My meaningless diploma

I am proud to present this post by Anaïs Chartschenko. If you are likely to be triggered, be warned that this piece refers to rape.

Anaïs Chartschenko

Anaïs Chartschenko

Every time I apply for a job I have a pang of fear. Some jobs want to check your references. I am not afraid because I have a criminal history. I am afraid because my whole high school experience was a fraud. You see, I was home schooled. At first, I had big, thick text books with spines that smelled nice. I didn’t mind this as much, even though I was mostly left to my own devices to do my school work. I wanted to be smart. Discipline was not an issue. I wanted to go to college. I now see my naivety. I should have paid more attention when church members kindly informed me that college wasn’t for me or that god had other plans…

Before long, my mother had switched the whole curriculum up. I now was to do ACE which came in shockingly simplistic booklets, called PACEs. I was told it was much better, and I could work at my own pace. PACEs, get it? So for three years I stared at the PACEs, carefully filling in bubbles with my number two pencil. I can’t explain the boredom. I can’t explain the anger I felt with every depiction of a submissive woman making dinner. The curriculum featured multiple choice questions with only one right answer. There was no critical thinking involved. 

I particularly hated the comic strips. I was in high school, and there was a cartoon man at the bottom of every page letting me know his thoughts on my obedience! There was always some moral to be found. Every subject was related back to the bible in the most annoying way.

Notice how the woman is in the kitchen drying the dishes. In PACEs, women are always illustrated doing traditionally 'feminine' activities.

Notice how the woman is in the kitchen drying the dishes, while the men have been out fixing stuff. In PACEs, women are always illustrated doing traditionally ‘feminine’ activities.

My sex education was a picture of a chicken and an egg. I suppose I did not need the chicken picture as I had already learned about the birds and the bees from upstanding members of the community who liked raping young girls.

I am sure that the isolating nature of the program helped make me even more vulnerable. I was so lonely. Most of the other homeschoolers I was around were younger than me. It was a much smaller pool to draw friends from than a traditional school. When an adult man decided he was my boyfriend, I was flattered. Even after he started abusing me, I made excuses to myself because I wanted to believe him when he said he loved me. His family was viewed favorably in the church, as was his behavior. This adult man was allowed to be baptized with me in the context of a relationship. I can’t imagine now, as an adult, condoning an illegal relationship. At the time I didn’t see it that way, but that is why there are laws regarding this; it is never okay for an adult man to be in a sexual relationship with a minor. Of course, this is making ACE a spoke on a wheel of issues that surround fundamentalism.

ACE's emphasis on modesty contributes to a culture of victim blaming and rape apology.

ACE’s emphasis on modesty contributes to a culture of victim blaming and rape apology.

Fundamentalists taught me from a young age to be compliant at every turn. They taught me to fear the outside world. They taught me that men are always superior. They taught me that if something is shameful, shut the fuck up. Suffering is a virtue. I could suffer so much I deserved a cross. I took pride in how much I could take without crying. What else could I do? The adults had chosen this whole life style for me. The point of my homeschooling was to further isolate me from “worldly” things. I think that is true for a lot of homeschooled children. I don’t believe that parents should be able to make this choice for their children. Teachers have to go through years of college to learn how to educate. Why do we allow someone to control a child’s education simply because they could procreate? Every child deserves meaningful education. They deserve science and math. They deserve to learn social skills.

Fundamentalists truly believe it is their duty to teach that only their world view is relevant. Every other world view is wrong and anti-god. The only education that truly matters to them is Bible-related. Everything else is “of men” and not necessary. It is too bad that what is not necessary often includes science, world history, and sex education. My educator took it one step further – anything that disagreed with the brand of fundamentalism I was raised to believe in was blacked out with a marker. I later read about how the Taliban does that. I read about the publics’ outrage and thought, this happens right here. Society allows black markers to be used in limiting an already limited education! It is protected under a proud banner of religious freedom. Should religious freedom involve allowing children to be taught outrageous lies as truth?

