Blog Archives

“I feel like the ACE program virtually destroyed my life”

Last year on Reddit, an AMA (Ask Me Anything) about an Accelerated Christian Education school turned into a free-for-all for ex-ACE students. At the time, I explained how it had brought a ton of important ACE survivor stories into the open, and I shared one of the the best. Here’s another from that event. I’m so glad it happened. Many of the stories are tragic, but so much of this would never have come out into the open without it.

reddit-logo-01-674x501-300x222This week’s tales are from the user CANIBALFOODFITE. As I recall, the user expressed the wish not to be contacted about their experiences, but I link to the original posts so you can see the source.

 

I feel like the ACE program virtually destroyed my life.

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Revelations from a former ACE insider

This is a guest post. The author has chosen to remain nameless. The title (mine) does the post no justice; this is one of the most powerful ACE survivor stories we’ve had and I want everyone to read it.

I was a student at Maranatha Christian School in the UK from 2003 – 2005. I worked at an ACE school in Moscow, Russia in 2007 and at Christian Education Europe from 2007-2009. I also attended for many years a church overseen by then-director of Christian Education Europe, Arthur Roderick.

I started ACE “late” at age thirteen after spending the first parts of my schooling as an atheist in mainstream schools. I have little idea what drew my parents to Maranatha, but I suspect the low teacher-pupil ratio was one of the main reasons.

Having always been a “teacher’s pet” Maranatha was a whole new experience for me. Because I was not yet a Christian at that point and had little spiritual knowledge I was branded a “troublemaker.” In my first year at Maranatha I was given detentions and parents’ meetings for blaspheming, dying my hair, refusing to sing hymns during “opening exercise,” my lack of the “submissive nature” we were taught was expected of women, and even once for wearing trousers instead of a skirt to an earned “non-uniform” day.

I was harassed by teachers and students daily – eventually attempting suicide shortly before my fourteenth birthday. This further branded me as an ungodly troublemaker, particularly as I was referred to a child psychologist. Although the head teacher was not pleased and offered both prayer and a referral to a “Christian psychologist” as alternatives, my mother thankfully refused. I was, however, forbidden from returning to the (or any) doctor after his practical suggestions included removing me from Maranatha completely.

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I am officially heartbroken

This is a guest post by Kevin Long.

Image creative commons from Pixabay

Image via Pixabay (creative commons)

I am officially heartbroken. I was walking around the neighborhood with my special needs kid. Trying to come up with a way to spend more quality time together, I said, “Let’s do a song on Garage Band or something.” The kid went tense.

Me: “What’s wrong?”

Kid: [Sullen] “I don’t know.”

Me: “Rephrasing: you went tense when I said ‘lets do a song.’ What made you tense about that?”

Kid: “I’m afraid to be creative, ok?”

Me: “Why? You’re so smart and inventive and fascile.”

Kid: [Tense and sullen] “I don’t know.”

Me: “We’ll try it again: At what point did you STOP liking being creative?”

Kid: “It was ACE.”

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A readymade toolkit for institutionalised oppression

This is a guest post by Talen Lee, a former ACE student from Australia. This is his survivor story. Be warned, it contains unpleasant descriptions of corporal punishment.

If you’re a familiar reader of Jonny Scaramanga’s blog, you probably already know that the ACE system promotes false information as fact. These are glaring factual errors that honestly shouldn’t even be up for debate. When you’re talking about errors that run throughout the entire ACE system to this degree, you have to come down very hard on one side or another. Either you think it’s not acceptable to teach blatant falsehoods in an education system as facts, or you think that it is, and if you’re in the latter camp, I am comfortable dismissing everything you have to say about education at all. Bickering about  specifics like flipping mountains or universal floods or six day creationism is just trying to blow out matches while the house is on fire. I have no patience to deal with this penny-ante apologism, this horsecrap refining, where people want to argue how the precise details about some fossils may indicate a sort-of-weakness in evolutionary theory when we’re discussing a book that tries to tell me that the Loch Ness Monster is real.

There’s also a long discussion you can make about how its system is pedagogically useless. Repetition of simple exercises without complexity serves no purpose but to teach how to overcome those exercises, in the same way that memorising dates doesn’t actually make you a historian.

