Britney Spears? Is she in our class?

There’s another new ACE blogger on the scene. Everyone, say hi to Christina Kelton. In a recent conversation on the Accelerated Christian Education Exposed Facebook group, Christina wrote:

I could go on for days with my thoughts on the religious aspect of ACE. Religion aside, I could never stand behind a program that turns out students with diplomas that can’t be used. My high school education was not considered valid for the courses that I took within the ACE program in the US. I now need a waiver to even apply for college and even then it carries almost no weight. In addition, the program never prepared us for the SAT or the ACT. I have never taken either. This causes Universities to scoff. To this day I am still pursuing legal avenues to even secure a diploma that passes minimum state requirements. I am 26 years old and still haven’t achieved this because once the damage is done, the government makes it so difficult to rectify. I will never stand behind the ACE system, religious differences aside.

Christina’s first tumblr post about ACE was so outstanding that I’ve asked her permission to reproduce it here. 

Through the years I have tried to explain my grade school experiences with people who had attended public school, but no matter how detailed I felt that I was, the nuances were typically lost in translation. I have put together this post in hopes to better illustrate the severe deficit in the education I had received and display the potential harm of this particular Fundamentalist Christian education structure.

To put it simply, my school was a private K-12 Christian school in Iowa, nestled in the middle of Amish country. Though the student body was diverse, it remained predominantly Mennonite for the latter part of my education there. Students commonly clique’d with peers who attended the same church as them, naturally dividing the student body into “most conservative, somewhat conservative, and we-wear-jeans-at-home-don’t-tell-anyone-in-the-community.” The curriculum here was a home school curriculum that had been ordered in bulk to accommodate its students. The curriculum was made up of thin workbooks called “PACEs.” Each subject had its own series of PACEs and were chronologically numbered. Students were given goals to meet each day and were encouraged to work beyond those goals provided that there was time. In my case this meant that I was multiple grades above my peers in English/Word Building/Spelling PACESs and multiple grades behind them in Math PACEs. The classrooms were large, with all of elementary and middle school in one room and high school in another. The faculty were often severely understaffed. The teachers were not equipped with the tools to help me catch up with basic math skills.

This system let us down in a number of ways, the greatest two of these being that we were being given falsified information and that we were not being completely prepared to integrate into mainstream society. In addition to being poorly educated about popular culture, slang, and life skills, I would not take a proper health class until my junior year of public high school.

There are other concerns such as the immersion of young minds in strictly right-wing propaganda meant to literally demonize the left, and providing a limited or over-simplified perspective of history and politics. These messages were carried out in each booklet by comic strips, which followed the lives and struggles of Ace, Christi, Booker, Sandy, and friends. The messages of the earlier comics appear benign at first glance, their controversial messages easily overlooked by children. Among these one could find a comic in which young Christi evaluates her attire in the mirror, picking the most modest of dresses to wear for the day. The final frame in this comic depicts Christi telling herself, “I must look right always.” While the intended takeaway might be modesty it takes a back seat to a louder message to children, that you must look right always. It is important to note that Christi a main character in the comic series who acts as the voice and role model for young girls and grows with the students as they age and move along in the booklet series. Ace is her star male counterpart and as they grow older, they are depicted side by side more often as if they were beginning to meld into an ideal example of  young adult puritan courtship. The comics were plentiful and easily found in the elementary education portions of the curriculum. They were bright, colorful, and easy for children to spot when bored with the lesson on the page. Later in the series, the comics became less frequent in color, and took on more complex subjects such as politics, and would span an entire page in some cases.

The characters were not limited to students, but the comics featured pastors, teachers, and parents as well. This was a very important dynamic and essential to the brainwashing process. Sure there was a message of trusting your elders in all things, but there was much more at play here. It was an age old tactic, where you experience a staged dialogue between the all-knowing “expert” and the “rational every-man.” The youngster asks the questions we’re all thinking and the teacher responds with rhetoric. This gives the illusion of open dialogue and fair and balanced information for the reader. Had anyone been allowed a television, they could see this same act again on FOX News.

