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.
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.