In defence of ACE

I’m in two minds about posting this. I feel that giving a platform to defenders of Accelerated Christian Education is like the BBC giving a platform to climate change deniers: It gives the impression that there is some debate, and I don’t think there is.

But, unlike ACE, I am confident enough in my position to let you read the words of people who disagree with me. ACE always censored the information I was allowed to read, and that’s why I have the policy almost never to censor comments on this blog.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the people who are against ACE are almost all former students, while the people who have come out to defend it have mostly been parents and teachers.

OK, I’ll make you a deal: You can read these as long as you also read the three ACE survivor stories immediately below.

Rob Karl

I am 35, a successful physician, an entrepreneur, a teacher, and, I’d like to think, a creative yet critical thinker. I went K-12 to an ACE School. My father and mother were university professors at Indiana University and both started and administrated the school that I attended. Our teachers were loving people, many of which had children in the school. I graduated from high school at the age of 14, local secular community college at the age of 16 and Wayne State University (Detroit, MI) at the age of 18. I graduated medical school, residency and began practice in 2001.

At no time did I ever feel disadvantaged in my secular higher learning. I had no problem with critical thinking, nor did I have difficulty with creativity. Are all stories from an ACE school like mine? Absolutely not, but neither are the stories from my wife’s public high school nor my business partner’s prep school.

You have implied(and I think mentioned outright) that the “majority opinion” of the academic community indicates ACE is a poor curriculum. However, as a learned person, you know that the 10 references you list could hardly count as a “majority opinion” in education when there are literally hundreds of thousands of people in the world who specialize in education.

[I normally don’t editorialise guest posts, but I must step in here. It’s true the “majority opinion” of academics is not explicitly against ACE, because the majority have never heard of ACE. But it’s also true to say that the majority reject programmed learning, Skinnerian behaviorism, and individualisation as pedagogy. Those opinions are rooted in empirical data such as John Hattie’s massive studies. Where academics have looked at ACE directly, they have been damning.]

Besides, individualized learning is VERY VERY different from the typical practices in the educational world, and it absolutely unequivocally threatens the future of hundreds of thousands of educators in the world with the information age that we have come into.

I would also remind you that, especially in education, most would agree that developers of curriculum always have a bias. ALWAYS. There is no way around that. No curriculum can possibly be TRUE to all people, because in our society truth is very relative to the philosophy that you choose to ascribe to. So the only curriculum an individual will find to be TRUE will be one with which they have a shared bias.

A great example is to look at country bias of the cause of wars, or a partisan bias for the reasons for election outcomes. Even scientists can’t agree on why things happen sometimes. Is truth defined as whatever the majority believe that the evidence shows? Even though some think enough evidence can help one to be certain about something beyond a shadow of a doubt, we discover later that they were wrong. I don’t know that I philosophically believe that “evidence”-based conclusions are always the correct ones.

If you are not a person who believes in the BIAS that is taught in ACE, fine. That isn’t for you and I regret for you that anyone in your life subjected you to it. I think your campaign might well as be waged toward those people instead of towards a curriculum that was developed 30 years ago.

I would point out that written words on page do not suppress your free speech nor do they punish you for expressing the wrong ideas. Unfortunately, only actual real live people to that.

Most won’t think to have “opposing ideas” to an idea that is read in a curriculum until university. If they do, I would think no matter what school one went to, most of the formation of the “opposing ideas” are done outside of school.

I regret your bad experience with people, but do NOT maintain that ACE has a perfect curriculum. I do think that it was the best curriculum for me, and I have been quit successful as a result of it. I know many others who would say the same thing.

As a side note about your comment policy, hopefully I have amazed you with something genuinely new that I have said, but perhaps you have it all figured out already. ;)

John E Russell

You have me puzzled. I was a principal in 4 different ACE schools and I taught Christian Philosophy of Education on a college level. I, too thought ACE was an inferior system until I became involved in it. Both of our children are graduates of ACE and excelled professionally in lives. Their personal lives are also successful. Concerning the facts: McGraw-Hill tested our students 1980(?) and found that at the end of their freshman year, they tested 12.6. They had the equivalent of a high school education! ACE students also had character training. The curriculum was totally redesigned, based on Judeo-Christian values rather than Secular Humanism values. It has a mastery approach and students are not allowed to progress unless they master the material. There is no social promotion to the next level.