Equally frightening was the frequency in which information was skewed or falsified. Lessons included how the discovery of the Loch Ness Monster debunks evolution, that humans and dinosaurs walked the Earth side by side, that the sun is shrinking, and that Africa was incapable of industrializing and becoming self-sufficient without the help of white men. According to the Social Studies PACE 1086 I studied from in school,

“Although apartheid appears to allow the unfair treatment of blacks, the system has worked well in South Africa …. Although white businessmen and developers are guilty of some unfair treatment of blacks, they turned South Africa into a modern industrialized nation, which the poor, uneducated blacks couldn’t have accomplished in several more decades. If more blacks were suddenly given control of the nation, its economy and business, as Mandela wished, they could have destroyed what they have waited and worked so hard for.”

Information like this was printed time and time again despite having been ridiculed and would not be corrected for years. Aside from a small number of corrections—some only to be seen in the UK version—this information is still being presented as fact today.

Observations about this material have trickled in all over the internet in various forms of social media, including not-exactly-a-fan fiction stories based on the comic characters, YouTube rants, forum discussions, photos of defaced PACE covers, and a myriad of articles. Among these we find adults and ACE survivors concerned with the themes of racism and segregation. After all, the children from the comics go to different schools. The white children are depicted to attend Highland, the blacks attend Harmony, and the Asians go to Heartsville. Furthermore, we see the comics peppered with shame tactics through the obese character Pudge, with not so much an attempt by ACE to back-peddle on why the writer nicknamed him as such. This isn’t the only area where the material is black and white. The majority of the lessons are fill-in-the-blank, multiple-choice, and true-or-false questions with only one definite answer. There are very few essay questions that prompt creative thinking. Squelching open dialogue places Christian students at a disadvantage when faced with any situation in which they may have to educate or defend their beliefs via academic dialogue—and in this curriculum—there is no room for debate.

I was fortunate enough to leave the private school I was attending. Eventually I was placed in a public school after rigorous placement tests and head-scratching. A lot of time was spent in testing, trying to assess how I could read at a college level, write in classic cursive at college level, and still not understand how to perform long division or relate to my peers. In fact, when once asked if I liked Britney Spears I coolly responded, “I don’t know. Do you like Britney Spears? Is she in our class?” I look back on that moment with amusement now, but making peace with it was long overdue. I worked very hard to gain the credits I had missed out on during my time in the ACE program and graduated successfully after much toil.

I leave you now with some of the images that haunted my childhood. It may prove nostalgic for some and simply new for others. Either way, feel free to add to the thread. Here, open communication is encouraged.

[There are a lot more pictures in Christina’s original post, but I’ve left them out because readers of this blog have seen most of them before.]

Thanks Christina. Everyone, check out her Tumblr at christinakelton.tumblr.com.

UPDATE: Christina has written another post on this subject that deserves your attention.

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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 May 19, 2014, in Accelerated Christian Education, Atheism, Christianity, Creationism, Education, Faith Schools, Fundamentalism, School of Tomorrow and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I remember the Christi comic, and being very confused by it. I think I concluded that she was sad she had grown out of the green dress. As for “I must look right always” I was completely stumped.

    I think they should have been more blatant. The message really didn’t get through. To this day I remain incapable to making appropriate clothing choices.

    • Likewise. In fact, it wasn’t until a year after getting my first professional job that I finally felt competent in choosing fabric types that wouldn’t clash.

  2. I was shifted from an ACE school to a public school during my 10th grade year. Let me tell you something…. I felt so stupid!
    I was put into 8th grade work because I knew nothing about science, literature, and even some parts on history.
    I didn’t have enough credits to graduate because my senior year I was in 10th grade work. I got my GED and am still doing online classes.
    I wanted to go to college, but I never took any of the tests necessary (SAT, ACT, etc) so I wasn’t accepted anywhere.
    My whole life the teachers would give us this speech about new kids coming in from public schools, and how they were going to be put behind because they were “slow” or that the ACE curriculum was so “top-notch” that they public schools cant keep up…. They were so wrong!
    Of course these kids were put behind in the ACE schools…. they weren’t taught to hate, and stay away from everyone that didn’t have the same beliefs as you. They weren’t taught that everything in your life has to revolve around Jesus or else you are going to suffer for eternity. Most of the kids that came into the ACE school, left within months because they realized that the teachers were only there to tell them that they were wrong, and when to go to lunch.
    My sister had a learning disability, which made the whole “do it yourself, PACE” idea way harder for her. At least when we switched they were able to finally get her some help in the public school.
    Sorry. I’m just ranting now. Lol

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