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Accelerated Christian Education Under Spotlight

Thanks to Richard Dawkins, the British public are finally taking notice of the Accelerated Christian Education syllabus in use in fifty independent British schools (see my 2004 blog entry on the topic here). From his Diary in the latest New Statesman, where he discusses his recent TV polemic against religion:

One of my TV locations was a London school that follows the (American) Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) syllabus. The day after watching my show, three colleagues told me they had interviewed, for a place at university, a young woman who had been taught (not at the same school) using ACE. She turned out to be the worst candidate they had ever encountered. She had no idea that thinking was even an option: her job was either to know or guess the “right” answer. Worse, she had no clue how bad she was, having always scored at least 95 per cent in exams – the National Christian Schools Certificate (NCSC). Should my colleagues write to Ofsted [the British schools inspectorate] about ACE and NCSC? Unfortunately, Ofsted is the organisation that gave a rave review to Tony Blair’s pet city academy in Gateshead: a Christian school whose head of science thinks the entire universe began after the domestication of the dog.

The school that Dawkins visited was the Phoenix Academy in Edmonton, and a partial transcript of his encounter with the headmaster has been provided by a poster at The Brights.net:

DAWKINS: In one section of the science thing, I was taken aback because I suddenly started reading about Noah’s Ark. What’s that got to do with Science?

[ADRIAN] HAWKES: (LAUGHS) I suppose that depends on your opinion. It could have a lot. If you believe in the story, it could have a lot to do with science.

Dawkins’s programme also led to an article on ACE in the Times Educational Supplement, although I could find only a brief extract.

Another London school which uses ACE is the Tabernacle School in Kensington, which is known for taking on troubled students. The Conservative Party in particular has had a long-standing interest in this school – former party leader Iain Duncan Smith is the school’s patron, and just a few weeks ago Tory Diary noted the enthusiasm of Shadow Education Secretary David Willetts:

He praised the Tabernacle School of North Kensington which, run by an evangelical church, provides a high quality education to children outside of the state system and for lower income parents.

The school has also been recently praised by the right-wing Social Affairs Unit:

I learned that the school taught Creation, but was told that the school:

made the children aware of the existence of Darwin’s Theory. To us it is only a theory.

I would say it is more: it is a heresy, a heresy of Anglicanism so Anglican in flavour as to have become the Official Faith of England. Tabernacle School is better off without it. (1)

The BBC has a profile here.

******

(1) The Social Affairs Unit has a habit of publishing absurd and pompous articles decrying the supposed deficiencies of evolutionary biology – PZ Myers has demolished a couple. Perhaps they’ve now decided they’re on safer ground if they make criticisms that are so bizarre and vacuous that really nothing can be said about them at all.

(New Statesman hat tip to MediaWatchWatch)

21 Responses

  1. I am curious as to how something as thoroughly American as ACE can be translated over to the UK? My memory of the courses (“paces”) was that they melded together fundamentalist Christianity with patriotic Americanism. I admit this was over a decade ago, but just reviewing the books that they recommend as required resources doesn’t show anything that would work well with UK students with regards to government and politics, to say nothing of the heavy emphasis on 19th century fundamentalist preachers’ sermons.

    Yech.

  2. My daughter who is now 14 was in a school that used ACE for several years in elementary school. When I took her out with all her high test scores I assumed she would do well in public school. Unfortunately, she was so far behind they wanted to put her in special Ed because the school thought she had a learning disability. She is quite bright and doing well today. I am sorry to hear it is still being used peace Renee

  3. […] Comments UK Creationist Group Launches Lobby « Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion on Accelerated Christian Education Under SpotlightRussian-Backed Dialogue Among Civilizations Conference Underway in Greece « […]

  4. […] blogged some more about Creationist education in the UK here and […]

  5. […] schools in the UK following syllabuses that censor or distort science teaching; some of these have been praised by […]

  6. […] Schools such as this have been the focus of some controversy, as I noted here. […]

  7. […] last blogged on Nazir Ali a few days ago here. The Social Affairs Unit also promotes […]

  8. […] Mullen is also a popular figure at the Social Affairs Unit; this think tank also links Conservative politics with the rejection of Darwin. Possibly related posts: (automatically […]

  9. I’m a 16 year-old who studied under the A.C.E. program for five years in Texas. I vehemently discourage a parent considering placing his or her child into said program from doing so.

    I was introduced to the A.C.E. program in 3rd grade when I began attending a fairly small school which was enthralled by its philosophy. Prior to my enrollment, I was tested by a separate institution and informed I scored substantially high in each subject; i.e., at least 2 grades ahead. Shortly after my withdrawal, I was once again subjected to an evaluation by a public school and, much to my mother’s chagrin, told I was ultimately behind–particularly in math and science. Only relatively good English/writing skills were in my repertoire, and that was largely the result of my own autonomous cultivation. As I’m sure A.C.E. alumni already know, the education one receives from the program is rudimentary at best.

