I’ve spent a lot of time digging up ACE survivor stories on the net. These three, in my mind, best capture the experience of attending one of these schools.
I’ve only managed to contact the author of one of these posts. The other two are reposted with attribution to the original source. You can decide for yourself how credible they are. I’m willing to stick my neck on the line and say that these stories are representative of what I’ve seen in ACE schools. Regardless of who wrote them, I think they are good illustrations of Accelerated Christian Education.
If you wrote either of the other posts and would like to add a comment, or update your story, or would like me to remove the post, please get in touch. If any other readers have direct experience of ACE, I’d also love to hear from you.
1. Originally posted here. I’ve been in contact with the author.
Ah, Accelerated Christian Education. They now call themselves by the fifties-ish appellation “School of Tomorrow,” apparently without even a sliver of irony. Faugh.
This is a hideously condescending system of private-school education that consisted, in my day at least, of having students work “at their own pace,” but really struggling almost unaided through 60 workbooks a year, in little partitioned desks whose primary resemblance is to office cubicles. These workbooks, called PACEs (standing for “Packet of Accelerated Christian Education”) are liberally sprinkled with the most inane, poorly-drawn cartoons you will ever see, most of which featuring simplistic morals and cookie-cutter characters in self-righteous situations. Therein we are introduced to Ace (“Ace-ee”) and his friends Christi, Reginald and, representing all the ugly people of this great world, Happy, with his buck teeth and cross-eyed expression, who, if memory serves, is assured has a place on this Earth in blue-collar employment. All the characters, both the “good” (e.g. Christians) and “evil” (e.g. not-yet-Christians) have descriptive last names, as in that overrated religious path-straightener Pilgrim’s Progress, all of which I have graciously forgotten.
I will not lie, I attended one of these schools for a few years. The curriculum was rarely effective because it was all administered on the honor system, that is, students worked on their own, then put up an American Flag (out of the set of two each had in their individual wooden boxes, an American and a “Christian” flag that consisted, in parallel, of a white field with a red cross on a blue corner ) on top of their cubicle to get permission to rise and walk to the checking tables in order to score one’s own work. (The Christian flag, it must be said, was used to gain permission to go to the bathroom, so that one could worship his holy excrement upon the porcelain altar.) Because the system was rife with opportunity to cheat, most people who emerged from our institution went on to plummet out of college, and even I, who am honest almost to the point of idiocy and didn’t cheat, had to unlearn some really stupid habits picked up in that place. Though the use of self-initiated work theoretically taught initiative and self-reliance, it seemed more often to teach the fine art of waiting half an hour for someone to answer the damn flag so one could get up and walk the three feet to the answer keys, and thus taught dependence, stall tactics (since I have seen no other place which provided so many excuses not to do work), and either mindless obedience to authority (if one waited for an answered flag) or rebellion (if one did not). The school seemed primarily to be about rolling over and letting authority rub your belly than anything else.
2. Originally posted here.
Your guys’ descriptions of what it was like to be in an ACE school match mine just the same – and what an awful way that was to spend my grades 3 through 10.
It is sad that this educational tragedy is allowed to persist through loopholes in local laws regarding education. In Maryland, where I suffered as a child under this inferior school system, I believe that ACE schools got to exist because of something like this: the church-schools were officially exempted from having to meet the requirements that real schools had to follow.
I will try not to duplicate what everyone else wrote about the ridiculous things ACE makes you live through, day in and day out, such as basically sitting in a corner all day staring into your awful PACEs and at your goal chart and star chart. The way you guys described it is exactly how it works, and yeah you sure do become an expert at memorization, both the 60 to 120 second kind and the rote memorization kind (60 to 120 seconds is about how long it takes you to score your work and get back to your desk). Being forced to memorize all of those Bible verses too, on top of it.. you really learned your place in those schools, which was to sit down, shut up, and do no more or less than you are told.
I will, however, discuss the physical child abuse that occurred in both of the ACE schools I attended. The child abuse took the form of extremely severe paddlings. The schools would experience shifts in their disciplinary severity based on who the “supervisors” were that year, and also, what direction the associated church was going.
The worst year when I was attending the first school (Annapolis Christian Academy, no longer in operation as of the last time I checked) was when most of the staff had quit, leaving just one supervisor. At the same time, there was this possibly hyperactive child aged about 10 who developed some kind of social problem, she was usually unable to obey and would even antagonize the supervisor. The most severe paddling she received lasted 40 blows (I counted), while she was physicallly being restrained by the supervisor. She had large bruises on her backside that were visible for days afterward (she pulled her skirt up to show us).
The worst years when I was attending the second school (Antioch Christian School, still in operation) were a few years after they moved to their new building in Arnold, Maryland. Antioch Christian School was, and still is, associated with a pentecostal apostolic church. The church seemed to be in the middle of some kind of “revival”, and somebody got the bright idea that clamping down on the students in the school would be a great part of that. The high school, under the supervision of a Naval Academy graduate named Jason Wharton, became like a military academy for christ. We had to act much like soldiers, such as how we would have to stand perfectly upright at our desks each morning as he walked around and examined each of us closely for any uniform problems. There was tons of stuff involved with this, such as forced fasting on Wednesdays (no lunch allowed), forced kneeling at the altar in the sanctuary, and on and on. I don’t think they did all of the same things to the elementary school.
So at the same time this was going on, a physical child abuse problem developed in the elementary school. We in the high school were living under the edict that we too could be paddled at any time, but that only happened once to someone in the high school.
