Last year on Reddit, an AMA (Ask Me Anything) about an Accelerated Christian Education school turned into a free-for-all for ex-ACE students. At the time, I explained how it had brought a ton of important ACE survivor stories into the open, and I shared one of the the best. Here’s another from that event. I’m so glad it happened. Many of the stories are tragic, but so much of this would never have come out into the open without it.
This week’s tales are from the user CANIBALFOODFITE. As I recall, the user expressed the wish not to be contacted about their experiences, but I link to the original posts so you can see the source.
I feel like the ACE program virtually destroyed my life.
I was in it from 1st grade until 3rd grade. I was completely incapable of learning in this environment. We moved to a different state when I was going into 3rd grade. I was enrolled into a private school that was formatted like most “normal” schools. I was so far behind that my teacher told my parents I needed to go into special education, which was not provided at the private school. The options were to ether go to public school full time, or go to the special ed classes part time. We opted to just put me into public school. I struggled so badly. I remember the first time my teacher (still at the private school) told us to get out a piece of paper to take some notes. I had never used lined paper before, and wrote a few words (I didn’t understand the concept of taking notes, I could barely spell, and had to right slow.) across the lines. I think this was the clue to my teacher (who was a super sweet lady) that I was totally lost. I honestly don’t think I learned ANYTHING up to that point. I was incapable of absorbing information in, what I now call, the ‘prison’ learning system. I was finally able to (barely) work my way out of the special ed classes in my high school years. However, I still struggled, passing most of my classes with a C or a D. Other things affected how I was able to function, I was bullied mercilessly in elementary and Jr high. Being a small town kid from Indiana who had no concept of “cool” didn’t help. I remember the day we showed up to our new home. I was wearing a Davy Crockett coon hat that my dad had bought for me in the middle of summer. My cousin (who I was meeting for the first time since I was about 2 years old) just looked at me as if I was simply the stupidest person he had ever seen and said “Nice hat…you no it’s hot out right?” and walked away. I was so out of my element socially, and so behind in my education…it was terrible. I managed to graduate High School after dropping out for a couple of years. Never got to go to college. If only I could go back and start over again…
[Another user]: I don’t understand. Were you expected to teach yourself how to write?
[CANIBALFOODFITE]: I should clarify, I remember what I think was kindergarten or early 1’s grade. The class was a little more interactive, with the teacher teaching us all our ABC’s and how to read. We still had cubicles and had to do work silently in our packets a lot of the time. I remember just staring at the pages and feeling like I had no idea what to do sometimes. Some of it was pretty easy. Just tracing letters and writing them repeatedly. But anything beyond that was a struggle.
I remember telling my teacher “I give up.” One time. She picked me up off the ground by my arms and screamed in my face “YOU DON’T EVER SAY THAT!” I was mortified…and started to cry…I just didn’t get it. I remember going home at night not having anything done. What you didn’t get done at school, you had to do at home that night. My parents solution was to make me sit up at a desk (It was some old desk my parents got from some old school. It even had one of those “holders” where you would put your ink cup.) in my room and not let me come out until it was done. I remember sitting there for hours just trying to get through it. Sometimes I would be there from the time I got home from school until bed time, only coming out to eat dinner.
[Another user]: How do your parents feel about the whole situation? Do they understand at all what they did by sending you through that?[CANIBALFOODFITE]: So, when I was young, my parents were very religious. In fact, for two of the years I attended the ACE school in Indiana, my dad was the head pastor and the principle of the church/school (all in one) that we went to. I remember a period in which my dad told one of the teachers to make sure that I was getting my work done, and that if I wasn’t, to bring me to his office. Keep in mind that (as far as I know) NONE of the teachers there were licensed teachers. They were probably barely qualified to work in a daycare, much less be full time teachers. Anyway, he would frequently stop by my cube to make sure that I was making progress on my work. Well, as you can guess…I wasn’t. He would say “OK, you’re not working, come with me” and take me to the principles office to face my dad. “He’s just sitting there not doing anything, I’ve checked on him several times.” He would say. My dad learned most of his parenting skills from Dr. Dobson books, and kept a large wooden paddle with a red handle in his office and at home. I think I was spanked by my dad every day in his office for about a week…The pain was immense…
A couple of years down the road my dad was no longer a pastor, and was going to school. I was struggling in one of my classes. (I think it was English) After the first couple of weeks, I realized I was way above my head, and basically gave up on trying. I just mentally checked out, and tried to get through the class without being noticed.
A week or so after that my parents got a letter stating that I hadn’t done any of the homework that had been assigned. I honestly didn’t even know there had been any, and, because in my head the class didn’t exist any more, when my parents asked if I had any homework, I would just tell them “no”. My father was furious. I heard my name yelled from the back of the small 2 bedroom apartment we lived in at the time. The feeling of dread was blinding. I understood the context of the letter as I could hear my parents (at high volume) talk about it as I made my feet move toward their bedroom door. My dad questioned me about my homework, and asked if I had been telling them that I didn’t have any. I was in tears, praying below my breath that they would believe that I din’t know about it. “WHAT ARE YOU SAYING!” my dad shouted at me. I managed to choke out “I want you to believe me.”…I’m having a hard time writing this…My dad grabbed me and slapped me so hard across the face that my feet left the ground…I urinated my pants as he picked me up to do it again…he repeated this three more times…My ears were ringing…and I couldn’t see straight. My mom got him under control and sent me to my room. I stood there, sobbing, in my urine soaked pants. My mom came back in and saw. “What happened” she asked, looking at my pants. I managed to breath and get some words out “I thought he was going to kill me…”
I couldn’t go to school for a for about a week due to the bruises on my face. I had to tell the other kids that I had been sick. A couple of days after the incident my dad sat all of us down around the kitchen table. He formally apologized to me, and said that he would never do anything like that ever again, and that if he did that we were to call the cops and have him arrested.
He never hit me after that.
Moving on to many years later, my mom says that the ACE program was a huge mistake, and my dad admits that he was way to hard on us. My parents are still Christians but are very progressive. When my brother came out as gay it really shook up the family. I think it helped to challenge all of us. Me and my brother have a good relationship with my parents now. My dad is a totally different person, you should see what he lets my two boys get away with…he is a great Grandpa.