The ACE Wikipedia page is not brilliant. It’s also not terrible. It’s far better than it was when I started blogging. I’m guessing whoever the recent editors were, they are readers of this blog (so many thanks), because they’ve used it quite extensively as a source. Unfortunately, WordPress.com blogs are not very credible, and it would be good to improve the entry with some more respectable citations.
I’d do it myself, but I’m busy enough without learning the Wikipedia code. I realise it’s not rocket science, but it’s also not absolutely straightforward for someone who’s never done any coding. I am, however, happy to help any Wikipedia editors who want advice or fact-checking.
The ACE page has been the subject of a quite entertaining edit war, which now appears to be over. There used to be a large section on criticism of ACE, and for a while there was a back-and-forth on the Talk page. The criticism of ACE by David Berliner, in particular, was repeatedly removed and re-added. By the time I started blogging, the pro-ACE wing had won and all criticism was gone from the page. These days, things are a little better, but the page needs a tidy-up. Here’s my rundown of suggested improvements.
Edit 1: ACE is fundamentalist
First of all, the introduction used to say that ACE is fundamentalist. That’s gone now, but it’s an entirely legitimate claim to make. ACE’s founder proudly called himself a fundamentalist (paragraph 2 in link; I have the original book if anyone wants to see it). ACE has been described as fundamentalist in at least two peer-reviewed articles.
While we’re on the introduction:
ACE currently[when?] serves over 7,000 schools, one government contract.
Not anytime recently. I’ve heard ACE make claims of government contracts in Russia and Latin America (possibly Guatemala?) in the early 1990s, but I’ve never seen any evidence of this, and they’re not claiming it on their website today, so I say remove it until someone provides proof. Also, there aren’t 7,000 ACE schools anymore. ACE’s website now claims 6,000 schools, as does this news story.
The Wiki page is reasonably good (the history could be improved, and I have the resources to do it, but none of them are online and I can’t really be bothered to scan or type it all) until we get to…
Use of rote recall
The curriculum’s emphasis on rote recall has been criticized by educational researchers. A study by Speck and Prideaux (1993) notes the wide use of association and recall activities in the ACE curriculum, as well as other workbook-based curricula. Citing a 1987 study, they state “The work consists of low-level cognitive tasks that emphasize simple association and recall activities, as is typical of instruction from workbooks. Despite the reviling of B. F. Skinner by the Christian right, the materials make heavy use of behavioral objectives, programmed learning, and rewards.”
This isn’t quite right. Speck and Prideaux do indeed note the use of association and recall activities, but whoever wrote this has obviously not read their paper. The quotes here are not from Prideaux and Speck at all; they are from David C. Berliner’s 1997 article, which cites Prideaux and Speck as a source. The “1987 study” mentioned is in fact an article, “Reading, Writing, and Religion”, by Mary Beth Gehrman from Free Inquiry, a magazine published by the Council for Secular Humanism. It’s an excellent piece of journalism (I have it in a collection of Free Inquiry articles called On the Barricades), but it’s misleading to call it a study and it wasn’t peer-reviewed. More importantly, Speck and Prideaux never refer to Gehrman’s article; Berliner does.
The full text of Berliner’s article is here and I’ve blogged about it here. It’s a good paper but the section on ACE shouldn’t be relied upon exclusively; it seems Berliner used mainly secondary sources, and it’s unclear how much of the ACE curriculum he actually examined himself (the bibliography does list some ACE PACEs, but he never quotes from them directly and his conclusions seem to come largely from Speck & Prideaux and Gehrman).
Speck and Prideaux’s 1993 article (£) is still the best analysis of ACE that’s ever been published (mostly because there isn’t much competition), and anyone editing the Wiki article should get their hands on a copy. The Fleming and Hunt article (£), also cited in the Wiki page, is excellent, and that reference should stay in.
ACE has gone almost unmentioned in peer-reviewed journals for the last 20 years. I’ve just submitted a paper for publication which argues that these old articles are still relevant, because ACE has hardly changed in the intervening decades, but it won’t be published for about a year because academia moves less quickly than continental drift. There are tons more sources that criticise ACE for its use of rote learning, but they’re mostly from the 1980s. Here’s a selection:
- Haro van Brummelen
- Susan D. Rose
- Alberta Department of Education (I’ve got this if anyone struggles to obtain it)
- Moser, C. and Mueller, D. (1980). Accelerated or exaggerated? An evaluation of Accelerated Christian Education. Lutheran Education, 116(1), p. 11 (I’ve got a pdf of this, which the publishers sent me free of charge)
- Paul F. Parsons
- Roger Hunter
- Hope Elkins (Elkins insists that she is only describing, not criticising, but nevertheless her description is not flattering)
- Adam Laats (£) also notes that the educators at Bob Jones University were critical of ACE for its reliance on rote learning.
Race and apartheid
The ACE curriculum includes controversial content in relation to race, including the depiction of racially segregated schools. Some content on this topic has been changed. The 1990 edition of “Social Studies PACE 1086,” stated
“Although apartheid appears to allow the unfair treatment of blacks, the system has worked well in South Africa …. Although white businessmen and developers are guilty of some unfair treatment of blacks, they turned South Africa into a modern industrialized nation, which the poor, uneducated blacks couldn’t have accomplished in several more decades. If more blacks were suddenly given control of the nation, its economy and business, as Mandela wished, they could have destroyed what they have waited and worked so hard for.”
