Jonny Scaramanga came to do a talk about his experiences with Christian education at Portsmouth Skeptics in the Pub recently. I was gutted to have missed it – I was really looking forward to that one. However, keeping a tab on his blog, it seems clear that he is embroiled in a right ding-dong with his arch nemeses, Accelerate Christian Education, or ACE. Here is his article ion the subject which he wrote for the Guardian.
More recently, Scaramanga wrote a piece attacking ACE in the New Statesman:
Creationism and the “conspiracy” of evolution: inside the UK’s evangelical schools
The article, as with the fascinating Guardian piece, includes examples from text books used in the “teacherless” learning environments. As a teacher myself, this is very interesting, and it makes me incredibly angry:
These quotes come from the compulsory course which current students take instead of GCSE science.
From year 11 biology:
No branch of true science would make these kind of impossible claims without proof. Because evolutionists do not want to believe the only alternative—that the universe was created by God – they declare evolution is a fact and believe its impossible claims without any scientific proof!
From year 10 science:
A person who is not right with God must find reason, or justification, for not believing. So he readily accepts an indefensible theory like evolution – even if it will not hold water. That is his academic justification for unbelief.
It was this piece which prompted a personal reply to Scaramanga from Dr Greg Hibbins, general manager of Christian Education Europe (Accelerated Christian Education’s UK distributor).
Dear Mr Scaramanga
Please find attached my letter of response to your article in the New Statesman. I have sent it to the paper and also trust you will publish it in whole and unedited on your blog.
Dr Greg Hibbins
Here is his reply to Scaramanga:
The letter makes for fascinating reading. I contacted Jonny to ask if he wanted his response to this reply disseminated more widely, which is why I am laying it out here. Please check out his blog, Leaving Fundamentalism, and his original piece here. Over to Jonny:
Alright, now you’ve read it, here are my comments (and if CEE disagrees with anything I write here, they’re welcome to respond again. We can keep going until one of us gets bored).
To: The Editor- New Statesman
Re: You’re Article- Creationism/Jonny Scaramanga/05/02/2014
Off to a flying start.
I am writing to correct some blatant mistruths and present a balanced view to the whole debate.
Let me begin by saying that we as an organisation were contacted by one of your staff, less than an hour before your deadline and asked to comment. I would expect any responsible journalist to give us more time to comment, we are a small staff of very dedicated but, busy people. For us to give a response that is well thought out requires at least 72 hours’ notice before your deadline. Please extend that basic journalistic integrity to us next time you wish to publish an article in which we are named. Mr Scaramanga used a similar tactic and wanted us to comment on some one line statements without giving us the context of those statements. Mr Scaramanga refused to let us see those statements within the context of his article, which shows us a lack of journalistic and academic integrity. If he is so confident in his view, allow us the courtesy of seeing the whole article and giving an honest answer- or is he scared to act with journalistic and academic integrity?
Here’s what actually happened: I emailed CEE at 16:18 the Wednesday before my article was published. There were particular claims I’d made that the Statesman‘s lawyers wanted checked, so I was running these past CEE for a confirmation or denial. I had four questions, and requested a reply by the close of business on Friday so I could finish the article for Monday morning.
Hibbins replied that they wanted 14 days to respond to any questions, and that he wanted to see the article in full. I told him that wasn’t going to happen (not least because I hadn’t finished writing it). My article was published on 5th February, just under a week after my first email to CEE. I didn’t know that the Statesman had contacted them directly, but presumably when CEE failed to reply, the editors gave them one last chance to respond to allegations. They refused, and now they’re trying to act like they we denied them a chance to have their voice heard.
Alright, get your creationist bingo cards at the ready people….
On the question of Creationism, it is a basic biblical truth that any ‘Born again’ and bible believing Christian would or should hold to. Evolution, even though taught in many spheres as ‘fact’ is still in scientific terms, a theory.
I refer you to this current clip that makes some very good points and highlights the current robust discussion taking place around this whole question.
I would also like to point you to the following organization, here in the UK, which highlights some well-respected scientists and academics that support creation.
Christians, who support a biblical worldview, have the right to educate their children in the context of their own belief system, as do other people groups who have their own belief systems. Our curriculum is merely a high standard academic tool
that allows the parents and educators to do this. We do not ‘force’ parents to enrol their children into schools that use our curriculum, it is their free choice.
And the children? What about their rights? Ah, of course. ACE doesn’t believe in children’s rights, so I bet CEE doesn’t either. Donald Howard couldn’t keep the sneer off his face when he talked about them – the phrase “children’s rights” is always in scare quotes in all his books. ACE’s former VP of finance, J. Richard Fugate, went one better and wrote “There is no such thing as ‘child rights’ sanctioned by the Word of God.”
Our schools have produced many well-adjusted, responsible adults who are today impacting society for the good in many spheres. They have achieved well at institutions of higher learning around the globe and would be horrified to be labelled as ‘indoctrinated or scarred’ as Mr Scaramanga says he was.
My children, both graduates of this system and of higher educational institutions are today married, and fathers and mothers in their own right, living balanced lives. From within Mr Scaramanga ‘s peers, who were at the same school he attended, at the same time, a snapshot of two families with 6 children between them reveal 5 university degrees, 2 of them 1st Class, followed by 1 Masters Degrees and 1 PhD Degree. Not too bad for a system he claims as teacher-less and indoctrinating. If these children were indoctrinated and the system academically faulty, how on earth were they able to rise to the levels they did within some very good UK universities that pride themselves on critical thinking?
