What happens if you write a letter of complaint to Accelerated Christian Education? Obviously, if I write a letter, I’m going to get ignored, because I am regarded as nothing but a tool of the devil (and I do not use that term as a figure of speech). But what about Christians—what about ACE’s customers? Will they take constructive criticism from supporters?
Or are they those stereotypical fundamentalists who are so convinced of their own rightness that they know anyone who disagrees with them is simply wrong?
Online reviews of the ACE curriculum always make interesting reading, but I was particularly struck by this one. After describing what she perceived as faults in the curriculum, the reviewer writes:
I called School of Tomorrow and discussed my concerns with them and they did not have any answers for me regarding how easy it is to “cheat” on the Pace tests and learning to think logically and critically. I even asked if the rep could make and note and say something to whoever is in charge of curriculum, but they won’t do that. The fact is ACE wants testimonies of people who did well using their curriculum but those that did did not go to med school and have to think out the box. They go to bible school, become teachers, maybe there’s an accountant or businessperson scattered in, but I want my children to have a world of opportunities open to them when they decide on a career and I absolutely DO NOT want them to struggle the way I did.
Is it true that ACE is only interested in success stories? Enter Kevin Long. Kevin has recently outed himself as a supporter of this blog, and even contributed a guest post, but it was not ever thus. When Kevin first began commenting here, he was still supportive of aspects of ACE. Before he came round to the Leaving Fundamentalism position on ACE, Kevin defended it as an option for kids who would sink in mainstream schools. He wrote a letter to ACE at that time, and has received no response. Kevin’s given me permission to share it with you. I think it’s quite revealing that ACE won’t respond even to this.
My name is Kevin Long. My child goes to an Accelerated Christian Education school, and I myself went to two different ACE schools back in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s. I consider the education my kid is getting to be excellent, and I look back on my own time in the program fondly. Thank you for that.
I’m a Christian, of course, and I’m politically conservative as well. I graduated from a Bible college in Tennessee in 1990 with a degree in history. I mention all this so you won’t interpret what I’m about to say as some kind of mushy-headed liberalism or political correctness, but rather take it in the constructive spirit in which I intend it.
I’m writing regarding Social Studies Pace #103 (Item #3104), published in 1974 and revised in 2002. I have several concerns about Section II, “Discovery of the New World.” I’ve noticed several non-trivial historical errors in the section, and I’m hoping that by bringing them to your attention, the next edition of this particular Pace can be more accurate, since obviously we don’t want to teach kids anything that’s demonstrably false. It misinforms them, and it makes the program as a whole look silly if such errors become common knowledge to the public at large.
I don’t have a copy of the pre-2002 version of this pace, but having re-read the pace several times in preparing this letter, I believe I can see seams in the text – edits – that suggest where changes might have been made [Jonny’s note: Kevin’s right. Edits to older PACEs are obvious because they use a different font from the rest of the text]. These make me suspect that I’m not the first person to have raised concerns about some of this material. There’s still a way to go, however.
Again, please understand that I am not attempting to be critical or accusatory, I’m simply attempting to do my part as a Christian and a devotee of the ACE system to help out. I’ll attempt to be as specific as possible, and cite references where possible.
I thank you for your patience and consideration. My notes begin below:
In the subsection entitled “Vikings,” on page 5, in the paragraph in the middle of the page, it says:
“In the year 999, Eric the Red’s son, Leif Ericsson, sailed to Norway from Greenland. In Norway, Leif was converted to the Christian faith. The king of Norway sent Leif home again to Greenland as a missionary. Young Ericsson introduced Christianity to his father’s pagan colony, and spent the next few years traveling among the communities on Greenland telling people about Christ. Leif’s hot-tempered and heathen father was none too pleased with his son’s defection to the Christian religion, and Leif was forced to flee his father’s wrath. Leif had heard the tales about the land to the west that Bjarni Herjulfsson had sighted; and in 1003, Leif Ericsson and thirty-five men set sail for America. Leif had previously bought from Bjarni the very ship that had made the prior voyage.” [Emphasis mine]
The bolded portion implies that Leif’s discovery of America was a result of him running away from his father, who was presumably trying to kill him or something. This is simply not true. In fact, Leif asked his pagan father to lead the expedition. I quote from “The Vineland Sagas” section of the Landnamabok, the actual Norse chronicles of all their discoveries during the Viking age. This is the only historical source about Leif’s voyages. Without it, we wouldn’t know about Vineland at all:
Leif asked his father Erik to lead this expedition, but Erik was rather reluctant: he said that he was getting old, and could endure hardships less easily than he used to. Leif replied that Erik would still command more luck than any of his kinsmen. And in the end, Erik let Leif have his way.
As soon as they were ready, Erik rode off to the ship which was only a short distance away. But the horse he was riding stumbled and he was thrown, injuring his leg.
“I am not meant to discover more countries than this one we now live in,” said Erik. “This is as far as we go together.” Erik returned to Brattahlid, but Leif went aboard the ship with his crew. […] They made the ship ready and set out to sea. (The Vineland Sagas, translated by Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Palsson, Copyright 1965, Penguin Books)
As you can see, Leif was not “Fleeing his father’s wrath,” he actually begged the old guy to go along. It is true that Leif did convert to Christianity, and functioned as a missionary in Greenland. It is true that Erik never converted, and took a dim view of our Christianity, but he doesn’t appear to have put up much of a fight, either. He tolerated his own wife’s conversion to Christianity without much apparent fuss.