You could discuss the ACE system’s political indoctrination. I know that as an Australian consumer I wasn’t particularly keen on reading books that told me about how America was, in fact, the greatest nation in the world, and the only place where people were free. After all people weren’t free in America – if you wanted to buy one, you had to pay for it.

Rather than talk about the flaws in the ACE curriculum and the things it does badly, I want to talk to you about a thing the ACE system does really well. Read the rest of this entry

ACE survivor becomes cultural anthropologist, dismantles curriculum

I am on holiday, so this is a scheduled post. So behave yourself in the comments, because I’m not around to moderate.

I recently had this great comment from an ex-ACE student who has since done a PhD in cultural anthropology. Their insights on ACE are lengthy but well worth reading. Unlike many of my guest posters (and me), Kachoukyori picks out positive parts from the ACE experience. This is something I’ll probably return to later. In order to understand why people turn to ACE, you need to understand what problems it is trying to solve.

If you search Google Images for “cultural anthropology” and choose only images that are free to reuse, this is the first result. No, I don’t know either.

This is a much-needed post, one I’ve circulated to friends over the years in trying to explain how global and curiously pervasive A.C.E. has become as a curriculum, adapting to shifts in contemporary fundamentalist culture, the growth of charismatic churches and aggressive right-wing politics linked to US hardline Christianity, and the anti-secular/social/government rise of homeschooling.

My father was a US military officer; we moved constantly. From the pre-K on I was enrolled in Baptist schools, by the 3rd grade I was placed in a school that used the ACE curriculum. I never experienced US public schools and was immersed in two peculiarly isolationist cultures: fundamentalist Christians and US military bases. What a combination, indeed! The Bible and the Sword.

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My life in an ACE school (continued)

ACE Bible Mind Control

A guest post series by Ian, reposted with permission from Bruce Gerencser’s The Way Forward.

Part 3: Wildwood Christian Academy

Please see part 2 in this series for an explanation of Accelerated Christians Education (ACE) schools.

I attended my first ACE school in the second grade, way back in 1979-’80. The pastor of our church had sent his children to this school the year before, so my dad thought it was a good idea to send me there. As he later said, “I thought you would come home every day singing psalms and speaking Bible verses”.

Wildwood Christian Academy was a part/ministry of The Church in the Wildwood. The principal was Mr. Barker. Mrs. Barker was the teacher in the Lower Learning Center, which I was in. The Upper Learning Center had mostly male Supervisors with only a few monitors. The Barker’s were a very conservative couple. They were death on any music with a beat; there were even hymns that were considered too up beat. I came from a Baptist church that was pretty stiff, so I had no experience with up beat Christian music. They were also very strict on the dress code. One time, they made my mom get back into her car because she wore pants to pick me up.

It was here that I had my first remembered experience of religion mixed with politics. I remember hearing a recording of a person talking about the circumstances surrounding the writing of The Star Spangled Banner. The narrator made this a religious struggle; Americans had the might of right since the country was founded in the Word of God. Patriotism was very high in this school, we learned how to properly fold flags and how to properly stand at attention while reciting.

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My life in an ACE school

This post by Ian is cross-posted from Bruce Gerencser’s excellent blog, The Way Forward. It’s the first two parts of a series. I’ll be reposting them all here eventually, but if you’re impatient you can read up to part 5 over there. If you’re an ex-ACE student, you’ll also enjoy the discussions happening in the comments over there.

ACE Bible Mind Control

My ACE Experience, Part 1

I am writing a several part series on my ACE school experience. I attended three different ACE schools and was associated with a fourth, so I feel I have had a pretty varied experience with them.

This is my story as I remember it. I had good and bad times, as did anyone attending any type of school. Am I a better or worse person for having an ACE education? I don’t know. I truly believe I did as well as I did because my parents were heavily involved in my schooling, both public and private.

As I tell my story, I will write about the bad things I did. This is not to brag, it is to be as honest as possible.

This has been quite the journey down memory lane, going back over 30 years.  For people who have shared my experience, this will bring back memories. For those who have never attended an ACE school, it my be quite an eye opener.

I hope you enjoy what I have written.

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Your sins will find you out

Big news! I’ve just been announced as a speaker at this year’s QED conference in Manchester. I’ll be on a panel with Nate Phelps, son of Fred Phelps, the infamous Westboro Baptist Church leader, and Sanal Edamaruku, president of the Indian Rationalist Association. More info on the panel here, and get your tickets here.

Now, today’s post:

ACE has tirelessly campaigned since its inception that its schools should not require state licences or qualified teachers. By 1993, it has been in more than 150 lawsuits. Today’s guest post is from JP, whose post shows what a school can be like when it’s totally unregulated. It’s the opposite of the rigid discipline I remember from my ACE days, but a whole other world of horrible. Read on to learn what happens when you use an ACE school as a place to sleep off a hangover…

After 8th grade my anxiety disorder had made itself apparent. I was thrown into the grips of not one, but two mental illnesses. I hated my life and was scared of everything. My situation got bad enough that it prevented me from attending public high school. My parents, unknowing about ACE, found New Haven Christian Academy. My dad explained to me what the school was like and took me in for a meeting. It seemed fine at first. I saw the uniforms we had to wear, long skirts and oversized polo shirts with the school emblem on the breast. I was going through a very gothy/emo-y phase at the time so I detested the clothing restrictions, but I was out of options. I began going to this school and everything went fairly well. I was a declared atheist before attending this school, and probably for the wrong reasons considering I decided to be one out of teenage angst and anger at my situation. This school scared me into religion and taught me nothing of value.

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Guest post: Putting the fundamental in fundamentalist

I’ve had a relative inundation of good quality guest post submissions lately. Which is great. I was starting to look like a lone fanatic, so it’s great to have other ex-students explain how they found their experience of ACE and fundamentalism harmful. Today, “Sheldon” from the Ramblings of Sheldon blog talks about his experience with Independent Fundamental Baptists. Those guys are the most fundamentalist fundies of all.

I attended an ACE school from kindergarten to 5th grade, then I was home schooled with ACE until high school graduation.

The ACE school I attended (as well as my sister) was a part of the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) organization, a group that today, I make no apologies about calling it a cult, if you are not familiar with this group, check the section I have dedicated to them on my blog.

Unfortunately  this exposure to the IFB led my sister to go to one of their colleges, Hyles-Anderson, where she met her husband, she didn’t leave this group until three years ago.

The school was small, as ACE schools typically are, usually averaging 25-30 students a year. It was run then by a pastor and his wife (it is now closed, but they do still sell ACE curriculum for home school families through the church).

The pastor was an old style minister, constantly preaching about hell and judgement, and just about anything imaginable was a “sin”. He had quite a flair for the dramatic, especially when he believed it would get the attention of his students and/or congregation. He had this obnoxious habit of not only raising his voice during speeches, but slamming his hand on the podium, open handed, sideways (with the thumb facing up). The constant thumping would echo through the room, and on his microphone, it was almost enough to cause a headache. I had heard shortly after I left the school, that one Sunday morning, he had to be taken to the hospital during one of these pulpit pounding routines, because he hit the edge of the pulpit at an awkward angle and broke his wrist.  Read the rest of this entry

The Best Email Ever (Another ACE Survivor Story)

Since I started this blog, I’ve been hoping that the parents of an ACE homeschooler would contact me to share their views. Recently, I’ve gained quite probably the best correspondent I could possibly hope for on this blog. She wishes to remain anonymous, with good reason, so I will simply refer to her as Ms. Awesome.

Ms. Awesome’s epic rants about ACE and Christian Education Europe have graced my inbox on three occasions so far, and each time they’ve been absolute gold. Frankly, she should have her own blog. So I hereby present, with her blessing, the edited highlights of her demolition of ACE. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

First Email

I had my three children home educated since 2003 with the ACE curriculum. To begin with, it all fired off in earnest, the children were quite happy with their studying and I must admit that at the time I found the study material quite structured. The biblical aspect didn’t faze me too much, I just encouraged the children to ‘memorize’ the tracts merely for memory building….but, when it came to science, biology and history this did sort of raise quite a few questions, even my children would frown and wonder why christian people wouldn’t be more open about the world we live in!