Adventures in ACE I: In Which Oddities Are Explored


I recently spent an instructive few months reading Jonny Scaramanga’s blog, where I learned just how screwed up Accelerated Christian Education is. Imagine a room full of young kids stuffed in study carrels (“offices,” in ACE parlance), sitting silent on hard plastic chairs while they’re taught truly-true Christian things from thin newsprint booklets. As they grind through their science lessons, they answer review questions such as:

Christ’s shed blood is the _______ of our salvation. (Science PACE 1085)

Welcome to the whacky world of ACE, where until recently kids were taught that the Loch Ness Monster exists (and is a plesiosaur – checkmate, atheists!). Considering this is an “education” produced by (virtually) the same company that supplies the supposedly secular Responsive Ed curriculum, and is taught to far too many kids in Christian private and home schools worldwide, we should pay close attention to their shenanigans.*

Let us investigate the violence done to the earth sciences, shall we?

I had the dubious pleasure of opening a packet of PACEs this evening. Yes, my 8th grade science curriculum makes quite the stack. And I’m going to attempt them stone-sober. We’ll see if my brain makes it past first impressions without crying for the solace of demon rum.

Image shows a stack of PACES, with 1085 on top.

Mah stack o’ ACE

If you’re looking for slick, glossy Christianist science education, you won’t find it here. Each book is thin, stapled newsprint, much like the instruction booklets mailed out by the IRS, only less useful to civilization. The covers, recycled from previous PACEs, often have little to nothing to do with the content within, and haven’t been updated for decades to boot. The first booklet has got the word “science” all over it, along with photos of people looking at things potentially related to science. The clothes and hairstyles are trés late-70s – early-80s. I feel we’ve reached the cutting edge already.

The next PACE, showing an astronaut and the American flag on the moon, the Earth shining full overhead, has got red crosses all over it.

A quick flip through the pile shows a few booklets aren’t in color. These are the Activity PACs. I think they’re included to ensure a child’s will is thoroughly broken. The Science 1087 PAC, for instance, has us fill in the blanks for questions such as, “God designed the hydrologic ________ to prevent the ________ from overflowing.”

Now, lest you fall prey to the idea that these activity books may, somewhere within, contain any activities that may prove the slightest bit fun, let me just advise there is nothing of that worldly sort. We have science vocabulary words (like “hymn”), fill-in-the-blank exercises, Bible verse memorization…. and that’s it. I know, the excitement could positively overwhelm a kid.

The contents of each PACE include goals we’re to learn about, such as “Purpose of Earth’s Creation.” Then there’s a homily sort of thing, and a little snippet of what appears to be the lyrics of a good Christian song or hymn. Finally, there’s the Bible verse to memorize. As I imagined myself in an “office,” opening to the Table of Contents in my Science PACE 1085, I could feel my will to live drain like a glacial lake that has just floated its ice dam.

At the bottom, we see the copyright date, which informs us that the most recent revision of this PACE was 1998. A quick gallop through the rest show a few were revised in 2002; some haven’t been touched since 1986. I guess there aren’t that many updates needed when the answer to everything is “God did it.”

On the page facing the contents, there is a cartoon. It looks like something created by someone who once had a comic described and that kids love ‘em, so thought this would be a great way to make the PACEs exciting. This person, not knowing how panels in comics work, has drawn helpful arrows for us to follow. Which is good, because otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to blindly follow the right path. Happily, he (and I’m positive it’s a he) dispenses with those in subsequent issues, where he seems to have concluded that left-to-right was the only Godly way to draw comic panels. There’s not a single character of color – we don’t see any people of color until the last booklet, and they’re just random folk in the photographs the cartoon heroes are pasted upon. Women appear occasionally – we see the back of one’s head in the second cartoon, for instance. When they’re not just part of the background, they’re moms who are never seen stepping a single toe over the housewife line, silly little sisters, or crotchety old women arguing about how God reveals the weather. There’s a grand total of 1 (one) professional woman – a stewardess. It just wouldn’t do to give the people with excessive melanin and/or lady parts the idea science is something they can do, too.

Yep.

There’s another oddity in the way the pages are numbered: 1 (one). Every page, they spell it out in parentheses. I have no idea why. Perhaps they don’t trust their own curriculum to have imparted the knowledge of the relationship between the numeral and the word for the number.

Having flipped through most of the books, I think I can manage these as long as I have a hard surface to slam my head in to on occasion.

This cat is showing how much I will love the brick wall that helps me cope with these books. Photo is of a tortoise-shell cat resting its cheek against a brick wall with its eyes blissfully closed.Image courtesy David Joyce via Flickr.

This cat is showing how much I will love the brick wall that helps me cope with these books. Image courtesy David Joyce via Flickr.

