“I feel like the ACE program virtually destroyed my life”

Last year on Reddit, an AMA (Ask Me Anything) about an Accelerated Christian Education school turned into a free-for-all for ex-ACE students. At the time, I explained how it had brought a ton of important ACE survivor stories into the open, and I shared one of the the best. Here’s another from that event. I’m so glad it happened. Many of the stories are tragic, but so much of this would never have come out into the open without it.

reddit-logo-01-674x501-300x222This week’s tales are from the user CANIBALFOODFITE. As I recall, the user expressed the wish not to be contacted about their experiences, but I link to the original posts so you can see the source.

 

I feel like the ACE program virtually destroyed my life.

 

I was in it from 1st grade until 3rd grade. I was completely incapable of learning in this environment. We moved to a different state when I was going into 3rd grade. I was enrolled into a private school that was formatted like most “normal” schools. I was so far behind that my teacher told my parents I needed to go into special education, which was not provided at the private school. The options were to ether go to public school full time, or go to the special ed classes part time. We opted to just put me into public school. I struggled so badly. I remember the first time my teacher (still at the private school) told us to get out a piece of paper to take some notes. I had never used lined paper before, and wrote a few words (I didn’t understand the concept of taking notes, I could barely spell, and had to right slow.) across the lines. I think this was the clue to my teacher (who was a super sweet lady) that I was totally lost. I honestly don’t think I learned ANYTHING up to that point. I was incapable of absorbing information in, what I now call, the ‘prison’ learning system. I was finally able to (barely) work my way out of the special ed classes in my high school years. However, I still struggled, passing most of my classes with a C or a D. Other things affected how I was able to function, I was bullied mercilessly in elementary and Jr high. Being a small town kid from Indiana who had no concept of “cool” didn’t help. I remember the day we showed up to our new home. I was wearing a Davy Crockett coon hat that my dad had bought for me in the middle of summer. My cousin (who I was meeting for the first time since I was about 2 years old) just looked at me as if I was simply the stupidest person he had ever seen and said “Nice hat…you no it’s hot out right?” and walked away. I was so out of my element socially, and so behind in my education…it was terrible. I managed to graduate High School after dropping out for a couple of years. Never got to go to college. If only I could go back and start over again…

[Another user]: I don’t understand. Were you expected to teach yourself how to write?

[CANIBALFOODFITE]: I should clarify, I remember what I think was kindergarten or early 1’s grade. The class was a little more interactive, with the teacher teaching us all our ABC’s and how to read. We still had cubicles and had to do work silently in our packets a lot of the time. I remember just staring at the pages and feeling like I had no idea what to do sometimes. Some of it was pretty easy. Just tracing letters and writing them repeatedly. But anything beyond that was a struggle.

I remember telling my teacher “I give up.” One time. She picked me up off the ground by my arms and screamed in my face “YOU DON’T EVER SAY THAT!” I was mortified…and started to cry…I just didn’t get it. I remember going home at night not having anything done. What you didn’t get done at school, you had to do at home that night. My parents solution was to make me sit up at a desk (It was some old desk my parents got from some old school. It even had one of those “holders” where you would put your ink cup.) in my room and not let me come out until it was done. I remember sitting there for hours just trying to get through it. Sometimes I would be there from the time I got home from school until bed time, only coming out to eat dinner.

[Another user]: How do your parents feel about the whole situation? Do they understand at all what they did by sending you through that?

[CANIBALFOODFITE]: So, when I was young, my parents were very religious. In fact, for two of the years I attended the ACE school in Indiana, my dad was the head pastor and the principle of the church/school (all in one) that we went to. I remember a period in which my dad told one of the teachers to make sure that I was getting my work done, and that if I wasn’t, to bring me to his office. Keep in mind that (as far as I know) NONE of the teachers there were licensed teachers. They were probably barely qualified to work in a daycare, much less be full time teachers. Anyway, he would frequently stop by my cube to make sure that I was making progress on my work. Well, as you can guess…I wasn’t. He would say “OK, you’re not working, come with me” and take me to the principles office to face my dad. “He’s just sitting there not doing anything, I’ve checked on him several times.” He would say. My dad learned most of his parenting skills from Dr. Dobson books, and kept a large wooden paddle with a red handle in his office and at home. I think I was spanked by my dad every day in his office for about a week…The pain was immense…

A couple of years down the road my dad was no longer a pastor, and was going to school. I was struggling in one of my classes. (I think it was English) After the first couple of weeks, I realized I was way above my head, and basically gave up on trying. I just mentally checked out, and tried to get through the class without being noticed.

A week or so after that my parents got a letter stating that I hadn’t done any of the homework that had been assigned. I honestly didn’t even know there had been any, and, because in my head the class didn’t exist any more, when my parents asked if I had any homework, I would just tell them “no”. My father was furious. I heard my name yelled from the back of the small 2 bedroom apartment we lived in at the time. The feeling of dread was blinding. I understood the context of the letter as I could hear my parents (at high volume) talk about it as I made my feet move toward their bedroom door. My dad questioned me about my homework, and asked if I had been telling them that I didn’t have any. I was in tears, praying below my breath that they would believe that I din’t know about it. “WHAT ARE YOU SAYING!” my dad shouted at me. I managed to choke out “I want you to believe me.”…I’m having a hard time writing this…My dad grabbed me and slapped me so hard across the face that my feet left the ground…I urinated my pants as he picked me up to do it again…he repeated this three more times…My ears were ringing…and I couldn’t see straight. My mom got him under control and sent me to my room. I stood there, sobbing, in my urine soaked pants. My mom came back in and saw. “What happened” she asked, looking at my pants. I managed to breath and get some words out “I thought he was going to kill me…”

I couldn’t go to school for a for about a week due to the bruises on my face. I had to tell the other kids that I had been sick. A couple of days after the incident my dad sat all of us down around the kitchen table. He formally apologized to me, and said that he would never do anything like that ever again, and that if he did that we were to call the cops and have him arrested.

