Tomorrow Survivor Stories

I’ve spent a lot of time digging up ACE survivor stories on the net. These three, in my mind, best capture the experience of attending one of these schools.

I’ve only managed to contact the author of one of these posts. The other two are reposted with attribution to the original source. You can decide for yourself how credible they are. I’m willing to stick my neck on the line and say that these stories are representative of what I’ve seen in ACE schools. Regardless of who wrote them, I think they are good illustrations of Accelerated Christian Education.

If you wrote either of the other posts and would like to add a comment, or update your story, or would like me to remove the post, please get in touch. If any other readers have direct experience of ACE, I’d also love to hear from you.

1. Originally posted hereI’ve been in contact with the author.

Ah, Accelerated Christian Education. They now call themselves by the fifties-ish appellation “School of Tomorrow,” apparently without even a sliver of irony. Faugh.

This is a hideously condescending system of private-school education that consisted, in my day at least, of having students work “at their own pace,” but really struggling almost unaided through 60 workbooks a year, in little partitioned desks whose primary resemblance is to office cubicles. These workbooks, called PACEs (standing for “Packet of Accelerated Christian Education”) are liberally sprinkled with the most inane, poorly-drawn cartoons you will ever see, most of which featuring simplistic morals and cookie-cutter characters in self-righteous situations. Therein we are introduced to Ace (“Ace-ee”) and his friends Christi, Reginald and, representing all the ugly people of this great world, Happy, with his buck teeth and cross-eyed expression, who, if memory serves, is assured has a place on this Earth in blue-collar employment. All the characters, both the “good” (e.g. Christians) and “evil” (e.g. not-yet-Christians) have descriptive last names, as in that overrated religious path-straightener Pilgrim’s Progress, all of which I have graciously forgotten.

I will not lie, I attended one of these schools for a few years. The curriculum was rarely effective because it was all administered on the honor system, that is, students worked on their own, then put up an American Flag (out of the set of two each had in their individual wooden boxes, an American and a “Christian” flag that consisted, in parallel, of a white field with a red cross on a blue corner ) on top of their cubicle to get permission to rise and walk to the checking tables in order to score one’s own work. (The Christian flag, it must be said, was used to gain permission to go to the bathroom, so that one could worship his holy excrement upon the porcelain altar.) Because the system was rife with opportunity to cheat, most people who emerged from our institution went on to plummet out of college, and even I, who am honest almost to the point of idiocy and didn’t cheat, had to unlearn some really stupid habits picked up in that place. Though the use of self-initiated work theoretically taught initiative and self-reliance, it seemed more often to teach the fine art of waiting half an hour for someone to answer the damn flag so one could get up and walk the three feet to the answer keys, and thus taught dependence, stall tactics (since I have seen no other place which provided so many excuses not to do work), and either mindless obedience to authority (if one waited for an answered flag) or rebellion (if one did not). The school seemed primarily to be about rolling over and letting authority rub your belly than anything else.

2. Originally posted here.

Your guys’ descriptions of what it was like to be in an ACE school match mine just the same – and what an awful way that was to spend my grades 3 through 10.

It is sad that this educational tragedy is allowed to persist through loopholes in local laws regarding education. In Maryland, where I suffered as a child under this inferior school system, I believe that ACE schools got to exist because of something like this: the church-schools were officially exempted from having to meet the requirements that real schools had to follow.

I will try not to duplicate what everyone else wrote about the ridiculous things ACE makes you live through, day in and day out, such as basically sitting in a corner all day staring into your awful PACEs and at your goal chart and star chart. The way you guys described it is exactly how it works, and yeah you sure do become an expert at memorization, both the 60 to 120 second kind and the rote memorization kind (60 to 120 seconds is about how long it takes you to score your work and get back to your desk). Being forced to memorize all of those Bible verses too, on top of it.. you really learned your place in those schools, which was to sit down, shut up, and do no more or less than you are told.

I will, however, discuss the physical child abuse that occurred in both of the ACE schools I attended. The child abuse took the form of extremely severe paddlings. The schools would experience shifts in their disciplinary severity based on who the “supervisors” were that year, and also, what direction the associated church was going.

The worst year when I was attending the first school (Annapolis Christian Academy, no longer in operation as of the last time I checked) was when most of the staff had quit, leaving just one supervisor. At the same time, there was this possibly hyperactive child aged about 10 who developed some kind of social problem, she was usually unable to obey and would even antagonize the supervisor. The most severe paddling she received lasted 40 blows (I counted), while she was physicallly being restrained by the supervisor. She had large bruises on her backside that were visible for days afterward (she pulled her skirt up to show us).

The worst years when I was attending the second school (Antioch Christian School, still in operation) were a few years after they moved to their new building in Arnold, Maryland. Antioch Christian School was, and still is, associated with a pentecostal apostolic church. The church seemed to be in the middle of some kind of “revival”, and somebody got the bright idea that clamping down on the students in the school would be a great part of that. The high school, under the supervision of a Naval Academy graduate named Jason Wharton, became like a military academy for christ. We had to act much like soldiers, such as how we would have to stand perfectly upright at our desks each morning as he walked around and examined each of us closely for any uniform problems. There was tons of stuff involved with this, such as forced fasting on Wednesdays (no lunch allowed), forced kneeling at the altar in the sanctuary, and on and on. I don’t think they did all of the same things to the elementary school.

So at the same time this was going on, a physical child abuse problem developed in the elementary school. We in the high school were living under the edict that we too could be paddled at any time, but that only happened once to someone in the high school.

In the elementary school room, there were two small, probably hyperactive boys, “C” and “R”. I am going to guess they were 10 to 12 years old (at the oldest 12, they acted pretty young but they might have just been immature). I don’t know if it means anything, but both of these small boys were african-american. C seemed to just behave in a hyperactive way and was occasionally mean, but R had an additional, independent streak and was especially mean-spirited to the other children. My little sister was in the elementary school, so I got to know about these boys partly through her and her own difficulties with them.

Paddling of either of these boys was pretty much always done by two men, Brother Humphrey and Brother Wharton (our own supervisor). It was done in the room across the hall from the high school room, and all of us could clearly hear what was going on. The child who was about to be paddled was always screaming and begging not to be paddled beforehand. There was some kind of either ACE rule or local law imposed on the the men (I don’t know which) that stipulated that they were not allowed to hit the child more than 5 blows, but if that was meant to prevent child abuse, it didn’t work. There would always be 5 extremely loud blows inflicted with the paddle, and then there would be silence. The silence would last for 6 to 8 seconds. Then, there would be an agonized and short scream from the child. I happen to know exactly why it happened that way – – the child had been hit so hard that it knocked the wind out of him. Then there would be silence again for a bit less than the original time, and then another scream would come. The child would incrementally gain the ability to breathe again, and was crying and screaming hysterically for a while after the abuse. I always felt sure that one of the men was restraining the child and one was administering powerful blows, maybe even hitting the child with maximum force, although I could never observe what was happening directly.

“C” had this happen to him a relatively small number of times, and then he ceased the behavior that was getting him beaten. “R” was another story, and it almost seemed like a common thing to have happen to him for a while. R could be antagonistic with other children and seemed mean-spirited, and he persisted with the behaviors. Even we in the high school knew R was like this, and most of the high school kids would laugh and not seem to feel sorry for him when the severe paddlings would occur.

A little ritual developed in the high school after a while. R would be taken into the room across the hall for a paddling. Everyone knew what was happening due to the sound of R begging and crying as he was moved into the room. The supervisor in the high school would close the high school room’s door to the hallway before it got fully underway. The abuse would happen, and the two sets of closed doors was never enough to stop the sound from being heard. The high school kids would laugh at R, despite the ceremonial closing of the door.

Eventually, R’s behavior changed, and he became more compliant and able to avoid the beatings. Either he matured or the torture had an affect on him, I don’t have a way to know which.

So, in summary, point being:

I second the motion that ACE is a bad and nasty educational system for the reasons stated by the other people in this thread. Additionally, the whole system has been seen to allow unqualified people to operate the schools, resulting in psychological and physical child abuse being perpetuated against children.

And now… Demon Possession

3. Originally posted in the comments here.

I am an Accelerated Christian Education survivor as well. If you don’t mind, I would like to share my experience with you and your readers, not only about the PACE books and curriculum, but also other aspects of the schools that incorporate this program.

I originally enrolled in a school around 1987 that taught this curriculum in what was supposed to be my 3rd grade. After my initial enrollment testing, they labeled me a “genius” and skipped me two grades.

So everyone thought I was brilliant, including myself, but in hindsight I realize they skipped me only because their school was two years behind what normal schools are required to teach their students.

Being a 7-year-old in class with other kids who were two years older, one-foot taller and who all were under the assumption that I was smarter then they were… needless to say, I was not the most popular person.

But instead of excelling, which everyone had the pre-conceived notion that I would accomplish, the A.C.E. system really only taught me to do the bare minimum to pass, or cheat. As long as I memorized a few bible verses, no one seemed to care. That is, until 7th or 8th grade, when they discovered that I couldn’t do simple 4th grade mathematics.

Then instead of tutoring me, the instructors told my mother that I had demons in my head that torment me and distract me from learning. Which I believe would be called A.D.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder by Demons)

My mother, the naive Christian woman that she was, believed them and allowed them to put me through a series of exorcisms where the pastor, principal, instructors and elders of the church would attempt to force me to throw up these demons by placing their hands on my head and speaking in tongues.

