A.C.E. ‘Education’

I was asked by @JonnyScaramanga to write about some of the early christian ‘education’ I received; it seems he and I were both subjected to a similar experience. An article he has written about it can be found here, but before I add my 2 cents worth, here is a little background.

My parents and I don’t talk much these days; in fact I haven’t heard from them since April of 2014. The last time we spoke, (via Messenger) my fundamentalist xian mother told me that she and my sister were thinking of getting matching tattoos. I of course couldn’t resist, so I asked her why xians got tattoos, as Leviticus 19:28 seemed pretty clear about where god stood on this. We then got into a little discussion about the Old Testament vs. the New Testament and her last comment to me was, “I still won’t have this conversation with you” – I guess I don’t get my love of arguing/debating from my mother.

It has been almost 20 years since I left home and my religious indoctrination finally came to an end. In many ways, I still feel its effects and I will probably always have this chip on my shoulder about religion, but it’s a part of who I am and I wouldn’t change it if I could. As I have gotten older, I have forgiven my parents for my overly religious, fundamental upbringing. At various parts of my early life, I had to go to church twice on Sundays + the occasional Friday night youth group, I wasn’t allowed to listen to music for a while (I call those the Footloose years), and I was given the ‘masturbating is a sin and will send you to hell’ speech. That statement alone should qualify as emotional abuse and is not something anyone should say to a child.

Believe it or not, I don’t really hold a grudge for those things; I know my parents genuinely thought that they were doing the right thing, and they definitely did do a lot of other things right. Had that been all I had to contend with, perhaps we might have a better relationship now, but there is one thing that I have come to realise has not been so easy to get over, and that’s what I have been asked to write about.

For those of you that have never heard of ACE (Accelerated Christian Education), it is a curriculum (though I use the term in the loosest possible sense of the word) developed by a husband and wife in Tennessee in 1970, for use in private xian schools.

For 2 years (and then another 6 months of home-schooling) I was stuck in the windowless basement of our church, using textbooks written by people who interpret the bible as unerring literal truth. Picture Ken Ham and Ray Comfort developing learning materials for children; this is what passed for my education. My classroom was just a large open room with about 50-60 students of various ages each sitting around the wall in their own little booths. The teachers were church volunteers with no teaching credentials and little knowledge beyond the bible, though I recall them being pleasant enough. The learning style was independent to a fault; each student read through ‘PACE’ books on our own, and tried to learn what they had to teach. We were in charge of marking our own answers (but were of course on our honour not to cheat!), deciding what we would do/when we would do it, and also how quickly we would progress.

What exactly did they teach though? Here is a sampling of some of the more controversial and ridiculous things that have come to light, no doubt there are far more that have gone unnoticed.

  • The ACE curriculum (in “Biology 1099”) asserts the existence of the Loch Ness monster as fact, declaring it a plesiosaur, and uses this “fact” to disprove the theory of evolution. In July 2013, this reference was removed from new textbooks published in Europe
  • Textbooks state that abortion is wrong, evolution is a lie, and homosexuals choose to be gay. They teach that “God wants wives to submit to their husbands”
  • The ACE curriculum (in “Science 1096”) asserts that solar fusion is a myth, describing it as “an invention of evolution scientists
  • Of the United States, the curriculum says “Because of the faith of the early citizens of the United States and because of the Biblical foundation of its government and laws, God blessed the United States; and it became the strongest and most prosperous nation on Earth

While I can’t say that I remember the above examples, I do recall learning about the origins of the universe as recounted in the Genesis story, including Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. I also distinctly remember a chapter about Noah’s Ark and the great flood. Did I learn this in a religious studies book? No, I learned all these fanciful tales in my science books. Creationism and a literal interpretation of the bible was portrayed to me as the obvious and only explanation for all the things around me. I’d like to say that at the age of 10 I rejected what I was taught and sought my own answers…but I was just a kid (and in the mid eighties, there was no Google or Wikipedia for me to use) and I believed what I was told.

At home, it was the same; my parents told me it was true, and my teachers (recall those people with no teaching credentials) had told me it was true, why would I question it? Why would any 9 year old question his or her role models? I honestly can’t recall when I started to reject the utter foolishness that had been taught to me, but fortunately I did, and since then I have had a love for learning that I hope I never lose. Perhaps subconsciously I’m still trying to make up for lost time?

So that is a little bit about what it is like for some of the unlucky children who are brought up in a very xian household. Thankfully I know that this is not the norm, and I am sure a large number of children with xian parents receive exactly the type of education that everyone should be entitled to. Sadly, this is not the case for everyone, and it wasn’t the case for me.

When I first started to write this, I wasn’t quite sure why I was doing it. Was it just to share my experience, did I hope it could actually help someone, or was it perhaps to find others who had gone through something similar. As I wrote and revised, the real reason I was doing it came to me: the only people in the world that really need to know my thoughts about my experience are my parents… so this is for you Mom & Dad; some insight into what your religion has done to me.