More Christians denounce Accelerated Christian Education

As you’re no doubt bored of hearing, I was on BBC1’s The Big Questions last week, debating the question “Can children be damaged in fundamentalist religions?”.

While Twitter was busy talking about my hair, something fairly historic took place. On British television, for the first time to my knowledge, two Christians (of very different sorts) publicly denounced Accelerated Christian Education.

In the battle to save children from indoctrination and poor education, my contribution was probably the least important in the whole segment. By the end of the show, even the person they’d invited to defend fundamentalism agreed that she condemned Accelerated Christian Education. Here’s what happened.

First of all I talked about my experience, particularly how I’d been taught not to be friends with non-Christians. Then the Right Reverend John Davies, Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, weighed in with this slamming contribution:

I believe people need to be in a position...

 John Davies

3 John Davies

Imgur link (for sharing on Reddit, etc.)

Single image for sharing on Facebook.

Actually, that’s a slight paraphrase to fit the pictures. Here’s what he actually said:

I believe that young people, older people, all need to be in a position where they are properly educated to be able to make informed choices about any belief structure that might be presented to them.

And you only have to look at the history of the present day to see where fundamentalism can actually lead people. […]

To actually force-feed and indoctrinate young children with some of the rubbish, quite frankly, that Accelerated Christian Education produces — I think is wicked.

Then there was Liz Weston, who I’ve previously criticised for her contribution on the subject of hell. She was there to defend fundamentalism, although by the standards of some she was liberal. If I’d had more time, I might have pointed out that many Christian fundamentalists wouldn’t have allowed her to speak as a representative of Christianity because of I Timothy 2:12. And that others would have said that the low cut of her top (ie you could see her collarbone) would ‘damage her testimony’ and ’cause men to stumble’.

Anyway, for better or worse, Liz Weston was officially there to defend fundamentalism. It says a lot about how isolated and extreme ACE is that the BBC couldn’t find anyone to defend them. This was the final exchange of the programme:

1a Liz Weston

2a Nicky Cambell

3a Liz Weston

4a Scaramanga

5a Liz Weston

Abbreviated version for sharing.

Liz Weston: I don’t think it matters what the belief actually is. If you’re coercing your children that’s gonna harm them.

Nicky Campbell: You have to teach them to question.

Liz Weston: Yeah absolutely.


Jonny Scaramanga: Fantastic. In that case I’m sure you’ll join me in condemning Accelerated Christian Education.

Liz Weston: Definitely. Yes, absolutely.


Related posts:

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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 March 17, 2014, in Accelerated Christian Education, Christianity, Creationism, Education, Faith Schools, Fundamentalism, School of Tomorrow and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Please please Jonny, stop making your blog so interesting. It is extremely damaging to my daily to-do list.

    Please please don’t anyone make any comments at all. They are not helping me to get stuff done.

    You may all think that you are not responsible for my actions. You’re probably right.

    While I’m here, I will say it’s a shame that the BBC weren’t able to find anyone willing to defend ACE, but it’s probably because their position is rather difficult to defend and no-one wanted the job of being publicly ridiculed.

    Here is part of a year 7 (age 11/12) Personal Development (UK national curriculum subject) homework question from a local comp (UK state secondary school) on the subject of diversity in society.

    “Explain what diverse means and how do we all benefit from this?”

    On the one hand I am sure the teacher didn’t intend that question to indoctrinate students. You could also argue that the lovely opinion expressed by the question is held by the majority of decent people. I may not go as far as to say the question is anti-critical thinking. It certainly doesn’t encourage it though. Bringing this back to the question of fundamentalism damaging children, I think what is deeply damaging to young people is not only to avoid teaching critical thinking (and thereby not actually to educate them in any real sense, like the diversity homework), but actively to discourage critical thinking, never to provide the tools to think critically, always to produce one right answer. ACE’s approach to critical thinking can be summed up in one sentence “Other opinions are available, but they are wrong”. That is the essence of indoctrination. It is as harmful as never teaching a child to look before she crosses a road.

    • I can see where you are coming from here, but I think it is a very different situation.

      When I was at a state school and was set an essay that had something like “how do we all benefit from this?” in the title I was expected to also present the opposing view.

      I could have argued against the question and as long as I backed it up I would still get a good mark, could the same be said of ACE?

      • Well obviously I realise that the answer is no, there is only ever one right answer with ACE! I only put the homework question in because it surprised me how bad it was. I’m not going to argue how I know that in this case if that child had put the opposing point of view just to see what would happen (a suggestion made by her parents) she would not have been met with a good response. I’ll leave it at that!

        But back onto the damage done to children by ACE actively forbidding critical thought of any kind:

        Anyone from an ACE school remember “scoring” your PACEs?

