This blog post has been in planning for about a year now. It's hard to talk about something that's equal parts traumatic and absurd, especially when it's not about an event, but a long-term experience. Today, I'm going to talk about Accelerated Christian Education and why you should care about the fact that this program exists.
Before we deep dive into Accelerated Christian Education, I want to make sure this is perfectly clear to the reader: this is not an easy topic for many people who went through this system. We share a collective anxiety around many core topics such as how to be healthily assertive. It's not an easy thing to talk about. It's very hard to be objective. Because the impact of the curriculum, and the institutions who use it, is ingrained deep into the core of those who go through the program, do not read this expecting one hundred percent objectivity. This is not a thesis. This is an anecdote. I will provide factual information along the way; opinion should be obvious.
What is Accelerated Christian Education?
I want you to imagine an office environment that sounds like a dreadful place to work. This will look different depending on who you are at your core. For an extrovert, a silent office with isolated cubicles may sound like your worst nightmare--or, perhaps, it could be exactly what you need to focus and use your energy. Since I'm the self-proclaimed "world's worst extrovert," I'm going to linger on that vision for a moment.
Picture an office with cubicles all along the wall. There is silence here; you could hear a pin drop. All of your coworkers face the wall and work through packets of papers. You may hear the flip of a page. Every forty-five minutes or so, the supervisor tells the staff to switch what they are working on, so they change their topic of work... say, from bookkeeping over to reviewing marketing materials.
After another forty-five minutes, the supervisor calls out again, and the marketing materials are put away, and as each employee pulls out minutes to review from some far-off meeting, the supervisor checks individually on each employee, handing out infractions to those who did not complete enough work for the day.
Now imagine that the materials are all outdated, remaining the same for at least thirty years; there is little color, there are no technological tools to help automate the drudgery of, for example, arithmetic, and nobody moves. Any employee who does not know how to do their work must refer to the work itself and follow examples; innovation is not allowed in this corporation.
You may not speak to anyone else for any reason, except your supervisor, and only with their permission.
|Get ready, here we go!|
The answer to #6 is not "by reading this blog," nor is it necessarily "with narcotics."
- Mathematics consists of workbooks that require drilling in the concepts of arithmetic (and the memorization of Bible verses);
- English consists of workbooks that require drilling in and the memorization of the concepts of grammar, punctuation, diagramming, the structure of the written language, and fill-in-the-blank or multiple choice recall (and the memorization of Bible verses);
- History and science are packets of outdated, often incorrect and often racist trivia about the given topics in the subject, then fill-in-the-blank or multiple choice (and the memorization of Bible verses);
- Word Building is a subject devoted entirely to both spelling and memorizing the origin and meaning of the various roots/prefixes/suffixes found in English (and the memorization of Bible verses).
|Science, kids! Now you know all about the skeleton.|
And, well, other than all the mandatory chapel sessions and memorization of chapters of the Bible at a time on top of the other memorization, this is the entire curriculum.
You may be wondering, wait... Where are the teachers? There are no teachers.
|Because who needs TEACHERS when for a credit of Physics coursework, all you have to do is take multiple choice drills about what the Boys Club accomplished long before you born?|
On the other hand, if you're the sort of person who needs to know "why," does not do well with the memorization and recall of trivia, looks for other ways to arrive at a goal, would rather do practical, hands-on exercises than read and recite, or prefer the dialogue between student, other students, and the instructor, well, this probably sounds like your worst nightmare.
|Not to mention all the LGBTQ+ children who go to these schools and have to read this vile, atrocious rhetoric.|
(Yes, I'm queer and had to sit through this and regurgitate it on an exam.)
Perhaps the most egregious aspect of the ACE curriculum is its highly problematic narrative. Throughout the 144 PACEs per subject, over four subjects (108 for Word Building) for 12 years of learning, a story--or parable, if you will--of the residents of a fictional Pleasantville is told through both narrative and illustrated form. You'd be hard-pressed to find a former ACE student who doesn't remember Ace and his friends.
