I don’t normally plug my talks with separate posts (you can see the ‘speaking dates’ page for the latest), but the next seven days have some good ones lined up:
Tomorrow, Wednesday 20th August 2014, I’m appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival performing, for the first time ever, my autobiographical one-man show, My Escape from Fundamentalism.
On Thursday I’m at Merseyside Skeptics.
And then next Tuesday I’ll be speaking in Dover about Dover School for All Nations, which you should know about by now. Much has happened since I last wrote about it. Pieter Van Rooyen has died, which is very sad for his family and friends, but the school he founded continues under new leadership, which is very sad for everyone else.
Here’s the press release ahead of my talk, which will be the first ever Skeptics in the Pub to take place in Dover. I’ve also invited the leadership of Dover School for All Nations to come to the talk and have right of reply. I very much hope they will accept.
PRESS RELEASE FROM THE SOUTH EAST SKEPTICS
Date: 12 August 2014
Faith school whistleblower to speak ahead of Dover ‘ACE’ school expansion
A former pupil of the controversial ‘Accelerated Christian Education’ (ACE) curriculum will be giving a public lecture on August 26th, ahead of September’s expansion of the Dover School for All Nations (DSFAN) ACE faith school.
It’s always nice to be talked about. It’s particularly lovely when you’ve been campaigning against an organisation for two years and their public strategy has been to pretend nothing is happening. Well, mostly anyway.
But now Christian Education Europe’s Arthur Roderick has sent an email to CEE’s member schools discussing how they intend to deal with the menace that I present. It’s a fun read. Of course, Arthur doesn’t name me or link to any of the associated media coverage in his email. I presume he’d rather his customers didn’t read my blog. I, on the other hand, am all about the debate. I just think this is a conversation that needs to be had in public (not least because it’s one Arthur and other ACE teachers refused to have with me in private).
In that spirit, you should also check out ace-education.co.uk, a new blog by Christine Bradshaw which attempts to debunk many claims I’ve made about ACE (and quite a few I haven’t). Replies to posts like these will come soon. I realise that my linking to them will probably triple the number of people who see them, but like I said, I welcome the debate. Something CEE does not, as I will explain shortly.
Here’s Arthur’s letter. Since it’s online at a publicly available link, I have taken the liberty of reproducing it below. I know CEE are some of my most avid readers, so if they object, no doubt I will hear about it soon and have to replace the letter with a Jesus & Mo cartoon again. After the letter, I’ll tell you about some of my recent correspondence with Arthur and other people.
There seems to be a bit of a disparity between the facts and what some ACE teachers say. In this, my triumphant return to vlogging, I talk about Brenda Lewis, who seems incapable of getting her facts right when she talks in public.
That’s the title of an interview with me at Christian Today.
When they approached me for an interview, I immediately said yes, but I wasn’t sure what they would say about me. As I write this, my interview sits alongside other CT articles with titles including “Why we must not let fundamentalist atheism destroy our Christian education system”, and “Trojan Horse: Forget Islam, the real threat is from secularists who want faith removed from schools”. They also recently ran an article by ACE school owner Adrian Hawkes, a man for whom I don’t have a lot of time. It didn’t seem like the sort of site where my line of thinking would be automatically welcomed.
Not that Christian Today is a mouthpiece for traditional fundamentalism. There’s also a recent interview with Vicky Beeching arguing in favour of marriage equality. So it seems like at least some of CT’s readers are the kind of evangelicals who would give me a fair hearing. And I’ve always said that to end abusive fundamentalist education, we need evangelicals on board. Some of the people who have been most shocked by ACE have been evangelicals. After all, its their religion that ACE gives a bad name.
So yesterday I was on the Jeremy Vine show. UK listeners can catch up on BBC iPlayer here (You want the episode dated 12/06/2014, and my segment starts at 1:09:29). International readers, I hope to have a way for you to hear it in the near future. There’s also an accompanying BBC News article online called “Life in a Christian ‘fundamentalist’ school“.
Defending ACE on the show was Giles Boulton. It may surprise you to learn that I like Giles (as does pretty well everyone that’s met him). He was the ‘cool kid’ at my school, and when I saw him a couple of weeks back at a school reunion, he was thoughtful. He was clear that he didn’t support some of ACE’s positions (he called their political views “crazy”), and equally clear that children need to question things and consider other ideas. He argues that ACE can be supplemented with other good quality teaching to produce a balanced education. I think this is naïve at best, and doesn’t recognise all the ways the environment of a conservative Christian school and the PACEs serve to discourage students from expressing individual thought or challenging core ideas. But still, Giles is undoubtedly well-intentioned and I expect the additional philosophy lessons he offers his students are good.
He got shouted down a bit on the show—partly because he was defending the indefensible, and partly because the debate was loaded in my favour. Jeremy Vine gave Giles a hard time, while I didn’t get asked any difficult questions, and I got to set the terms of the debate because I spoke first and for longer.
Still, the reaction from Twitter was overwhelmingly in my favour. There was no specific hashtag for the debate, so finding tweets about it involves wading through the entire @bbcradio2 and @thejeremyvine feeds, but yesterday I could find exactly one (1) pro-ACE tweet when I looked (here’s my Storify of Twitter’s reaction).
