Education

Life According to the Christian Education Curriculum, in Cartoons!

Most ACE cartoon content is repugnant not only to non-believers, but to most mainstream Christians as well.

Despite being mostly ignored by the mainstream media, Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) has been something of a force for over 40 years. It began in Texas in 1970, and currently claims to have 6,000 schools in 140 countries. Because these schools are private, and the workbooks they use are only published internally, most people have no idea what is taught. You won't find ACE books in public libraries, so they effectively are able to operate without scrutiny. This is a problem when ACE schools are the beneficiaries of various voucher programs in the U.S. and even the U.K.

ACE schools do not have teachers in the traditional sense. Instead, students sit in individual cubicles, completing workbooks (PACEs) separately and in silence. PACEs are full of outrageous untruths and embarrassing multiple-choice questions. It's important not to overlook one of ACE's main propaganda tools, the cartoon strips that pepper each PACE. Looking at them, it turns out much of the content is repugnant not only to non-believers, but to most mainstream Christians as well.

1. Classrooms Are Segregated

In the fictional world of the PACE cartoons, there are three schools: Highland, Harmony and Heartsville. Here's a lesson taking place at Highland:

Highland is white

And here's a similar event at Harmony:
Harmony is black

That's right, it just happens that in ACE's universe, kids attend separate schools based on their skin color. Interestingly, Paul F. Parsons' book Inside America's Christian Schools claims that ACE will not knowingly sell its curriculum to any school which discriminates by race. That just makes ACE's cartoon policy even more incomprehensible. ACE is in the process of releasing new editions of all PACEs, with newly drawn cartoons, and these continue to depict segregated schools. ACE insists these cartoons have "an ethnic awareness quality that illustrates how diverse ethnic groups can live harmoniously," but what they actually depict is apartheid.

Speaking of which, here's what ACE used to teach students about apartheid in South Africa:

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.

2. Girls Must Be Modest

Christi modesty

Just think about what this cartoon is saying. The girl depicted is less than 10 years old. Christian fundamentalists believe women must be modestly dressed so they do not incite men to the sin of lust. This a troublesome enough idea on its own. It implies women are to blame for men's sexual impulses, opening the door to blaming rape victims. Here, though, ACE is insisting that a pre-pubescent girl must be modest. Her body too, apparently, can incite lust, and this can be her fault. In insisting on the "purity" of children, ACE actually sexualizes girls' bodies. This is not an isolated occurrence.

ACE's emphasis on modesty contributes to a culture of victim blaming and rape apology.

3. Feminism is Bad

Women in PACEs only ever do traditionally "feminine" activities. They knit, cook and clean.

Girls cook

washingBut they don't paint walls, because that might break their dainty feminine wrists.

sci1047 men do the painting

Equal rights for women, of course, would lead to starving children.

women's liberation

4. Non-Christians Are Evil

Of all the people in the PACE universe, only two are not Christians: Susie Selfwill and Ronny Vain. According to ACE, these two characters "provide the humanistic, worldly aspect of life. These two personalities 'show up' throughout the inserts as examples of the consequences of unrighteous living."

Ronny is a malevolent scumbag. Other PACE characters make the occasional mistake (like choosing to read a book instead of pray), but Ronny's every action is either stupid or simply unprovoked, intentional evil. Ronny is a thief....

Ronny steals bike

He mocks a small child for crying....

Ronnie laughs when child fallsAnd he pressures other kids into smoking.

Ronnie cartoon SS1074Later, Ronny crashes his motorcycle, paralyzing one of the other characters in the accident. Following this, Ronny mocks the other character for needing a wheelchair. We are explicitly told that Ronny's bad behavior is because he is not a Christian.

Wisdom Pack 1105 Ronnie is an unbeliever

So what happens to Ronny? Does he get saved? Nope....

Screen Shot 2013-12-28 at 15.08.50Susie, Ronny's sinful girlfriend, is killed, and Ronny winds up destitute. According to the PACEs, if you're not a Christian, you'll definitely be a twisted person, and there's a good chance you'll die young. Later, the other characters talk about how Ronny and Susie had it coming because they rejected Jesus.

6. You Shall Obey

The main message of the cartoons, however, is simply obedience. Blind, unquestioning submission is demanded from students.

Racer attentive (obedience)

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 15.27.13

This insistence on total obedience is at odds with effective education. To be successful human beings, children must learn how to think for themselves, how to question the information they are given, and challenge authority when that authority is wrong. By forcing children to obey, ACE shows that the education part of its name is not its true goal at all.

Jonny Scaramanga is a PhD student at the Institute of Education, University of London. He is writing a memoir about growing up fundamentalist. He blogs at Leaving Fundamentalism.

 
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