I have interacted with at least 10 children who have either gone through or are currently going through the ACE system and I consider them better educated than those who have undergone other systems of education. The fact is that there is no education system which is perfect. ACE in my opinion is an attempt to obey the Bible where the responsibility of teaching a child in the way s/he should go is laid on the parents more than it is to the teachers. It affords the parent that serious role and opportunity to take his/her rightful place in ensuring that the child is grounded in Godly principles-and what would be a better way than through education in the formative ages of the children?
Secondly,most systems have “learning gaps” where a child continues going through other topics even when the previous ones are not properly understood. This does not happen in ACE which is a big plus.
There is an implied wrong notion that the system is likely to produce hermits which is very far from the truth-All of the mentioned 10 children are greatly sociable,confident(an 8 year old was very confident to present to a congregation of 50 adults) and extremely creative. One boy enrolled for International Computer Driving Licence classes at an ordinary college(by the way,ICDL is part of the compulsory courses towards the end of the system) and no other student from the mainstream schools could beat him-Infact,he ended up being appointed by the tutor as a coach to the rest of the students)
I am sorry to say that the system is predicated on Godliness,Christianity and the Bible all of which are not popular so it is no wonder that the it is receiving such barbs and bashes!!
The truth is I am enrolling my daughter into the system as soon as she is ready and I encourage those who would care to listen to go right ahead!!May not be perfect but certainly is the best option given the highly secularized alternative options out there!!


I, too, grew up in A.C.E. My parents started a school in the Philippines because they wanted their children to have a Christian education, and this was that only thing that was available then. We moved to the States when I was 12, and we also ended up in an A.C.E. school. I graduated when I was 17, and went to a university and earned my Elementary Education with a 3.45 GPA after 3 1/2 years in college. I did have to adjust to a classroom type environment, but it was not big deal. Then, I decided to pursue a nursing degree, and got a BSN after two years. I must say that I learned a lot from my elementary and high school years and had no problem getting into college. In fact, I got invitations from IV League schools as my A.C.T. scores were high enough. I am currently working as a nurse and homeschooling my two kids. So how did someone from an A.C.E school end up? i think I did just fine, thank you!

Wyatt Desormeaux (awesome name! Wyatt has mixed feelings about ACE, as we’ll see)

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.

Related posts:

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 April 18, 2013, in Accelerated Christian Education, Education, Faith Schools, Fundamentalism, School of Tomorrow. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Timothy Allman

    “I don’t know that I philosophically believe that “evidence”-based conclusions are always the correct ones.” Rob Karl is not a physician I’d want working on me or anybody else.

  2. jesuswithoutbaggage

    I am sure there are positives, along with negatives, in ACE education, just as there are in anything. But when I consider the issue of critical thinking that seems to be missing from the ACE tradition, I don’t know how any positives can balance that. And then I always think of pictures of people and dinosaurs together…!

    One concept that makes sense: the quality of education depends a great deal on the teachers, but I doubt that the majority of ACE educators are close to being qualified to teach; and, if they are qualified, they can do better with another curriculum.

    • Good point Tim. Also, being as students do most of their work from PACEs, in my experience the teacher actually makes minimal impact on learning.

      By the way, why doesn’t your blog get linked from your comments? It should. Everyone, it’s

  3. “Most won’t think to have “opposing ideas” to an idea that is read in a curriculum until university. If they do, I would think no matter what school one went to, most of the formation of the “opposing ideas” are done outside of school.”

