The case for private Christian education: parental freedom

The case for private Christian education: parental freedom November 26, 2012

Finally! Just when I was wondering if I ever would, I’ve heard from a parent who has used the ACE system and sees merit in it. Unlike other people who disagree with me, Lyndell actually engaged with my criticisms of ACE and we’ve wound up having a long and worthwhile discussion via email. I present the highlights below.

I’m hopeful that Lyndell might answer your questions in the comments, but I haven’t actually asked her yet, so we’ll see. Here’s her initial comment:

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Hello. Just stumbled across your website as I was looking for overviews of ACE programs. I’m actually considering a return to ACE, believe it or not :-) We started home schooling with ACE many years ago, but changed to some other programs for various reasons. After a few years of working at other programs I can see some of the merits of the ACE program.

Like Dave in your comment section, I am also a “legitimate educator”. I attended public schools and did my four year teaching degree at a secular university. I’ve taught in many different public schools. Years 5, 6 and 7 Japanese, year 10 science, year 10 “remedial” english, year 8 and 9 english etc…. Let me tell you, I don’t see any major deficiencies in the academic side of ACE when I compare it with the material students are learning in the public schools. The grammar in ACE leaves public education standards for dead. Even the year 8 English is more comprehensive than public senior education standards. My children, who went through the ACE reading program, were well above their so-called reading level that would have been assigned to them in public school. My oldest child is in his 8th year of HSing at the moment, so I can’t say what the academic side of things are like in the later high school years. However, there are many ACE graduates who continue on with academic studies without any issues of “gaps” in their education. In fact, my ACE educated nephew was asked by his secular university lecturer to help the “normal” school kids learn how to write an essay correctly. Academics is a non-issue.

A couple of people have commented on your site said that they were spanked at an ACE school. I do not at all condone this practise, but I do wonder what makes anyone think the same thing wouldn’t happen in public schools? I remember getting hit over the hand with a ruler by my public school teacher for talking in class. In grade one I was dragged out the front of the class and smacked with the big metre ruler in front of everyone because I turned around to tell the boy behind me to be quiet. ACE is not perfect, their teachers aren’t perfect, and neither is the public school system. I completely disagree with teachers smacking children. However, I would argue that there would be many more instances of physical abuse in public schools than in ACE schools.

As far as the belief that ACE indoctrinates, I would contend that EVERY curriculum has an underlying set of beliefs. So, I disagree with the idea that ACE indoctrinates children while “normal” schooling does not. Children will be taught a worldview either way. Parents who choose to educate with ACE are no more indoctrinating their children than parents who send their children to public schools. The difference is in the worldview. As a parent, I choose to teach my children my beliefs. Are atheists going to send their children to a christian school so that their children get a balanced view of life? No, parents educate their children according to their belief system. All children are being indoctrinated, just like I was in the public school system. I grew up believing that truth is relative, that there are no absolutes, that life evolved, and so on. I wasn’t taught that there is another worldview that disagrees with these ideas. So, just like some of the people who have commented on your site, I can say that I was indoctrinated.

I’m not sure that many people have a perfect education or upbringing. I know that some have horror stories to tell in so far as they are physically abused etc. I don’t see the ACE books themselves as being responsible for abuse. Perhaps it’s the ACE school system, but I can’t comment on that as I have no experience with it. I see there is no need for ACE to be ashamed of teaching children about Christ and the christian worldview. In fact, I think it’s fantastic that there are Christ-centred programs out there.

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After this, Lyndell and I had a long and far-reaching discussion. Here’s a bit more of it (the blockquote section is a reference to one of my comments).

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I’ve been thinking through this discussion and trying to figure out why I felt compelled to add my comment on your site and I think it is really because this as an issue of freedom.  If we clear all of our opinions to the side, I think that it all really boils down to this one issue of parental freedom and the very question of who should determine child training and education.

Just for arguments sake, let’s say ACE is guilty of all you say. When you assert that ACE lacks important skills and topics and limits the child to think critically, then that’s a very valid point if they are in fact important skills.  You see, what you may think is important another person may not.  It really opens up the debate on just what and how much children need to know.  Don’t get me wrong – I really want my kids to be able to think critically, so I share the same opinion.  And, who really cares if we don’t know what a gerund is?  I agree with you there, too.  But, what I don’t agree with is the idea that one person, or body, should assert what all children need to learn.  If we do that, then we need to ask the question: who is responsible for a child’s education?  If it is not the parents right and responsibility to educate their child in a way they see fit, then whose is it?

Do we hand our children over to the state to decide?  We only need to reflect on the example of South Africa last century when apartheid was taught in the schools as an acceptable and good practice to know that government control of education is a conflict of interest.  So, the question remains to be answered.  Who do you think should make decisions about child training and education?  I noticed in one of your blogs that you touched on this point.  You wrote this:

Then there’s the right to freedom of religion. The emphasis here is on the parents’ freedom. Various religious education campaigners claim, “Children belong to their parents.” It seems that many conservative Christians view children as their property. That’s not right. Children are individuals, and they have their own right to religious freedom. That includes being educated with the skills to form their own religious views in later life.
When you say that children are not the property of the parents, then who do they belong to?  Yes, children are individuals, but that fact does not imply they are autonomous.  Children are not free to engage in paid work, they are not free to vote, and they are not free or equipped to drive a car.  The reality is that children are under the wings of their parents and, therefore, take on the beliefs, ethics, and values of their parents even if the parent does nothing to actively train their child in their beliefs.
When you make a claim that the child needs to be educated with the skills to form their own religious views, you are asserting that all parents should train children your way. So, if we go back to the original question of who should make decisions about how to train and educate children, then it appears by your statement that you think it should be you.  You are setting a standard that you believe is correct according to your beliefs.  Are you perhaps asserting your own religious view on child rearing?
One other thing to consider when thinking about who should determine child training and education:  if the whole population of the UK implemented your educational and parental recommendations and then 20 years down the track you see that you were wrong in some of these assertions, where does that leave the generations of children who were trained and educated under your views?  You see, parental freedom protects us from mass indoctrination of any kind and mass educational blunders.
I’m actually very passionate about home schooling and the rights of a parent to decide on what and how their children learn.  That is why I’m defending ACE, even though I agree that there are some problems with it.  I’m defending it because I see the very same problems in the public education system and yet people have the freedom to educate their children in that system.  Everything you have accused ACE of doing, the public education system has also done and continues to do so.
If your true cause was to liberate children from all lies, physical abuse, bias, and shonky educational methods, then your website should not be about ACE, but on all school cases of falsehood, physical abuse, biased programs, and bad educational methodology. If you have such a concern for children to be told the truth then why not target parents who tell their children that Santa, the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy are real?

I’m not saying these things to heat up the discussion or seem argumentative.  I’m just posing these questions to elaborate on my point of view.

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