Christians can’t trust psychology: Inside the world of A Beka
This is a guest post by Athena. Athena was educated using A Beka Book and attended Pensacola Christian College. This is an inside view of the atmosphere, education, and attitudes A Beka and PCC, two of the biggest names in fundamentalist education.
Starting from kindergarten onward, I was homeschooled, and while my family used a smattering of textbooks from all types of publishers, we heavily relied on A Beka Book distributed by Pensacola Christian College (PCC). I grew up within a few hours of their college campus, so when it came time for me to choose a college, I chose PCC (from an incredibly narrow field of options that only included three other schools, all more fundamentalist than PCC). I come from a religious environment called Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull, so even going to college, as a woman, was a huge risk. Because of that, my choices as far as profession were extremely limited– I was not permitted to chose anything career-oriented, or that would remove me from my place as a “keeper at home.” This led me to becoming a Secondary Education major, with teaching concentrations in English and music.
There are already many critiques of the Orwellian atmosphere at PCC, but as far as I can tell (and I’ve gone digging) there is nothing except glowing praise for the education program (early childhood, elementary, and secondary) at PCC. During my last semester, I was required with the other seniors to attend a “job fair.” The only employers who showed up were Christian schools from all over the country; there is also a list you can put your name on for Christian schools to contact you. When I was with a friend who was being interviewed to teach at a Christian high school, the principal said that they try to only hire PCC graduates because of their “caliber.” In the Christian high school world, Pensacola Christian graduates are viewed as one of the best– if not the best– option available for new hires.
I had a hard time going through the education program. Many of the graduates will tell you that the program is difficult– and it is insanely difficult. However, what makes it “difficult” is nothing worthwhile. Decorating bulletin boards is a huge part of your grade for three different classes, and if you put the staples in the wrong way (and by “wrong” I mean placing them parallel with the edge of the board), you are automatically docked an entire letter grade. The requirements for the classes are ridiculous, purposeless, and almost entirely useless.
When I entered a graduate assistant program at another university, I was required to take a “Teaching College Writing” class, since that was what I’d been hired to do. At first, I thought I’d have no problem– after all, I’d just spent four and a half years getting an education degree, and I’d just completed an internship at The Academy. What could be harder than that?
However, when the teacher started talking about student-centered education, progressive education, and had us read articles from the Chronicle of Higher Education, I about had a fit.
At that moment, everything I’d been taught about “traditional education” and a “teacher-centered classroom” came screaming into my head. Not to seem melodramatic, but it was instantly and intensely overwhelming– I honestly thought I might pass out the longer my instructor kept talking. That class was almost unendurable, and by the time he finished, I felt exhausted. I’d had to fight with my own brain for two hours just to take notes. It was literally like fighting a battle inside my head. I could hear nearly all my instructors, all at once, telling me exactly why that professor in the front of that room was wrong and was going to be the ruination of Western society.
While I was a student at PCC, I had to take a class called Philosophy of Christian Education. We learned the public education had “always” been about Christian evangelism, and it was people like John Dewey, who had signed The Humanist Manifesto, that had ripped religion out of education and, therefore, ruined it. In Educational Psychology, the only textbook was Why Christians Can’t Trust Psychology and the only project was a paper on what my “Classroom Discipline Method” was going to be. For General Teaching Methods, we spent the bulk of our time writing critiques on articles from education magazines and journals, looking for why all those articles were progressive, and therefore unethical and unsuitable for a Christian educator. For Teaching Reading, I was taught that the “look-say” method and the Dick and Jane books were designed by progressives so that children wouldn’t be able to read and could be more easily deceived by socialism and other liberal political agendas. In Teaching English, I was taught that all literature should be taught strictly for its moral, and that any approach to grammar that even hinted at linguistics was evil.
Every education major is required to have an internship at a Christian school. Some of us fulfill this requirement at a school of our choosing, but that process is so hair-raisingly difficult that most of us decide to do our internship at Pensacola Christian Academy, the K-12 school associated with the college.
This internship can only be described as nightmarish.
In kindergarten, children are required to have a “nap time,” where they are forced to lay on their stomach with the hands by their side, their heads turned away from the person lying next to them. If they move in their sleep, a teacher comes and re-arranges them. If they talk in their sleep, they are punished.
In elementary school, children line up in perfectly straight lines to go to the bathroom, which they do in absolute silence. Walking around The Academy during the day is eerie because there is no noise anywhere, except on the high school side of the building between classes. A school that has 2,500+ students. With no noise.
In high school, students are required to sit up completely straight at all times, keep both feet flat on the floor, and keep their eyes on the front of the room. Making eye contact with another student in the room is considered “communication,” which is punishable. One of the many principles and staff routinely make their way through every single class of the day to make sure that all teachers are enforcing all the rules.
I could go on and on and on.
It’s scary, and frightening, that this is how they treat children. It’s worse than what I’ve seen enforced in military academies.
And, to be brutally honest, this is only what’s on the surface. What they believe about the nature and purpose of education is even more horrifying.
To the Hortons and the people who espouse a “traditional” model for education, repetition is the key to learning. This may seem like common sense, but it is anything but. This reduces education to nothing more than endless drills and rote memorization. There are constant review drills in every single class from kindergarten to physics. English class is composed of students memorizing spellings, vocabulary lists, poems, and grammar rules. That’s it. It’s the only thing I taught for four months to eighth graders.
Students can stand up and participate in speed drills like nothing I’ve ever seen anywhere else– it is mind boggling and impressive. And disturbing. Because, in this educational environment, students are machines. Teachers deposit information, and students regurgitate it. And this isn’t seen as the only way to “teach to the test,” something that teachers would avoid if they could. This is seen as the only responsible way to educate.
In all my classes and during my time at The Academy, students were presented to me as The Enemy.
“If you don’t have a plan for every single second of every single day, trust me, your students will have a plan for you.”
“Never, ever smile before Thanksgiving. Your students are not your friends.”
“It is not your responsibility to care about them. You are there to teach them, nothing else.”
“Never reveal anything personal about yourself. Students will take advantage of any information you give them.”
“The primary focus of any educator should be classroom discipline.”
“For the first month of school, be as ruthless as possible. The only thing students respect are boundaries.”
Again, I could go on.
If you are considering placing your child in a school that relies exclusively on A Beka material, or you’ve heard of them sending teachers to The Academy for “teaching training,” please, please, run screaming for the hills. This isn’t about what the content of the curriculum is– which is abysmal– it’s about how they will view your child. To those who believe in “traditional education,” your child is not a person. He’s a depository, and nothing more.
Posted on June 26, 2013, in Christianity, Education, Faith Schools, Fundamentalism and tagged A Beka, Christian school, Educational Psychology, Pensacola Christian Academy, Pensacola Christian College. Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.