The headline of Friday’s Daily Telegraph screamed “Toddlers at risk from extremists“. The British Education Secretary has announced plans to ban teaching creationism is publicly-funded nurseries.
What it didn’t say is that, although the British Humanist Association (BHA) was the most prominent campaigner against creationism in nurseries, this was originally the subject of a letter-writing campaign by the readers of Leaving Fundamentalism. But I know you wrote the letters, so thank you.
Here’s a brief history of what has happened, and what it means. More importantly, an article in the TES last week may explain why ACE schools have been able to get away with so much.
I could go on for days with my thoughts on the religious aspect of ACE. Religion aside, I could never stand behind a program that turns out students with diplomas that can’t be used. My high school education was not considered valid for the courses that I took within the ACE program in the US. I now need a waiver to even apply for college and even then it carries almost no weight. In addition, the program never prepared us for the SAT or the ACT. I have never taken either. This causes Universities to scoff. To this day I am still pursuing legal avenues to even secure a diploma that passes minimum state requirements. I am 26 years old and still haven’t achieved this because once the damage is done, the government makes it so difficult to rectify. I will never stand behind the ACE system, religious differences aside.
Christina’s first tumblr post about ACE was so outstanding that I’ve asked her permission to reproduce it here.
Through the years I have tried to explain my grade school experiences with people who had attended public school, but no matter how detailed I felt that I was, the nuances were typically lost in translation. I have put together this post in hopes to better illustrate the severe deficit in the education I had received and display the potential harm of this particular Fundamentalist Christian education structure.
To put it simply, my school was a private K-12 Christian school in Iowa, nestled in the middle of Amish country. Though the student body was diverse, it remained predominantly Mennonite for the latter part of my education there. Students commonly clique’d with peers who attended the same church as them, naturally dividing the student body into “most conservative, somewhat conservative, and we-wear-jeans-at-home-don’t-tell-anyone-in-the-community.” The curriculum here was a home school curriculum that had been ordered in bulk to accommodate its students. The curriculum was made up of thin workbooks called “PACEs.” Each subject had its own series of PACEs and were chronologically numbered. Students were given goals to meet each day and were encouraged to work beyond those goals provided that there was time. In my case this meant that I was multiple grades above my peers in English/Word Building/Spelling PACESs and multiple grades behind them in Math PACEs. The classrooms were large, with all of elementary and middle school in one room and high school in another. The faculty were often severely understaffed. The teachers were not equipped with the tools to help me catch up with basic math skills.
This system let us down in a number of ways, the greatest two of these being that we were being given falsified information and that we were not being completely prepared to integrate into mainstream society. In addition to being poorly educated about popular culture, slang, and life skills, I would not take a proper health class until my junior year of public high school.
This is a guest post by Tyler Francke, owner of GodofEvolution.com.
It’s not typical (though probably far more common in Accelerated Christian Education schools) that your principal is also your church pastor, but such was the case at the small private school in Oregon that my wife attended from preschool through twelfth grade.
Based on her experience, I wouldn’t recommend it. Giving a single man (always a man at ACE schools, of course) such broad and absolute authority over impressionable children’s intellectual, spiritual and moral development just seems like an obviously bad idea.
She could tell you horror stories. One of the pastor/principal’s favorite exercises on Wednesday morning chapel services was to call the students up on stage and “separate the sheep from the goats.”
In the original parable that inspired this grim practice, Jesus spoke about how he would judge the nations at his second coming, separating those who lived righteously and gave to the needy from those who were wicked and ignored the poor and suffering.
In Pastor/Principal’s version, he would separate those whom he deemed to be the “good kids” from the bad ones, and my wife always ended up with the goats (those are the ones destined for the eternal fires, by the way, if you’re unfamiliar with the story).
CEE hits back! Earlier this month New Statesman published my article “Creationism and the ‘conspiracy’ of evolution: inside the UK’s evangelical schools“. Last week I received this email from Dr Greg Hibbins, general manager of Christian Education Europe (Accelerated Christian Education’s UK distributor):
Dear Mr Scaramanga
Please find attached my letter of response to your article in the New Statesman. I have sent it to the paper and also trust you will publish it in whole and unedited on your blog.
Dr Greg Hibbins
I am only too happy to oblige. Since my own article was quite widely read, I think it’s only fair that CEE gets a fair hearing, so please share this widely. Here it is (click on each page to enlarge):
Alright, now you’ve read it, here are my comments (and if CEE disagrees with anything I write here, they’re welcome to respond again. We can keep going until one of us gets bored).
To: The Editor- New Statesman
Re: You’re Article- Creationism/Jonny Scaramanga/05/02/2014
Off to a flying start.
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.
At one of my recent talks on Bristol, an attendee challenged me on my definition of fundamentalism. And while I still think his definition did a violence to any traditional usage of the term (while mine was, obviously, unassailably correct), he raised an important point. ‘Fundamentalist’, in modern usage, is essentially a swear word. If you call someone a fundamentalist, you’re writing off their views as irrelevant and invalid. At the same time, the word does have a historical meaning, referring to a specific type of Christian theology.
