News from a spy in the ACE camp

News from a spy in the ACE camp January 20, 2014

Every now and then I get an email from someone who is currently in Accelerated Christian Education and hating it. In some ways, these emails are tragic. I think it always sucks when children are given a deficient education, but it’s worse when there’s an alternative available and it’s against the child’s express wishes. In other ways, they’re kind of awesome. It gives me hope that the ACE indoctrination program isn’t working, and it means these students won’t have so much unlearning to do later in life.

Tyler Stoltzfus is the most articulate of the students I know combating the system from within. This is his story.

Tyler Stoltzfus
Tyler Stoltzfus (photo credit: Michael’s Portraits)

Hello, everyone. My name is Tyler and I am currently undergoing my senior year in an ACE school called Gospel Haven Academy. I’ve been enrolled in this school for what I shudder to call my entire academic career. (If you don’t like the high school PACEs, you should see their kindergarten counterparts.)

I hasten to say that, next to most of the people I’ve read about or talked to, my experience has been downright pleasant. In fact, until about halfway through my sophomore year, my opinion of the ACE would’ve been wholly different to what it is now. (Most of my classmates are still of the opinion that this is a decent curriculum.) I accredit this partly to the type of community in which I’ve grown up. It’s a small town with the largest settlement of Amish in the world. My father grew up Amish. My mother was not herself Amish, but both of her parents were. (I don’t mean to brag, but I even speak a little bit of Dutch myself.) As you’ve probably guessed, we were never exactly on the cutting edge of science. Most of my peers, when asked, would tell you that they’d love to go to the Creation Museum in Cincinnati, and learn about the science behind creationism. (As if there was some.) When the ACE PACEs told us that before the flood, there was a large water canopy surrounding the earth, we believed them. I consider myself extremely lucky to be, as far as I know, the only graduate from my school that understands that we share an ancestry with apes, and that the evidence for this is overwhelming.

For any supporters of ACE in my audience, I feel like the point needs to be made that presenting pseudoscience to impressionable children is wrong. In my humble opinion, telling a proven myth as a fact is a form of child abuse.

For a long time, (and I wholeheartedly attribute this gap in my understanding to my time in ACE) I didn’t realize that if something is unreasonable, you just shouldn’t believe it. The relentless war on reason within Accelerated Christian Education is not only enduring. As far as I can tell, it is succeeding.

As one of the “lucky” ones who got to participate at ACE’s International Student Convention (ISC) more than once, I can confidently say that for the whole time during every rally, during performance competition, and during any type discourse between me and an adult from some other school, or, God-forbid someone on staff at ISC, it was one of the most repressive feelings that I’ve ever had.

I remember clearly one specific time while eating dinner in the cafeteria for which you had to go through dress check to get your food, some of friends and I were scolded for not having our top button closed. A man came up to us and said, and I quote, “Now, fellows, I know that we don’t always see the little things — but God sees.” The girls on our volleyball team (for which, you also had to go through dress check) were nearly thrown out of the game for rolling up their sleeves. (For those of you that don’t know the ISC dress code, it’s worth reading)

Despite all of that kind of thing, I managed to have a good time. I actually made some good friends. I just wish they wouldn’t make it so difficult with their unreasonable guidelines.

Recently, I remember doing music PACE #5. For you to understand this, you need to know that music is extremely near and dear to me. In that PACE, the statement is made that, “If any music means different things to two people, it is then automatically suspect, and should probably not be used.” It’s extremely hard to understand their reasoning behind this. I think one would be hard pressed to find any song that mean the exact same things to two people, regardless of whether that song is secular or religious. But then, in that particular PACE they also said that Christian rock is still in the spirit of the devil, and should not be something to which we subject our emotions. I laughed this off really very easily.

But, let’s be honest, there is some excellent material to read on this blog about the horrors of the material taught by ACE (I did not pay Tyler to say this – Jonny). The somewhat-overlooked crime, I think, is the method by which the material is taught. My school is currently in the process of switching to a different curriculum. (Unfortunately, they’re starting from the bottom up, so I don’t see many benefits from that.) Some of the things taught in the science and history books are broadly similar to the lies taught be ACE, and, don’t get me wrong, it makes me angry as hell, but at least they’re learning to learn. At least their creativity is not stifled. At least they can ask questions without waiting half an hour to get a half-hearted response because the teacher they’re asking went through a f***ing weekend of training.*

The biggest injustice, in my opinion, is not that these children are taught pseudoscience, revisionist history, or right-wing propaganda, though those things make me angry as hell, as I said. The biggest injustice is that the thinking of the people who go through this God-forsaken curriculum is stifled to the point that people accept the things they learn from this curriculum as God’s own truth, and believe it as fact without a hint of skepticism that so creates the intelligence of the best among us.

Tyler is exaggerating here, but not by much. ACE supervisor training (the only compulsory qualification to run an ACE ‘learning center’) actually takes four days.

Check out Tyler’s blog, All But Objective.

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