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). Considering this is an "education" 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.
If you're looking for slick, glossy creation science education like our previous textbooks, 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." (Also, ACE staff aren't particularly amenable to constructive criticism, even from allies.)
On the page facing the contents, there is a cartoon. It looks like something created by someone who once had a comic described to them and was told 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.
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 numeral.
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.
But don't hold me to that...
*The founder of ACE went on to create a supposedly secular set of materials for private charter schools. And yep, it's pretty horrific, too.
A version of this post originally appeared at En Tequila Es Verdad.