Mr Scaramanga refers to ACE schools as “Teacherless”, that is a blatant lie, designed to purposefully mislead.
Well, that word was in quotes because it was a quotation from this book (which you should read). While we’re about it, the following publications have also used “teacherless” or “no teachers” to describe ACE:
Education Week Volume II, Issue 22, February 23, 1983. pp 1, 14
Wall Street Journal 02 Nov 1984: 1.
The High School Journal Vol. 68, No. 2 (Dec., 1984 – Jan., 1985), pp. 70-74
Washington Post, 3 February 1985
Paul F. Parsons, Inside America’s Christian Schools, 1987, Mercer University Press.
Admittedly, these are not recent publications but, as I write in a forthcoming journal article, ACE has not changed in structure or pedagogy.
The ACE system is a ‘modular, competency based, self-instructional material,
So… teacherless, then.
ACE is teacherless. Staff in ACE schools are not called teachers. They are called ‘supervisors’, and this is not just a technicality. It’s because they’re not required to have any formal teaching qualifications (and frequently don’t), and because while students are working on the ACE curriculum, the supervisors are not teaching them.
designed to be used by both the qualified educator and a suitably academically qualified homeschooling parent.
To be clear, “suitably qualified” here means “has five days’ training“.
The child is able to work at their own pace, following the instruction modules which are very clear and designed to bring clarity, understanding and competency to the child. Should the child need assistance to grasp a concept, they place a flag on their desk which will bring an academically qualified Supervisor (Teacher) to their desk for 1 to 1 interaction.
The 1 to 1 interaction allows the supervisor to guide the child to understanding and competency before he/she moves on to a fresh academic concept. The idea of 1 to 1 tutorage is an established and time honoured tradition in both the UK and other parts of the world. Some of our finest minds were individually tutored.
Thanks for the brochure quotes. ACE is not individualised. All of the students complete identical curriculum. It couldn’t be less individualised. It’s true that students can summon a supervisor for help, but there’s no guarantee that supervisor will be able to do so. More importantly, all of the built-in rewards in the ACE system reward students for the quantity of work they complete, not the quality of their learning. So it’s not in a child’s interests to talk to the supervisor, because that slows them down, and the system punishes that.
The individualized approach allows the more gifted child to advance faster, while allowing the child who may have some challenges to advance at their own pace, without the peer pressure and ridicule which is often so much part of the ‘Talk and Chalk’ Methodology.
ACE: Kings of the False Dichotomy. It’s either creationism or atheism! Heaven or hell! For us or against us! Godly or evil! PACE work or “talk and chalk” teaching!
The modular based learning system ensures that the child develops no academic learning gaps. This system is not unique to ourselves but has been adopted by many educational providers, both at school level and in the realm of further education and training.
The current professional staff of CEE, although not actively teaching, are qualified educators with more than 170 years of combined experience between us, both in the state system and in the ACE system.
As to the desks with dividers, referred to by Mr Scaramanga, they are designed to maximise the child’s learning experience by minimising the distractions. We in the corporate world use the same concept in the open plan modular office concept, where each staff member is assigned their own work station, often with screens or dividers. We take academics very seriously in our schools and believe that the student needs to focus on the subject at hand, be it Maths, English or whatever subject they are currently busy with. The student has and is given ample ‘Social time’ during mini- classes, break times and afternoon activities.
Mr Scaramanga refers to the so called alienation from the outside world, due to the indoctrination he alleges he received. Many ACE students around the world are actively engaged in their communities doing good things, showing the love of Jesus, which the bible commands, to all manner of people groups. These are well balanced, engaged and critical thinking young people and adults, who happen to believe in God. The fact that so many have graduated from ACE schools unscarred would perhaps suggest that Mr Scaramanga‘s experience has more to do with his own personal circumstances, rather than the ACE system.
I’m entirely happy for readers to make up their own minds about this.
The so called ‘Scandal’ referred to by Mr Scaramanga as regards Mr Stephen Dennett shows a very poor research technique. Mr Dennett had made full disclosure to Ofsted, that his company was writing curriculum for use in our schools. Mr Dennett also did not inspect any school that he had any prior association with as per Ofsted regulations. There are always at least two inspectors per school anyway to avoid any bias.
Wait a minute… hold the phone. Ofsted knew that Dennett was writing curriculum for ACE and they still let him inspect ACE schools? I might have been exaggerating when I called this a scandal before, but now…
The article by Mr Scaramanga seems to be calling for regulation in three key areas,
- Freedom of Association
- Freedom of Beliefs
- Freedom of Free Speech
Did you even read what I said? You can keep playing the paranoia card if you want, but when someone actually tries to ban your church from meeting or you from voicing your opinions, I’ll be there to march in protest with you. Would CEE do the same for me?
The above areas, last time I checked, were still lawful and I would suggest fundamental to any free society and which also form the base of your journalistic profession.
I trust you will have the integrity to publish my full and unedited response to Mr Scaramanga‘s article.
Dr Greg Hibbins
Thanks Dr Hibbins! Any time you want to write more in defence of ACE, please feel free. My blog will always have a space for you.
Tune in again next Monday, when an ex-ACE student who is still a creationist and a fundamentalist tells us why he is opposed to ACE and has concerns about Christian schools in general. It’s a stormer.
Other times defenders of ACE have responded (here and elsewhere):