In the past, I have capitalised on that very ambiguity with this blog. I blog about self-identified fundamentalists, the kind meant by the historical meaning of the word. But since I also think that these views are irrational and their adherents are extremists, I’ve been letting my readers interpret the term however they wish. If by fundamentalist you mean someone who believes in the literal truth of an inerrant Bible, that’s what I mean. But if you mean a terrorist, well, as far as I’m concerned the atrocities committed by self-proclaimed fundamentalists at Christian reform homes are in the same moral ballpark as terrorism, so that’s fine too.
Now I’ve decided I want to engage meaningfully with believers, I have a problem. You can’t reach mutual understandings through interfaith dialogue while calling your conversation partners terrorists. So is it time to lose the term ‘fundamentalism’? Even Bob Jones University, the spiritual home of fundamentalism, has made noises about ditching it:
“Basically, we’ve decided that we can’t use that term,” said Carl Abrams, a BJU history professor and a longtime member of the faculty. “The term has been hijacked and it takes you 30 minutes to explain it. So you need something else.”
But if not fundamentalist, then what? Well, before we can answer that, we need to know how fundamentalism gained its current status. And for that, we need Adam Laats’s outstanding book, Fundamentalism and Education in the Scopes Era: God, Darwin, and the Roots of America’s Culture Wars.
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.
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?
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.”
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.
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
This is a guest post by Paul Braterman, Professor Emeritus, University of North Texas and Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Chemistry, University of Glasgow. Paul is a leading member of the British Centre for Science Education and enemy of creationism wherever it arises, and the author of From Stars to Stalagmites. He was the one who sent me the photos for my recent discussion of creationism in a Scottish primary school. Here, he expands on that information to reveal the extent of creationist influence in Scottish education. He begins with an appeal for assistance:
Please help. British Centre for Science Education are collecting evidence of creationist activity in UK education, and Scottish Secular Society of this and other abuses of religious privilege in education in Scotland. Please let me know, in confidence, of any recent specific examples you know of personally. Email psbraterman [at] yahoo [dot] com.
The past few weeks have seen two victories against creationism in the Scottish town of East Kilbride. Both are to be celebrated, but neither should have been necessary, and both represent battles that will need to be fought again and again, until there are major structural changes in how education is administered in Scotland. One has attracted attention at both local (BBC and tabloid and broadsheet newspapers) and UK national (Telegraph) level. The other one has taken place unannounced and almost unnoticed. But both are real, and both the result of publicity.
In my first ever blog post, I wrote that the blog existed to expose the activities of Accelerated Christian Education. I now think that “expose” was the wrong verb. It implies that ACE is in some way underhanded about what it does. ACE is actually completely blatant about its educational philosophy, and their leaders’ own writing on the subject of education is far more damning than anything I could write on the subject.
What ACE and other fundamentalist curricula are, however, is mostly invisible to the general public. As Paul F. Parsons explains, there’s a reason for that.
Fundamentalist schools, in particular, operate in secrecy. This is done not only to discourage the prying of government agencies but to avoid the eyeing of a suspicious public.
So here’s what ACE says it exists for in its own words. After I spoke to Reading Skeptics in the Pub about ACE, one teacher came up to me, pointed to an ACE book and said “This has absolutely nothing to do with learning. You need to shine a big spotlight on this.”
Here’s the spotlight. In this excerpt, you’ll see the intense milieu control that ACE deliberately exerts over children. They don’t just intend to inculcate the fundamentalist worldview; they don’t want children to have any idea about any alternatives.
[There’s a chance that I’ll get asked to take this down because it is copyrighted material. The way I see it, it’s all available for free online from ACE, so I’m not costing them any money, and trust me, I have no desire to pass this off as my own work. The following text is an excerpt from The Great Commandment and the Great Commission: God’s mandate for Christian education, (C) 1999 (2013 revision) Accelerated Christian Education, available at http://aceministries.com/aboutus/pdf/Great_Commandment_Commission.pdf]
Christian education is not an alternative. It is not a luxury. It is not even just a good idea. It is the law of God. It is the law that He gave to our forefathers, and it is the same law that He now gives to us. It is the GREAT COMMANDMENT…
Cease to Hear the Instruction . . . !
Notice the phrase in Proverbs 22:6 that states
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
That is inclusive of everything God has considered important enough to put in His Word. It includes all the commandments, statutes, and judgments of the Lord in both the Old and New Testaments. Furthermore, according to Proverbs 19:27, it also excludes anything that is not consistent with God’s Word.
Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.
Not only is the child to be taught all the principles of Scripture, but he is to be shielded from anything contrary to the way in which he should go. Does that mean we are to be careful that we do not have him exposed to just a little bit of humanism, just a little bit of evolutionary theory, and just a little bit of all the other multitudes of unscriptural concepts? Not even so our children will understand “what the world is like”? Yes, that is exactly what it means! Notice what the verse does not say. It does not say, “You would be better off not to listen to it,” or “I would not recommend that you listen to it.” It says, very clearly, “Cease to hear it! Read the rest of this entry