I have moved

I am now blogging primarily from http://leavingfundamentalism.wordpress.com. I continue to focus on Accelerated Christian Education and other fundamentalists.

Categories: Uncategorized

It’s not just me

October 10, 2009 7 comments

I want to expand the scope of this blog. Although there’s enough evidence against ACE to keep me running for years, it won’t be that interesting my readers to hear me bashing out variations of the same rant every day.

While I work out how best to make this blog more interesting and effective, let me give you a break from my viewpoint. Instead of hearing it from me, hear it from someone else.

In this article, God, Gays, and Government, an ACE survivor explains his past. He is talking in light of Canadian Bill that would have made it illegal for teachers to mention gays in class. His comments are relevant to the UK in the midst of our discussion about whether parents should have the right to keep their children out of sex education classes.

But the article is only the start. Scroll down the comments until you get to “daniel dwv”. There an ex-ACE pupil shares his truly horrendous ACE survival story.

Have a great weekend!

Christianity without faith

October 8, 2009 8 comments

Can the graduates of ACE schools even be called Christians?

This is an important issue, because the spiritual content of the curriculum frequently seems to be the sole justification for its existence. I’ve lost count of the number of ACE apologists who have started by saying, “It’s not perfect, but…” In the view of the people who run ACE schools, particularly the chronically under-funded ones in the UK, the lack of resources, poor educational materials, lack of extra-curricular activities, and stifling of social opportunities are justified by the benefits to the child’s spiritual condition.

So it had better be good at saving souls.

And, well, it isn’t. Christianity is a faith. Children in ACE schools don’t need faith. They’re not even capable of giving informed consent. They have a combination of gross misinformation and indoctrination which produces a type of Christianity based on manipulation, not faith.

Donald Howard, founder of the ACE curriculum, said that ACE materials are “designed for programming the mind to enable the child to see life from God’s point of view.” [Your Church Can Have a Christian School, 1979, emphasis mine].

According to their own literature, ACE uses programmed learning. This doesn’t just mean that ACE has a programme of education. It is a specific educational technique first proposed by BF Skinner, and it is based on flawed assumptions about human psychology.

The psychological foundation for this approach is the ‘operant conditioning’ theory of B.F. Skinner. The human organism is determined by his environment, and susceptible to behavioural conditioning. Skinner has no respect for the supposed faculties of critical reasoning. ACE stands in direct line of succession to those who sought, by emotional manipulation, to obtain decisions for Christ which by-pass the individual’s rational autonomy, but it cashes in also on the improved manipulative techniques discovered by modern behavioural psychology.

Christian Perspectives for Education

Students at ACE schools say two pledges of allegiance every morning (three if you’re American and also have to pledge allegiance to the flag). Regardless of age, saying these pledges is compulsory (my school had simplified versions for the really little kids). And here they are:

I pledge allegiance to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour, crucified, risen, and coming again as king with life and liberty for all who believe.

I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s Holy Word. I will make it a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. I will hide it in my heart, that I might not sin against God.

Kids who are too young to have any idea what this means, let alone to consider the truth of it, grow up saying this every day. In what meaningful sense can they be said to have chosen Christianity?

Fundamentalists are quick to claim that it’s a matter of faith whenever they are asked for proof of their beliefs. But when they think there might actually be some evidence, they show themselves to be as proof-hungry as anyone. The PACEs are rammed with “proofs” for Christianity, and they’re all lies.

“We have a risen Christ, unquestionable proofs, and, as if we needed it, God has thrown in a host of unarguable evidences all around us [of creation]!”

“For the Creationist, little faith is required to believe in a young Creation or a great, world-wide Flood… As far as I’m concerned, enough scientific evidence has been found to convince anyone of the truth of God’s Word.”

“Scientific evidence proved the Darwinian theory of evolution was false”

“No branch of true science would make these kind of impossible claims without proof. Because evolutionists do not want to believe the only alternative – that the universe was created by God – they declare evolution is a fact and believe its impossible claims without any scientific proof!”

Those are all quotes from ACE science textbooks. The ACE Basic New Testament Survey and Basic Old Testament Survey – when not lambasting followers of other religions and even other Christian denominations – make the usual, now discredited claims about the authorship of the Bible. Moses wrote the law. The disciples wrote the Gospels. Those things simply aren’t true, but they’re taught in ACE’s courses not as a matter of religious belief, but as historical fact. ACE also misrepresent history to make out that the good guys were always devout Christians, and the bad guys were always anti-Christian. In ACE geography we learn that Christian countries are richer and better off than non-Christian countries, and that’s because of their faith. It’s relentless.

David Modell quotes an ACE teacher telling her class: “Before Jesus came, people who disobeyed God got turned to a pillar of salt. So thank God for Jesus because we can say ‘Jesus, I’m sorry’ and we don’t have to fear getting turned into a pillar of salt, which really happened in the Old Testament.” My school once ran a class where the teacher claimed that as Christians, we did not have “blind faith”, but there were reasons to back up our belief. We were invited to supply evidence that Christianity is true. I can’t remember what we thought of, but we came up with plenty.

Look at this from the point of view of a child in an ACE school. They’re in an education system that is designed to manipulate them, and this is supported by a bunch of falsehoods that the child “knows” to be true. They don’t have a chance. They don’t have faith either.

The news

It seems that when they wrote to the government, the British Humanist Association jumped the gun. Now, the BHA have not yet returned my calls or emails, so I might be doing them an injustice, but it seems that they wrote a letter without checking their facts.

