My Life in An ACE School Part One and Two

ACE Bible Mind Control

A guest post series by Ian.

My ACE Experience, Part 1

I am writing a several part series on my ACE school experience. I attended three different ACE schools and was associated with a fourth, so I feel I have had a pretty varied experience with them.

This is my story as I remember it. I had good and bad times, as did anyone attending any type of school. Am I a better or worse person for having an ACE education? I don’t know. I truly believe I did as well as I did because my parents were heavily involved in my schooling, both public and private.

As I tell my story, I will write about the bad things I did. This is not to brag, it is to be as honest as possible.

This has been quite the journey down memory lane, going back over 30 years.  For people who have shared my experience, this will bring back memories. For those who have never attended an ACE school, it my be quite an eye opener.

I hope you enjoy what I have written.

Part  2: Understanding An ACE School

Start an ACE School

ACE stands for Accelerated Christian Education. Donald Howard, a pastor in Texas, started ACE in 1970. It was developed as a way to evangelize children. ACE relies heavily on rote recall and short-term memorization to teach children.

Let me explain how an ACE school operates. Students start the day out in an assembly, where we prayed, read scripture, recited pledges of allegiance to the American flag, Christian flag and the Bible. Afterwards, we heard school announcements. Then, children who passed tests the day before were called to the front and given blue “Congratulation Slips”; we would applaud them before they sat back down. After a final prayer, we would go to a Learning Center.

In the Learning Center were rows of desks, divided into “offices” by wooden dividers. In each office, students kept their school work and items needed to complete their daily work. We also had two flags, American and Christian, which we used to signal the Supervisors (American flag) and monitors (Christian flag) we need help. Supervisors were people who had taken a 5 day training course and were conversant in all things ACE. Monitors were usually parents who were volunteering as assistants. Monitors were only allowed to do things like give permission to use the bathroom, score your work, or give spelling tests. Supervisors answered harder questions and could authorize you to do special things. Students in higher grades were sometimes utilized as monitors, something I did quite a bit of in 9th grade.

Students had a star chart, on which were placed stars showing the work we completed. The work we did was contained in a PACE- Packet of Accelerated Christian Education. Each PACE was roughly 32 pages long and 12 in each subject were completed each year. Typically, we would do Math, English, Social Studies, Science, and Word Building (spelling/vocabulary). As you got into higher grades, there were PACEs in literature, and home economics. For high school aged children, there were elective subjects in Old Testament survey (studies, I don’t know why they called it survey), New Testament Survey, New Testament Church History, World History, American History, Soul Winning, Life of Christ, Accounting, etc. All of the courses had an overt fundamental Christian message, from the first math PACE, to your final typing test. Even as a Christian, I did not think that was a good thing.

ACE View of HumanistsEach PACE was divided into several sections. After a block of instruction and practice problems, there was a quiz called a “Check-up”. At the end of the PACE was a “Self Test”, which was to show you had mastered the information in the PACE. After completing the PACE, it was turned into a Supervisor and a test was taken the next day.

Scoring the work was accomplished by going to a score station and using a red pen to mark your wrong answers. You then had to return to your office and correct the answer and re-score the work. You did this as many times as was necessary to get it right. I’ll bring up pen colors here. Blue or black was allowed for the students to use during the day. Red ink was only for scoring. Green ink was only for Supervisors and monitors. Even today, at over 40 years old, red and green ink pens still hold almost a mystical quality for me.

One of the most important things in our office was our goal card. Every day, we had to place the number of pages we planned to do in a square that was underneath the subject. We were required to do at least 5 pages in each subject each day, unless a supervisor allowed otherwise. After the goal in each subject was completed, we crossed it off. This was all done in pen, so there could be no cheating. Haha, more on this later. If your goals were not finished by the end of the day, you had to ask the teacher for a green “Homework Slip”. On this slip was written what needed to be done to complete the day’s goals, or if you needed to study for a test, memorize scripture verses, etc. Parents signed the slip and it was turned in the next day. The Supervisors performed a “goal check” each morning to ensure everyone was actually doing all of their work.