The story of Ace Virtueson, Becky Godswill, Christi Lovejoy, Sinner Ronny Satanspawn O'Sin--okay, I'm making up a few of the last names because I just can't remember them--is one long lesson in the virtues of how ACE defines good character.
|"It is easy to obey those who rule over me!" Golly gee! (Source)|
|Thanks to Patheos for this gem of patriarchy. "You make my decisions so easy with your loving, submissive spirit." |
This is vile. This is also what happens when your school lacks an art program.
|WE GET THE POINT, ACE PACE. KNEES ARE EVIL. Also, apparently, this child's name is Christi.|
(Again, nearly all these comic strips are courtesy of the Patheos blog, google image search, and the tireless efforts of Jonny Scaramanga. Thanks!!)
|Submission and segregation all in one! Take two drinks!|
This also comes from Patheos. Acknowledgment at bottom of article.
|In case you had ANY doubts of the political allegiance of these workbooks...|
|Or maybe they'll just ask you to disprove evolution by saying that dinosaurs are still alive and the Loch Ness Monster is real. Who knows. (I actually did this PACE... I remember this vividly.) Click to enlarge. Photo credit: Patheos|
Of course, students aren't completely without adult supervision as they scrawl through workbooks in their cubicles. As stated before, there are no teachers in the schools, but there are supervisors. The supervisors answer student requests for help understanding a concept in the PACEs and ask permission to use lavatories or to correct their own work. This is done through the silent communication of placing a small flag atop the cubicle.
|"Help, Supervisor! What's the answer to #2?"|
"The answer is 'yes.' Now report to my office for a spanking and you may not leave until you memorize all Psalms."
"But I don't know what a compound verb is--"
Supervisors are allowed to hand out infractions, although incentives are rare. Since students correct their own work at "scoring stations," there are no real merit incentives for high performance outside of the final test taken on each PACE (which usually requires regurgitating the memorized facts found in the PACE, especially those in the "self test" at the end of each workbook). Students who move quickly through the program may be given "Level E" status and allowed to score their own work or use the bathroom without express permission from a supervisor, but this is the extent of incentive built into the curriculum.
|In case I lost you, here's a lesson on tactfully shaming a third grader because knees are evil.|
Enrolling a Child into the ACE Curriculum
When I enrolled in an ACE school, I was required to take a diagnostic exam despite performing satisfactorily at my grade level in all subjects with a particular aptitude for art, mathematics and writing. (I'd guess I had about 3.8 GPA at that time.) I don't remember much from my own testing process, but I was placed in ninth grade English, history, biology and Word Building (at this year, Etymology, which could have been interesting if it wasn't "memorize the roots, prefixes, and suffixes of a bunch of English words"). I was also placed into a Typing elective which was as exciting as watching grass grow. However, I was deemed deficient in mathematics and placed into seventh grade math. It turns out I did not do well in the questions for the super long multiplication PACE or the PACEs that taught business mathematics, which I had not yet seen. Rather than do just those PACEs, I had to start from seventh grade and work my way through eighth and all the way through Algebra I in just one year in order to catch up. I don't think I had any eighth grade "gap PACEs," but I had to repeat the year anyway.
|And the mathematics PACEs had stupid covers like this... Who else remembers the joy of failing a mathematics PACE and having to erase the whole thing to do over?|
|ACE language always assumes male. There is rarely "he or she" and almost never a singular "they."|
|"Pudge wants to serve the Lord" WHAT FRESH FAT SHAMING HELL IS THIS WHO CALLS A PERSON PUDGE|
Also, the final two questions require some ACE logic to be applied. Both of these questions can be classified as exclamatory.
|More of our poor pal Pudge|
|OBEY OBEY OBEY OBEY|
|Who even talks or writes like this?|
|Here is some basic, strangely-phrased Science(?) interwoven into the English assessment.|
|WHAT IS WAGS|
|OH MY GOD HIS NAME REALLY IS PUDGE|
|Me, throwing this examination into the air and weeping for the thousands (millions?) of children who had to sit through this exam.|
I was placed into fifth grade English coursework.
|Also, the only obvious answer here is the interrogative question.|
|Here's some more really awkward subject/verb placement. You are invited to weep with me.|
|The cynic in me giggled at these items.|
I hope this blog post was helpful for you. Please understand that these criticisms only extend to the curriculum itself and how it is implemented. There are countless stories of atrocities committed in these schools, and I may update this page later with a comprehensive list of the dozens of formal complaints of physical and sexual child abuse perpetrated at ACE schools. Further, the damage of this type of programming takes decades to heal from. Please be compassionate with those who strive to be whole people but must contend with the stress of being taught this subject matter in place of any useful education.
The most important thing you should take away from this--and I wouldn't normally spell out something like this--is that this is what some children read, exclusively, day in and day out. They memorize racist, sexist, everything-phobic vitriol and spew it verbatim for a worthless high school diploma that many universities will not accept. This curriculum churns out uninformed citizens who are woefully unprepared to live and thrive in a democratic society.
This blog post would not have been possible if it were not for the tireless efforts of those individuals who have committed to exposing this toxic environment and curriculum for all that it is. I must especially acknowledge the Leaving Fundamentalism blog and Jonny Scaramanga, without whom most of the behind-the-scenes information may never have been compiled to the thorough extent that enables people like me to pull together a blog post like this in a day. Cheers mate!