My Life in an ACE School Part Three

ace

A guest post series by Ian.

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

I attended Grace Baptist Academy from 1980-1983, 3rd through most of 5th grade. This was a school that was about 40 minutes away, but my aunt was going there, so I was able to ride with her. Grace Baptist Academy was a ministry of Grace Baptist Church. My first year was their third year of school. It had started out with only six or seven children and had upwards of 60 by the time I started. The church was pastored by Pastor Colas and the principal was Mr. Wainscott. Mr. Wainscott was a tall, thin man who drank coffee all day long. I still remember the smell of his breath when he would come to my office and answer questions.

Being a veteran of one ACE school, I remember thinking I was going to have an easy time at this school. After orientation the first day, imagine my horror when I found out several fundamental things were different. First, the letters for achieving extra privileges were GBA rather than ACE. Ok, I was able to deal with that. Next, I found out the order for PACEs was different- Math, Social Studies, English, Science, Word Building. Believe it or not, I struggled with that the entire time I attended that school. It seemed wrong because of the way I was originally taught.

This was the year that erasable ink pens became popular. Before the school caught on to them being used on goal cards, the older students were using them and changing their goals to suit their needs. I did this myself a few times.

I began doing something that all ACE student do. Due to the way the PACEs are set up in the lower grades, answering questions was just a matter of reading the question, finding the exact same sentence in the text and copying the answer verbatim. This is one of the worst habits a student can acquire. We never studied and learned, we just used short-term memory to fill in a blank. Even in the final tests, the questions were the same ones as in the PACE. In the higher grades, you actually had to look for answers, but the bad habit had been learned and enforced by then. The only subject in which this wasn’t possible was Math.

My first year there, I started a bad habit of just daydreaming and not getting any work done until the end of the day. Then it was a race to get as much finished before needing to ask for a Homework Slip. After a while, I was getting homework every day. My parents told me I needed to get my work done at school, so I began just crossing my goals off and not asking for a Homework Slip. Since the school was so large, the Supervisors couldn’t check everyone’s goals every day. I often got away with not doing my work, since the next day I would rush and get both day’s work done. A few days later, I would be back to daydreaming and not get anything done, again. When I did get caught, it was an automatic detention. After bringing home Detention Slips for the same thing a few times, and the spankings that went along with it, I starting forging my parent’s signature.

At Grace, one of the things they did was to allow you to serve detention at lunch time. This allowed working parents to keep their same schedule, yet take away free time from the bad kids. By forging my parent’s signature and serving detention at lunch, I missed quite a few spankings.

After a while, my behavior was bad enough that I began to get swats at school. We were given 5 swats if we got more than 6 demerits, which I seemed to do regularly. The swats would cancel out the demerits and you started over with a clean slate. Since school swats were nowhere near as bad as a spanking from either of my parents, I preferred to have swats at school. Even though they hurt, the worst part of them was the embarrassment. Mr. Martin was the one who gave out the swats, so everyone knew that when he took you to the back room, you were gonna cry. I can honestly say I was being a shithead at this time. I remember Mr. Martin being a nice guy and I honestly think he hated to give me swats.

I remember a time when he told me a story about a boy who was always getting into trouble and then getting a spanking. After a while, the teacher said he didn’t know what to do any more. So, when it was time to spank the boy again, he gave the boy the paddle and told the boy to spank him. That way the boy would know how much he despised giving spankings. The boy started crying and couldn’t do it. The teacher didn’t spank the boy and the boy didn’t have any more problems. Hearing this story, I thought maybe I was going to avoid swats. Alas, Mr. Martin dashed my hopes. He told me that he would have done that if he thought it would do any good. I got my swats after all.

Another thing I started doing was cheating heavily on my scoring. In addition to memorizing answers, I developed a code to write down answers, using the scoring pen. I began tapping dots onto all of my pages, as though I was bored. In reality, I used those dots to copy answers, then complete the answer when I got back to my seat.

The study and scoring method that was used encouraged children to cheat. We were expected to work mostly on our own, with very limited help from the Supervisors and Monitors when we didn’t understand something, usually math. Then, we were expected to score the work we didn’t understand and figure out how to do the problem correctly. If this isn’t a recipe for failure, I don’t know what one is. As an adult, I have been taught several methods for teaching people. Our Supervisors and monitors had no idea how to teach us, so they were unable to help us in the way we needed. I’m sure they wanted to help, they just didn’t know how.

