Blog Archives

Are some private Christian schools operating in secret?

How many ACE schools are there really? In all the press coverage this week, it’s been a bit confused.

The BBC website went with “about 50”. The Daily Mail said “up to 25”. The Manchester Evening News plumped for “22 UK schools”, while the Bristol Post claimed there were 30. As I write this, the CEE website lists 32 institutions, two of which are called ‘tuition centres’ and one of which is a nursery, leaving 29, the figure given by Jeremy Vine. On Newsnight, Anjana Ahuja told the world it was “at least 30”.

So how many are there really?

The truth is that no one (besides Christian Education Europe, presumably) knows, but the official numbers do not add up. It appears that some ACE schools are operating entirely under the radar.

Read the rest of this entry

Advertisements

Who cares about atheism?

Some of my Christian readers like me because, they say, I am an atheist but not a New Atheist. I appreciate their support, but I think I might actually be one of those nasty Gnu Atheists. I think I should clarify my position.

I’m thinking about all this because I’ve been asked to review a book called Godbuster: Banishes all known gods. I haven’t read it yet, and I’ll reserve judgement until I have, but at first glance, I’m not sure how a book like this is going to be useful.

When I stopped being a Christian, I was not happy about it. There are a great many Christian tropes about atheists: they’re just too proud to submit to God; they’re just angry at God; they’re just too selfish to stop sinning; they hate God. None of those were true of me at the time. My heart was not “hardened against God”. I really wanted to believe. I just couldn’t.

Photo by David Shankbone. Source: Wikimedia Commons

That’s not the case anymore. I like the universe without God in it a lot more than I liked it when I thought there was an Almighty watching over it. I don’t think there is a God (or gods, or godesses), and I’m glad about that. The idea of worship now seems servile and unpleasant to me. But I’m happy for those who want to engage in it to do so.

Read the rest of this entry

Attacking science, insulting Islam: the reality of PAC charter schools

By now you’ll have seen my Salon article about how charter schools (mostly in Texas) are promoting creationist ideas in a way that seems to violate church-state separation. There are two main curricula discussed: ResponsiveEd and Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum (PAC). Both are offshoots of Accelerated Christian Education (ACE). Of the two, ResponsiveEd seems to be used more widely, but it’s hard to get solid information about it. PAC, on the other hand, has kindly uploaded many curriculum samples to its website. What they’ve uploaded will be of great concern to campaigners for both secularism and science education. PAC lessons mock and insult Islam, promote Christianity, and attack mainstream science.

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 11.42.32

‘Life Principle’ from PAC’s high school biology course.

A brief web search finds Paradigm Accelerated Charter Schools in Dublin, Comanche, Wallis, and Early, all in Texas. Although the Dublin school is shown as having closed or relocated (and its website now links to a page in Japanese), it was functioning at least as recently as January 2013, when GreatSchools.com last updated its page, giving the school 2 out of 10. None of these schools has its own website, so it’s hard to determine their status, but PAC markets itself as a charter school curriculum and claims its curriculum “honors the so-called ‘separation of church and state’ doctrine, thus enabling purchase of Paradigm curriculum with tax funds.” Hmmm.

PAC is run by former ACE Vice President Ronald E. Johnson, who you will remember for writing “Children matriculate into Christian school in dire need of spiritual programing of their minds to accept and desire the things of Christ.” What ‘programing’ is he offering now?

World History

The region where Europe, Asia, and Africa meet is known as the “Fertile Crescent.” Our timeline begins there about 4,000 BC when scientists agree that a cataclysmic event occurred (like a worldwide flood) that forced mankind to “start over.”

Read the rest of this entry

How to talk to a true believer

I think this blog has failed to do something it could do reasonably well: Help literal Bible-believers and non-believers to understand each other.

There are too many stereotypes flying around on both sides (notably with both atheists and self-professed fundamentalists accusing each other of stupidity), and I think I have sometimes taken the lazy route of treating fundamentalism as ridiculous. The truth is that when you believe the Bible literally, it does form a coherent worldview. There are tensions and difficulties with it, but that’s true of all worldviews, and usually we’re all blind to the faults in our own belief systems.
This is not me going soft. I certainly will not stop supporting the victims of abuse. This is just me saying “We’re not getting anywhere by attacking each other.” I want to join Adam Laats in saying “why can’t we all just get along?
I had a message the other day from one of my oldest friends. It said (in part):
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is calling you back to Himself. It is time to stand up and be counted.

The seed which He put in you, even as a young boy the things that He spoke into your heart, He wants to bring to pass.

You have calling, you have purpose, you have destiny, and as you read this now, you know exactly what I’m talking about!

Open your Bible Jonny, take a deeper look! Allow His love to carry you, allow His grace to keep you. When everything has turned to dust, what remains true is God Almighty. He is calling you!

Now, I could say a lot of things about this, but I’m only going to say one: The idea that I just don’t think God exists is incomprehensible to my friend.

Read the rest of this entry

Is this moral?

Written by ACE's Vice President and head of curriculum development.

Written by ACE’s Vice President and head of curriculum development.

