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Fundamental errors with evangelist schooling

Comment | Published in TES Newspaper on 7 August, 2009 | By: Jonny Scaramanga

Visitors to Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) schools see how quiet classrooms are and how polite pupils are. You would be polite too if you attended a school where anything less than vigorous, smiling agreement with the teachers was seen as an act of rebellion. Rules were enforced with, if not a rod of iron, then a hefty paddle.

In the 1990s, I attended an ACE school in Bath that has since closed. Like all pupils, I taught myself from ACE textbooks containing information on core subjects interspersed with comic strips in which pupils with side-partings reminded me how good Christians behave. I sat in my "office", a small desk with high partitions separating me from my neighbours. Talking wasn't allowed, but staff were not taking chances. I went to the school as someone who loved learning, and left it seeing education as a necessary evil.

Supposedly, we worked from the textbooks for half the day, then did group work, but often this didn't happen. Extra-curricular activities involved going to town to sing Christian songs and try to convert strangers. Once, we were taken out of lessons so a teacher could lecture us: someone had been heard singing pop songs. This, the supervisor said, was the same as picking up dog dirt and rubbing it in your friends' faces.

Fundamentalist teachers cannot be argued with: they do not acknowledge the validity of reason. "Man should never trust his own reasoning," my schoolbooks said. "His reasoning may be incorrect because man's reasoning is not God's reasoning."

Education should be about learning how to think, asking questions, and finding answers. But ACE shuts down critical thinking. Mr Gradgrind would approve of its focus on "facts". Not that students would know who he is since the syllabus is purged of all books that are not explicitly evangelical.

The ACE curriculum frames the terms "liberal", "socialist" and "humanist" negatively, so when they want to criticise anything they do not have to explain why. (A typical line in a history book is: "Although (JFK's) New Frontier sounds good, it was as socialistic as the New Deal and the Fair Deal had been.")

ACE's advocates in Britain say teachers here would challenge ideas in the American texts. Yet I was taught in 1997, from an out-of-date book, that if apartheid fell in South Africa, it "would not improve" things. None of my supervisors seemed racist, but they did not criticise that statement. My parents had no idea they were signing up for political propaganda when they chose a curriculum promoted for building "Godly character".

It shocked me when Ofsted inspectors gave the school glowing reports. They could not possibly see what was happening. I am against legislation that restricts religious freedom, but the debate changes when parents' religion interferes with the right to a good education. There have to be tight stipulations about content in alternative curricula.

It took me years to readjust after I left the school in 1999, aged 14. I later wrote in my diary that I had been living at the bottom of the ocean; the day I left was when I began swimming for the surface.

Jonny Scaramanga, Music teacher in Bristol and former pupil at an ACE school.


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Comment (5)

  • Lets not forget Blair's idea of faith schools increasing social cohesion, this kind of education is dangerous!!!!

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    22:36
    10 August, 2009

    elpopstardo

  • The purpose of religious education is to keep outside information from reaching the student. The idea is to enclose him or her in a religious echo chamber where the rest of the world

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    1:17
    11 August, 2009

    Norad

  • ...rest of the world's criticism cannot be heard. It's similar to the way in which authoritarian nations cut off communication with the outside world so that their subjects never realize how bad they have it and how dismally their government is viewed.

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    1:18
    11 August, 2009

    Norad

  • Any curriculum that purorts to be educational, is sanctioned by, and receives glowing reports from, agencies like Ofsted and that contains religious dogma and scientific untruths is dangerous.

    Not only slimy Blair, but Howard in Oz (from where I hail) can be held culpable for the self-serving increase in interference in state school educational organisations by the creationist, YEC religites. These people get themselves educational qualifications while keeping their religite proclivities secretly under wraps. Having focussed on getting themselves into areas of curriculum development and agency accreditation, they then bring out their religious and subversive methodologies to hack into secular educational curricula.

    Elpopstardo is so correct - this kind of education is dangerous and the price of keeping curricula free of religite influence is vigilance. That's why I have problems with NARID and that agency's accreditation of the ACE curriculum that Jonny Scaramanga talks about.

    Disgraceful and intellectually barren!! All I can say is keep this stuff in front of the populace in general and always let the pollies know that their constituents are aware of this sort of attempted takeover by the extremist neanderthals of any religious persuasion.

    That last sentence doesn't sound right but you get my drift.

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    15:54
    11 August, 2009

    VeroniqueD

  • I have seen myself many times how children in the state school talk bulshit to each other and to teachers and hit each other, but teachers can do nothing to stop it.
    Christian schools are far better than state schools. It is always a choice to attend state school, if children or parents are not satisfied with christian or religious school. But christian school at least has some certain rules and high values.
    Fighting and swearing in the school i do not consider as a freedom, but i consider it as a morally aggressive environment, where children could not develop normally. I do not consider it freedom, that children could do and behave whatever comes in mind to them. Freedom is choice to do good and avoid doing evil. Nobody is forced to go to the christian school, that is a good opportunity for only those, that wish to go there. State school is invented for those who want to educate their children in a morally bad environment and so called moral "freedom", in freedom to do evil. Good luck, if you hope, that you will not reap the evil, that you have sown!

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    17:21
    9 July, 2011

    verners

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