He never hit me after that.

Moving on to many years later, my mom says that the ACE program was a huge mistake, and my dad admits that he was way to hard on us. My parents are still Christians but are very progressive. When my brother came out as gay it really shook up the family. I think it helped to challenge all of us. Me and my brother have a good relationship with my parents now. My dad is a totally different person, you should see what he lets my two boys get away with…he is a great Grandpa.

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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 October 27, 2014, in Accelerated Christian Education, Atheism, Christianity, Education, Faith Schools, Fundamentalism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. This.

    This is not unusual.

    This is why ACE is so correlated with abuse.

    This.

  2. God. This has me weeping right now. A man in my 40s, hoping no-one comes into the office until I’ve pulled myself together.

  3. the most damning fact is it follows us through life even after all these years.
    my experience in ACE has had its damage, still learning to live with it.

  4. I feel so sorry for you. That this is the best you can do with your life and the only person that you have to blame for your poisoned heart is yourself. That your personal vendetta is your life’s work, is so sad. You need to get over the fact that someone in the system said no to you and the only person responsible for your personal failures, outside of your school journey, is you. If you feel that your parents made a wrong choice for you, maybe you should take it up with them? Many children live happy daily lives in the ACE educational programme. I have seen this and the wonderful children that come out of this educational system, first hand for fifteen years. The other schools outside of the system, have many drop outs, failures and children who hate authority.. These kids don’t blame the school, they simply grow up and move on. Maybe you should do the same.

  5. Just read your blogs, things you were taught were sinful. Its obvious to me, you just hate the Bible .. well thats your choice. Its not ACE, its the Bible you hate. You hate the truth and so in order to justify your own hatred of truth or maybe its confrontation of what your own heart is really like, you are crying wolf and saying the teachings of the Bible, within your educational system, abused you. I am sure that your parents chose the educational system that they believed was best for you, again, I feel that you quarrel is with them and your disapproval of the choices that theory made for your life. I am also quite sure, that all the things you feel that you missed out on, you have now made up for. I am sure they are really proud of you and what you are doing today. If you WANNA BE a voice in the earth, it may be better to apply to the BBC for a real job, whilst the rest of us get on with enjoying our lives and the educational choices that we make, for our futures, within them..

  6. This is horrible. What was done to this fellow is just scream-making. I just read your post about the 33 jaw-droppingly bad multiple-choice questions too. And the comments from people who went through ACE and how they have no education and it’s buggering up their adult lives. This is just so so terribly sad. And so so unnecessary. It’s like over 100 years since free public and mandatory education became law, isn’t it? Are there petitions and things in Britain to get this stopped? I live in Canada and now I’m wondering if that’s going on here too. Until I found your blog I had never heard of ACE. Despite reading umpteen exposes on every imaginal topic for the last 30 years. So it’s invisible too. As somebody said on the other thread I bet it is that government looks the other way because they think “this is Christian so it’s nice.”

    Makes me think of the Mark Twain quote which I can’t remember accurately and will tell all garbled where he says religion doesn’t make good people good they already were. It doesn’t make bad people bad they already were too. But it can make good people bad. He was thinking of his mother’s support for slavery. Which her minister had never denounced. But I think we can see how religion making good people bad would apply to ACE parents.

    Thanks for these reports, Jonny. They are terrifying. 🙂

    Also: is there any organization that like provides tutoring for ex-ACE kids? Who want it. Getting a bunch of them together to do writing drills, it sounds feasible to me. If someone wanted to organize that. Just a thought.

    • Hi conn suits,

      Thanks for commenting. Yup, there is ACE in Canada. Search this blog for Aram McLean’s posts to read his experiences.

      See also http://www.acecanada.com

      There was a report on ACE by the department of education in Edmonton, Alberta on ACE in 1985 which is quite damning. Email me if you want it.

      Tutoring for ex-ACE kids sounds like a great idea. A problem is that the schools are generally tiny, so it’s unlikely that there are lots of ACE kids wanting this kind of help living in the same area.

  7. “Sometimes I would be there from the time I got home from school until bed time, only coming out to eat dinner.”

    I have so many stories just like this.

    I remember being up all night working on my ACE homework. It was miserable. The material was so mind-numbing that I would zone out at my desk for long periods of time no matter how hard I tried to keep focused. When I would go home with stacks of PACEs (homework), my mind would be fried. I couldn’t concentrate. Sometimes I would write fake answers just so I could move on.

    Those stupid walls of text that were followed by fill-in-the-blank questions. I never read those stupid things. What was the point? All these stupid PACEs ever taught you to do was memorize. So, I would just look at the fill-in-the-blank problems, and try to hunt down the correct answers in the text to fill them in. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to do that.

    So much wasted time.

    The Typing PACE was really bad. I had to lug home a 20lb. manual typewriter because I could never get all of those insane typing drills done at school. It got to the point that I would just keep the school’s typewriter at home, because I would get Typing homework every night. I never brought it back to the school (even after I graduated), and they never noticed it was gone!

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