Accelerated Christian Education’s survivors speak out

Once more, this week we’re diving into Reddit’s Ask Me Anything about ACE schools. Unlike most AMAs, where Redditors ask questions of the original poster, this thread was most notable for all the other people with experience of ACE who dived in to tell their stories.

Previous sections:

Part 1

Part 2 

Here are more assorted ACE comment from Reddit’s AMA on the subject. Their presence here does not mean I agree with everything they say, but it’s great to hear from other ACE students.

olhonestjim

Every few years my parents would enroll me in some Christian school that taught either Abeka (sic?) or ACE curriculums. I hated ACE. I wanted to play and talk to other kids. It was the absolute worst education I ever had, especially the science, history, reading, writing, social studies, and math books. I was always far past the education levels for the grade I was in. My work for the day was always finished in a couple hours. It instilled in me laziness of both thought and action. You weren’t allowed to touch or come within 6 inches of touching your friends. The uniforms were uncomfortable, ugly, and unnecessary.

oh god, those stupid morality comics they put in there! I hated them too, and they were the only entertainment. My favorite character was the “bad” kid who was always misbehaving; talking bad about the teachers, untucking his shirt, smoking cigarette butts he found.

While in public school I was never really much of a problem kid, in Christian schools I was always getting paddled for acting out because of all the stupid restrictions. In utter boredom, one week I scribbled all over the bottom of my desk, which got me paddled when they folded up the cubicles against the wall on Friday. I got paddled for littering when a small notepad with my name on it fell out of my backpack and I didn’t notice. I got paddled for getting my stupid uniform dirty and playing touch football during lunch. I got demerits for decorating my cubicle with shark drawings. I got yelled at for talking to girls.

I hate, hate ACE.

mrbooze

Holy shit, I went to school under an ACE/PACE system from around 3rd-8th grade too! I’ve never run into anyone else besides former schoolmates who did this. The whole shebang, learning at your own pace from booklets, sitting in little personal cubicles all day, everything.

I did exceptionally well in that system, I pulled ahead of most of the rest of my class. My school was a tiny little Baptist school in Southern California. Somewhere around my 7th-8th grade the school abandoned the ACE system for a more traditional approach (with traditionally shitty non-accredited private baptist school teachers). From what I understood, the reason the school abandoned the system was that even though some students like myself excelled, most students did not, and especially the poor students did even worse.

On the one hand, I had a really shitty education. On the other hand, because I was self-motivated I did really well at the basic concept of teaching things to myself. Consequently when I went on to “traditional” schools and college, I still excelled because I didn’t need to be handheld through every step. It was like I spent most of my childhood swinging two bats, and when I started having teachers who actually knew the material teach directly to me and help me through the occasional confusing bit, it was like I was only swinging one bat from then on.

Edit: One thing I really liked about that system was having a permanent desk that I stayed at the whole day. It meant I was able to decorate it with my own pictures and little toys or figures or whatever. A lot like what my work desk looks like today. It also meant I didn’t have to haul school supplies and books around with me to/from school and around a campus.

I think a self-paced learning system really is ideal for some students, and it’s too bad our educational system can’t be flexible enough to place students in the type of system they will do best in. I guess that’s kind of the idea behind School of One, but I don’t see that concept spreading much around the country.

Edit 2: I should also add that when I say I had a “shitty education”, it wasn’t necessarily because of the ACE system, it was mostly because of the Christian aspect. I basically received zero science education and what I did was watered down basic Christianized bullcrap. Likewise literature was heavily sanitized, history was minimal and sanitized, and in general being “Educated” was downplayed as not as important as thorough Christian indoctrination. (I also had daily one-hour chapel services in addition to attending church every Sunday, and some religious fake-boy-scout thing called “AWANA” one night a week.)

I fully believe you could deliver a quality real education under a self-paced system, I just don’t believe this particular self-paced system accomplished that, because quality education was not its goal. Its goal was “Meet basic requirements of education.”

Edit 3: For reference, my time in the system was back in the late 70s/early 80s.

Chevreaulait (in response to the post discussed in part 1)

I know that feel. Your post kind of jarred me a bit. I was in an ACE school, too, until midway through highschool. The transition was hard. I was the only one in that school that I knew that either a) ended up escaping to get to a public school or b) ever went to any college that wasn’t a private, Christian school or seminary, and I know some kids were refused access to colleges because of lack of accreditation.

It’s very sad going back home now and seeing people whose lives were wasted away. 10 years and they’re still going to the same church, doing the same thing, with the same fear in their hearts.

I lived in a very small town where there were a lot of families that were related distantly. Not surprisingly, they all went to that same church where the ACE school was. From what I hear (regarding who has married whom and had children with, etc) it’s gotten very incestuous. A terrible, fear-mongering way of life seems like it’s sucked away any effort to escape that FEELING they’ve been conditioned to believe is comfort and love.

You and your wife ARE very lucky. So am I. So is anyone who went through this shit and didn’t “survive.” Likewise, I’ve gotten through community college and am transferring to a 4-year university. It’s hard, though. Even learning in a public setting is hard. There are certain self-flaggelating habbits that the ACE system carves into your mind, and it’s very hard to shake it. We’re raised to accept authority under all costs, but that the punishment was ours. We had no one to properly teach us academically, so any fault that was found to make us retake things was for us to do in our cubicle. There was no chance to really, REALLY learn. I found that I blamed myself a lot. I thought I was stupid. There were a lot of PACEs that I kept having to do over and over again with no help.

For me, it still pervades a lot of aspects of my life, even though I know that what these people did was wrong, and it was no fault of us, childrens and victims of their cult-like bullshit. But it’s still there. It may always be there.

But we have people who love us. Who really, truly love us. We’re not forced into the arms of the God that they CREATED, their weird, strange “God” who ‘loves us’ but was never really there for us. We have nurtured and formed meaningful, REAL relationships that aren’t founded on fear, but the kind of unconditional love that I, for one, always hoped God would offer, but never did–not in the ACE curriculum.

And we can change this. My end goal with college is to teach. I didn’t realize how important teachers were until I went to a public high school and met teachers that were genuinely interested in not semantics, but drawing my strengths out of me and showing me I am worth something.

Sorry for the long and winding rant, but this thread has gotten me teary and I’m a bit of a mess right now. I’m so happy for you. I am so happy that you have a woman who has been a beacon of strength for you. These people are our true teachers.

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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 November 3, 2014, in Accelerated Christian Education, Atheism, Christianity, Creationism, Education, Faith Schools, Fundamentalism, School of Tomorrow and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. This post is a perfect example of why we need teachers and a real education. ACE truly will bugger up the brain, critical thinking skills (not being encouraged), and sense of identity. Not to mention, when you are indoctrinated rather than educated it is a handicap throughout life.

  1. Pingback: Thursday Religion and Non-Theist Report 11/6 | Evangelically Atheist

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