More ACE survivor stories

Tomorrow, I will be posting my last blog about ACE for the foreseeable future. I’ll explain why in that post. I will still be accepting guest posts on the subject.

Now seems like a good time to wrap this up with a few more ACE survivor stories submitted as comments on the blog. Immediately after this I’ll post a compilation of comments in favour of ACE.

Jennifer Hoy

My mother enrolled me into an ACE school in 6th grade. At first I liked it but as I got older I began to see how ridiculous the PACE system was. The paces were so outdated. Everything we were learning was supposedly through the Biblical perspective. We had to wear uniforms. The girls could only wear skirts or gouchos. No pants! The teachers were just members of the church. No formal training. Reading some of the other posts I have to agree that this type of set up was very isolating. The only good thing I can say is that it taught me to work well on my own. I graduated Valedictorian in 1989. I did not go to college. I was afraid to try because I thought they would laugh at my diploma! I am 42 and am still learning things that I should have learned in high school. I feel that I was robbed of my youth and education. I feel I could have been so much more in life. The school and all of it’s forced beliefs have affected me in so many ways. I am still a Christian but my views of what that really means has changed. I would never send my kids to this type of school. These schools are a waste of time.

James M.

Hi Jonny.

Just discovered your site today. I attended ACE schools in the US off and on from Kindergarten through 7th grade. The experience was, as you say, horrendous, and as an educational system, utterly worthless. I just wanted to add that in the schools I attended, the “office” model was not just used in the mornings, but was an all day long experience. There was no relief from this stifling arrangement save for a few 10-15 minute long breaks and the lunch hour. Occasionally, the “supervisor” would address the group, and we would turn around in our chairs to listen, but that was the only social interaction allowed while in the learning center. I’m curious as to what other kinds of work were allowed in your ACE experience.

I could go on for days about the horrors of ACE, but I’ll stop here. Thanks for this blog. I’m sorry you had to endure the nightmare that is ACE, but it’s comforting to know there are others out there who understand the abuse I endured under this asinine system.

Christopher (this one is longer but worth the read. It’s one of the most powerful survivor stories we’ve had. Trigger warning: sexual abuse)

Just stumbled across this while searching for information on Dr. Howard’s death. (Dr. Howard founded A.C.E.)

I know A.C.E. from many different angles. I went to an A.C.E. school from kindergarten through graduation. My parents worked for the A.C.E. headquarters for over 20 years. My mother worked there for nearly 30 years. My older siblings all went to the “college” operated by ACE which was rampant with sexual abuse. I worked at the headquarters when I was 14 and again when I was about 18 or 19.

I can relate to the poster who had to sign a pledge not to drink, smoke, dance, do drugs, go to movies or listen to anything but Christian music and that we would abide by the dress code even at home. Supposedly I signed one of those when I was 5. When I was in high school, several of us went to a birthday party for a church friend who went to public school. At this party, not all of the music was Christian and there was some dancing. Plenty of adults present, no alcohol or shenanigans. My parents (and several other parents) came into the party to look around and make sure everything was pure before they let me stay. It was probably over by 9:00. And yet I was called into the office the next morning and threatened with expulsion because I was at a party where some country music had played. They pulled out this pledge and waved it in my face like I was deliberately defying them… I also had the pledge used on me when I bleached my hair over summer break…

When I was young, maybe 9 or 10, there was a phase where guys and girls took separate breaks and lunch and even used separate entrances… because, you know, if prepubescent kids talk to each other, the girls will get pregnant or something.

I wish it was all just stories about their disturbingly odd beliefs, but the stories quickly become more painful.

At the school, I was tormented by an abusive principal with significant rage issues and his wife who worked at the school intermittently throughout my time there. I was abused physically and psychologically by them in ways that I do not care to discuss here. I was also sexually abused there when I was young but I want to be very clear that I do not accuse the principal. Some people reading this will know who I am and unfortunately the school has spread a rumor that I’ve accused the principal of sexual abuse but that is not true. I am not a lone victim of sexual abuse. Since I went public a few years ago, 4 other people have come to me with their own stories of abuse. Even worse, we all had different abusers. Some were abused for years. Only 2 of us have spoken publicly about the abuse and both of us instantly had our reputations attacked by the company/school. In my case, they broke my confidence and made my story public, misrepresented the facts and said I made an accusation I never made. The other victim suffered worse, even ending up in the local papers.

I could write a book about the abuses at the school, but that does not mean that ACE is responsible, it means that this was a horrific school. However, ACE is set up to foster horrific situations like this. Any person or group of people can decide to open one of these schools. There are no required qualifications or screening. At best, 1 or 2 people fly to the headquarters and take a 1-week, self-taught course and then are sent back to be responsible for the education and well-being of a group of children. The school I went to, which was 100 yards away from the ACE headquarters, had 4 registered sex offenders with access to the students during the time I was there. One was even hired as a custodian of the church where the school was located! If this is happening at the headquarters, what is happening around the world?

The ACE curriculum I used was very ineffective for long-term retention. Everyone knew that all the questions on the tests were going to be covered the day before the test on a pre-test. Just memorize that and forget everything else. AND you had access to that pre-test from the beginning so all you had to do was read the 20-40 questions on the pre-test and you literally just had to fill in the blanks.

