Alberta Department of Education Reviews ACE

In 1985, the Canadian province of Alberta got very worried about Accelerated Christian Education. In fact, they said in a report that “In the view of the committee, there is no place for curriculum of this kind in the schools of Alberta.”

The chair of this committee, Ron Ghitter, visited an ACE school and reported that he saw an ACE book which said “All kinds of Buddhists and Muslims are evil.” In the background was the rise of Stockwell Day, a controversial former pastor and politician, who was accused of anti-Semitism and connections to supporters of the Aryan Nation. Stockwell Day boldly and publicly defended Accelerated Christian Education. “God’s law is clear. Standards of education are not set by government, but by God, the Bible, the home and the school.” 

Ghitter, a former cabinet minister, was not impressed. “ACE schools were schools of dogma. They didn’t follow official curriculum and the kids who came out had sort of a twisted Christianity with anti-Semitic overtones.” Here’s a good article about it, with some quotes from ACE materials of the time (Democratic governments, apparently, “represent the ultimate deification of man, which is the very essence of humanism and totally alien to God’s word.”).

This was the background for the Alberta Department of Education’s Committee on Tolerance and Understanding (I found its report online for free and legal download, but for the life of me I can’t remember where). But when they began looking at the religious schools, they were so concerned that a separate report was commissioned, An Audit of Selected Private School Programs: Accelerated Christian Education, Alpha Omega, Mennonite Schools, Seventh-Day Adventist Schools, and A BEKA Instructional Resources. This report is widely available; I obtained it for free by emailing the Alberta department for education.

Now, this was published in 1985, so its information on ACE is not exactly bang up-to-date. But there’s been such a dearth of research into ACE, and ACE changes so slowly that this report is still worth examining. In 1985, second edition PACEs were in use. Today, most subjects are still on third edition; a few (Bible electives, mainly) are still on second.

To be fair, the auditors were not exclusively negative.

“While there are a number of inaccuracies in the use of terms and in their definitions scattered through the PACEs, these errors are the exception rather than the rule. For the most part PACEs are well written, present information clearly and are organized around explicit objectives. The use of examples, practice exercises, systematic reviews, and cumulative exercises illustrates the incorporation of commonly accepted, sound principles of pedagogy.”

But:

“There are far too few examples in the ACE curriculum materials where students are called upon to exercise their creative powers, to be original and to develop critical thinking skills. The schools concerned should examine carefully the validity of this criticism.”

“The use of self-pacing certainly does not rule out the possibility of students engaging in social studies and science inquiry activities.  In schools making exclusive use of ACE instructional materials, the acquisition of these skills by students would be most unlikely.

“PACEs which were reviewed by Alberta Education’s evaluators contained a very high percentage of exercises which have been described as being at a simple recall level. Often the test exercise was a restatement of material from the student resource which required only the insertion of a missing word. This is a case where the potential power of a learning method has been seriously curtailed by the manner in which PACE materials are written. A number of reviewers described PACEs as promoting rote learning.”

So, nothing we haven’t said before. But the reviewers’ strongest criticism is very bizarre indeed.

“One example of possible intereference with learning by the religious orientation of ACE materials has been cited by auditors. This case involves the ACE science program. The elementary part was rated problematic while the junior high science and biology programs were rated as unacceptable. The unacceptable ratings were given because of the repeated condemnation of those who reject the author’s interpretations of the Bible as these pertain to science. Those who challenge the explanations given in PACEs, and text references in particular, to historical events and scientific phenomena are descibed as  “godless, “anti-biblical”, “foolish”, and “a fake teacher”.

“In the mind of the auditors, the ACE interpretations of some natural phenomena are unscientific. Accepting the fact that one may hold a creationist view, the condemnatory language of those holding opposing views is a notable example of intolerance. ACE materials ought to respect the integrity of those who hold other views and teach a charitable attitude toward people who approach scientific data in a different manner.”

Speaking as a woolly liberal, this is woolly liberalism at its most preposterous. I am glad to see the ACE science curriculum criticised, of course, but this criticism amounts to, “Well, you can teach what you like, but you should be nicer about it.” That is ludicrous. ACE’s intolerance is a problem, of course, but so is teaching Creationism in the first place. Teaching Creationism would not be acceptable if ACE did it in a more tolerant way. They would still be guilty of misleading children. The teaching of charitable attitudes is a side issue in science (if not in education overall) in comparison with the teaching of proper science.

“ACE materials, except as noted above, do not display a systematic lack of tolerance and understanding toward any of the minority groups. Occasional lapses do occur as were noted and a degree of insensitivity towards blacks, Jews, and Natives was identified. These flaws are insufficient to warrant rejection.”

“The promotion of attitudes of tolerance, understanding and respect for others is more than an avoidance of slights towards people who are different. According to the criteria used in the audit of Alberta Education resources, material which fosters critical thinking as a basic objective is a necessary ingredient for developing each attitude. By themselves, ACE materials are notably lacking in this respect.”