    When I recall my experiences at my school, only a deluge of negative memories comes to mind. I, too, languished in the proverbial “ideal” environment promoted by the program: cubicles, demerits, and propaganda abounded. I remember being made to wait hours for a “supervisor” to answer my flag and grant me permission to do simple activities, to listen to fire-and-brimstone lectures, and to memorize excessive amounts of scripture on a frequent basis. Not one of my supervisors had a teaching degree; he or she was just a parent, and definitely not one of great erudition. Majority-wise, my requests for help were rudely denied. (For instance, when asked to elaborate on how to solve a division problem, my supervisor retorted with a “No, that would be cheating.” [And yet, we were allowed to view the answers in our score book…?]) Most days, I spent only one hour on PACE work; the books were quite easy and boring, so I just breezed through them. Not ones to subject a poor child to long periods of ennui, the adults generously delegated the role of secretary/maid to me until 3 P.M. I regularly sharpened pencils, alphabetized bookshelves, and the like for them daily. Thanks to me, the place was always immaculate!

    Even if a child is fortunate enough to study in a congenial setting controlled by responsible authority figures, the egregious flaws of the program will still do his or her young, malleable mind a great disservice. Instead of giving children a steady feed of intellectual stimuli, the curriculum inundates them with one-dimensional, biased information and deems it holy. History PACES are replete with stories about missionaries, but stripped of figures and events (or at least accurate descriptions of those figures and events) which don’t correlate with the A.C.E. foundation’s view of the world–and my, is it a faulty one. A dearth of facts plagues the science booklets. English/Word Building lessons epitomize repetition.

    The methodology condoned by A.C.E. promotes a veritable cult mentality. Its insidious curriculum has a foundation of deceit, bigotry, and ignorance, yet it’s still relatively successful because of its benign guise. If you think you’re instilling “Christian” values into your child by allowing this program to shape his or her perspective, you aren’t. You’re simply inculcating them with pernicious dogma. There are other, more appropriate means of teaching your child ethics.

    “Knowledge is power” isn’t a lie, it’s wisdom.

    • I actually enjoyed your review of ace, as it is exactly what I hace been thinking for years. I admire your eloquence and clarity of mind in stating thoughts that I have thought for so many years. I am 48 and I rue the day that I was tortured as you were. Put the bad behind you and live a happy life.There is life after ace!

  10. I am with Marshall on all levels here.

    I’m a 16 year-old myself, and am currently in an ACE school.
    I could say several things about the curriculum, but one way to put it is this:
    Utterly worthless. All the content feels like brainwash material and Christian propaganda, and the PACEs teach through repetition and memorization.

    I strongly advise any parents reading these comments to AVOID this curriculum.
    Not only is it shoddy at best, but the whole system can really trap you-moving is rarely an option should the student realize just how crap the education is.
    That’s where I am.

    Might I mention the fact that there is reference to God or Jesus or something on practically EVERY page of each PACE in every subject?

    Also, the science they teach will be completely useless in any school worth going to-I doubt universities will appreciate a student who believes that science consists of Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, and Jesus.

    Oh.
    And.

    More Jesus.

    I swear, government action should be taken to discredit this entire system.

    And what Marshall said about the teachers being parents and such?
    True.

    Practically none of the teachers(or “supervisors” and “monitors” as they call them)are even fit to teach.

    A proper education should have you feeling accomplished. Like you’ve learned something at the end of the day.

    At the end of the day, I’m just happy to be out of that fallacy-ridden place.

    ACE is worth nothing.
    I’ve said it once, and I will say it a thousand times more:
    Avoid the system.

  11. I also am a teenager attending an ACE curriculum. It’s a threadbare, repetitive, fallible, asinine form of education. It’s
    almost criminal, as I have, for almost eleven years, been
    subjected to this system. Truth be told, it almost advocates
    cheating and the high school curriculum, gahh: See grade
    nine algebra. It teaches a mindless heap of mindless religious patriotism: what is someone’s transgressions being in a science booklet?

    Fine, in some cases individualism can be a marvelous thing, but, to use the word of Marshall, it’s an inundation. Group settings are forgotten. All you do is work in a dirty
    little cubicle for hours and get blasted with boredom. Serious.

    Let’s talk about the literature series. What, the Swiss family Robinson for ninth grade English? Worse book I’ve read.

    One thing it doesn’t teach is to think analytically, which can hurt so many struggling students (I see it daily).

    Quite frankly, it sucks. Rant over.