Of course, they weren’t successful, I never vomited any red or green demons… or even blue ones. So being 10-years-old, and completely brainwashed and indoctrinated in this Pentecostal cult, I believed that I was possessed and eventually began acting like it.

They were also very adamant about discouraging me to be artistic. I would draw a lot instead of doing my work, and at a young age had a lot of talent. Instead of encouragement and support, I was punished, not only with demerits and detentions, but humiliation. The monitors or supervisors would tell all of the students to come to my cubical to criticize my drawings. Then lecture us on how important it is that we need to study our “science” books that didn’t teach science at all instead of “doodling nonsense”.

When I didn’t stop I would get suspended, and when my art evolved to carving demon faces on my desk I was expelled.

In the 6 impressionable years I went to this school, going through each ridiculous PACE booklet after another. In which the only thing they really teach you to become or tell you you can be is a missionary. I do not remember one piece of solid information that held educational value, I can however, recite you all the books of the bible in order… which is super impressive at job interviews.

I really only learned how to manipulate trust, to cheat on tests, to lie, and to take advantage of the system. Luckily, I learned how to read and write at a different establishment, because if that weren’t the case, I doubt very much that I would even be able to process my opinions and thoughts and convert them to text in what I am writing to you now.

The day I was expelled, the principal said to my mom, “Send him to public school for a while, he’ll be begging to come back in a week.”

Fortunately, after having that experience I was motivated to attain knowledge and education when it was finally handed to me in public school and college. I am successful today, which I credit to the A.C.E. system and my elementary Christian school, not for giving me an educational foundation, not for teaching me the tools I needed at a young age, and definitely not for it’s realistic vision of society, but for accidentally planting a seed that grew into a rebellious monster, giving me the thirst to have my questions answered and not settling for “Because God makes it that way.”

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About jonnyscaramanga

I grew up as a Christian fundamentalist in the UK. Now I am writing a book and blog about what that's like, and what fundamentalists believe.

Posted on August 3, 2012, in Accelerated Christian Education, Christianity, Faith Schools, Fundamentalism, School of Tomorrow and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Wow. That third story is beyond disturbing. The point made in the last paragraph is interesting, and fitting with the idea that systems like this only product ‘robots or rebels’. So…are there any ACE survivors out there that are moderately religious?

  2. Timothy Allman

    That brought back some disturbing memories. Since there are no real standards for these schools there is a lot of variation. But one thing most of them have in common is that the students are very isolated. Even after all these years it helps me to read things like this and know that I was not alone. Thank you to the three of you for telling these stories.

  3. But instead of excelling, which everyone had the pre-conceived notion that I would accomplish, the A.C.E. system really only taught me to do the bare minimum to pass, or cheat. As long as I memorized a few bible verses, no one seemed to care.

    That is really troubling (as is much of what else you report).

    It reminds me of my son. We used to ask him what he had done that day in school. And we would visit the school on open house days to talk to the teachers. It turned out that my son was embellishing his reports, and his teacher recognized that. So she told my son that he would have to actually do what he had been telling his parents. She was an excellent teacher, and knew how to motivate students to do their best.

    The funny thing is this. It was actually at a Catholic school, and the teacher was a Catholic sister. We sent our kids to that school for a couple of years, because the public schools in our neighborhood were pretty bad.

    The main point, to me, was that you really do need dedicated teachers who love their teaching and love to inspire students to do their best. And, with those kinds of teachers, even a religious school can provide a good education.

    The trouble with ACE seems to be that their goal in not education. Rather, the goal seems to be keeping the children in a protective cocoon to minimize their exposure to the world outside.

    • Yes I’ve been asking myself recently what it is that drives us towards fundamentalism, and (purely from my own experience, stories I’ve heard and those I’ve known who are fundamentalist) it seems that fear and self-preservation is a large part of it. It’s very difficult to say ‘I don’t know – and that’s ok’ in any religion or none, and the more afraid we are of living with uncertainty, the more we are driven into a corner where we have to build walls of certainty around ourselves. Whether those are constructed out of religious principles, pseudo-science or something else, they effectively separate us from those not ‘belonging’ to us, thus increasing our ignorance and in turn our fear of those who are different. This is the only way I can find to explain how supposedly christian groups can advocate racism, homophobia and misogyny. So if such groups develop educational models, those models can only grow to fit the space created within those protective walls. And surrounding ourselves in certainty disables us from engaging critically with the world around us, in any discipline, not just science.

      Sorry, that was a bit of a thought-splurge. Hope it makes sense!