I became a good sneak, due to the punishments I was receiving. I did everything I could to get away with doing as little school as possible. I learned that if you wrote with erasable ink lightly, when you erased it, there was no indent to show you had changed anything. I learned how to distract adults to take their attention away from what I was doing, so I wouldn’t get caught. I also practiced memorizing large amounts of answers for short term retention. This way, I could mark all of my answers correct and fix them when I returned to my desk.

After being frustrated for by this system for a couple of years, I just started not scoring my work correctly. I would just mark the page as all correct, without checking the answers. This would only work for a while, though. When a PACE was turned in, the Supervisors would check over the work to make sure we scored correctly. I started getting multiple demerits for scoring violations. These would lead to Detention Slips, which would lead to a spanking at home.

The punishment I received at school and home for my scoring violations and incomplete work was way above any pleasure I derived from cheating. I honestly don’t know why I did what I did. Several Supervisors took the time to try and counsel me. I was suspended three times. There were several parent/teacher meetings. Finally, I was expelled from Grace in the middle of my 5th grade year. They had put up with me for over two years and they had finally had enough. I finished out that year in a public school and didn’t go to a private school again until 8th grade.

I remember Mr. Wainscott taking me aside one day and talking to me about the problems I was having. He kept asking why I was behaving the way I was. I gave all kinds of answers, but he wasn’t buying any of it. Finally, I blurted out that I was cheating and disobeying because my parents smoked. (This was in a pretty conservative time and in a conservative group. Smoking and drinking were not acceptable behaviors.) I remember thinking that he would suddenly understand and all would be forgiven. I shouldn’t have wasted my breath. Smoking parents didn’t change anything in the least.

One time, during a parent/principal conference, I was sent out of the room after the meeting was over. After discussing my future for a few minutes, Mr. Wainscott pulled out a hash pipe made from a soda can. He had no idea what it was. He had found it behind some wood used for a construction project. The good, Godly kids attending the school were getting high during breaks.

Not all of my time was bad, though. Twice a week, we went to the YMCA for P.E. We younger kids got to swim for an hour and a half each session, or we could go to the gym and shoot basketballs with the older kids. Our school had a pretty decent basketball team, so they made good use of the court there.

The school also had father/son and mother/daughter nights. One of my best memories, ever, is the night my dad took me to a father/son night. I remember that we watched a Harlem Globetrotter’s film and ate finger foods. My dad was a construction worker, so him being able to come to something like that was special.

Since the school was bringing extra money in, the second year I was attended, the church bought pews. These were nice, with dark wood and good cushions. I was just tall enough that my belt buckle was touching the top of the pew. The wood was something soft and I ended up scraping the top of the pew. I saw that and was sure I would get in trouble, but no one said anything. After a week or so, I sat in the same place and scratched it some more. I think I did this a total of 4 times until it was brought up in morning assembly. Oops.

The school also had a decent music program. Ms. Greenwalt was our music teacher and I think she had professional training from somewhere. It was here that I really began to enjoy music. The two years she was at the school, we put on large musicals. The younger kids (below 7th grade) performed “Down By the Creek Bank” one year. It was a blast practicing and I still remember some of the songs. The older kids performed “I Love America”, which I think was a Bob Jones University musical. Ms. Greenwalt also taught the younger kids how to play a recorder. Most of us just produced horrible screeching sounds.

This was definitely my worst experience in ACE. Fortunately, the third school I attended was a much better place. As I look back on my time there, I can’t help but wonder if the PACE order change is what caused all of my problems.

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Series Navigation<< My Life in an ACE School Part TwoMy Life in an ACE School Part Four >>

12 Comments

  1. Brian

    Ian, your writing scares me. You speak of being in jail for so long and learning to cheat and lie to survive it. You speak of being harmed on a daily basis with odd teachings and swats and spankings at home. It sounds, in your expression, soooo normal! What the fuck.
    May I ask you if you might be in a bit of denial about really happened to the little kid who went through this? Or would you say, “It was really okay and I have a few good memories…”? Why did your parents expose you to this?
    As you write about the experience, it almost seems blandly generic and almost gentle. Could you speak to this at all?

