Could ACE ever be banned in the UK? We’ve occasionally looked at this question in the past on Leaving Fundamentalism, but I’ve most recently argued that it would be better not to ban them. As I said in my New Statesman article, it would be preferable to see the schools improving themselves, encouraged by a more thorough inspection regime. It may be, however, that this is just never going to happen to a sufficient extent—ACE’s supporters hold their beliefs too rigidly ever to change their minds. Then what?
In Norway in 2001, the answer was to ban part of the curriculum, but not for the reasons you might expect. It wasn’t creationism, or right-wing politics, or religious teachings that got ACE Norway into hot water. It was sexism. Many of the same international laws that influenced the decision in Norway also apply in the UK. To understand whether this could happen here, we have to look at the Norwegian situation.
It all started when the Norwegian gender equality ombudsman, Kristin Mile, declared that ACE’s 4th grade Social Studies PACEs violated the Gender Equality Act. Then Norway’s education minister, Trond Giske, announced that he would not approve any future applications to open ACE schools (Link is in Norwegian. Here’s an English translation by Katie Ritson):
Giske warns Christian schools
Education Minister Trond Giske emphatically put his foot down over the equal opportunities curriculum used by ACE schools when he spoke at the Norwegian national conference for teachers on Tuesday.
There’s more bad news for ACE in the current issue of Private Eye. On page 36, there’s an article about Pieter Van Rooyen, the convicted slave master who opened an ACE school in Dover in January this year. Disappointingly, the phrase “slave wages” doesn’t appear in this story (as it does in most other coverage about Van Rooyen), but otherwise it’s pretty great. I won’t reproduce it all here for copyright reasons, but here’s a taster:
What Private Eye didn’t report—and I can exclusively reveal—is that in addition to being a criminal, Van Rooyen is also a conspiracy nut and a plagiarist.
So the British Humanist Association has declared war on publicly-funded creationist nurseries in the UK. They’ve identified 67 nurseries of concern, of which nine are using the ACE curriculum. Of course, I first told you this was happening a year ago, so it’s nice to see something happening at last.
In a stupendous feat of good timing, two weeks ago a friend purchased the entire ACE kindergarten curriculum for me, so I can show you where your tax money is going if you live near one of these august institutions. Of course, we knew about the creationism already. What has shocked me (and angered me, since I went to an ACE nursery and I’d forgotten most of this) is the sexism. It turns out the rigid gender roles and wives-submit-to-your-husbands indoctrination that characterises ACE in later years begins when the pupils are aged three.
And in Britain, public funds are being used to pay for this.