Fundamentalist education & custody battles

Fundamentalist education & custody battles February 3, 2014

One good thing you can say for fundamentalist education (now there’s a phrase I don’t use often) is that, in general, parents are very supportive of the schools. Statistically, this correlates well with academic success, and might go some way to explaining why some students from fundamentalist schools go on to excel academically, despite their deficient early education. It’s also good for kids to be part of a community that’s mutually supportive.

There you go, my first ever pro-fundamentalist education paragraph. Please don’t stop following my blog.

Occasionally, I hear from parents who are going through a divorce or a custody battle, and one parent is fighting the other for the right to put children through ACE. That’s a heartbreaking situation. Here is Cait McKnelly, who has bravely shared her experiences with us.

Cait first introduced herself via a comment:

My children, now 21 and 23, both attended an ACE school, sent there by their father after we divorced. He actually obtained a court order to force me to permit it when I protested.

My daughter dutifully attended until she graduated. Afterward, however, she attempted to go to a public college instead of a “lighthouse” university and washed out after her second semester due to the horrendous gaps in her education.

My son, aware of what a piece of crap education he was receiving, at age 16 deliberately and with malice aforethought got himself expelled so he could go to a public school. Even so, the people that ran the school, with full intention, did it in such a way that he had to sit out nearly an entire year of school before he could go back. This was their TRUE punishment of him for DARING to do such a thing. He tried to go to public school but thanks to what the ACE church school did to him, he was so far behind he couldn’t keep up. He dropped out when he turned 18 and still hadn’t graduated and, instead, studied for and passed the GED test solo. He’s doing a little better than his sister and is on his second year of college.

I asked her to tell us more, and she sent me this:

Cait McKnelly
Cait McKnelly

My marriage broke up in 1997 and, although my ex-husband and I had joint custody of the kids, he had primary residential custody and they went to school from his home. I got them every other weekend and most of the summer. This actually started out as a good arrangement as I am a (now retired) registered nurse. I worked night shift for almost my entire career and, in terms of childcare, our custody arrangement was a good thing. That is until he went “crazy Christian” on me and married a woman who was just as batshit insane.

When he first approached me about sending the kids to his “church school”, I didn’t have a problem. Up to then, my only experience with religious schools were Catholic ones and, although there is a fair amount of religious instruction, overall, most Catholic schools offer a decent, quality education.

My first rumblings of the problems to come was when my children, on a routine weekend visit, handed me a form and told me I needed to sign it. It was a legal form, granting my permission for the school to use corporal punishment on my children. I went ballistic and sent the form back with a note to the school’s director stating that, not only would I NOT give them permission to spank or hit my children, that if I got wind that they struck them in any way I would be contacting child protective services and consulting with my attorney. I didn’t and never have physically punished my children by hitting them and I sure as HELL wasn’t going to let total strangers do it. Because of my refusal to sign the permission form, there was actually some question as to whether they were going to admit the kids but then they decided to do it. (Despite this, there was at least one incident where the director of the school picked my son up by the lapels of his jacket and slammed him against a wall.)

Corporal Correction Release Form
This is a specimen of the form Cait would have been asked to sign, from ACE’s procedures manual.

Because of this, I contacted my attorney who took the matter before a mediator. The mediator passed it to a judge who, unfamiliar with this kind of school, only saw that I was objecting to my kids being sent to a religious affiliated school and decided he wouldn’t block it.

I had remarried, myself, and my husband was, himself, an academic. Although the kids were not supposed to remove any ACE materials or PACEs from the school, with his encouragement, the kids began sneaking papers out to us of some of the lessons they were receiving. Some of them were innocuous and just outright stupid, much like your own examples. Others were very near scary. I particularly remember one that, didn’t just teach Manifest Destiny, but SUPPORTED it. In her senior year at the school, prior to graduating, my daughter was REQUIRED to take a PACE for graduation on “How to be a Christian woman in a modern world”. Given that I am a progressive feminist, you can pretty well guess how THAT went over.

Over the years they spent at that school, my husband and I provided some degree of balance to the kids, at least in view point. Despite that, they still didn’t escape unscathed. My daughter, in particular, is having a rough time. Within the past year, she began having bad dreams, flashbacks and anxiety attacks related to both the church and the school. Six months ago she went into therapy with a trauma specialist and was diagnosed with PTSD related to it.

Bottom line, these schools don’t just produce poorly educated people, they can and do produce damaged adults.

Thank Cait! Cait has also left a string of excellent comments on the blog. I especially agree with this one:

What ACE not only doesn’t do but actively works AGAINST, is teaching students critical thinking skills. Without those skills, people are not able to make logical judgments They teach their anti-science, anti-gay, anti-woman, right wing propaganda by placing children in an echo chamber and NEVER allowing them to hear anything else. This article is a perfect illustration of that refusal to teach something that is, in reality, essential for a true adult.There is a word for this; brainwashing. In some countries this would be labeled torture.

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