        1 Scribble/underline/circle some answers.
        2 Go to the score table.
        3 Pick up the holy red pen.
        4 Carefully put your red crosses next to the “correct” answers.
        5 Return to office, re-do answers. Easy when you’ve marked them all with red pen.
        6 Re-score your work accordingly.
        7 Cross off your goal chart. Job done.

        After a while, realised that I could avoid all of the above steps by hiding a red pen in my office. Then you didn’t even have to go to the score table.

        Once I actually took the relevant score book back to my office and copied it for an entire goal session and ALMOST got away with it.

        At one point I went through a lot of PACEs crossing the score boxes without actually scoring them. One day one of the monitors took it upon herself to get out what must have been hundreds of past PACEs from the whole learning centre and go through them all. I was actually given a demerit for every incorrectly scored PACE. Lets just say the detentions took a while to serve.

        Other dodges include taking a tissue to the score table and writing the correct answers on it in order to copy them once back at the office.

        Sorry if you didn’t do ACE, all that red pen stuff will be (luckily) meaningless to you. It’s just that once you got to a scoring box (every few pages) you couldn’t move on til you crossed it off with a red pen.

        Anyway, I can’t remember ever having to write anything that was based on my own opinion, other source material, in fact anything that was more than a few sentences of regurgitating exactly what was said in the PACE. It was only when I did History, English and Biology A level at another school when I discovered what education really means. To be fair we did take “proper” GCSEs at my Christian school but it’s possible to get a reasonable clutch of those without ever stopping to think.

        And I know we are way off topic here but anyone remember when Hudson and Judson got eaten by cannibals? Did that really happen? Am I only imagining it?

  2. Also Jonny, I forgot to say that I think your hair is rather sweet, so never you mind those beastly comments.

    (I am not entirely insensible as to the patronising nature of my opinion, but I am now officially deeply middle aged and so therefore you have to excuse a little thinly disguised jealousy)

    • Not to mention, if the only thing people could think of to criticize about Jonny’s appearance on BBC was his hair, that says a lot.

  3. I think the related posts which popped up at the bottom of this is quite telling.

    “Related posts:

    Even the vicar can’t stand ACE
    Even the minister can’t stand ACE
    Even this creationist can’t stand ACE”

    • Well, I pick the related posts. Those aren’t the automatically generated ones.

      It’s almost like I’m conducting a campaign to demonstrate how opposition to ACE is not necessarily opposition to Christianity, isn’t it?

      • Awh, I thought even WordPress algorithms might be on your side!

        It’s good that these people are disagreeing with the very core of ACE, not just the results of this particular iteration of it. It would be interesting (albeit quite worrying) to see how widespread the latter is. “Sure, these schools are bad but in theory an organisation that intersperses Biblical questions in a biology tests would be good.”

      • Yes, it is almost like that! I am a Christian and my previous comments are only a snowflake on the tip of the iceberg of my opposition to ACE. Sorry if they blathered on a bit but I hope one of my main points is clear. Never allowing or enabling a child to think for herself is “fundamentally” wrong.

  4. Excellent work.

    It’s almost like I’m conducting a campaign to demonstrate how opposition to ACE is not necessarily opposition to Christianity, isn’t it?

    You are not anti-Christian. You are just non-Christian but anti-abuse. And that’s about where I am. There are many fine Christians why understand what a good education is, so I’m glad to see that you are welcoming their support.

  5. Positive movements. It’s good.

  6. I am not familiar with ACE, and I am a big fan of teaching critical reasoning to children. But I am not sure where we draw the line on coercing our children’s beliefs.

    If children hold racist beliefs they are punished/coerced to believe something else. My daughter believed it was fine to yell at her mom and was coerced out of that belief by means of an “extra chore.”

    We all teach what we think is best for our kids. I think people teach critical reasoning to them if they really believe what they teach is logical and rational. If they really think what they are teaching them is illogical or irrational, then they might be against critical reasoning. 🙂

  7. My working assumption is that the Ruth Haslam commenting here is a DIFFERENT Ruth Haslam to the wife of the senior minister of Westminster Chapel (Greg Haslam, a ‘mainstream’ young Earth creationist who featured on a Channel 4 programme about Genesis around four years ago and who thinks the Answers in Genesis website is ‘second to none’).

  8. I have been doing some research online about homeschooling. I came across your blog and have read a few of them. I don’t agree with everything, but who ever will. 🙂 I am pleased to be enlightened by the ACE program which I was leaning towards. I do ask though, is there a curriculum that you would suggest? I found who not to do, but I still can’t find a substitute. I am not that gifted, I believe, at creating my own. I need a basic curriculum. I can teach them belief from the Bible directly. That is what is for anyways. Any help is appreciated. Thank You.

  9. Where can I watch this?

  1. Pingback: Religion News and Agnostic Views | Evangelically Atheist

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