Every member of a civilized society deserves the ability to fill out a job application without dread that the education chosen for them will come back to haunt them. They should be able to make an educated decision about whether they want to be cut off from society or not as adults. Exposing children to only one opinion robs them of the ability to learn how to make good decisions as adults. Trying to merge with society when you have been willfully ill prepared is fraught with difficulties. It also seems just plain wrong. When I did graduate, I took the paper my mother had printed to the local college. I tried to get a scholarship with my high marks. I was denied. They would not recognize my diploma as legitimate. I had taken no standardized tests, even the SATS. The years of scribbling feverishly in PACES meant nothing. It felt like god was laughing at me. I was again comforted by members of the church that as a woman, I didn’t need college anyway. Why, soon I would be bouncing a baby on either knee! Of course, no good christian boy my age would want me as I was damaged goods. An older man might be interested…. Of course, older men were always my problem.

Please check out Anaïs’s blog, Whisper CollectorUpdate: She now has a new website at

More ACE survivor stories:

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 November 25, 2013, in Accelerated Christian Education, Atheism, Christianity, Education, Faith Schools, Fundamentalism, School of Tomorrow and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. ” Why do we allow someone to control a child’s education simply because they could procreate?”

    Exactly. Raising children is not a right, it’s a privilege. In America, the government rewards religious child abuse with tax exempt status. In America, the government rewards religious institutions with tax exempt status knowing they promote slavery of girls and women. Legal slavery in the name of god. Legal child abuse in the name of god. Zero accountability.

    Adam Lee, a contributing writer for Big Think, wrote:

    “The reality is that sincere religious beliefs and legitimate interpretations of scripture can, and very often do, cause immense evil and harm. And when a more enlightened future age arrives to tote up the harms done by religion, I am certain that the systematic oppression and denial of basic rights to one-half of the human race will rank near the top.”

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I’ll definitely visit the Whisper Collector.

  3. There is a lot to be said for atheism. There is more sense in it than Christianity for a start.

    • It’s not very often I come across a positive statement about atheism, so thanks for that, georgethegent. If nothing else, atheism means you can’t pull out some standardized answer to justify whatever; you need good reasons to justify something… and on this merit alone, ACE (and PACEs) fails.

      It is so difficult and so challenging for so many to grasp that religious exceptionalism in whatever form it may take really does cause real harm to real people in real life by offering a pious cover to all kinds of actions that cannot be justified on the merit of good reasons. It is this willingness to grant respect to the cover that allows new victims (like Anais) to be made all the time. Atheism blows away that cover.

  4. I felt so sad about what you went through that I could have wept. But I feel like a few things aren’t clear. I came through ace and I know it benefited me and I went on to train as a teacher . Here I would like to point out that many of my fellow trainee teachers somehow passed as teachers and really didnt care about education or children. I would be horrified to have some of them be around my children never mind be accountable for their education for a year.Also rape can happen to anyone, at any age and in any setting. I recently know of a five year old who was raped in a school setting. We live in a cruel and harsh world but don’t confuse this with god. Before you judge go to a church and talk to the couple who’s marriage was over but then they committed to god and they are now going strong. or the woman told by doctors she would die with cancer within months but 7 years later is still alive to see her children marry and then have grandchildren. If you haven’t known the real god who cares for you and loves you and gives you a future and a hope even when the world tries to throw a million horrendous things at you, then I suggest you ask him into your heart right now and ask him to begin that incredible journey and relationship with you.

    • I thought twice about allowing this comment, but I try to avoid censorship on the blog.

      • I understand . . .

      • It alone is a triggering comment Jonny. Perhaps the commenter doesn’t realize it though? Maybe I give people the benefit of the doubt too much. *sigh*

      • Sally, It wasn’t “the world” that used her, abused her and raped her, it was religion. The world hasn’t poisoned the Church, the Church has poisoned the world. You might mean well, but your whole “real God who cares for you” comment was cruel.

        I wish people REALLY read their religious books, especially the Bible. That “moral compass” itself is full of slavery, murder, rape and child abuse that’s either condoned by God or ignored by him. That’s why it’s so easy for abusive parents and domineering leadership to use the Bible to justify their evil deeds.