There are several things that concern me in the Pace, but this is the one thing I can point to definitively and prove is wrong. I’ll discuss the others below, but this item, I think, really has to be corrected in the next revision. As that’s really only a matter of deleting one half of a sentence, I can’t imagine it causing too much difficulty.I’m now going to quote sections of the text, and explain what I find problematic with them. I’ll cite references where I’m able to do so.
II. DISCOVERY OF THE NEW WORLD
Did pre-Columbian Europeans make physical contact with the Americas? Nearly every Old World group of people have been suggested as possible candidates for the honor of being “Discoverers” of the New World. Scholars and crackpots have suggested the Egyptians, Jews, Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Welsh, Irish, and many, many more.
(1) List seven groups that have been suggested as “Discoverers” of America:
Every single one of those claims has been adequately debunked, most of them for a very long time, and there are many claims besides them. For instance, I’m surprised you didn’t mention the Portugese claim to have discovered Cuba, which is a really popular, but baseless, myth. There’s no evidence for any of this, and I suspect I’m not the first person to bring this to your attention. My hunch is that the 1974 edition of this Pace was exactly the same as the present version, minus the “And crackpots” bit.
As interesting as the question of pre-Columbian discoveries of America is, it’s amply been shown that all the above are fables. Asking kids to memorize a list of people who didn’t discover America, but claim to is a little bit like asking kids to map out the journeys of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: it didn’t happen, and it’s not really educational. Also, where do you draw the line? There are literally scores of ‘pre-Columbian discovery stories,’ from nearly every country you’d care to name. Why mention Wales and not mention China, for instance? Why mention Rome and not mention Mali?
It’s my recommendation that this part be re-written, and the question be stricken completely. The next section continues:
Throughout the Americas, artifacts of non-Indian origin have frequently been reported. Near North Salem, New Hampshire, are a number of impressive megalithic structures, including a large, bell-shaped stone altar. These structures have no counterpart in any North American Indian culture and have been alternately ascribed to the Irish Culdee monks and/or Phoenicians.
This is a reference to “America’s Stonehenge,” also known as “Mystery Hill.” The oldest of the structures appear to date from the 1700s, when farmers in the area built them to store farm supplies. The remainders were built by a mister William Goodwin in the 1930s when he purchased the site. He turned it into a roadside attraction and cooked up the legends about the pre-Columbian Irish as an attempt to separate tourists from their money. (It worked) The “Bell-shaped stone altar” is a lye leaching stone which colonists used to make soap. Goodwin had it moved to the site. Everything predating the 1700s on the site has been conclusively shown to be of perfectly mundane American Indian manufacture. There’s nothing remarkable about the site, it’s simply a fraud.
Your text continues:
On the banks of the Roanoke River in southern Virginia, numerous copper and iron artifacts were unearthed by a local farmer. Nails, bolts, and threaded nuts in Greek and Roman style of manufacture, and a bronze goblet, similar to some from ancient Pompeii, were discovered. In the same general area are two large rocks inscribed with monograms very much like those employed by early Christians.
This appears to be a reference to some artifacts found on the farm of James V. Howe in 1943. The “Monographs” in question are Maltese Crosses. I have not been able to find any reliable information about these finds, but I have contacted the Smithsonian Institute for an explanation. I’ll forward any information I get to you as soon as I hear from them.
Roman coins were also reputed to have been found in Venezuela […]
The coins in Venezuela were discovered by Cyrus Gordon and Constance Irwin at some point around 1970. However neither of them ever showed any evidence of their claims. They didn’t show the coins to anyone, or document the site, or bring in outside archeologists. In short, they never showed any proof, nor did they convincingly explain why they didn’t show any proof. Nor have any other finds or proof materialized in the 40-odd years since the alleged discovery. It is now universally regarded as a hoax.
Your text continues:
Japanese pottery has turned up on the west coast of South America in definitely pre-Columbian strata, and Chinese-appearing remains exist in southern Mexico.
The Japanese thing might possibly be true. The Jumon/Valdiva theory suggests that about 3000 BC castaway Japanese fishermen drifted to what is now Equador, and taught the Valdivian people how to make elaborate pottery. I’ll quote a reliable source:
Many professional archaeologists and anthropologists take this theory very seriously. Otherwise, the literature on Japanese pre-Columbian contact with America is thin (“Legends and Lore of the Americas before 1492” by Ronald H. Fritze, Copyright 1993 [Page 137])
In years of search, I have found plenty of rumor, but no actual evidence for Chinese ruins in Mexico. Nor are there any Chinese records of trips to colonies beyond the sea. The barely-literate Vikings kept records. Why wouldn’t the vastly-more-educated Chinese do the same thing?
This section of your text concludes:
Speculation rages as to the import of all this accumulated evidence, but the fact remains that nothing can be proven conclusively at this time.
Given its candor, I suspect this last line is the only thing that differentiates this version of this section of the pace from its 1974 version. I guess what bothers me about this section is that it’s entirely speculative, not historical. I mean, if nothing can be proven, then why bother to list inconclusive evidence? Why waste a full page of a textbook with things that can’t be proved, and likely didn’t happen when that space could be used for real history?
Please understand that this letter is not intended as an attack, I merely point these matters out in an attempt to improve the quality of your program and our children’s education.
I think you’ll agree that this letter is measured, and that the criticisms are expressed reasonably, and are in no way an attack on ACE’s faith. So why can’t they even manage a courtesy “thank you for your feedback, which we will give thorough consideration” in response?
After Kevin had followed this blog for a while, he re-sent the letter to ACE and to Christian Education Europe, and received no response from either.