I don’t normally plug my talks with separate posts (you can see the ‘speaking dates’ page for the latest), but the next seven days have some good ones lined up:
Tomorrow, Wednesday 20th August 2014, I’m appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival performing, for the first time ever, my autobiographical one-man show, My Escape from Fundamentalism.
On Thursday I’m at Merseyside Skeptics.
And then next Tuesday I’ll be speaking in Dover about Dover School for All Nations, which you should know about by now. Much has happened since I last wrote about it. Pieter Van Rooyen has died, which is very sad for his family and friends, but the school he founded continues under new leadership, which is very sad for everyone else.
Here’s the press release ahead of my talk, which will be the first ever Skeptics in the Pub to take place in Dover. I’ve also invited the leadership of Dover School for All Nations to come to the talk and have right of reply. I very much hope they will accept.
PRESS RELEASE FROM THE SOUTH EAST SKEPTICS
Date: 12 August 2014
Faith school whistleblower to speak ahead of Dover ‘ACE’ school expansion
A former pupil of the controversial ‘Accelerated Christian Education’ (ACE) curriculum will be giving a public lecture on August 26th, ahead of September’s expansion of the Dover School for All Nations (DSFAN) ACE faith school.
Jonny Scaramanga – a former fundamentalist Christian and graduate of the ACE system – has repeatedly spoken out against the curriculum 1, which seeks to put a literal interpretation of the Bible at the heart of every school subject 2. Having left the ACE system 15 years ago, Jonny – whose grandfather went to school with Ian Fleming, inspiring the iconic Bond villain’s surname – now believes his experiences growing up in an ACE faith school border on abusive.
“I started at an ACE school when I was 11, and left just before I turned 15”, Jonny explains. “By the time I left, I was convinced that it was a moral imperative for parents to spank their children, that it was against God’s will for governments to provide healthcare or benefits, and that evolution was a conspiracy cooked up by dishonest scientists who hated God. Unfortunately, most people are totally unaware that these beliefs are being taught in schools here in the UK, under the ACE system”.
The Dover School for All Nations is just one of sixty fundamentalist institutions in the UK to adopt the ACE curriculum, with 100 students due to begin classes at the school in September.
The ACE curriculum has been accredited by a UK government agency as equivalent to A-level qualifications3, despite having been roundly criticised for teaching claims including that the existence of the Loch Ness Monster disproves evolution4, that man and dinosaurs coexisted5 and that evolution has been demonstrated to be untrue4.
Besides clear factual inaccuracies, ACE has been further accused of indoctrination and propaganda, with lessons across a broad range of subjects teaching that the system of apartheid was beneficial to black South Africans 6, that homosexuality is sinful 3 and that right-wing political ideology should be accepted as inherently superior to liberalism without question or debate 4, 9.
Jonny will be sharing his experiences and insights being taught under the ACE system at an event hosted by the South East Skeptics Society 7, taking place on August 26th at The Cricketers Crabble Avenue, Dover. During the evening he will outline the concerns shared by teachers and Christians alike 8 over the teachings of the ACE curriculum.
“All children, regardless of background, have the right to a broad and balanced education and the opportunity to choose whether or not to follow a religion,” explains Scaramanga. “Some ACE materials have been banned in Norway for promoting discrimination against women, and there needs to be an informed debate in the UK as well.”
Dr Alice Roberts, President of the Association of Science Education, has called for better regulation of independent schools: “Why is there one rule for state schools and another for independent schools when it comes to teaching science?”, she said. “The government requires all state-funded schools, including Free Schools, to teach ‘evolution as a comprehensive, coherent and extensively evidenced theory.’
“This is about standards in science education. If it’s considered to be important that certain standards are to be achieved in our state-funded schools, I cannot understand why independent schools should not be expected to reach those standards too. It is a very odd two-tier system of science education: if you’re wealthy enough, you can buy the right for your child to be taught pseudoscience instead of science.”
Richy Thompson, Faith Schools Campaigner at the British Humanist Association, added, “Accelerated Christian Education schools are one of the most discriminatory networks of schools operating in the UK today. Every child has a right to be educated in an environment that is free from homophobia, misogyny, and pseudoscientific ideas being taught as scientifically valid, and yet ACE fails on all these counts. Jonny has made a huge and important contribution in exposing and challenging this network of schools.”
Notes for editors:
 Jonny Scaramanga is a PhD student at the Institute of Education, University of London. He writes about his experiences in the ACE system at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leavingfundamentalism/. Press photos of Jonny are available: photo 1, photo 2.
 The European Academy for Christian Homeshooling, page 5 http://www.christian-education.org/Downloads/TEACHprospectus.pdf
 The South East Skeptics Society exists to foster community cohesion and social interaction among skeptics in the Surrey, Sussex and Kent area, to promote the use of skepticism and critical-thinking among the general public, and to promote evidence-based politics. http://www.southeastskeptics.org/
Media contact: Michael Marshall, email@example.com, 07841134309
Event contact: Simon Clare, firstname.lastname@example.org , 07730285957