I also can sum up the curriculum thusly: “Hello, boys! Here’s a stick. You will use it to ram misinformation and strict fundamentalist Christian schlock into your brain. You will then insert the stick elsewhere, to keep you upright and uptight like a good Christian should be. Do not deviate from this course, or we will use the stick to beat your bottom. Don’t even think of having an independent thought. And what are you girl-children and dark people doing here?”

Gah. I might need coma-inducing amounts of booze after all…

 

*Edited to add “virtually” – as Jonny points out, while they may as well be the same company, technically they are not.

Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for the plugs! I’m sorry that my last couple of comments have been like this, but I’ve got a quick fact check: Responsive Ed and ACE are not the same company. Their headquarters are in the same Texas suburb (Lewisville), they were founded by the same man (“Dr” Donald R. Howard), and a lot of Responsive Ed staff have worked for ACE. Ronald Johnson, who devised the ACE curriculum, also had a hand in producing the Responsive Ed workbooks. So they might as well be the same company, but technically they are separate.

    There is actually one Science PACE cover that appears to depict an actual woman doing actual science. Here it is: <a href="http://g.christianbook.com/g/slideshow/6/6011839/main/6011839_1_ftc.jpg&quot; title="Science 1090".

    This seems to be an aberration, however, and there are no women depicted on the covers of the revised 4th edition versions they're in the process of releasing (they've released up to 6th grade so far, and like last time they have about 8 different covers that get recycled through the series).

    Actually, it's complicated how racist and sexist ACE really is. I've written about it before, but rather simplistically. The PACEs have a reasonable amount of explicit anti-racist messages, and quite a large number of more subtle racist ones. With women it's kind of the other way around. The company has a female president, and one PACE cover clearly depicts a woman as a vet (a vet! An actual, professional job! For a vagina owner!). At the same time, there's the usual stuff about women being homemakers and similar crap. So ACE is misogynist by the standards of most American/European society, but by fundamentalist standards relatively pro-woman.

  2. rq says

    You know, I was expecting to be entertained and mildly amused by these posts. And, in a way, I am. But I am also becoming more and more horrified – these are actual people with this kind of “education”, going out in the world and making decisions that affect more than themselves. I think that, by the end of this series, I’ll be back in bed, under the blankets with a flashlight. It’s frightening stuff. All of it.
    If you do it without the booze, I will officially forever consider you to be the bravest person ever. EVER.

  3. Lithified Detritus says

    As a teacher, I would be bored to tears in such a classroom.

    This is the worst sort of so-called education; rote regurgitation, with no questioning, reflecting, exploring, thinking, etc. Perfect for producing obedient robots.

    Some years ago, a local Christian school discontinued 7th & 8th grade. We had an influx of their students. Nice, polite kids with beautiful handwriting, but they couldn’t think their way out of a paper bag. One of them flipped through the Earth science text and asked if he could transfer to 8th grade science, because he already knew this stuff. Spoiler alert – he didn’t. He knew a lot of interesting disconnected factoids, but had no framework by which to make sense of them.

    In other news. I hope to be back in the classroom tomorrow – Mrs. D’s district is back today. Since Christmas break ended, we have had 21 scheduled school days, and have lost 9 of them to snow/extreme cold. It has worked out for us, though, as it gave us time to deal with some of the aftermath of a couple of family deaths. At the rate we are going, though, we are going to have to figure out Fourth of July activities for our students.

  4. moarscienceplz says

    much like the instruction booklets mailed out by the IRS, only less useful to civilization.

    Dana, you owe me a new keyboard. My is soiled with copious amounts of guffaw-spewed coffee. <3<3<3

  5. b. - Order of Lagomorpha says

    Picturing one of those ACE “offices” is truly horrifying. Here’s a kid, full of questions and curiosity and wonder at the world around him/her, having every bit of that slowly stomped out of them by repetition and rote memorization of bible “facts”. Watching them churn out another good little Droid for Jesus who never asks questions or wonders, “why?”, but merely repeats whatever platitudes they’ve been taught.

    That’s the sort of image my nightmares are made of.

  6. says

    @ Dana Hunter – As you continue to go through the various paces, you will find minority students in the comics (But they always attend separate schools from the white students.) And no, none of their female characters ever seem to step out of line from what “good girls are.”

  7. grahamjones says

    On BBC radio this morning, there was an interesting discussion about how early geologists freed themselves from biblical literalism. Maybe it will help repair ACE-induced brain damage without recourse to chemicals.

    • lyle says

      I suggest the book Apes Angels and Victorians about the struggle between the Church of England and Darwin thru his proxy Huxley. There was a fancy debate, between Huxley and Samuel Wilberforce Read the Wikipedia article about Samuel Wilberforce for some details. (its more balanced than Apes Angels and Victorians) but it does relate the comment about a money by Wilberforce and Thomas Huxley’s reply that in retrospect demolished the Church of England’s opposition. Here is another link to an article about the “debate”
      http://www.rzim.eu/huxley-v-wilberforce-legendary-encounter