Last week, I finally got my hands on something I’ve been trying to get for more than ten years. This.
Yes, that’s a picture of a kid being bent over a chair so he can be beaten. This picture is from page 118 of the School of Tomorrow Procedures Manual (part 1, 1998 revision). That’s the guide that all Accelerated Christian Education schools are required to follow in running their schools. I was 13 the first time I saw this picture, and I found it shocking even though, as a good Bible-believing Christian, I knew it was God’s will for children to be spanked.
Critics of my blog often tell me that I am wrong to highlight instances of child abuse in ACE schools. “Child abuse happens in all kinds of schools”, they tell me. “You’re just trying to smear ACE”.
To those critics I say: Look at this picture, and then tell me that. Yes, child abuse happens in all kinds of places. But most of those places don’t consider it to be one of their main selling points.
When I left ACE, I thought about that picture all the time. If I could just get a copy of it to a newspaper, I thought, I could bring ACE down. All hell would break loose. After all, 1998 was the year the law changed in the UK, banning corporal punishment in private schools.
But I couldn’t get a copy. The School of Tomorrow Procedures Manual is not sold to the general public. It’s only available to schools and home schooling parents directly from ACE. The only place to find this picture is in an ACE school, and they were hardly likely to let me go in and get a photocopy.
Last month, after years of searching, I finally found an online retailer with a copy for sale. And I’ve got it. Turns out, my memory played tricks on me. The picture above is far larger than the picture appears in print. In the book, it’s no larger than 3 x 5 cm. I’ve blown it up to that size because that’s how big it was in my memory. I don’t think you need to be a psychoanalyst to see what that says about how it affected me. But anyway, I’ve finally got the picture, and I can expose ACE.
Both fortunately and unfortunately, I’m too late.
That photo is from the 1998 revision of the procedures manual. The latest edition is from 2010, and on page 52, it says “Corporal discipline should never be used in school”. That’s a hell of a turnaround. In 1998, they said, “to omit spanking is to leave out a key ingredient in discipline”, and cited four Scriptures in support of this claim.
So this is great news. It means that horrific experiences like Aram McLean’s won’t happen again, right? Right?
I’m not convinced.
For a start, there are still a bunch of ACE schools that clearly advertise spanking on their websites, using verbatim the wording from the 1998 edition of the ACE manual. Here are a few I found with a casual google search.
ACE Websites That Still Publicly Advertise Spanking
- Victory Christian Academy, Florida (in their student manual, downloadable here)
- Gateway Christian School, San Antonio, TX requires parents to sign a slip giving the school permission to spank their child
- Alive Christian Academy, Toronto, (page 7 of this school policy booklet)
- Central Baptist School, Hattiesburg, Mississippi (page 13 of this pdf)
- Pleasant View Christian School, Bromley, Kentucky (page 15 of their student handbook)
- Cornerstone Acadamy, Amarillo, TX (pp. 47-48, CAA handbook [not updated since 2009])
- Seed of Wisdom (to be fair, this website doesn’t look particularly active, but it does have an interesting list of offences that warrant spanking)
- Christian Academy of Bacolod (last updated 2010)
- Emmanuel Private School, South Africa (handbook page 16)
- Grayson Christian School, Sherman, TX (discipline agreement)
Well, that’s ten, and I’ll stop there because I’m bored. You can find more yourself by simply googling a phrase from ACE’s discipline policy, like “a simple, flat paddle” or “the offense will be clearly discussed with your child“.
But even if ACE aren’t paddling in schools anymore, you can bet your life that they’re still doing it at home. Here are all three pages from ACE’s guide to spanking (again from the School of Tomorrow Procedures Manual, copyright 1994, 1998 revision)
Click to enlarge. You’ll see that ACE, even back then, said that the ideal solution was for parents to spank their own children. You can be confident that’s exactly what they’re saying now. When the law changed in 1999, so that ACE schools in Britain could no longer paddle the kids, my school just made it a condition of attendance that parents were required to do it instead.
Christian Education Europe responded by holding a protest rally in London, and by joining with the Christian Schools Trust in a legal battle to reinstate spanking, arguing that it was central to their religious beliefs. At my school, I heard murmurs of people being willing to go to prison over this, just as St. Paul and his companion Silas went to prison for preaching the Gospel.
Spanking was absolutely central to life at an ACE school. My teacher used to take us aside regularly to read Scriptures about how vital it was for our moral well-being. There is no way these people have simply changed their minds after decades of fighting for corporal punishment. In my opinion, the wording in the 2010 edition of the Procedures Manual is simply there because the law has changed in most of the territories where ACE materials are sold. Note the sneaky wording: “Corporal discipline should never be used in school“.
I believe that the issue of corporal punishment may be the test of Christian conviction in the next generation. American Christians have never had their beliefs tested by the threat of dying in the arena. Already, some Christians have had to testify their commitment to corporal punishment as their testimony to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). What the Bible Says About Child Training has been used in several court cases as these parents’ Biblical reason and justification for corporal punishment.
These are not the words of someone who is likely to change his mind. Fugate goes on to advocate that parents keep their ‘disciplining’ private, just to be safe.
Today, Christian Education Europe’s website has only this to say about discipline:
IV. Control and discipline
The Bible has some unfashionable but necessary teaching in this area…
Someone from CEE is welcome to correct me if I’m wrong, but the way I see it, ‘unfashionable’ can only be a reference to spanking. After all, there’s nothing unfashionable about appropriate forms of discipline, like time outs, and generally ensuring that children grow up to be pleasant, moral individuals.
So that’s my case: I don’t think the ACE leopard is doing any spot-changing. This is a system that prides itself in not believing in evolution or moral progress. If it was good in 1000 BC, it’s good now.
Please click on the three images above and read what ACE has to say (if you don’t find it too distressing). I’ve gone to the trouble of providing the whole thing, so no one can say I’m taking this out of context, and it’s there you’ll find the step-by-step guide mentioned in this post’s title.