This was replaced in the 1994 edition with a statement that although the downfall of apartheid did not destroy South Africa’s economy, apartheid brought many economic benefits and that South African blacks are better off because of it.
This is a mess. The given quote is not from the 1990 edition of Social Studies 1086 at all. We don’t know what PACE it was from; it was quoted in David J. Dent’s “A Mixed Message in Black Schools,” New York Times Education Supplement, April 4, 1993, p. 28. That article was syndicated nationally, and there’s a version from a local newspaper here.Social Studies 1086 did, however, contain a different pro-apartheid quote, and that’s this:
The government must be responsible to the taxpayers who provide the money that the government spends. Since that is true only taxpayers should be given the privilege of voting…
The apartheid policy of South Africa is a modern example of this principle. Under the apartheid system, the population of five million Whites controls most of the nation’s wealth. If apartheid were done away with, the twenty million Blacks, who are not taxpayers, would be given the privilege of voting. Within a short period of time they would control the government and the means of taxation. ‘The power to tax is the power to destroy.’ Heavy taxation could become a burden to the property owners who actually finance the government and provide jobs. Economics is the major reason that apartheid exists. Some people want to abolish apartheid immediately. That action would certainly alter the situation in South Africa, but would not improve it.
That was removed in 1998. However, there is another ambivalent discussion of apartheid in Social Studies (Geography) 1099, which remains to this day. It was mentioned in passing in the Times Education Supplement in 2009. Here it is in full:
For many years, the four racial groups were separated politically and socially by law. This policy of racial separation is called ‘apartheid’. South Africa’s apartheid policy encouraged whites, Blacks, Coloureds, and Asians to develop their own independent ways of life. Separate living area and schools made it possible for each group to maintain and pass on their culture and heritage to their children.
For many years, Blacks were not allowed to vote in national elections and had no voice in the national government. Reporters and broadcasters from all parts of the world stirred up feelings against the white South African government. These factors contributed to unrest within South Africa. In addition, there are at least ten separate, distinct tribal groups in the nation. Because these tribes are not a cohesive group but are often in conflict with each other, much of the violence in South Africa has been between different groups of Blacks. In spite of apartheid and the unrest in recent years, South Africa is the most developed country in Africa, and Blacks in South Africa earn more money and have higher standards of living than Blacks in other African countries.
Creationism and the Loch Ness monster
The ACE curriculum (in “Biology 1099”) asserts the existence of the Loch Ness monster as fact, declaring it a plesiosaur, and uses this “fact” to disprove thetheory of evolution. In July 2013, this reference was removed from new textbooks published in Europe.
No problem here, but perhaps it would be best to cite the original articles which started the story, rather than the Christian Post and Huffington Post, which were just copying what was reported elsewhere. The original stories were this and this.
Solar fusion a myth
The last two sections are also a bit crap and short on citation, but I can’t really help with that.
Criticism and balance
Wikipedia’s rules state:
Editing from a neutral point of view (NPOV) means representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without bias, all of the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic.
It would be good to convey just how thoroughly ACE’s pedagogy goes against the established consensus of what constitutes effective education, but I think that would require original research, something Wikipedia does not allow. There is plenty of criticism of ACE out there, however. In addition to Berliner and the myriad other critical studies above, there’s also this Ed.S. thesis, and one or two castigations from Professor Harry Brighouse.
The fundamentalist educator Dayton Hobbs was also a vocal critic of ACE, but Hobbs was a crank. His main objection to ACE was that it wasn’t fundamentalist enough, although he also seemed to disapprove of the teaching methods.
Any Wiki entry really should make use of this BBC article, because the BBC has the best reputation for fact-checking in the business.
Now, balance is actually not easy to provide. Very little positive has been written about ACE in reliable sources (even if you take a fairly relaxed view of what constitutes a ‘reliable source’). For instance, there’s this master’s thesis, but I don’t think it can be included for three reasons:
- Large chunks of it are plagiarised from this bachelor’s degree essay
- Baumgardt, the author, was employed by Accelerated Christian Education at the time of writing (Kathleen Carins’ essay, above, has the same problem)
- The evidence provided is insufficient to support the conclusions, and Baumgardt overlooks contradictory evidence in her own data.
I think Jerry Falwell went on record praising ACE in the 1980s; if anyone can find that in print, it would probably warrant inclusion.
Until that’s found, I can only find one journal with articles in praise of ACE. It’s called The Journal of Christian Reconstruction (a terrifying title), and the Summer 1977 issue (volume 4, number 1) has two relevant articles: “Accelerated Christian Education: An alternative to state schools” and “An Evaluation of ACE From a Reformed Perspective”. Readers of this blog will not sympathise with them, but to be NPOV, they are probably worth mentioning.
There is currently nothing about ACE’s unique classroom setup. The individual ‘offices’ the flags, the self-scoring. This is all stuff that both critics, advocates, and prospective parents should want to see included. I guess ACE’s promotional video is the best source for this.