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My Life in an ACE School Part Four


A guest post series by Ian.

Please see Part One in this series for an explanation of ACE schools.

Manna Baptist Academy was a ministry of Manna Baptist Church, one of the IFB churches we associated with. The Pastor and Principal was Mr. Watson, whom I had originally met at Wildwood Christian Academy. Pastor and Mrs. Watson had three children who attended the school during the time I was there. The oldest one, during my first year, was in her senior year and she acted as a Monitor   They also used their other two children as monitors during my second year. There was a lot of favoritism shown to their children. Any time their children had problems with other children, their parents jumped right in and took care of the problem. There was no teasing them or pulling pranks, unless you wanted to be talked to by the Principal. This would be followed by a call to your parents. Not a good system.

My first day there, I instantly knew things would be different and better for me. The Supervisors and Monitors were more relaxed. The whole atmosphere was more relaxed. Most of the kids who attended the school went to church either at Manna or the one I attended. It felt a lot more like a large family than a school. The Watsons would give longer breaks and allowed a little more freedom than in the other schools I attended. For example, sometimes they would make an announcement that everyone would be free to score their work as needed until the next break. In my second year, myself and two other boys were allowed to take the dividers out of our offices. Supposedly it was to help the boy who transferred in during the middle of the year. We helped the new kid and had a good time whispering and goofing off, we just never got too loud. This never happened in my other ACE schools

Since I had matured a bit, I took my schooling more serious and actually tried to succeed. I didn’t have homework very often; and, when I did, it was usually just a page or two. In my second year, I kept E level privileges most of the time. I actually found that I enjoyed school and used the system to my advantage. Because I was doing so well, the Supervisors left me alone. I was also the second oldest person in the school, so I was an older kid, which gave me a little bit of status, too.

It was here that I saw one of the huge shortfalls in the ACE system. One of the kids who was my age was taking college prep studies in 9th grade. He was doing Algebra 1 and 2, as well as taking French. No one at the school was able to help him with the Algebra PACEs. What they did was give him the score keys and let him figure out he answers, almost like reverse engineering. Fortunately, he was an honest kid who really wants to study for college, so he stuck with it and learned Algebra. For French, he listened to cassette tapes and copied phrases into his PACE. There was no way of truly checking to see if he was actually learning the language or just memorizing phrases. This is a bad way to learn a language.

When I was in 9th grade, I showed a lot of initiative, so I was given some responsibility every now and again. I was allowed to be a monitor several times and I got to help the kids in the Lower Learning Center. Because I kept the E level privileges, I was free to do what I wanted most of the time. There were a couple of other kids who did the same, so we would do our school work together or play basketball when it was nice outside.

My parents didn’t want me to graduate early, so I was only allow allowed to complete one year’s worth of work each school year. This kept me from getting E level a couple of times. In the two years there, I got a total of three detentions. No scoring violations or incomplete goals this time, though. I was older and smarter. I knew how to do things and not get caught. I didn’t do too much cheating, though. Mostly it was in Math. Any ACE student can relate to the dread of completing pages and pages of division and multiplication. Some days you would want to cry. Five pages of it can seem like an eternity. (As an adult, I discovered I have dyslexia, which didn’t help with my math. We had one of our children diagnosed, and I had almost all the same symptoms. Large groups of numbers are my kryptonite, just like my child.)

Two of the detentions were for talking at the scoring station and goofing around. The last detention I got was because I didn’t get a homework slip at the end of the day. I completed my last page of work just as school ended, but I didn’t score the work. The next day, when goals were checked, Mrs. Watson gave me a detention for incomplete goals. She said it was because I should have gotten a homework slip, even though all that needed to be done was to score. What a crock of crap. I was scared to death to bring that detention slip home; I had visions of the spankings I got while I was at Grace Baptist Academy. Fortunately, my parents realized what a B.S. move that was, so I wasn’t in any trouble.

Sometime during the second year, my parents started butting heads with the Watsons. I’m not quite sure what started it, but the friction was very obvious. The above mentioned detention was one manifestation of the feud. Mr. Watson began to, not so subtly, try to undermine my parents beliefs. Part of the problem was that my dad had begun to truly follow Jesus. This meant forsaking the world and all of its trappings. No TV, no secular magazines, no sports, no frivolities, and things like that. Maybe my parents brought up things that angered the Watsons, I don’t know. All I know is that I started to be picked at, ever so slightly. They even began using their son to spy on me.

As a boy, I had an interest in regular boy things. One thing I liked was secular music. Some of the other kid’s parents had no problem with the kinds of music they listened to, so I would talk about popular music with them. One day, we were in the weight room and we talked about music for over an hour, all of us older boys, including the Watson’s son. Just three days later, my mom and I got called into the office for a meeting. The subject was how I spent an hour talking about rock and roll music. This was a big no-no, both at school and at home. They told us that Mrs. Watson overheard us talking from the other side of the wall, I know that their boy told on me. He pretty much admitted it. Interestingly enough, none of the other boys’ parents were brought in for this. This was only one example of the stuff that began to go on.

For some reason, their daughter (who was the same age as me) had access to the test scores. She helped score the final tests of even her peers. Many times she would come to us the next day and talk about how easy the tests were and how she would have gotten a better grade. One time, she told me that her parents couldn’t believe what a dummy I was for flunking a certain test. Nepotism was alive and well in that school.

It was here that I remember learning about the great defenders of the Christian faith. Men like Dr. Lee Robertson,  Dr. John R. Rice and Lester Roloff. We were taught about the great things these men had done and how Lester Roloff was being persecuted for Jesus. There were actually sections in the PACEs about these, and other, great men of the faith.

It was also during my time here that I realized that the IFB movement and ACE were linked together. Since I was a little older, I started paying attention to the things being said. I also saw that many of the authors we were required to read for literature were the leaders of the IFB movement, and/or their children. It is almost like an inbred family. No new ideas or thoughts could come in because all that we needed to know had already been written by The IFB leadership. Even the dictionaries we used were purchased from ACE, so they were heavily expurgated and edited.

In my first year, we had two girls that had attended the Rebekah Home for Girls, the “school” Lester Roloff started. They were sent back to their parents when the school was closed down. I became good friends with both and was labeled a rebel because of it. When one of these girls ran away from home towards the end of the year, I was grilled about it three different times. I told them I didn’t know anything, but they didn’t believe me.

By the end of my second year, my parents decided that they were going to homeschool my brother and I. My brother has dyslexia and did best with one on one teaching. Additionally, my parents were trying to keep even more separate from the world, as they began to develop different beliefs, especially when my dad began to have Calvinistic beliefs. The IFB churches with their outer holiness and inner worldliness, their pastor worship, and other shenanigans finally began to burn my dad out. He started trying to find a better place.

So, this was my third ACE school experience. It was my best experience. A lot of it had to do with my attitude. I also believe much of it had to do with the way the school was run. The atmosphere was more pleasant and not as rigid. In fact, the regional ACE inspector came with his son one day to observe the school. Myself and another boy were done with our goals for the day, so we went outside to play basketball, at 11:30. We invited the inspector’s son to play, but his dad wouldn’t let him. I heard that he wasn’t too impressed with how the children were allowed to work at their own speed and do what they wanted. I think the Watsons had the right idea about teaching and had some non traditional ideas towards learning, they could only do so much in that system.


Series Navigation<< My Life in an ACE School Part Three


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    Among people who respect humanity, there are social norms of behavior. IFB churches and all fundagelicals have very little common decency. They make it their business to get into everybody’s spiritual/emotional underwear. They often call this ‘churching’, ‘being churched’ but what it actually is better resembles being stripped in public and turned into a evangelical fashion model.
    They mock decent personal boundaries while claiming to stand for purity and righteousness…. Doublespeak.

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    This has been a fascinating series. I had NO idea that things were like that in those schools. While I advocate a personal connection when dealing with children, a person who really cares about them doesn’t play favorites. Because of course one’s number one goal should be to build the children UP, not tear them down.

    Are you relatively sane? I don’t know if I would be after enduring that sort of ‘learning’.

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    bill spangler

    I really wish you would publish part 5! As a 10 year ACE survivor 93-03, I can’t tell you how much I relate with your stories. All of the extremist fundamentalism you mentioned adjoined with physical beatings by grown men and closed fists, hazing by students, and an IFB pastor that ran off to Mexico with 2.1 million dollars of school/church funding.

    All abuses aside, I can’t begin to explain the magical powers green and red ink hold over me. I’ll never forget the experiences there that defined my odd and often traumatic childhood. I have lost 6 of my 28 classmates in my grade level by 32 years old from what in many cases were children abused there worse than I. Many of us who faced abuse honestly became so damaged that we didn’t even know how to be kids, and our severe lack of real world training led some of us down the wrong path. Though I had mostly cleaned up my act by 23, many of my friends weren’t so blessed. A couple killed themselves because they couldnt come to terms with the school and how they were treated so poorly when there was in reality nothing wrong with them. I lost another at a crosswalk when he was hit by a car that ran a light. Had he not been drinking to forget has past, he’d likely have been able to avoid being hit. Not saying he was right for choosing alcohol to run from his past, but I doubt he would have ever picked up the habit had he not suffered that abuse. Another was shot to death by his own father when he came home and didn’t complete his homework. I could beguile you all day about the majority of the kids that came out of this school. They graduated everything from child molesters, murderers, to sociopaths.

    All that aside, the actual VALUE of an ACE education is NONE… ZILCH… ZERO. I was disgusted when I had to go get a GED before going to college after putting 10 years in that place. It is not accredited curriculum in any state, so those PACES are pretty much high grade toilet paper with stories about the perfect kid you could never be to entertain you while you do your business. I was so unprepared for group activities and collaboration projects after starting college that it took me YEARS to learn how to study and do group projects properly. And “science”… It was so terrible. I won’t argue or debate here, but those science PACES were not really scientific in any way. Sure, they’d give you a little information to regurgitate onto your test a few days later, but that information is no way bound to the scientific method, and just shares IFB ideology which is in many ways extremely flawed and based on belief and not fact. That is not science… It just isnt.

    Please continue your story. I know it’s been a while, but you should finish it for all of us ACE kids and the ones who didn’t make it out alive.

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    bible bowl champ

    wow! reading your experience and comparing it to mine (2008-2015)– nothing much has changed in the ACE school system my god. im not from the US, but had to attend an ACE school, but the atmosphere is pretty much the same. my school was more relaxed too, and it reminded me of all the shenanigans and loopholes the students had to invent in order to survive this very odd schooling.

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    I really appreciated this. I went to an ACE school from 94-06, K-12. My parents were teachers in this school for the majority of the time. I can relate in so many ways to what you experienced. Made some lifelong friends there, but also had some bad experiences with people in leadership. It was a church/school, and the pastor and his wife were corrupt and psychologically abusive. Many of the teachers were too. Some great teachers too though who cared about the kids. I feel like I got a decent education, but suffered in some ways too by not being prepared for life outside of school. It was 50/50. The church aspect was the worst part. Very charismatic Pentecostal, surprisingly. Sunday mornings were a circus performance. People “slain in the Spirit” and acting like animals, and lots of leadership abuse. Overall, it was graceless, and a lot of kids fell through the cracks and ended up damaged. Thanks for sharing this, maybe someday I’ll write about my experiences.

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Bruce Gerencser