The BHA complained to the government that they objected to the accreditation of creationist qualifications. Their mistake was to say that it was out of Naric’s remit to consider the content of a curriculum. This is the impression you would get from reading the TES article (see my further reading page). The BHA want Naric’s remit to be expanded so that this does not happen again.

There’s just one problem: Naric’s remit does cover curriculum content. I spoke to Tim Buttress of UK Naric this morning, and he told me,

“It is something that we consider. Content of a qualification is integral to it, but the point I was making to the journalist is it’s not our job to be setting the curriculum. The confusion possibly arose in what he was thinking I said and what was actually being said.”

Now, I have no idea if Mr. Buttress was misrepresented in the TES article, or if he has changed his story. But essentially, the TES article said Naric’s excuse for validating this pathetic curriculum was: “Don’t blame us, we only look at academic rigour, not course content.”

Whereas now their excuse is, “Don’t blame us, we didn’t write the curriculum.”

This does not seem to be a huge improvement.

So anyway, the BHA appear to have written a letter to the government asking them to change Naric’s remit, when a call to Naric would have confirmed that Naric’s remit already does what it should. Tim Buttress said that Naric was never shown any of the curriculum materials that contain claims about the Loch Ness Monster or apartheid. It seems unlikely that Naric’s inspectors didn’t see any Creationist nonsense in their inspections, though, because the curriculum is crawling with it. Indeed, if the inspectors didn’t see anything like that, they obviously didn’t look very hard at the curriculum.

ICCE chairman [sic] Brenda Lewis would probably say that’s not likely, because she told the TES, “we were taken aback by how thorough they were.”

So one way or another, Naric has made an error. Either they have not looked at the curriculum thoroughly, or they have looked at the curriculum thoroughly, seen the appalling errors it contains, and validated it anyway. Which seems more likely? Well, according to Ms. Lewis:

“Naric were delighted with the school… They loved the atmosphere and ethos… Very surprisingly, the examiners went on to say that they loved the Biblical teaching. They loved the emphasis on Godly character and virtue in the ACE system… It’s amazing.”

Interesting that Tim Buttress didn’t choose to mention any of that to the TES.

Anyway, Mr. Buttress told me that he would try to get a copy of Naric’s original report on ICCE. He also said that, since my letter, Naric has been in contact with ICCE to discuss the points I raised. He said he would make some phone calls and update me when he knows what progress has happened. I will continue to press Naric on this.

The story so far

Here’s a timeline of what’s happened so far. I don’t honestly expect you to read all the links in this story. I’m just showing that I’m hardly alone in expressing these opinions.

In 2008, UK Naric judged the International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE) to be equivalent to Cambridge International (CIE) O-level and A-level. The ICCE is the certificate you get for completing the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum in the UK. As someone who teaches in further and higher education, it is my professional opinion that this is a travesty.

In July 2009, I wrote a letter to Naric complaining that ACE is academically inadequate, contains distortions of the truth in its course materials, and includes some material that seems to promote religious intolerance and even racism.

Not satisfied that this would get enough attention, I also wrote to the Times Education Supplement and the Guardian.

In August, the TES ran a story in which it revealed that Naric’s benchmarking exercise had validated ICCE, even though ICCE materials include claims that the Loch Ness Monster helps to disprove evolution, and that apartheid was beneficial for South Africa.

This story was picked up by the Guardian, and the Telegraph as well as getting attention from many blogs and plenty of twitter posts.

The following week, I wrote a story for the TES in which I described my experiences at an ACE school and briefly outlined why I think they are unacceptable.

In September, the British Humanist Association wrote to the government, complaining about the accreditation of ICCE.

On September 23rd, a piece by Andrew Copson in the Guardian referred to this accreditation.

On September 29th, the popular Lay Science blog reposted John Gregson’s thoughts on the subject, including reprinting my letter to Naric in full.

I have also written to two teachers at Maranatha Christian School in Swindon, one of the most important ACE schools in the UK. In my letters, I outlined various academic and moral reasons why I am opposed to their school, and I await their response.

That’s enough background for now. It seems ACE is a very difficult thing to take down. In 1984, the Committee on Tolerance and Understanding in Alberta, Canada, chaired by Ron Ghitter, said of ACE “There is no place for curriculum of this kind in the schools of Alberta.” There are still ACE schools in Alberta today.

In 1989, two university professors conducted a thorough curriculum review of ACE on behalf of the Australian government. In a 1993 paper discussing their findings, they said “[S]tudents do not complete ACE schooling with the appropriate knowledge, values, and skills for participation in Australian society.” In spite of that, ACE marches on in Australia.

ACE has received plenty of bad press in the UK, too. In May 2008, Channel 4 aired a documentary called Dispatches: In God’s Name which visited Carmel Christian School in Bristol and gave it a good pasting. That was accompanied by news stories in the Telegraph (and Independent, although that didn’t mention ACE). Professor Richard Dawkins also looked at ACE in his Root of All Evil? series, which you can watch here. That resulted in a follow-up article in the Times Education Supplement. And there was a 2005 piece in the Guardian too, which was mostly negative (and where  it was positive, I argue that it was inaccurate).

My point is that the pesky ACE has been swatted many times, but never knocked out. But that’s OK. It’s my belief that simply raising awareness of ACE’s content would be enough to put off parents from sending their children there. People sign up for the school on the basis of Christian values. Few realise that it uses such discredited teaching methods, or propagates such extreme political views as it does.