  12. […] in the UK. However, at least one school using ACE has been praised by senior Conservatives: in 2006 I noted that the Tabernacle School in Kensington has Iain Duncan Smith as its patron, and that it had been […]

  13. I’m someone who was in an ACE school for secondary. Bascially it was a choice between ‘go to a ‘bad comprehensive’ as I failed an 11+ exam or ‘go to the church school’

    I can attest that ACE is a complete and utter pile of rubbish. The PACES are severley out of date and seem to still be stuck in the 1970’s going down the ‘gays are to blame for AIDS’ route and ‘women should be meek and mild’. (They even blamed Beethoven’s deafness on him ‘disobeying God’ because he stole some sheet music from his older brother)

    Don’t even get me started on the stupid ‘characters’ they have in the PACES and the stupid little ‘moral lessons’

    You don’t feel you’ve learned anything it’s bascically ‘sit down, fill in workbook, mark it, correct mistakes, try and remember enough for the test’ repeat. It gets boring and monotnous. You work in tiny ‘offices’ basically only staring at a wall with your ‘star chart’ and ‘goal chart’, not allowed to talk to other students, have no activties that actually require say group work. Also my school offered very little in the way of ‘supplementary’ lessons, there’d occassionally be art and French but the ‘highlight’ was having an entire afternoon of PE.

    The math PACES were difficult and confusing, my dad who is a math teacher bascially confirmed this when he helped me with my work. They would give you one page of brief and confusing instruction and then about 30 problems to solve. Any requests for help were met with ‘let’s pray for guidance’
    I didn’t need prayers, I needed to actually be taught.
    Nearly all the exercises were ‘underline this and fill in the blanks’ and there were at least five English PACES that focuses soley on letter writing.

    They had obvious ‘trip you up’ exercises, they had in a science PACE ‘Write wether you believe in evolution or creationism and why’ (to avoid damnation I wrote a pile of crap about creationism being true) and would never think of informing you about the other theory, and oh yes they have ‘Health’ PACE’s and do they give you a decent education on things such as birth control? Nope, they go down a ‘passion is only for marriage, birth control and abortion of any kind is evil and hey the gays are the reason we have HIV/AIDS’

    And like the others in this system have attested, none of the ‘teachers’ actually knew anything and were just ‘bodies in the room’ to answer you flag and pretend to teach.

    I’m so glad I bailed out to homeschool a year early from this ‘school’ and that I never completed the ACE system, I’m doing quite well under my own power and have worked up from no qualifications to a Distinction level Introductory Diploma in Land and Enviroment, am on track for a Distinction in a First Diploma in Animal Care and then hopefully I shall be starting a National Diploma in Animal Management.

    So yes ACE. Avoid it all all costs, it’s a bad system, ‘teaches’ rubbish and is no way to get an education. It expects young people just to ‘accept’ it’s outdated ‘education’, not question, not learn and grow up ignorant.

  14. For those of you criticising faith schools, you should try going to a State School in the UK. Big, bad, bullying places which many of them are. The teachers are not even sure of the names of the kids there are so many.

    Dream on folks!

  15. Hey guys,
    I just felt I had to put in my two pence.
    I am a 15-year-old homeschooler in the UK currently using the ACE curriculum.

    Having read through all your comments, I agree with some of them, and, yes, there are some things I would choose to do differently from how ACE has chosen to do them.
    However, I would like to point out that many of the offensive things said by ACE which have been quoted in this thread, about LGBTs and women, for example, have been edited out, made more politically correct (and frankly, more in line with the “but the greatest of these is love” philosophy which the Bible teaches), and less biased.
    I, having spent many years on this curriculum, have not come across any of the type of comments people have listed here, or on similar forums. The worst thing like that I can recall is a paragraph or two in a history pace where the Vietnam war was mis-represented in a typically American way. However, having lived abroad for four years where almost all my friends were American, I feel that this is due to the curriculum being American rather than to being “morally conservative”. My mother took me aside and explained this to me, and that is all supervisors need to do until that too is updated/edited to have a more neutral standpoint.

    Also, regarding the NCSC and the curriculum being “too American”, please note that the ICCE now stands in place of the NCSC, and is run solely by Britiain, so the curriculum is being customised by them (the ICCE) for us UK students. :)

    So, my one request is, PLEASE, check the curriculum yourself, reporters, before making accusations. You may be surprised to find that many, if not all, of the type of offensive things you are looking for have been edited out. :) I have no doubt that somewhat bitter (often understandably so — some people implement the ACE curriculum very badly — but this should not dominate other people’s opinion of the curriculum) ACE graduates are telling the truth when they speak of the horribly biased, judgemental things they found in their workbooks, but PLEASE note, folks, that many, if not all, of these things are now edited out.

    thank you! :)

  16. I’m 12 turning 13 in a couple weeks. I’ve been schooling in an A.C.E. school since kindergarten until 6th grade. In my family, we have a deal that when we finish 6th grade, we get to transfer to another school for high school. I graduated as Salutatorian for 6th grade and I’m not in an A.C.E. school anymore.

