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.
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.
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. Read the rest of this entry
More Accelerated Christian Education schools, more misleading advertising. On the Advertising Standards Agency website today, an ‘informally resolved case’ is listed, related to Dewsbury Gospel Church trading as Branch Christian School. Branch Christian School uses the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum. Rather than preparing its students for recognised exams like GCSEs and A Levels, it offers its graduates the International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE).
It will come as a surprise to no one to learn that I was the complainant in this case. It’s a similar story to the last time I pointed out that some ACE schools were misleading parents about the nature of their qualifications, but in this case, it’s more extreme.
When I complained to the ASA about this in July, the Branch Christian School prospectus claimed that the ICCE was recognised by the Government’s National Framework for Qualifications (NFQ).
There is no such thing as the NFQ.
One good thing you can say for fundamentalist education (now there’s a phrase I don’t use often) is that, in general, parents are very supportive of the schools. Statistically, this correlates well with academic success, and might go some way to explaining why some students from fundamentalist schools go on to excel academically, despite their deficient early education. It’s also good for kids to be part of a community that’s mutually supportive.
There you go, my first ever pro-fundamentalist education paragraph. Please don’t stop following my blog.
Occasionally, I hear from parents who are going through a divorce or a custody battle, and one parent is fighting the other for the right to put children through ACE. That’s a heartbreaking situation. Here is Cait McKnelly, who has bravely shared her experiences with us.
For those of you that don’t know, Reddit is a link-sharing site which kind of doubles as a forum. One of the most popular forumy aspects is the AMA (Ask Me Anything). Users post a title such as: “I lived next door to Ian McKellan for twenty years. AMA.” Other redditors then post their questions, and the original poster (OP) replies. OPs have to supply proof of their identity to the moderators.
Reddit gets hundreds of thousands of hits per hour. The most popular posts make the front page, where they can be seen by millions.
On Monday, the following AMA hit the front page:
I am a person who from 9-15 years old attended a school that did not have any teachers, you were required to teach yourself every subject from books at your own pace, while sitting in cubicles all day with very little interaction with other students or extracurricular activities. AMA
Obviously, this was about Accelerated Christian Education. The original poster turned out to be far from the star of the show, however. She didn’t seem to have any strong opinions; she merely thought her education was an interesting oddity.
But other ACE survivors came out of the woodwork and it became packed with incredible stories. Interestingly, as I’ve found on this blog, there were very few people coming forward to defend ACE (admittedly, discussion on Reddit is dominated by liberals and atheists). You can obviously check out the entire AMA, but I’ll be posting highlights here over the next few weeks.
I’ll start with probably the most heartbreaking conversation of all.
Now before you read this: Please don’t contact the author. At the end of the conversation thread, he wrote (in response to a request that he write a book about his experience):
One day. It’s still a little too fresh. As it is I am seriously regretting what I wrote. Save your prayers for me Christians. I don’t need them. What I want is you to leave me alone.
So I’m not posting his username here with my quotes. Obviously, it would be extremely easy for you to find him and send him a message, but please respect his wishes.
Here’s the conversation:
[ACE survivor]: I went to an ACE school K-12. I’ve spent the last 15 years learning on my own what I should have learned as a child.
[Redditor]: My wife and I are in the same situation. ACE is NOT ACCEPTABLE PERIOD. It is a brainwashing tool to dumb kids down and teach them to be ignorant little Christians good for nothing except house wives and preacher boys. I’m 30 years old and I swear I still have nightmares from that school. The abuse those “teachers” (really just moms that didn’t want to be there) is unbelievable. I heard recently the school was being investigated by CFS but I don’t know if anything has come of it.
I need to write a book. It would probably help. Discapline with a paddle was the norm. Usually every Wednesday for me. 100% obedience was expected and enforced by crazy middle aged women that looking back straight up hated me. Any disobedience or even a sour look wound me up with a paddling. Read the rest of this entry
Last week, I finally got my hands on something I’ve been trying to get for more than ten years. This.
Yes, that’s a picture of a kid being bent over a chair so he can be beaten. This picture is from page 118 of the School of Tomorrow Procedures Manual (part 1, 1998 revision). That’s the guide that all Accelerated Christian Education schools are required to follow in running their schools. I was 13 the first time I saw this picture, and I found it shocking even though, as a good Bible-believing Christian, I knew it was God’s will for children to be spanked.
Critics of my blog often tell me that I am wrong to highlight instances of child abuse in ACE schools. “Child abuse happens in all kinds of schools”, they tell me. “You’re just trying to smear ACE”.
To those critics I say: Look at this picture, and then tell me that. Yes, child abuse happens in all kinds of places. But most of those places don’t consider it to be one of their main selling points.
This is part two of my serialisation of excerpts from Aram McLean’s forthcoming memoir. For all parts, see here.