Children matriculate into Christian school in dire need of spiritual programing [sic] of their minds to accept and desire the things of Christ. Conditioning, according to Philippians 4:8 (whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure. . . .) breaks down secular programed [sic] ideas, thoughts, and habits alien to Scripture. Little by little, day after day in the temple, things of God hammer away at the worldliness packed into the child’s treasure chest of experiences. The carnal nature of children necessitates that adults sometimes do more than just nudge their thinking toward godliness. This fact forms a basis for the use of demerits, detentions, corporal correction, discipline committees, corrective research, etc.

Corrective research?? 

Modern society constantly bombards his mind with negative character drains, things that take his focus off eternity.  Restricting secular access to his mind and conditioning with Scriptural principles breaks down the child’s carnal resistance against God, removing previously (or currently) accepted ideas, values, notions, and concepts. Little by little things of God begin to hammer away at the child’s resisting nature.  At first, the child (especially teenagers) may reject godly standards and principles – yet gradually, negative mental resistance gives way. The Holy Spirit’s first knock at their heart’s door is met by a resounding “no!” The second knock is heard with less offense and resistance; “I will try it but I won’t like it.” Finally, the grace of God wins its way into the child’s heart, bringing the child into conformity with those principles which enable him to succeed in a Christian ministry.

Ronald E. Johnson, Under Tutors & Governors, (c) 1980 Accelerated Christian Education

Read the rest of this entry

22 awesome things I used to believe were sinful

Growing up as an ultra-conservative Christian, everything is a sin. Here are 22 of them which turned out to be a lot of fun:

1) Halloween

'Halloween Decorations' photo (c) 2010, Sarah_Ackerman - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Ghosts were demons, witches were devil worshippers, and trick or treating was a deal with the devil.

This also meant that things like Ghostbusters were off-limits. Although for some reason when I received a pair of hand-me-down Ghostbusters boxer shorts I was allowed to wear them. I don’t know, maybe it was judged that downstairs was already a demon-possessed region.

Read the rest of this entry

The textbooks that lost a lawsuit

Accelerated Christian Education has two main rivals: A Beka and BJU. These companies are, if anything, even worse than ACE.

As we discussed previously, schools using A Beka and BJU textbooks as college preparation were rejected by the University of California. These schools lost their subsequent lawsuit against UC, because what they teach is bollocks. So what do they teach?

Two authors have undertaken the thankless task of ploughing through the textbooks to find out: Albert Menendez, in Visions of Reality, and Frances Paterson, author of Democracy and IntoleranceThese two books are twenty and ten years old respectively, but the similarities in content are so striking (and fundamentalism so resistant to change) that there isn’t much reason to suppose the content of the textbooks would be vastly different now. ACE certainly hasn’t changed significantly in the last 15 years.

What we learn from these books is, well, what you’d expect really: Non-Christians (a category which includes Catholics) are evil, extreme laissez-faire economics are the only system sanctioned by God, history has simply been the fulfilment of God’s will, and it’s the job of good children to obey before growing up to establish a thoroughly Christian (ie dominionist, theocratic) society.  Read the rest of this entry

What Do Creationists Teach? A guest post by Jonny Scaramanga

A handy guide I wrote for Jesus Without Baggage about what Creationism is, and why it matters to Creationists.

Jesus Without Baggage

Today’s guestpost is by Jonny Scaramanga who blogs at Leaving Fundamentalism. One of Jonny’s areas of expertise is the teaching of creationists and he is perhaps the leading authority on the problems of ACE home school curriculum and learning systems, which teach creationism. On his blog, he also deals with other aspects of Fundamentalist Christianity. Be sure to visit there; it is one of my favorites.

Asking what Creationists teach is a bit like asking what Christians teach. It encompasses a lot of different doctrines. Broadly speaking, a Creationist is anyone who believes that God made the universe, which could include people who accept the theory of evolution, but think God started the process.

Dinosaurs with Humans

In the popular mind, though, “Creationist” almost always means “Christian Young-Earth Creationist“. These people believe that the book of Genesis is literally true. God initially made only two people, Adam and Eve, and everyone…

View original post 925 more words

Five jobs a Creationist can’t do

This blog is littered with absurdities from Accelerated Christian Education, some of them involving mythical beasts or the denial of basic physics. But does it matter how old the world is? On a day-to-day basis, it doesn’t make much practical difference how long you think our planet has existed. Why not let Creationists teach whatever they want?

If there are grounds for regulating what gets taught in private schools, it must be because of substantive harm to students. I argue that ACE causes this kind of harm. It limits children’s future, because if they do what ACE says, huge areas of study are closed off to them. In fact, this post would be better (but less catchily) titled:

Five subjects a Creationist can’t study

Read the rest of this entry

Vlog: In conversation with my 8-year-old self

In 1994, BBC2 broadcast “God’s Not Boring” a short film I’d made for their As Seen On TV series. I talked about how God is awesome and stuff because… well, there wasn’t much else in my life at the time, to be honest.

This video pretty much sums up my entire blog. So please share it. I do feel I’m going out on a limb sticking this back out in public (it’s never been repeated or put online before, so this has been my guilty secret for 18 years).
Related posts: