On Sunday 19th May 2013 at 11am I attended one of the regular Sunday lectures at Conway Hall. The speaker was musician and PhD student Jonny Scaramanga who writes the Leaving Fundamentalism blog.
Jonny was brought up in a fundamentalist Christian home and went to a school which utilised the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) system, before having a meltdown in school and being transferred to a regular school to finish off his education. He has now fully recovered and has left behind this so called education system and is currently undertaking his PhD research in to the effects of ACE on its participants. The talk he gave was funny, entertaining, informative and ultimately very very frightening. The main points (and this is a whistle stop tour of his talk!) that I picked up are below.
- ACE was founded in Texas (where else) in 1969.
- It came to the UK in 1980.
- There are about 50 schools in the UK that utilise ACE and a further 800+ homeschoolers utilising it.
- The entire curriculum utilises workbooks called PACEs, most exercises consist of fill in the blanks style questions.
- Children work at their own pace (sic) in individual booths called “offices”, which OFSTED once described as the modern equivalent of a medieval monk’s cell.
- There is no Religious Education per se, religion runs through the ENTIRE curriculum.
- The curriculum is rote learning in its entirety, there is no opportunity for discussion or the development of ideas (in fact this is extremely discouraged).
- Children mark their own work.
- There is no requirement or need for qualified teaching staff.
- Everything it taught from a Biblical literalist / US political conservative point of view.
- Children are ‘taught’ that anything that contradicts the Bible or that US political point of view it is BY DEFENINTION evil and it is not to be considered, listened to, engaged or discussed it is simply wrong.
- Anyone on the political left is evil and those on the political right are closer to godly perfection.
- Government funded healthcare is immoral and satanic.
- ACE employs Orwellian style redefinition of words and concepts e.g.
- Scientist = Young Earth Creationist
- Evolutionist = (Proper) Scientist
- Liberal = Evil/Satanic
- Humanism = swear word
- In the science curriculum the Loch Ness Monster is a Plesiosaur therefore Evolution is disproved! Their evidence for this? A decomposed basking shark carcass!
- At least 13 objectives taught by ACE even appear on Answers in Genesis’ list of arguments not to use!
- All mythical creatures in historical literature also prove creationism.
- Never trust man’s (it’s always man’s) reason and ignore any counter argument.
- Linguistics is taught with reference to the Tower of Babel.
- Psychology is based on atheistic ideas and is therefore wrong.
- Archaeology teaches us that the Brass and Iron Ages were not separate times because the Bible says so.
- Corporal punishment is approved of in ACE and the teacher’s handbook provides instruction and photographs of how to beat children with wooden implements.
- ACE will not engage in discussion of its curriculum nor will they speak to the press.
- The founder of the system has admitted that it amounts to ‘Brainwashing”!
Fortunately ACE schools do not receive public funding (bar one pre-school in Bristol which get money from vouchers) and are financially struggling [GOOD!] however a change in government policy and vouchers for private schools could make them profitable overnight! We must be wary of this.
They were heavily criticised by OFSTED in the early days but recently they have been getting good reviews. Is this a case of OFSTED not looking at the curriculum or is it something more insidious? (Please bear in mind that a senior OFSTED official has spoken in favour of ACE)
NARIC a government body (in the Dept of Trade) has recommended that the ACE certificate be considered as equivalent to A Level when it comes to University applications. Fortunately this is not legally binding but a number of Universites do accept it!
This leaves us with the question of what can be done. Jonny is collecting contact details of everyone interested in formulating some kind of response/strategy to this and he is free to be contacted. I have extended Atheism UK’s contact details as we are very happy to engage in fighting the abomination of this so called education system. Please feel free to contact him also!
Jonny Scaramaga can be reached via his blog Leaving Fundamentalism or on Twitter @JonnyScaramanga