My ACE school moved a lot in the early years. The first place to accept it was a small church which also believed in a good Christian upbringing for every child. As such, they let us roll our rows of custom-made little kid offices into their back room. They also let us use their large cold basement for gym class, awards banquets, and other important recreations.
After two years in their backroom, the little church wasn’t so happy about us anymore. Our principal, Mr Jordan, may have rubbed a few of the Elders the wrong way, but I couldn’t say for sure. Perhaps they simply got tired of the seeing children wandering about the corridors looking shell-shocked, like they’d just seen a holy ghost or something.
The Doctrines of Grace had certainly become a hot topic of contention that second year as well. Serious rifts split down the middle of the little school and more than a few parents decided to take their kids out of it, by their own free will.
Various locations around town followed as believers came together and then disagreed, and we carefully packed our plywood rows of offices around to each new place. We took over a farmhouse for a while, then a couple adjoining rooms in a motel, and finally the lower half of a family home. It helped that we weren’t a large school, and that turnover was high.
My own life during this time often seemed to be a series of near misses, combined with more than a few direct hits. And right from the early days of the first church building’s little backroom, things didn’t feel too good.
One recess during this early time, I was playing with my seven-year-old brother Devon, when Mr Jordan unexpectedly stepped into the room. He smiled at us in a very strange way. Our laughter froze in both our throats. Read the rest of this entry
One thing has become obvious since I started this blog: I got off lightly.
I began writing because I thought I had an important story to tell – and I do – but what happened to me is nothing compared to the abuse some of my commenters have encountered. Timothy Allman bravely shared this:
“My parents had their own ACE school that ended up being a home school just for us. There was no way out. My mother had me convinced that all public school children were evil drug addicts. It was more like a Polish orphanage than a nurturing home. Here is the kicker. After my fathers death, one of my sisters let me know that my father had molested her. From there it did not take much to figure out that all three of them had been molested. And it is clear from my mothers many actions like keeping us isolated and not wanting us (especially the girls) to see a doctor that she was compliant in this. Large numbers of people who say things like, we must abstain from all appearance of evil, might be protesting too much. These schools can safely harbor men and women who abuse children in ways that are just as bad as any catholic priest scandal in the news.”
The stories I have to tell from my youth are generally fairly amusing (to me at least), but most thoughts of my blog being entertaining are flying out the window. I’m going to have to find some Creationist hilarity for you next time to lighten the tone.
As I said in my last post on physical abuse, it wasn’t just spanking. Here’s an example I got emailed by an old schoolfriend, describing her brother’s experience:
In 2001, the BBC reported that the British parents of one ACE homeschooler had been convicted for child cruelty.
“The jury had heard that the youngster, now 15, was made to live under a strict regime which included fasting to cleanse his body and regular punishment for failing to carry out chores.
“The court heard that the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was made to kill his pet chickens and stand outside for hours in freezing weather with no socks on.
“They had taught the youngster at home since he was 10 under the “Accelerated Christian Education” system and he had experienced little contact with the outside world.”
The biggest concern with all fundamentalist schools is their propensity for physical abuse of children. While I’m sure even my old educators would condemn this level of abuse, in reality, the difference is not that great. This is just the extreme conclusion of a theology that believes children are evil by nature, and that physical punishment is the solution.
In 1999, spanking was banned in British private schools. Does that mean that no spanking is occurring today? There is reason to suspect it may be. Read the rest of this entry
Today I am guest blogger at Bruce Gerencser’s The Way Forward blog. I’m writing about a subject that’s more important than Creationism or even a government agency validating a fundamentalist curriculum. It’s the fundamentalist doctrine of total depravity, and how it is used to justify horrific physical abuse. This will be the first of many posts on this subject.
Here’s an excerpt of the kind of joy you will learn about:
This view of the child as needing to be broken, like a horse, led to hideous abuses at my school. It was not only spanking. In drama classes, if a movement was painful, the teacher made students repeat it endlessly. A classmate recently emailed me to describe a time her sibling was made to snap his fingers until they were covered in blisters. In a choral verse class, children had to hold contorted positions on stage for 10 minutes or more at a time, and the teachers screamed at them if they were seen to move at all.
The same student also described the experience of being paddled at an ACE school:
“I was at [the ACE school] aged 3 – 7, and i cant remember what happened exactly when, but i got paddled a lot and remember having big red marks on my thighs from it and it hurt and was really terrifying! And straight after being paddled [the teacher] asked ‘do u believe that i love u?’ and i said ‘no’, cz obviously i knew that she hated me, and she said ‘YES I DO LOVE YOU!’ and it was just weird and confusing for a small child! and the things i remember getting paddled for were dragging my gym bag along the floor cz it was too heavy, and for drawing a cat on my pace, and for saying i havent had a biscuit when actually i had had a biscuit, which was a malicious lie!
“And [the teacher] would make you say a prayer after being paddled to apologize and I said ‘I wont do it again’ in my prayer and she interupted and said ‘YES YOU WILL DO IT AGAIN’! again, weird and confusing for a child!!”