In the elementary school room, there were two small, probably hyperactive boys, “C” and “R”. I am going to guess they were 10 to 12 years old (at the oldest 12, they acted pretty young but they might have just been immature). I don’t know if it means anything, but both of these small boys were african-american. C seemed to just behave in a hyperactive way and was occasionally mean, but R had an additional, independent streak and was especially mean-spirited to the other children. My little sister was in the elementary school, so I got to know about these boys partly through her and her own difficulties with them.
Paddling of either of these boys was pretty much always done by two men, Brother Humphrey and Brother Wharton (our own supervisor). It was done in the room across the hall from the high school room, and all of us could clearly hear what was going on. The child who was about to be paddled was always screaming and begging not to be paddled beforehand. There was some kind of either ACE rule or local law imposed on the the men (I don’t know which) that stipulated that they were not allowed to hit the child more than 5 blows, but if that was meant to prevent child abuse, it didn’t work. There would always be 5 extremely loud blows inflicted with the paddle, and then there would be silence. The silence would last for 6 to 8 seconds. Then, there would be an agonized and short scream from the child. I happen to know exactly why it happened that way – – the child had been hit so hard that it knocked the wind out of him. Then there would be silence again for a bit less than the original time, and then another scream would come. The child would incrementally gain the ability to breathe again, and was crying and screaming hysterically for a while after the abuse. I always felt sure that one of the men was restraining the child and one was administering powerful blows, maybe even hitting the child with maximum force, although I could never observe what was happening directly.
“C” had this happen to him a relatively small number of times, and then he ceased the behavior that was getting him beaten. “R” was another story, and it almost seemed like a common thing to have happen to him for a while. R could be antagonistic with other children and seemed mean-spirited, and he persisted with the behaviors. Even we in the high school knew R was like this, and most of the high school kids would laugh and not seem to feel sorry for him when the severe paddlings would occur.
A little ritual developed in the high school after a while. R would be taken into the room across the hall for a paddling. Everyone knew what was happening due to the sound of R begging and crying as he was moved into the room. The supervisor in the high school would close the high school room’s door to the hallway before it got fully underway. The abuse would happen, and the two sets of closed doors was never enough to stop the sound from being heard. The high school kids would laugh at R, despite the ceremonial closing of the door.
Eventually, R’s behavior changed, and he became more compliant and able to avoid the beatings. Either he matured or the torture had an affect on him, I don’t have a way to know which.
So, in summary, point being:
I second the motion that ACE is a bad and nasty educational system for the reasons stated by the other people in this thread. Additionally, the whole system has been seen to allow unqualified people to operate the schools, resulting in psychological and physical child abuse being perpetuated against children.
And now… Demon Possession
3. Originally posted in the comments here.
I am an Accelerated Christian Education survivor as well. If you don’t mind, I would like to share my experience with you and your readers, not only about the PACE books and curriculum, but also other aspects of the schools that incorporate this program.
I originally enrolled in a school around 1987 that taught this curriculum in what was supposed to be my 3rd grade. After my initial enrollment testing, they labeled me a “genius” and skipped me two grades.
So everyone thought I was brilliant, including myself, but in hindsight I realize they skipped me only because their school was two years behind what normal schools are required to teach their students.
Being a 7-year-old in class with other kids who were two years older, one-foot taller and who all were under the assumption that I was smarter then they were… needless to say, I was not the most popular person.
But instead of excelling, which everyone had the pre-conceived notion that I would accomplish, the A.C.E. system really only taught me to do the bare minimum to pass, or cheat. As long as I memorized a few bible verses, no one seemed to care. That is, until 7th or 8th grade, when they discovered that I couldn’t do simple 4th grade mathematics.
Then instead of tutoring me, the instructors told my mother that I had demons in my head that torment me and distract me from learning. Which I believe would be called A.D.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder by Demons)
My mother, the naive Christian woman that she was, believed them and allowed them to put me through a series of exorcisms where the pastor, principal, instructors and elders of the church would attempt to force me to throw up these demons by placing their hands on my head and speaking in tongues.
Of course, they weren’t successful, I never vomited any red or green demons… or even blue ones. So being 10-years-old, and completely brainwashed and indoctrinated in this Pentecostal cult, I believed that I was possessed and eventually began acting like it.
They were also very adamant about discouraging me to be artistic. I would draw a lot instead of doing my work, and at a young age had a lot of talent. Instead of encouragement and support, I was punished, not only with demerits and detentions, but humiliation. The monitors or supervisors would tell all of the students to come to my cubical to criticize my drawings. Then lecture us on how important it is that we need to study our “science” books that didn’t teach science at all instead of “doodling nonsense”.
When I didn’t stop I would get suspended, and when my art evolved to carving demon faces on my desk I was expelled.
In the 6 impressionable years I went to this school, going through each ridiculous PACE booklet after another. In which the only thing they really teach you to become or tell you you can be is a missionary. I do not remember one piece of solid information that held educational value, I can however, recite you all the books of the bible in order… which is super impressive at job interviews.
I really only learned how to manipulate trust, to cheat on tests, to lie, and to take advantage of the system. Luckily, I learned how to read and write at a different establishment, because if that weren’t the case, I doubt very much that I would even be able to process my opinions and thoughts and convert them to text in what I am writing to you now.
The day I was expelled, the principal said to my mom, “Send him to public school for a while, he’ll be begging to come back in a week.”
Fortunately, after having that experience I was motivated to attain knowledge and education when it was finally handed to me in public school and college. I am successful today, which I credit to the A.C.E. system and my elementary Christian school, not for giving me an educational foundation, not for teaching me the tools I needed at a young age, and definitely not for it’s realistic vision of society, but for accidentally planting a seed that grew into a rebellious monster, giving me the thirst to have my questions answered and not settling for “Because God makes it that way.”