Big news! I’ve just been announced as a speaker at this year’s QED conference in Manchester. I’ll be on a panel with Nate Phelps, son of Fred Phelps, the infamous Westboro Baptist Church leader, and Sanal Edamaruku, president of the Indian Rationalist Association. More info on the panel here, and get your tickets here.
Now, today’s post:
ACE has tirelessly campaigned since its inception that its schools should not require state licences or qualified teachers. By 1993, it has been in more than 150 lawsuits. Today’s guest post is from JP, whose post shows what a school can be like when it’s totally unregulated. It’s the opposite of the rigid discipline I remember from my ACE days, but a whole other world of horrible. Read on to learn what happens when you use an ACE school as a place to sleep off a hangover…
After 8th grade my anxiety disorder had made itself apparent. I was thrown into the grips of not one, but two mental illnesses. I hated my life and was scared of everything. My situation got bad enough that it prevented me from attending public high school. My parents, unknowing about ACE, found New Haven Christian Academy. My dad explained to me what the school was like and took me in for a meeting. It seemed fine at first. I saw the uniforms we had to wear, long skirts and oversized polo shirts with the school emblem on the breast. I was going through a very gothy/emo-y phase at the time so I detested the clothing restrictions, but I was out of options. I began going to this school and everything went fairly well. I was a declared atheist before attending this school, and probably for the wrong reasons considering I decided to be one out of teenage angst and anger at my situation. This school scared me into religion and taught me nothing of value.
I met some really good friends at the school and even some of the teachers and I had a good relationship. The principal was a woman, who we’ll call Mrs. C, who was a bit on the batshit insane side. Let me describe the “school building” first, it used to be a home for battered women so it was much more like a home than a school. There was a large lobby type room that you ended up in immediately upon entering the building. There was a half-assed playground to the right: a tire swing, a cheap and rusted swing set, two places with over hangs to eat lunch, and a tree stump that was some how incorporated into the play things. Off to the left was a torn up parking lot in which our beautiful (sarcasm) school van sat. I vividly recall the license plate frame saying “Pimp Mobile.” Mrs. C would gather the entire school, all 30 of us not including teachers, in the lobby area in the mornings and do a weird little mini sermon. She would discuss the heathens she saw in the mall and how immodest all the young people were. She would talk about having to sneak away from her drunken mother and abusive father to go to church. She would tell us how poor she was when she was pregnant with her first child, out of wedlock mind you (gasp!), and she had to share a twin bed with her now husband and prop her large belly up on a chair. I digress… These meetings were absolutely pointless and filled with drivel. She would go on about how milk can give us cancer and always repeat the phrases “be careful little eyes what you see, be careful little ears what you hear” and “your sins will find you out!” in a sing-songy voice.
Then we’d be dismissed to work on our PACEs in our little cubicles. Much of the kids in my room, freshman and seniors, were not working, but rather sleeping off their hangovers or half-assing their paces. Everyone cheated, by just copying answers straight from the grading table. I, for one, would steal a red pen from the table and switch the ink tub with a black pen and just fill in all my answers at the table. I was an evil genius.
[Note: for those unfamilar with ACE, students mark their own working from score keys, which contain all the answers. There are red pens at the ‘score station’, and no red pens are allowed anywhere else in the room. This is meant to force children to follow the procedure properly, but as JP explains, it’s not exactly bulletproof.]
We got 3 breaks per school day, we could come in as late and leave as early as we wished, and we only had school 4 days a week. This more than made up for the horrid uniforms. On any given day you could find someone with vodka in a water bottle and a gram or two of weed. Our breaks were not spent praying, but instead smoking cigarettes and getting stoned. I will say one positive thing about that school, they REALLY catered to my munchies. Mini pizzas, funyuns, and those mini liter bottles of pop. The picture of nutrition, am I right?
Punishment hardly ever occurred there, and if you were punished you were spanked or made to clean the school. I was punished for talking once and I had to clean bathrooms for the entire year. Meaning I had to stay later than everyone else there. After a month or two I didn’t even know what I had done wrong to begin this punishment. I never got spanked, but Mrs. C had no problem waving “the attitude adjuster” or “big red” in my face. Those were her paddles, the attitude adjuster was about an inch and a half thick and was full of holes. Big red was a bit thinner and painted red. I didn’t even have to be acting up for her to show me her intimidating weapons of good behavior. The worst punishment I recieved was when a friend drew on my arm with marker. I did my best to hide it all day because I know Mrs. C would have pitched a fit over it. Unfortunately I made it until lunch time before I was found out. She got livid with me and ordered another teacher to scrub it off my arm. I was marched to the sink where the teacher and Mrs. C took turns scrubbing the unholy ink off my arm with a magic eraser. Eventually they got the ink off, along with some skin. I ended up with a hideous friction burn that welted up and bled a bit. My mother was furious and kept me home for the next few days. I think they sent me back because they were at a loss as to what to do with me.
I wish I could go into everything that happened at that school, but some of it I’m just not ready to discuss. I will say the pastor that frequently came into our school was an ass hole, Mrs. C was absolutely nuts, and ACE teaches nothing that could be deemed as educational. I feel like I was robbed of a decent education and I can see how it has hurt me today.
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