    That would be utterly hilarious if not for the fact that you’re not joking. I teach ~13yr olds in a secular school and a huge part of the pedagogy I follow is to encourage questioning, debate and opposing viewpoints. When I mark work, they get marks for expressing various and opposing views, but also get marks for expressing and developing their own views. At times, I (grudgingly) give them points for communicating sexist, racist, Islamophobic or homophobic views, since occasionally someone manages to express their support for such standpoints clearly and effectively. I recognise that my strong feelings that they are wrong aren’t the only point to consider. You’ll be (mostly) pleased to hear that I do also educate them about prejudice – again, they tend to do most of the work for me.

    One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is allowing learners to develop their own opinions, learn from and argue against one another. Yes, they bring in a huge amount of home-learning, and there are points on which certain learners are very unlikely to accept or synthesise new opinions and data (usually the children of zealous bigots or religious adherents), but overall they engage brilliantly with one another, often bringing viewpoints and ideas I would never have anticipated. Despite the prevalence of home-learning, they often also develop new and interesting views or approaches to problems. Sometimes I see this happen right before my eyes. What a priviledge.
    Did I mention they’re 13?

    As to your ability to function as a doctor despite some ACE education, I’m not surprised. Working as a doctor is incredibly analytical work. Creativity and free thinking are largely discouraged, perhaps for good reason since you’re dealing with other peoples lives, and ethical decisions largely come pre-packaged – again, perhaps it’s not a bad thing to allow boards to make these decisions, in the same way we allow judges to make precedents on (other) legal issues.

  4. “Their personal lives are also successful.”

    That statement makes my skin crawl.

  5. “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.”

    Again, I think A.C.E. has advantages for those who want to be able to think in dry mathematical logic (except about certain parts of science, or any religious moral or political realms etc). I think A.C.E is probably great for autistic kids in some ways. It’s awful, of course, for anyone with dyslexia, anyone who thrives on social learning, anyone who wishes to think critically, and any parents or educators who want their children to benefit from social and pedagogical progression since the days of schoolmasters and canes (which in the case of A.C.E., might still be the present)

  6. A.C.E. definitely does *not* teach critical thinking. Its ALL filling in dots. Take a history pace, for example. Do you discuss history with anyone? nope. Do you discuss it with yourself? nope. Do you write any essays? nope. Do you discuss what you memorize? nope. Do you remember the same address every year? yup. Do you critically compare ideas in history? nope.

    If I had to pick the dumbest pace, the 9th grade music paces rank up there. (I have a minor in music. The paces are absolutely ridiculous.)

    I don’t think this inherently makes A.C.E. kids stupid. Kids have a genius locked inside them, and they probably learn a lot of critical thinking outside school from their white middle class families. My family used fundy textbooks or no textbooks all the way through. The only thing we really worked at was math. I never struggled in college, and graduated with a 4.0. This is not because of any of the textbooks we used. I have always been a huge reader and critical thinker, so I learned to think critically and write despite never having critical theory or writing lessons.

    Whether young people go on to suceed or get PhDs like you is totally irrelavent to whether or not the paces are good books or the best way to learn. Even if somene could justify sitting there filling in blanks, there’s no way to justify the young earth creationism, gender rules, emotional purity, and legalism.

  7. Like others have already mentioned, ACE has its benefits. I think for me, the only reason why it was beneficial was because I am a very lingual learner. I am also an introvert, so the offices and the PACEs (growing up) felt like a good match for me. I would certainly not recommend this curriculum to a learner whose intelligence do not match with the system (e.g. kinaesthetic learners).

    Having said that, I strongly believe that ACE by itself has the tendency to not foster critical thinking and fundamental interpersonal skills. Administrators and teachers can have an impact on those areas, but really, I can count in one hand teachers I’ve had who actually pushed me to get out of my introvert comfort zone and to ask and say what I mean verbally/publicly. And because most of these schools are run by religious sectors, the chances of you being able to comfortably ask learning questions is close to nil. I think this is really detrimental to someone who is already an introvert who would greatly benefit having good role models for social interactions.

    I think one of the main reasons how I got out of ACE alright was mostly because I was inherently curious (although older people around me kinda viewed that as rebellious and impertinent).

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: