Why ACE is awesome

I have a permanent running offer out to anyone who can offer a defence of Accelerated Christian Education: Submit it here, and I will post it on the blog. Well, the following comment got left recently in response to A Collection of ACE Survivor Stories, and I think it’s the best defence of ACE I’ve seen. I profoundly disagree with it, of course, but I am on holiday and don’t have time to explain why at the moment. So, readers, if you disagree, here’s your chance to respond: Leave your counterargument as a comment, and I’ll pick the best one on my return.

After reading through most of the anti/pro comments above, I was compelled to respond with my own ACE experience, and also to address some of the comments made. I have quite a bit I’ve been thinking about, but I’ll condense it as best I can.
I came across this website while searching for an ACE school for my child to attend. She currently attends one I am quite happy with, but I am relocating so I am looking for another. I also attended and graduated from the same ACE school she is attending now.

From the comments I have read above, it appears to me that some of the writers have had some serious problems since high school. Is it possible that they are now looking back on their life now, looking to figure out where it all went wrong? I think this is possible. It also appears that some of the writers may have had bad experiences at individual schools, and I believe them. Bad people do bad things wherever they are, whether that is in a public, a Catholic, or an ACE school. This is not an indictment of any particular system unless there is a clear indication of systemic abuse, and I do not believe this is the case with ACE.

What are the negative commentators here comparing ACE to? I live in the U.S., and the public education system here is sub par. Polls vary, but not one that I have seen has the U.S. anywhere near the top. PISA in 2012 ranked U.S. at 36th in the world and UK came in at 26th. Many people here have commented about the lack of critical thinking in the ACE curriculum. I guess that they are assuming that other private and public schools are full of critical thinking, well read, open minded students? This has certainly not been my experience at all. Quite the contrary.

After graduating from my ACE school, at the top of my (3 person!) class, I was offered academic scholarships at a few different universities based on my grades, rank and also high ACT scores. I started on my chosen major, but halfway through I realized I didn’t like that major, and switched into the biology program. Most people in this major were pre-med students. Almost all of them had had very good high school careers, and most had taken AP classes in high school. Hardly any of them displayed what I would call high level problem solving skills or much “critical thinking” at all. I graduated with high honors, and at number one in this class (although not official, since I hadn’t started with the original class). When finished I still wasn’t sure what path I would follow, but I took the MCAT exam to open that door. My advisor called me in the summer to tell me I had the highest score of the class. He advised that I consider a medical career, and I did. I am now a successfully practicing doctor. Not one other person in that pre-med class of 40 to 50 students went on to medical school. I am not writing this to brag about myself (no one here even would know who I am anyway!), but to illustrate that my story is not the only one like this. From my same school came graduates who are engineers, run their own businesses, or teach. The majority of students are employed in blue collar professions, and some are homemakers. And some are not doing well at all. There is at least one girl I went to school with who is homeless, and several others have struggled to make their way through life.

This brings me to the most important point, and that is that ANY school is simply a microcosm of the society it resides in. ACE schools are no different. Re-title this website something like “Leaving Chicago Public Schools” and I guarantee that you would receive ten times more stories about kids being left behind in curriculum or who did not feel adequately prepared for college, stories of physically or sexually abusive teachers, or stories of being harassed and bullied by other students. These scenarios are problems in ALL schools. Within my school we had some highly motivated people who excelled at the curriculum and went on to very successful careers. Some struggled with the curriculum, and did not attend college. It is possible that a different style of learning may have benefited these students. I am well aware that in a self motivating, work at your own pace system, certain students lacking motivation can definitely fall behind. This could be a fault of the curriculum, but it could also be a consequence of external situations the student may be in. One misconception I believe that people have about education in general is that it is all done in schools. Family life, and the experiences passed on from parent to child are also quite a large part of any education experience. Almost without exception, the students who did not have a quality home life in my school did not do well. This is also true in public schools. If you have parents who are not making a child attend school, preventing truancy, or who are incapable of helping children with homework, or who can not at the very least pass on valuable life skills to their children, we cannot as a society expect schools to pick up all the slack. Education starts at home.

I am not promoting ACE as the cure for all that ails you. But my experience was positive, and my child’s experience has been positive. I do see the flaws in the curriculum, but i suspect that all curriculums have flaws. Maybe this is because human beings are not made in cookie cutter fashion, but each are unique individuals.

One final thing I will address is the complaint that some here have been forced to think a certain way. No one can force you to accept an idea. They may tell you what the “right” answer is on a test, or what doctrine is “correct”, or they may enforce a certain standard of conduct expected of the students. But no person can actually control or change a thought or idea that you have in your head. The ultimate choice of what you believe in lies solely with you, and you have complete freedom to think what you will. Now, you may not be able to freely express those ideas while you are part of a certain organization. While in college, there were some topics in religion, politics or ethics that I did not agree with the teachers on. They presented their ideas, I examined them, and i either rejected or accepted them. I took the tests, I answered the questions, and I moved on with my life. Fortunately, we live in a country where we are free to practice our religion, or to not practice one at all. What you choose is your choice and yours alone. Thank you for running this website and I wish all of you the best that life has to offer.

More people defending ACE:

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 July 14, 2014, in Accelerated Christian Education, Christianity, Creationism, Education, Faith Schools, Fundamentalism, School of Tomorrow. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. More detail would be interesting. What university did she attend? If it was one that taught real science, how did she reconcile what she learned in her major (biology) with what she had been told at ACE? I have written myself about the scandal of US “universities” that teach Young Earth creationism as science, and the fact that these are accredited by a nationally recognised (!) Agencies set up for this very purpose: http://wp.me/p21T1L-9S

  2. I’m left repeating the observation that exceptional people achieve the exceptional, regardless of or despite their education. Not to minimise your experience, but you are clearly not a ‘middle of the bell curve’ person.

    I’d be interested to know what of the things that you answered the PACE questions you knew at the time, or have come to know since were not correct. I remember knowing that much of the biology was nonsense at the time, but others in my class accepted it as fact.

    Thanks

  3. Anyone who undergoes teacher education and training informed by modern research into child development (and is aware of how learning occurs) and seeks to implement best practices in a professional capacity will be absolutely horrified and utterly thwarted by the ACE method and content. It’s just that simple and demonstrably so.

    This understanding leads me to say with confidence that no professionally ethical teacher would or could endorse ACE on the basis of professional or ethical teaching standards. They might endorse ACE for other reasons (most likely religious ones) but not for educational merit.

    • Could you please give some specific examples?

      • I assume the examples you want are to indicate how ACE does not meet best practices. Here are some of the most fundamental failures:

        Cooperative work
        Evidence-based education
        Group performance
        Meeting individual needs.
        Recognition and implementation of differentiated best practices (meaning practices for early childhood that are different for elementary that are different for secondary that are different for post-secondary.

        The list of how ACE fails to deliver best practices in education is very nearly complete. The model used – Paces – is the antithesis of a holistic teaching model.

  4. Well written, and I feel, very comprehensive. If the anti-ACE people on this website would spend all their energies improving the failing public school system, it would make for a more constructive life for themselves and the students passing through the government-run system. Not only in Chicago, but go to any inner-city school district in the U.S., and you will see too many schools that are disaster zones, riddled with crime, chaos, and confusion where the dropout rates are large, and the graduating students can hardly read and write. From the comments I’ve read on this website, the major concern seems to be in the area of how the planet came to be or how humans came to be. In the grand scheme of things, that information isn’t even important and really has virtually ZERO effect on current human beings and how they choose to live their lives or make a living. It’s like choking on gnats and swallowing camels. And I will reiterate…spend your time working to improve the already FAILING government-run education system. It IS better use of your one, little life that God has given you on this big, blue marble.

    • You seem to presume that public education is somehow a poor model on principle because it’s public. This is a bias you have.

      The core Canadian experience of public education – one challenged by different languages, cultures, religions, family income, geographic isolation to name but a few – is a case in point that puts to the test your assumption and finds it factually wrong.

      Why does this public education model regularly produce an exceptionally high cohort rate of college- and university-ready students able to compete globally, ready as you suggest to ‘choose how to live and make a living’?

      Well, to start with, the system hasn’t been financially gutted and then given an expanded mandate like in the US to guarantee its failings. The Canadian funding model does not produce locally funded neighbourhood schools reflective of the wealth (or its lack) of the students’ parents; it produces equivalent schools with a best practices curriculum that is constantly compared and contrasted (not that ACE students learn how to do this) with other countries. Curriculum is constantly tweaked and theses changes are implemented yearly. The assumption is that the public system can always do better and that this starts first with updated subject curriculum and then teaching practices. It is the job of teachers to implement new information through more effective teaching practices (and subject expertise) that have been demonstrated to deserve incorporation, that educators must constantly upgrade their qualifications through professional development (do you see any of this happening in ACE?), that every student has a right to the best education that can be replicated in any school anywhere. I don’t see any of these public education values supported by public government in the US. I see a business and not an educational model as the primary consideration in the US federal and state education departments and that’s why it’s currently broken but fixable.

  5. I am impressed that you put together a defence of ACE and were happy to put it on a blog where most readers are likely to disagree with you. I am glad that you are leading a successful and happy life and have achieved many of your goals. Ultimately though, other than your feeling that ACE offers an alternative to your local schools, I suspect that ACE probably fits right in with your own religious worldview and for this reason you are more than happy to endorse it. I for one have had my fill of the world of ACE where black people should not mix with white people, gay people are an abomination, science is idolatry, atheists are not to be trusted, social justice is a sin, women are secondary to men, parents must dominate their children and children are taught to fear hell.

  6. As mentioned under the previous blog last night, the creationists at Truth in Science appear to be defending ACE though it’s not clear whether they know that much about what exactly is taught and how it is taught.

    I will be checking out tonight’s Channel 4 Dispatches.

  7. I take issue with this statement, “One final thing I will address is the complaint that some here have been forced to think a certain way. No one can force you to accept an idea. They may tell you what the “right” answer is on a test, or what doctrine is “correct”, or they may enforce a certain standard of conduct expected of the students. But no person can actually control or change a thought or idea that you have in your head. The ultimate choice of what you believe in lies solely with you, and you have complete freedom to think what you will.” We are talking about children here. Children who believe that their parents and teachers are giving them accurate information. Children who have not yet developed the critical thinking skills that will help them discern good information from bad. Children who may never develop these skills as a result of attending these schools.

    • Seconding this. My parents disagreed with some of what I was taught (specifically, YEC). However, I didn’t know this. What I did know was that I was learning YEC in school, from schoolbooks. (I figured textbooks weren’t allowed to lie, and wouldn’t even if they could.) I also knew that my parents were paying a lot of money for me to go to private schools. Surely, then, YEC was true and evolution was a lie designed to lead people away from God.

      This problem was compounded by the books’ subtle but insidious programming to never, ever question authorities, ever. The idea that YEC might be wrong, or mischaracterizing evolution, never entered my mind because those kinds of questions were deliberately shut down as a consequence of my elementary-school education.

      My parents didn’t even realize how stunted my ability to question was. They assumed because we had lots of books at home that specifically disagreed with YEC, that I’d naturally ask them about it on my own. (No, really. I mentioned this to my mother as an adult, and she said, “I knew the books were wrong about YEC. I was going to talk to you about it when you asked me about it.”)

  8. My first comment on your blog is to say: ‘I second everything tildeb said in their comments’.

  9. “Almost without exception, the students who did not have a quality home life in my school did not do well. This is also true in public schools. If you have parents who are not making a child attend school, preventing truancy, or who are incapable of helping children with homework, or who can not at the very least pass on valuable life skills to their children, we cannot as a society expect schools to pick up all the slack. Education starts at home.”

    And if your parents work 60 hr/wk just to make ends meet, and thus spend maybe 1-2 waking hours a week with you, then you’re SOL, kids! You’re doomed to poverty, because your parents were poor!

    Yeah, I don’t think that’s such a good idea.

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