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Dawkins on Accelerated Christian Education (again) and Ofsted Reports

In his diary for the New Statesman in 2006, Richard Dawkins shared this on Accelerated Christian Education:

“One of my TV locations was a London school that follows the (American) Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) syllabus. The day after watching my show, three colleagues told me they had interviewed, for a place at university, a young woman who had been taught (not at the same school) using ACE. She turned out to be the worst candidate they had ever encountered. She had no idea that thinking was even an option: her job was either to know or guess the “right” answer. Worse, she had no clue how bad she was, having always scored at least 95 per cent in exams – the National Christian Schools Certificate (NCSC). Should my colleagues write to Ofsted about ACE and NCSC? Unfortunately, Ofsted is the organisation that gave a rave review to Tony Blair’s pet city academy in Gateshead: a Christian school whose head of science thinks the entire universe began after the domestication of the dog.”

I realise I am perhaps guilty of confirmation bias here, but that’s exactly what I’d expect to happen to most former ACE students in an Oxbridge interview. The important part is this: She had no idea that thinking was even an option. That’s exactly how ACE teaches. If you come out of an ACE school showing some independent thinking ability, the curriculum cannot be given the credit. Either you’re extraordinarily independent-minded, or you’ve been lucky enough to learn it from somewhere else.

But Dawkins raises an important point: What the hell is Ofsted doing when it gives approving reports to ACE schools?

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The Way Ahead – Recommendations for Faith Schools

On Friday, I examined the Alberta Department of Education’s views on Accelerated Christian Education. As part of its report, the Committee on Tolerance and Understanding made recommendations on educational policy to correct the problems it found. I think these make a reasonable skeleton for a public policy that could be implemented to ensure better education, and limiting poisonous systems like ACE. Lets look at their suggestions.

Actually, before we do, I’d like to post this quotation from the Committee’s report, since I agree with it so much I think I could put it on a poster:

“The mission of education must include development of critical thinking skills based on openness, inquiry, imagination, original ideas, dissent, rational thinking, and independence. Scoeity’s best efforts must alwas be open to skepticism and constructive criticism from students themselves. To do otherwise, to ignore their developing autonomy and judgment, would undermine the whole purpose of the enterprise. Respect for authority is essential, but a balance must be kept. History has shown time and again that when respect for authority completely overrides responsible independence, critical thinking is destroyed and society is left open to the evils of apathy, dogmatism and prejudice.”

Alright, so what are their suggestions?  Read the rest of this entry