    Reply
  2. Susan-Anne White

    We have concerns about ACE. We used that curriculum for a short while after commencing homeschooling our only child some years ago. We didn’t realise that there were other Christian curriculae available, such as Rod and Staff and Math-u-see to name but two. We wanted our daughter to have a thoroughly Christian education which was also academically challenging, and we thought that we had found all those things with ACE. However, as my husband and I read through the Parent preparation materials, I sensed something was wrong. The only word that came to my mind as I read the material was the word humanism. Later, in conversation with other Christian homeschoolers who used other curriculae, we were actually warned about ACE because its method of teaching (we were told) is similar to the methods espoused by B F Skinner. We stopped using ACE and looked for other Christian curricula and we found that we were spoilt for choice, there was so much to choose from. I found a quote today about the views of Bob Jones University regarding ACE which clearly shows that some of their academics found ACE problematic. The quote is as follows, “According to BJU writers, the ACE and Abeka curriculum failed to adequately educate their students academically or spiritually by neglecting these higher-order thinking skills.” Adam Laats in History of Education Quarterly 50 no.1 February 2010.

    Reply
  3. Brian

    It brings me joy, Susan-Anne White, to know that you wish for higher order thinking skills for your progeny. Should your only child achieve these skills (even if tainted by one-sided, arbitrary belief systems) that child will surely leave that cave of a mind you want to pass along. Perhaps that has that happened already? Has your child outed you for the hateful, judgmental Christian you are? Have they told you your public expression is extremely offensive to people with higher order thinking and that you are an embarrassment to common decency? If they have, I am sure you have shouted, God! God! God! and carried on in your abusive ways.

    Reply
  4. Ian

    Brian,

    Did you ever attend an ACE school, or were your parents to the right of Jack Hyles when it came to being conservative? That was my life. I had no escape from it, so I just trudged on.

    These are experiences that are filtered through 30 years of time. I do remember the horror of waiting for my dad to come home and spank me. I remember the fear and dread of constantly waiting to be caught cheating. The beratings and scoldings. Taking prescription antacids becaus of the stress. Living in fear of the phone ringing at night, sure it is the school calling to tell my parents they caught me cheating again. They would call after 8 or so, which was my bedtime, so a phone ringing them would cause tremendous fear and anxiety. Even now, as a 43 year old man, a phone ringing at night scares me.

    Being angry about those experiences will do me no good. I have learned from them and (hopefully) made myself better. My parents and I have talked about these things and made our peace with the past. They wish they had done different to their kids and I won’t let that happen to mine. They were the product of 70′ and 80’s Christianity and the desire to follow God at all costs.

    So, screaming and ranting about these experiences won’t change the past and it won’t shape the future. I hope that a cool dialogue will show others what I experienced. Yelling doesn’t change anyone’s mind, but the presentation of facts might shift opinion.

    I wrote these as a way to share my story; as a catharsis of sorts. There are many other people who are writing about this subject, too. You are able to draw your conclusions and make decisions based on what I have written. That is all I hope to achieve with what I wrote.

    And in my life, I did have some good times. Why lie about that? Literally, the best time I ever spent with my dad was at the father/son banquet. It just happened to be at that school. I loved going to the Y and swimming. It was the highlight of my school week.

    I hope that clears things up a bit.

    Reply
    1. Brian

      Thanks Ian, it does clear it up some. Regarding anger, if I might share, I do not believe it accomplishes anything but expression of feeling, something I feel is very important to me having been trained up as a Fellowship Baptist, the more conservative strain of Baptist in Canada (the 50’s and 60’s). Feelings were not all good and simply human in my background: Some were bad to feel, evil and Satanic. Anger was one of them. The popular interpretation of ‘a soft answer’ was that one denied all anger as bad, as losing control. This of course we overlooked when Christ had a fit at the money-changing tables and in other places where the old Testament God was truly pissed and wiped out masses of folks.
      So, for me, anger is cathartic and is part of my expression of feeling when dealing with the past abuse. That your parents have shared their sadness with you regarding their excesses is a good thing indeed. Mine were never sorry, only guilty and not able to say they fucked up.

      Regarding your statement, “Yelling doesn’t change anyone’s mind, but the presentation of facts might shift opinion”, I understand. I yell or rage to express my pain, Ian; not to change minds and hearts. It is not my job to change people, only to be myself, to respect myself and thereby others. My feeling is that unless I have self-respect, I will have a hard time respecting others. So anger is integral in dealing with issues of abuse because of the offense, Ian, the ongoing offense to humanity perpetrated by Hyles et al. That my dad was a Calvinist Baptist preacher adds some fuel to my fire, of course and in that regard, yelling does change things: It changes them for me. I must get out what has been rammed down my throat by Christian love.

      When I reread your words, so lacking in anger/remorse/pain, I again feel you are covering your feelings and if that is so it is fine. But I think it utterly sucks that you were harmed like you were and that you spent much of your childhood in fear of being caught (for being a kid, for being human). That just sucks. Did you ever think of being free? I am glad your dad was able to spend time with you, even if it had to be a religious thing…. my dad was more emotionally absent, not just to me but to everybody. He was a man who could not share and have a buddy, just preach and be alone.
      I am very happy that you speak to me of your children and that you will not allow the abuse you suffered to visit them. You will allow them to be and not ‘train them up’. I bet you spend time with them and find it glory…
      Just a last leading question that I hope you will feel inclined to answer: What did you do with your pain, your lost childhood, your anger and your full feeling in life? Where did you put it? Would you say you have full access to feelings now? Are you able to laugh heartily and to weep openly? You speak like a feeling person but very guarded in expression, not clearly revealing your pain. Is that politeness to you? (Please, no offense meant… answer only if you please…) My best wishes and my gratitude for sharing your story.

      Reply
  5. Ian

    Brian,

    My experiences have made me a very private person. This is not to say I don’t enjoy get togethers, or I am an awkward person. I don’t open up to many people and I keep my feelings guarded. This stems from my past experiences and is also a byproduct of my line of work. I have only a few people that I count as true friends, more that I count as close acquaintances, and a lot of people I know.

    I readily admit that I am damaged goods. I do feel like I have worked my way through and around the damage. Lives are like automobiles, though; damage may be fixed, but they are never new again. So it is with me, you, Bruce, and all of the others who lived our lives according to a strict faith; it doesn’t matter whether that faith is Baptist, Catholic, Mormon, Islam, etc.

    You asked if I thought of being free. Without going into details, I did think about it and had the ability to do so. Yet, I never did it. It was absolute fear of my dad and the threat of the destruction of my flesh, from being put out of the church in accordance with 1 Corinthians. Along with those fears were the thoughts that I was doing ok and every one else was on the road to hell. In fact, these factors caused me to refuse an offer to attend Washington University for free. Yep, forsaking all sure costs a person in the long run. Even as an adult, I was in my mid 30’s before finally standing up to my dad. It was the hardest thing I ever did. I allowed him and the church to control my outward life for years and years. Although, inwardly, I was straining to break free. I bought a TV and watched videos on the sly. I listened to popular music when I was by myself. Inwardly, I was being eaten up, but I was doing the right things outwardly.

    The pain, anger, laughter, and feelings are there; they just don’t surface too often. Emotions were bad things, so I spent a lifetime covering them up. The only good things and times came from the church/God, so I wasn’t allowed to enjoy what most others did. Call me emotionally stunted, if you wish. It is something that I will deal with for the rest of my life.

    Reply
    1. Brian

      We are the harmed, my friend, and we are free to be what we can manage, what we can create for ourselves. As a young pre-adolescent, I stood in front of a mirror and practiced not revealing anything. I made faces of fear and anger and misery and then wiped them clean from my face so that nobody would know. A friend once commented that I was nervous-system free, something that upset me inside but that I never shared. One learns to hide to survive, to slip through the cracks of being trained-up.
      I am very moved by your words here, and they make be weep for what is gone and cannot be. I have done my best to allow my own kids to be free and not judged or trained up. They have shown me how to love, how to feel openly and how to play again. I am emotionally harmed, indeed and that is why I wanted to talk to you about your story. We are indeed harmed but not stopped. We can love beyond the love given us and we can allow love beyond the example shown to us. I have been grateful to do some good therapy, not talk therapy so much as feeling therapy, getting back in touch with basic feelings that were squeezed down and out in my life. I love feelings. They are like the body’s language being made song, in a way. I feel so whole when I can freely feel. I detest the shutting down of feelings that need to be out in the world. That includes, for me, considerable anger at my beginnings, at conservative Christianity and especially where it concerns children. Thank-you for answering me here. I have a feeling that our journeys are not over in becoming fully human. When I decided to be honest for me and admit that I did not believe, my own feelings embraced me again. They had been gone for many many years.

      Reply
  6. memy

    I believe as modern parents we have options and choices of the type of schooling to give our kids. Myself I find ACE school helpful for my kid, she is humble, confident,God fearing, honest,respectful only to mention a few. She is learning a lot from her work which require honesty in scoring. She is focused and goal oriented bcoz of the goal setting at school. So we can not conclude that the system is bad becoz the writer had bad days. I wil b glad if u can share the positive things that u experience. Your bad behavior was your choice you chose to cheat to get high marks because you were not taking your schooling serious it was a way of showing your parents how u dislike the school. Shame on you most people have benefited from ACE and success is a combination of many efforts from teachers,parents,friends and yourself.

    Reply
    1. Ian

      Memy,

      This was my story about my experiences. I’m glad you child is doing well in the ACE system.

      I don’t think that anywhere in this series that I said that a person couldn’t learn using ACE materials. I didn’t say ACE made me a cheat. I didn’t say ACE was the worst system to teach children. What I related was my overview of the years I spent in ACE systems. I did learn how to spell and use punctuation correctly, as well as be gracious in replying to people, though.

      I am not a teacher, but I have taken a state recognized Methods of Instruction course and got high grades. I have trained a lot of people in various jobs. I have learned that there are many different ways of teaching people, and different people respond to different teaching methods. I did well in ACE because I was able to overcome dyslexia and had a good memory. My brother struggled through every day of ACE. A different system would have been better for him. My parents used ACE because they believed in the system, it was familiar and it was Fundamentalist Christian.

      If you re-read my post, you will see that I spoke of a father/son event that was one of my best times, ever. In the comments, I told Brian I enjoyed going to the YMCA. I really liked the music program. Those are positive events.

      Never once did I blame the school for my screw ups. I believe the system set me up for failure, but it didn’t make me a cheat or liar- that was my own doing.

      So, bcuz u have a child who does as expected right now, u can’t b sure u won’t have problems down the road.

      Shame on me, though. No, I think not. Shame on you for not taking the time to understand what was being said.

      I am a success. I’m in a position of leadership and responsibility. That is, in part, due to the experiences I had in ACE schools. It is also because of the other schooling experiences I had. But, I would have been a success even without ACE. The biggest factor in my life was a father who taught me to work and be a man of my word. Believe me, I know several people that took many years to get their lives straight even though they attended 12 years of ACE.

      Reply
  7. Brian

    Hi memy,What you are speaking of is not modern parenting but ‘feudal’ parenting. You own your child’s freedom in fear, fear of everything from God down… Try to be honest. Your child has achieved humility and is respectful, huh? Do have one clue about what is actually in your child’s head and heart or are you fearful and ready to leave that to the ACE trainers? Because your child has accepted a role that is one YOU want, you are able to handle your fear of parenting, is that it?
    What if I said that your child has a free mind and heart and can choose what to study with passion, that the kid is able to learn faster and better without all your controls and fear? Have you read John Holt, the educator? Or Norm Lee who raised two boys without punishment?
    Parenting without Punishment is not possible when a parent lives in fear of human life and listens to others interpret scriptures. Even in your short note you have to shame somebody for making a decision you do not come close to understanding. I feel very sorry that your child must bear the brunt of your lack, memy. Try to be honest. Try to love your child. First, do no harm. Second, let the child lead.
    BTW, The ACE system is a scourge on children: read Homeschoolers Anonymous.

    Reply
  8. Lone Ranger

    I’m all for private and home schools, but ACE is a program created by morons to produce more idiots. A friend and I pushed hard to get our church to ditch ACE in favor of something better, but we encountered the mindless “We’ve always done it that way” (not always stated in those words) mentality that is so common in the IFB world.

    Reply
  9. GeoffT

    Here in the UK we have schools still using ACE. The reality is that it results in adults who have been very badly educated; in some ways they’d have been better off just not going to school at all. Those who succeed academically after an ACE do so despite their education, and only because they’ve realised they weren’t properly educated and had to start on their own from scratch.

    It may be a bit over the top but deliberately allowing your children to suffer a poor education is a form of abuse.

    Reply

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