    I know that there are a lot of alumni in my old school that have to get a tutor because they fail in Math. And I fail in Math too. When I was in an A.C.E. school my Math grades were quite high, I never failed. There was not time pressure at all, I could work on a test for hours. When I transfered to another school. I only got 45 minutes to take a quiz that had 2 pages, I failed most of the tests I had in the first 3 months. But my card grade was not a failing grade, I got 82, passing is 75. I guess my assignments and seatworks made up for it.

    My other grades were fine, in the 1st quarter, I did not receive honor because of 4 subjects, which were the 2 Math subjects, Algebra and Statistics (yeah, we had statistics in the 1st year of highschool, you don’t get to learn that until college), Science, and I forgot the other one. In the 2nd quarter, 2 subjects which were the 2 Math subjects again. Then in the 3rd quarter, only Statistics. But now I got to be ranked 3rd in the whole first year, and to add with that, the Valedictorian, Salutatorian, the some other students with the highest honors went away. So probably if they were still there, I’d be like 5th or 6th, last year I was 2nd.

    Anyway, I know that the school I am in now is good because the some highschool alumni graduated as Magna cum laudes and Summa Cum Laudes in the Best schools in our country.

    Okay, It’s true, a lot of my teachers are not professionals. I have a teacher who was a nursing student who failed in her board exam. I have a teacher who was just having her OJT. I recall hearing my supervisor talking to another supervisor saying “Do you have a sister? because if you do, tell me, it’s okay if she isn’t a teacher, as long as she can teacher and goes well with children, because we really need some substitutes right now.” The school gave me an unrealistic world. When I was there, It was, should I say, like a fairytale, all sugar plums and gum drops. No one was there to bully me, hurt me, insult/tease me, no one said bad words to other students. No one copied from each others assignments, seatworks, tests. No one opened a book during the exam. No enemies. No one needed to work hard to get the others’ attention you would get attention easily. What’d I say, so unreal, like a page out of Alice in Wonderland. When I transfered, I was bullied, I saw a lot of students cheating, and if you weren’t pretty or rich, you are a nobody.

    Aside from that though, I liked being in an A.C.E. school, though my 2 siblings hated it, It was a blast, but I do not see myself schooling there again, or I would not really consider letting my children in the future school there…

  17. I studied in an ACE school for 6 years, and now I’m a dentist. I personally had a good experience in my school. I learnt a lot of Godly values and became closer to God. I did find the quality of education a bit poor though, like for eg. I never felt that i gained knowledge as such. You basically study a bit for the sake of passing the test, write the test, and then forget the whole thing. I also felt that after being in an ACE school where people are so loving and caring, it was a shock when I came out to the secular world and found out what the real world was like. Inspite of that, I look back on my ACE days with fond memories.

  18. This is pretty ridiculous!! All of you who say you went to ACE schools, and that you didn’t learn anything, seem to use pretty big words! LOL

  19. I didn’t at first, Moo–and, as I said, I do have genetics behind me. I was labeled “gifted” before I was placed into an A.C.E. school.

    There are quite a few who have been “left behind” by the system; each kid I’ve reconnected with has either been held back multiple times or even placed into special education (temporarily, let me add). Not to mention the effects that aren’t caught immediately by systems or what have you, but still very recognizable in person-to-person interactions.

    Also, once you’re deprived of such basic knowledge–and realize the gravity of this–you become very self-motivated. I don’t know if I would be so intellectually-curious today if I had not been forced to “start over” in basically every discipline. Throughout the process, I’ve found topics and branches that have greatly interested me.

    Now, as a 19 year-old, I do believe I’ve lost some of the angst one could glean from my first post. I’m even attending a Christian university–a university that endorses intellectual openness. Moreover, I’m an English tutor who wishes to pursue graduate school in the near future.

    I must say, however, all of this is in spite of what I dealt with as a youngster. I would not put my child through it.

  20. I run a blog about Accelerated Christian Education at http://leavingfundamentalism.wordpress.com

    I am gathering stories from ex-students of ACE, positive and negative, and posting them on the blog. I’d like to extend an open invitation to anyone reading this with experience of ACE to send me your stories for inclusion on the blog.

    The blog is a big resource of information and data on ACE. I am strongly opposed to the system and argue against it frequently, but I’m happy to post both sides.

    I hope Richard won’t consider this spam, but I guess he will delete it if he does.

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