Check out the BBC article; I think it’s pretty good:
The Trojan Horse investigation has focused on an alleged plot to take over some Birmingham schools and run them according to Islamic principles. But while the role of Islam in education has come in for scrutiny, across the UK many students also follow a strict “fundamentalist” Christian curriculum.
For 29-year-old Jonny Scaramanga, who attended Victory Christian School in Bath until he was 14, the experience was “horrendous”.
“At 8:15 I would arrive at my ‘office’ – a desk 2ft wide, with dividers 18 ins tall, designed to remove ‘distractions’,” he said.
“Every morning we had an opening exercise: reciting pledges of allegiance to Jesus Christ, God and the Bible. Next, we recited that month’s scripture passage; we had to memorise around 10-15 Bible-verses each month.”
He said the school adopted a “fundamentalist attitude” to religion, adding: “If you believed what they believed, you were Christian. If you believed anything else, you were not Christian.”
This blog is not dead. I’ve just been busy making some things happen in the real world.
Tomorrow, I will be appearing on the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 for a live interview. This is the biggest show on British radio. There will also be a live phone-in (0500 288291; email firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter @thejeremyvine/ @bbcradio2). It would be awesome to have other ex-students or people with relevant knowledge calling in. The show’s on air from 12; please make your voice heard if you have time (and that goes for people who disagree too; the show is all about debate).
As you’re no doubt bored of hearing, I was on BBC1’s The Big Questions last week, debating the question “Can children be damaged in fundamentalist religions?”.
While Twitter was busy talking about my hair, something fairly historic took place. On British television, for the first time to my knowledge, two Christians (of very different sorts) publicly denounced Accelerated Christian Education.
In the battle to save children from indoctrination and poor education, my contribution was probably the least important in the whole segment. By the end of the show, even the person they’d invited to defend fundamentalism agreed that she condemned Accelerated Christian Education. Here’s what happened.
I haven’t talked much about my own escape from ACE on this blog (I’m saving it for the book!), but I did an interview about ACE with LotharLorraine yesterday and a lot of it came out. If you want to know why I oppose ACE, there it is.
The interview was done as a Skype chat, so that explains my at times fragmented answers, but I think it’s come out well, especially now Lothar’s removed the horrific photo of me he originally posted with the interview.
Here I had the immense opportunity to interview Jonny Scaramanga who is campaigning against this abusive and harmful system.
Lotharson:Hello Jonny, thank you very much for being with us!
Could you please tell a bit about your background for the benefit of my readers?
Jonny Scaramanga: Sure.
I was born into a family that was majorly into the Charismatic Movement and also the Word of Faith “prosperity gospel” of preachers like Kenneth Copeland.
I can’t remember a time in my childhood where I didn’t believe in God. The truth of the Biblical creation story was just one of the facts of my childhood, as true as the colour of the sky.
I was praying in tongues by the time I was 6 or…
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I’ve chalked up another flawless victory and been published in the New Statesman.
As I write, the article is the top story on the Statesman‘s home page.
Please share this one. My previous widely-published articles on ACE have been somewhat tabloid in style, all numbered lists and sections in bold. This is an attempt to raise the level of the conversation on the subject. Here’s the link: http://www.newstatesman.com/2014/01/creationism-and-conspiracy-evolution-inside-uks-evangelical-schools
In a bid to do less blogging and more actual work, I’ve got really behind in sharing links with you, so here’s some more excellent reading if you have time:
I did a thing for AlterNet about the propaganda cartoon that lace the ACE curriculum, and how they seem to promote racism, sexism, and the intolerance of non-Christians.
Dana Hunter has started blogging about ACE too. She has purchased the entire 8th grade Earth Science PACE set and is going to review each one in turn. You may have noticed my strategy for 2014 is to get people who aren’t me talking about ACE (anyone who cares knows what I think by now), so this is a very pleasing development.
I had an article published on the Guardian website last week.
It won’t contain any news for regular readers of this blog, but I’m very glad to see this conversation happening in the mass media at last, rather than a niche blog. And although the Grauniad wasn’t so kind as to link to my blog, I have been getting hits from people searching for Jonny Scaramanga (not to mention “Johnny Scaramanger”, “Jonny Scaremonger”, and miscellaneous misspellings).
So here we go:
Accelerated Christian Education’s fundamentalist curriculum is used by more than 50 British schools. It is known for silent classrooms where students teach themselves, using workbooks in isolated booths. Professor Harry Brighouse describes ACE’s view as “a teleological account of American history as leading to the ultimate fulfilment of God’s will“. You may be unsurprised to learn that ACE was founded in Texas. ACE made headlines last year for a science textbook that cites the existence of the Loch Ness monster as evidence against evolution. Despite this, government agency UK NARIC defended its decision to deem ACE’s in-house qualification, the International Certificate of Christian Education, comparable to A-levels. Incredibly, Nessie isn’t ACE’s most bizarre claim. Here are five more:
Also, I don’t know if I mentioned this or not, but… LEAVING FUNDAMENTALISM IS NOW ON FACEBOOK!!!!!!!