    • I see the “rape can happen to anyone” argument frequently made as an attempt to defend and deflect blame from these religious communities. The thing that really gets to me is that some people actually are swayed by this argument.

      The point is not just whether or not someone was raped but how the community responds. If rape happens in a good community, the response would be to support the victim and go to the authorities to hunt down the perpetrator and bring them to justice.

      In a lot of these religious fundamentalist communities, young girls and women are trained not to report rape and are taught that being raped is their fault. In these communities rape will rarely be reported and even if it is, a whole system of parents and religious leaders work to keep the criminal from ever having to be prosecuted.

      So the point is that while anyone could be raped anywhere, in these communities it often happens to people continuously throughout their whole childhood and beyond while there is no attempt to help the victims and in fact every attempt is made to suppress them and keep the perpetrators enabled and protected.

    • Wow Sally! Your post shows a total lack of empathy! Did you even stop to think how your message would sound? Are you so wrapped up in your god that you can’t spare a thought for the feelings of others?

      Your post is the spiritual equivilent of blaming the victim for going out late at night or for not reacting in the “right” way. How can it possibly help to blame the victim for her lack of faith?

    • “If you haven’t known the real god who cares for you and loves you and gives you a future and a hope even when the world tries to throw a million horrendous things at you, then I suggest you ask him into your heart right now and ask him to begin that incredible journey and relationship with you.”

      What you may not realize, Sally, is that many of us here have done this very thing. Are suggesting that if our marriages didn’t survive – despite laying them on the altar, or we weren’t healed of our ailments – despite our crying out to god, or we were abused or raped or molested – despite our loving god with all our heart, that it is somehow our own fault that these things happened to us because we didn’t do or believe or say just the right thing to this god?

      I think everyone of us who empathize with the writer realize that “rape can happen to anyone, at any age and in any setting.” We also realize that this fact makes your god a bit impotent since he doesn’t make his followers any better than the rest of society – despite claims to the contrary.

      If you could here the tone of voice in which I speak this in my head as I write it you would know this isn’t spoken in anger, but in pain. It pains me that your response would seem to excuse the behavior of those in authority of the church this woman was a part of. It pains me that you sound no different than the three men in that room with a young, frightened girl. It pains me that you think the only thing that can fix us is belief in a god that would allow these things to happen. It pains me that you think we are the ones who need to be fixed.

    • Sally, when you say you trained at a teacher do you mean you went to an accredited school, and got a college education, and all the courses required to become a teacher in a public school. I say public school because in most states anyone can walk off the street and teach at a private school. There are a couple of red flags that your teaching skills are subpar. One is your grammar mistakes and punctuation mistakes. The other is that you don’t say you succeeded in spite of your ACE education or that there were some pros and cons of your ACE education. I would expect that someone who went through an accredited teaching program would be able to critically reflect on the ACE methods that are not even worthy of being called rote learning.

      Also, the kind of anecdotes you threw out there are tedious and don’t convince anyone of anything.

      • I agree with this comment, but as moderator it’s my job to try to be neutral (hard when it’s my blog and I have strong opinions). In future, please would you phrase comments like the last sentence a little more politely.

        Thank you for commenting though!

  5. It was brave of you to share your story. I, too, share your boredom and absolute confusion over why a certification or past education wouldn’t be recognized. I’ve spent a majority of my life trying to compensate for such a poor education. Hugs and courage to you as you continue your journey.

  6. That is a sad story. You were homeschooled. You were home uneducated, and that is a travesty. We need to protect children from the injustices that you have suffered. Stay strong!

  7. This makes me so incredibly angry. Is anything being done such as attempting to outlaw this indoctrination and child abuse?

    • Pretty much everything that’s being done against ACE you can find on this blog. In recent weeks, Dana Hunter from Freethoughtblogs and a couple of other bloggers have joined the fray, and there’s a Facebook group called Accelerated Christian Education Exposed. It’s a small movement, but moving rapidly.

  8. You might want to consider taking the GED certification. When they question you in a job interview, just say you did the ACE and thought it wasn’t good enough. That should impress them, since you’re going the extra mile.

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