Tolerance being the auditors’ main concern, they note occasional racism within the materials. But more importantly, they note that to learn tolerance, children must have critical thinking skills. The ability to assimilate and consider new ideas is an essential component of tolerance. In failing to promote critical thinking, ACE fails to prepare students for wider society.

Interestingly, ACE has never been banned in Alberta, despite the Committee’s recommendation. If anyone knows what happened, please let me know.

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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 24, 2012, in Accelerated Christian Education, Book Reviews, Education, Faith Schools, Fundamentalism, School of Tomorrow and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hi there. Just watched your video in which you commented on your ten year old self, and I have to say, you and I have a lot in common. I too was given a creationist upbringing and through a lot of study and personal thought came to reject it about the time I was 18. I wrote an article (not too dissimilar in title to your “Top 5 Lies Taught by ACE”) called “Ten Falsehoods and Misconceptions Peddled by Answers in Genesis”:
    http://www.infidels.org/kiosk/article791.html

    Long ago I grew tired of debunking their nonsense and turned my attention to philosophy, and I now blog at skepticblogs.com/humesapprentice

    Anyway, good luck on blogging, and don’t forget to incorporate some philosophy into your reading, it’ll make for interesting blog fodder once you get burnt out on creationism in a few years, ; )
    Sincerely,
    Ryan

    • Ryan! Great to hear from you. That’s a great article you mentioned, and I’m sure I’ll reference it sometime soon.

      I’m fascinated by philosophy and definitely plan to read it heavily. I’ll follow your blog too.

  2. I’m from Alberta and I’ve been avoiding reading this blog post since it popped up in my reader because I was afraid of what I’d read. Fortunately, while the news isn’t that upbeat it’s not completely depressing. 🙂 Unfortunately, ACE curriculum is not yet banned here. (Which doesn’t surprise me at all. We are a mini Texas in many ways…) http://hopechristianschool.ca/about/

  3. aesirovginunngap

    I’m from RSA, Went through the ACE system all that Jazz, as this report says, the tolerance thing isn’t acceptable! They are right, the Maths is really not that bad, I have a math fetish and I made the transition between ACE Maths and started doing Fractal Geometry, Applied Maths and Theoretical Maths without too much of an issue so it can’t be that bad right? The English, is great, excessive, but you know, if not why not? The Science, I had an issue with, but you know there was always outside learning and you discard ideas that don’t work when newer and more comprehensive theories become available.
    I hope you don’t take too much offense to this, but I had a laugh at you moments ago and as the Catholic Priest in His Chamber with a Choir Boy once blurted out as a policeman held a flashlight in his eyes. I can explain!!!
    Man I’ve been going through your blog and you seem like an intelligent person, you have discipline, strong opinions and you do your research! However…

    [Speaking as a woolly liberal, this is woolly liberalism at its most preposterous. I am glad to see the ACE science curriculum criticised, of course, but this criticism amounts to, “Well, you can teach what you like, but you should be nicer about it.” That is ludicrous. ACE’s intolerance is a problem, of course, but so is teaching Creationism in the first place. Teaching Creationism would not be acceptable if ACE did it in a more tolerant way. They would still be guilty of misleading children. The teaching of charitable attitudes is a side issue in science (if not in education overall) in comparison with the teaching of proper science.]

    That was pretty ignorant, now wasn’t it?
    If a Muslim wants his child to be educated in a Muslim School, I have no issue with it, if a Christian Parent wants their Child brought up in a school that teaches Creation, I have no problem with that, I also have no issue with a Parent wanting their child to go to a school that teaches Evolution.

    There is actually nothing wrong with believing in a different religion, theory, morals, I’m not a christian man, but I do respect the morals laid down in the bible. I respect any man who stands by his principles! (I have no respect for close minded people, in fact that’s the only time my live and let live philosophy goes out the window)

    There are laws that allow for this
    Teaching Creationism is actually ok, Teaching Evolution is also actually ok, the only thing that is not ok, is teaching intolerance. Do I think that ACE needs to update a lot of their curriculum on a more regular basis? Damn skippy I do. They also need re-evaluate the tolerance issue, do I think that the Curriculum as a whole is to be discarded? No, do I think that the people Administering and Implementing the System(principles, supervisors and school boards) need to be held accountable for the Extremist Jihad like behaviour? Yes!

    You were pretty damn ignorant on that man, Although perhaps in fighting Fundamentalists, you have become one and the same with them (Anti-Fundamentalist-Fundamentalist) Take a step back, reevaluate. I know that you and I can agree that not all ACE schools are run poorly in fact many of them are run very well(albeit these schools are probably not IFB). It seems to me that many of the Horror stories stem from these Extremist Fundamentalists and as with any type of extremist view, Its a recipe for disaster.

    I’m not Anti ACE as its made me who I am today, yet I probably wouldn’t say that ACE doesn’t have a lot of updating to do and they need to work on that tolerance issue with fervor!

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