      • Yes, you are probably right. Our culture is changing rapidly. There is technological advance; there is the absorption of ideas from other cultures as we move closer to a single world wide culture. Some people have trouble keeping up with the changes, and I’m sure that is part of what leads to a fear of the unknown. Fundamentalism, and protective cocoons for children are part of the response to this.

  4. I went to two different ACE schools, plus for a couple years I was homeschooled, my mom used ACE curriculum. I am not surprised by any of the stories I have seen here, sadly. My main problem that plagued me was it didn’t really provide a well rounded education. In Jr. and HS, the only literature read was Christian. I read Elizabeth Elliot (great stories) and the likes, but when my mom allowed me to go to public school in 11th grade, my Engligh Class was very challenging (not grammar–ACE does well getting you to diagram senteces), I didn’t even know who Edgar Allan Poe was. The Math was about a year behind for which I was a year behind. How can you really do science when you read about science, but don’t have hands-on-access? I now homeschool my children and I would never use ACE because although it would be easier on me, it doesn’t really prepare kids for the future and real life? Even the characters in the cartoons, they are all goodie two shoes except the couple kids who don’t go to ACE school. What does that teach? That ACE kids are good and all other kids are bad. I knew quite a few trouble makers at my ACE school and quite a few goody-two-shoe kids that went to public schools. Anyway, that’s just my rant. Also, I always had a PACE average of 97-98% and I did nothing. My last two years of public school where I studied my butt off, I was only in the B+ range. Public School was what prepared me for college. It really was my saving grace in my education.

  5. I can’t believe what I read. And I honestly can believe it at the same time. This makes me completely sick. Now I worry even more about my daughter growing up believing, and possibly being taught this stuff, or going through what has been described. Between the psychological abuse, and the physical abuse I am shocked that these places haven’t been shut down completely.

  6. Wyatt Desormeaux

    Greetings. I’ll have to say that my experiences differ greatly from the authors above. I was a student in the A.C.E. System and graduated High School at 14 years of age. There were deficiencies in the curriculum (The student writes one book report thier entire High-School career I kid you not and don’t even think of understanding anything beyond a basic 1940’s high school knowledge of biology). All in all however, the ability to work on your own and to focus on goals taught great lessions. I am a Ph.D. Mathematician today.

    Any one sending their kid through such a program needs to realize that the Mathematics education is quite good, Sadly some of this is dependant on the quality of the teachers who often don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground, but a well-motivated student will find the material very well written and presented. The Science education sucks. Teach your kid Biology on your own and unless you are lucky, no ACE school will have a teacher who knows a damn about physics.

    The history education is quite good (albeit from a somewhat extreme conservative view) but if you want your kid to have an education in history from a liberal point of view, FORGET IT! I was truly convinced that Susan B. Anthony was the devil incarnate after my Pace on feminism.

    English education was very very poor, the paces stress perfect grammer and punctutation, but there are very few writing assignments I can remember and only one major report required.

    In summary, if you send your kid through this program and they are well-motivated they will suceed. You will need to supplement their education a bit in some areas. All in all with an involved parrent I think it is a good option.

    As for abuse, I went to four different ACE schools. Some had kind and generous teachers, but a few had a cadre of self-absorbed narcissists ready to bring weapons grade Jesus into every conversation and crush any independant thought they find. As in any school, as a parent, watch your kids closely and find out what is going on. This kind of crap is not unique to Christian schools. Did paddling occur? Yes!! Was it severe? for the most part love taps. ACE manuals at the time limited the number of strokes to six. There is one exception to this. We did have one principal at our school who loved to beat the shit out of kids for no reason. HE was a recovering/practising alcoholic who just found Jesus and the school thought it would be really neat to make him principal. After six months of this shit, the male students literally assaulted him. I was young at the time, but the high school kids dragged him out of his office and beat him with his own paddle till he was quivering like a baby and begging them to stop. He wanted the boys JAILED!! But after the church discovered the severity of his abuse and parents threatened to sue, he left in disgrace. Later heard he still suffered lawsuits and was destitute in the end.

    In closing, I think it all depends on the school. I am not doubting the horror that many experiencd in some schools. Indeed, there are jackasses everywhere in education not just in Christian school. Sadly the power over little kids these folks have goes to their head. Combine that with the religious angle and they can be a literal terror. All in all though My experience was positive.

  7. Their math curriculum is quite good? WHAT A JOKE! I did PACE for 6 years before being sent back to a real school in the ninth grade. Despite having straight As in every other class (largely due to the AWESOME memorization skills that PACE taught me) I could never perform in math. I hate ACE and PACE and everything associated with making children teach themselves.

  8. I can totally relate to the sentence in the last story. “I really only learned how to manipulate trust, to cheat on tests, to lie, and to take advantage of the system.” Self-teaching sucks, luckily my supervisor was actually some kind of engineering professor in the university so she was always willing to help with algebra and others.

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