Math and science were a complete joke. If you couldn’t teach yourself Algebra and Geometry from their books, you were out of luck. And what they represented as “science” was downright laughable. It was inaccessible to many students because they weren’t able to teach themselves and it was downright misleading. I’d question anything they teach past simple machines…

The company was corrupt from the get-go. It was founded by a philandering sociopath who surrounded himself with people just like him. He was known to have affairs around the world and to make advances on the girls in ACE’s college (which ended up closing abruptly because it turned out it was illegal). One of the smajor scandals when I was in High School involved one of the college girls who was demanding a paternity test for her baby which she claimed was his because they’d been sleeping together. One married female member of my family traveled with him in the company jet for about a month and after the first couple days, refused to be near him or be alone in a room with him because of his advances. He even went so far as to send the room mate of my family member out on an errand and then tried to come to her hotel room to make a move on her while she was alone.

[Editor’s note: While I cannot corroborate all of Christopher’s claims here, ACE founder Donald Howard was accused of multiple affairs in a 1984 Wall Street Journal article, and his infidelities were common knowledge among ACE staff]

They are purposefully deceitful for their own gain. The standard response when a customer questioned the prices of the curriculum was “Well, we are a Christian business, not a ministry”. But at the same time, they paid their staff far below market rate by telling employees “We’re a ministry, not a business”. Meanwhile, the founders are millionaires many times over…

This place is heartbreakingly abusive with many similarities to a cult. At the headquarters and in the curriculum, you are taught to mistrust any source of information that contradicts their dogma. Any kind of disagreement with their teachings is labeled a sign of a rebellious spirit and if you don’t recant fast enough, you will be smeared publicly. The control of people’s personal lives was frightening. I remember hearing a sermon about colors that were sinful for a man to wear. When I was young, it was a sin to have a TV in your home or for a woman to wear pants. THIS is the foundation of the company. I hear things have changed, but honestly, I don’t see it. I still know people there and the posts I see on Facebook still smack of the abuse and legalism I remember from my childhood.

Edit: This post from Shane is also worth reading: “I have dreams also to this date of telling off the teachers and they come after me.”

Related posts:

More survivor stories:

And, putting forward the positive side of the argument:

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, Faith Schools, Fundamentalism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Timothy Allman

    So the good old Dr is dead? Missed that bit of news. This is cause for celebration! Met him several times at conventions in the 80s. That son of a bitch would go on and on with his mindless praying and preaching. May ACE die as well.

  2. Cheers from a fellow ACE survivor! Still a Christian, and I can understand the importance of having a “Christian education”, but it wasn’t until now that I’m an adult that I truly realize how creepy this whole thing is.

    PACEs are outright brainwashing kids into being racist (funny considering how I’m Asian), homophobic, sexist, intellectually dishonest right wing bigots. Lying (among other things) to kids is just plain wrong.

  3. From the Philippines. There are quite a few ACE schools here (none of which are really mainstream, thankfully).

    My school did away with the dreaded PACEs when we entered high school and focused on a conventional structure. To be fair, I didn’t have a happy childhood when I was in a “typical” school. I was bullied and stuff. My parents moved me to the ACE school where I was much happier. Then again, it had probably more to do with the school’s low student-teacher ratio than the PACEs.

    I can do a testimonial and just send it to your email or something if it’s alright.

  4. Greetings from a fellow ACE survivor.

    I was put into a small ACE school from kindergarten to about the sixth grade and after that I was home schooled on the ACE curriculum until graduating high school. I remember a lot of the paces you’ve written about here in your blog, and, looking back, it seems a little crazy to me that I actually read those as a kid without batting an eye.
    I think part of the saving grace (if you’ll excuse the expression) for me was that my family was Southern Baptist, which is fundamentalist, but nonetheless more liberal than the Wesleyan denomination that my school belonged to. We chalked up most of the stranger rules to the Wesleyans rather than ACE. Honestly, I kind of liked the office model because it allowed me to work on my own, and if I wanted to do extra work to get ahead, I was free to do that. Social interaction didn’t really suffer for me at that school since we had three breaks per day plus a lunch break, and all students took these breaks simultaneously.
    Once I started home schooling on the curriculum, I think I benefited much more from it because there wasn’t the option of slacking off or sleeping through class, there was just a big deadline at the end of the year. If I wanted to, I could finish early. If I dragged my ass, I’d have to work into the summer. It was good for me because it taught me how to study independently, without someone making me do it, and that carried over to my attitude in college, which was, “Nobody’s making me be here. My education is my responsibility.” I learned that because of my situation, and not because of anything to do with ACE, but it’s part of my story so I think it’s relevant.
    I obviously didn’t get much out of the science paces, but since my family ignored the school’s ban on tv viewing (yeah), and since I got into the internet at a young age, I ended up learning more about science than my friends in public school did just by virtue of the fact that I was interested in science and had access to the information. Bill Nye may have saved me from my education. How’s that for scary?
    Since I lacked a proper teacher, my math skills suffered quite a bit, but I was fortunate to get an amazing Algebra professor when I attended my first semester of college, and, to my surprise, I turned out to be pretty good at Algebra. Although I can now see the very serious problems with ACE, I can’t say that I was poorly or improperly educated, apart from mathematics. Until I enrolled in a university, I had no reference for how well I had been educated compared to my public school counterparts, but through my first two years of college, I seem to have had a head start on them, particularly in writing courses and the Copyright Law course I was required to take in my Audio Engineering degree. I know not whether that was due to the efficacy of the ACE curriculum, if any; my personally gained knowledge through reading and internet use; or the ineffectiveness of the public school system my peers attended. I suspect it was some combination of the three.
    In closing, I seem to have somehow made it through ACE undamaged. One of the benefits of being raised in a hardcore fundamentalist household is that, once I got into college and out of the church-saturated lifestyle, it was that much easier to recognize how ridiculous the beliefs were that I was taught as a kid. I am now an atheist, and much happier to be a man of science than I ever was to be a man of God.

  1. Pingback: Our Fundamentalist Neighbors: A Rebuttal | I Love You but You're Going to Hell

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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: