I came across this BBC article via twitter this morning, which refers to the ‘Trojan Horse’ investigation into radical Islamicist principles being perpetuated in State schools in Birmingham, and looks at independent Christian schools with the implicit suggestion of the latter being equally damaging.
‘Life in a Christian Fundamentalist School’
Firstly, I have looked at the ACE curriculum – we went to an ACE conference in around 1999 right at the beginning of our home education adventure. We decided it wasn’t for us for several reasons. It doesn’t allow for different learning styles or special needs, and the criticism that every subject is saturated with religion in an inappropriate way is justified in my opinion.
ACE also works on the basis of a philosophy of education which they refer to as ‘mastery’, believing that a subject can be put in a tight, neat box that can be ticked off and mastered. This is the antithesis of our philosophy, based on Charlotte Mason, which recognises the links between subjects and continual, life-long learning.
I think that the ‘office’ system where children have a screen around their desk *can* be helpful for some children but it would certainly not have been right for my children, and I would imagine that this aspect alone could be very negative for children who learn differently. On the whole, I am not a fan.
I also have some experience with American fundamentalist Christianity (which I will elaborate on at my personal blog). My personal experience of it was ‘broadly positive’ but I am very aware that others were damaged by it, and that inflexibility and a lack of ‘grace’, kindness, gentleness or empathy in conjunction with fundamentalist beliefs of any kind (whether religious or otherwise) can be very damaging indeed.
It is interesting to note however that Ofsted rated the teaching as good or excellent, and since the schools are not State funded, they are free to choose their own curriculum.
Ultimately, I suspect that one of the issues here is that the ACE curriculum is just too American culturally for the British palate. I doubt that even British fundamentalists (if there are any?!) would saturate their teaching materials in such a way. Looking at some other secular American materials, I have noticed there is a similar feel (scripted teachers’ notes, for example), even when the religion aspect is removed. There is simply a different way of thinking between the American and British cultures.
(Although having said that, the curriculum we did use, Sonlight, although American and Christian-based, is very different indeed, and could be said to be at the other end of the spectrum to ACE in that it encourages questioning and discussion from your own perspective and does not seek to teach children what to think.)
It does seem very sad that Mr Scaramanga has obviously felt that he was damaged by his experience.
I must leave advocates of the ACE curriculum to defend it and its teaching.
Although I can’t comment on the specific school in question, however, I would strongly deny the equivalence between Islamic fundamentalism and Christian fundamentalism. This may need further exploration, but without necessarily seeking to justify the latter, I would suggest that the two are ultimately rather different ‘beasts’.
I would also strongly question the idea that the teaching of creationism as ‘Truth’ rather than evolutionism as ‘Truth’ can be construed as intellectual abuse. It is not the inherent ‘Truth’ claims themselves but rather the way in which they are taught that makes a difference.
Christianity can stand questioning, it can stand criticism and discussion, and ultimately it stands. It doesn’t require indoctrination or suppression of views nor oppression of its people.
I hope that Mr Scaramanga is able to find some peace and regain some measure of faith, but I also hope that Christian educators and Christian education generally will not be tarred with the same brush.