Any infractions of a rule resulted in a demerit being issued. These were kept logged in a binder. At the end of the day, a student with 3 demerits was given a yellow “Detention Slip”. This slip had to be signed by your parents and returned the next morning and detention was served that day. Three demerits was a 20 minute detention, four was 25, five was 30. Six demerits was automatic swats (spanking). Parents had already signed a slip that allowed the school to administer swats. Swats ranged from 3 to 5, depending in the severity of the infraction or number of demerits. In my own experience, Detention Slips ensured a spanking at home, as did swats. My parents didn’t follow the idea of double jeopardy; they felt if I was bad at school, I deserved the punishment at home. My parents backed the school 100% and did everything they could to make sure I obeyed and learned. As a consequence, I had a VERY good reason to behave at school.

Breaks consisted of a 5 minute break in the morning and afternoon and a 20 minute break for lunch. You had a chance to earn longer breaks by applying for one of three “Levels”. These levels were labeled differently in different schools but always corresponded to “A-C-E Levels”. “A” level would give you two 15 minute breaks and a 25 minute lunch. “C” level would give you two 20 minute breaks, a 25 minute lunch and the ability to score your work without asking for permission. “E” level allowed you freedom to do pretty much as you pleased as long as you completed all of your work. Applying for these levels consisted of completing at least 1.5 PACEs a week- A level, completing 2 PACEs a week along with scripture memorization and a monthly book report- C level, or completing 2 PACEs a week, scripture memorization, a book report every month, and a weekly Christian service- E level. These were something we all coveted, since it give us a bit of freedom.

ACE Bible AbsolutesAll students wore a uniform to school. These were known as God and Country uniforms. For boys, it consisted of Navy blue slacks, a red dress shirt and a hideous God and Country necktie. For girls, it was a Navy blue jumper or skirt with a red shirt and a little God and Country neck scarf. Girls had to wear tights or flesh-colored stockings, boys had to wear black or blue socks. Everyone wore polishable black shoes. The dress code changed over the years; first we could wear white or red shirts, then red, white or blue shirts. Grey slacks/jumpers were finally allowed. The schools also gave us a little leeway. I remember wearing a red turtleneck shirt for a while and another school let us wear blue or grey Docker or Dickie pants.

Part of the indoctrination we received was that shorts were evil on either sex and pants on a woman was the greatest abomination you could imagine. Girls had to wear skirts, dresses or jumpers during the school day. These had to be loose-fitting and extend below the knee. For outdoor events or gym times, girls wore a glorified pair of pants called culottes. All of this was done to help boys avoid temptation and help girls not to become sluts and keep them from tempting us poor, helpless boys.

Another feature of ACE, and fundamentalism in general, is the application of the 6 Inch Rule. This is a rule that states, “All boys and girls must maintain a 6 inch distance from each other”. This rule is a variation of Jack Hyles’ Bible distance rule. He said for a boy and girl to keep a Bible between them, that way by the time they made it past Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, they would be too ashamed to do anything. I know, a stupid rule, but it was what we had to do. (Just Google “6 inch rule Christian” and you can learn all you ever wanted to about this.)

The King James Version of the Bible was the only Bible we were allowed to use. There was no question or debate in this area, and there was no explanation as to why, either.

I have saved the best part of ACE for last- the cartoons featuring the cast of ACE. Front and center is Ace Virtueson (pronounced Ay-see), the perfect child who is as wise as any adult. Then there is Pudge Meekway, the fat kid. Hapford Humblen, the buck-toothed kid who had a learning disability. Racer, who was almost as good as Ace. Kristi Lovejoy, the female counterpart of Ace. The red-headed McMercy sisters. Reginald Upright, another good kid. Then there were the two bad kids, Ronnie Vain and Susie; they were the two non-Christian kids who were always doing bad things. These kids all lived in Highland City and attended an ACE school. The principal was Mr. Friendson.

We can’t forget the subtle racism in ACE. There was another city, called Harmony, where the black kids lived and went to theIr ACE school. There weren’t too many comics with these kids. Two of these kids were J. Michael Kindhart and Booker. There were a couple of girls, too, but I forget their names. I don’t remember any other races being represented, but I could be wrong.

The kids in these cartoons had all kinds of problems that were solved with the help of wiser, older people or prayer. Some of the stories were blatant rip-offs of Bible stories, some were retellings of Sunday school morality stories. All of these cartoons were designed to fit in with the theme of the PACE you were working on, themes such as honesty, diligence, faithfulness, etc. (There is no complete page of these characters. The best I could find is to Google search images for Ace Virtueson cartoon.)

There was a code of conduct that had to be followed. Each student had to agree to attend church, have devotions, not go to movies, not listen to rock music, keep their hair appropriately cut (or long, if you were a girl), etc. This was to control our behavior in and out of school. These codes were never a problem for me, since my parents were always more conservative than any school I attended.

Once a year, all of the ACE schools held a State Convention in which we would compete for medals and a chance to attend the National Convention. Basketball, track events, singing, art exhibits, preaching, public speaking, spelling bees, choir events, solo singing events, etc. These were all designed to get us ready to preach or enter the mission field. During the times I attended ACE schools, boys had to wear sweat pants and the girls had to wear culottes- for modesty’s sake.

So, this is a brief overview of an ACE school. I hope it will make my next installments a little easier to understand.

Comments (11)

  1. Paula

    This is horrifying and interesting. I hope you realize there is a whole world of moral, reasonably conservative Christian families out there who don’t make their children live by all those rules. People who know it is wise to not sweat the small stuff.

    Reply
  2. Erin

    My husband, who remains a conservative Christian, grew up in ACE schools, too (Church of Christ, to be specific). I can relate to everything you have shared based on his experiences. Based on what I’ve learned from him, it seems like it does an awful lot of damage to a person, and most definitely is not a well-rounded education. Maybe ACE excels in academics such as math, reading, writing, but does not remotely teach a young person how to navigate the real world, let alone the religious indoctrination or lack of any “real” science.

    I don’t know if you follow Dana Hunter, but she recently did a thorough series about the scientific shortcomings of ACE. http://freethoughtblogs.com/entequilaesverdad/category/creationism/adventures-in-christianist-earth-sci-ed/

    Reply
  3. Aram McLean

    Nice one Ian. Check out this FB group to talk with others who went through ACE.
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/exposeace/

    Reply
  4. Ashley Haworth-roberts

    Is Bruce familiar with this blogger’s material (Scaramanga attended an ACE school in the UK)?:
    http://leavingfundamentalism.wordpress.com/

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Yes, he and I are internet friends. He has cross posted an article of mine and he has written one for this blog.

      Reply
  5. Whitesnake Jackson

    I attended ACE school for a couple of years and don’t remember any of this! Probably blocked it.

    Reply
  6. Ian

    Paula,
    This is the way ACE schools are run, for the most part. These rules are intended to modify behavior and make good little soldiers for the Kingdom of Heaven. Sweating the small stuff is what ACE is all about.

    Aram,
    I talked with Jonny about the Facebook group. And, thanks for the inspiration for writing. It has taken quite a bit of time to get stuff put down and into its proper context. This all happened a long time ago. You should see how many times I have come back and edited each part.

    Erin,
    Thanks for the link; I’ll check it out.

    Reply
  7. Pingback: My life in an ACE school | Leaving Fundamentalism

  8. Pingback: My life in an ACE school (continued) | Leaving Fundamentalism

  9. Larry

    I attended an ACE school ran by a charismatic evangelical church from grades 7-12 years 1983 thru 1989. To sum up the truth in its entirity, it crippled me for life. I didn’t really get to enjoy my teen years until I was in my 20s, and even now in my early 40s I am still left with a bunch of “what ifs”. Monitors turned over like crazy during those years, most only stayed for one school year or so. The principal was the associate pastor of the church but the school was still ruled by an iron fist by the pastor. These people were radical ultra right wing conservative fundamentalists, supporting the teachings of fallwell, robertson and swaggart. Our supervisor was the associate pastors wife who was about as vindictive and manipulative as you could get. She used manipulation to control dating within the student body to insure her son who also attended the school had a nice selection of girls to date. I can recount one incident where I had a date with one girl and the supervisor gave me max detention that day for a number of minor infractions, and then called my mother for a conferance to insure me and the girl did not have the date that friday night. Another account was I got a nice long talking to on a monday morning for being seen in public the prior weekend wearing an iron maiden t shirt, and threatened with expulsion. I could write a book on my experiences there, but these are two I remember that stand out. My advice to parents today, run as far away as you can from any ace school.

    Reply
  10. Evan

    This is downright appalling. The scary thing was, I came very close to attending schools with a similar system and didn’t even realize it.

    I suppose I was lucky being a nonconformist by nature, even if a Christian by upbringing – managed to talk my parents out of looking into one particular private school that had the same rules – regs on haircuts, pants, even what types of books were allowable. Hell, I went to a military college for a year and had an easier time than what you must have gone through. Had to be in uniform every day but at least I could sin all I wanted to!

    Thank you for putting this online. People need to know…

    Reply

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