Education

Imagination versus memorization in education

The Triune God of the Bible has declared that His thoughts are not our thoughts, and that to be able to live in accord with the reality of the universe that He has created, we need to think His thoughts after Him.  This highlights a tension between memory and imagination.  God’s complaint is that “The Lord saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5) … “for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21).

Rushdoony (2008), commenting on the Songs of Moses (Exodus 15, Deuteronomy 32 and Psalm 90), writes:

There is a contrast in our text between imagination and memory.  Men must not trust in the imagination, because it reflects their fallen history.  God’s appointed servants must discipline and teach, so that man’s memory is mindful of God’s works, covenant, law, grace and mercy.  The issue is between educational approaches stressing memory versus those stressing imagination.  To stress imagination means to believe in the child’s or person’s creative powers, whereas to emphasize memory is to maintain that the future must be built on the knowledge of the past under God.  Knowledge is not manufactured anew with every generation.  It is a growing structure based on biblical premises, whereas modern education is deliberately rootless and barren (Rushdoony, 2008, p. 491).

There are windows of opportunity in a child’s life, where memory and repetition are fun.  If you miss those windows, then it is harder to develop a discipline of memorization later in life.  Home-based education should include sessions of memorization, of things like: Books of the Bible, names of the Patriarchs and the Apostles, significant historical events, and their dates (Bishop Ussher’s (2003 [1658])  Annals of the World is helpful with this) — i.e Creation, Deluge, Tower of Babel, etc. — Creeds and Catechisms, countries around the world and their capitals, local mountain ranges and rivers, and many other things.

An education is much more than memorization, but at the same time must include memorization.

References

Rushdoony, R. J. (2008). Commentaries on the Pentateuch: Deuteronomy. Vallencito, California: Ross House Books.

Ussher, J. (2003 [1658]). The Annals of the World. U.S.A.: Master Books.

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Education, Education and the Family, Education and the State, Funding, Home-Based Education, State Schools, Teaching

Globalisation, Schools and Home-based Education: the economic pressures

Sean Casham (2014), writing from an unashamedly socialist perspective, discussed the impact of globalisation on education, in his paper: Globalisation and Education.  He argued that globalisation has ensured that schooling is finance-driven rather than education-driven.  Measurable outcomes, such as high exam scores, become the educational objective of schooling to attract parents to enroll their children and to secure government funding.  These globally originated economic pressures, from such sources as The World Bank (Casham, 2014, p. 2), create insecurity of employment for school staff and ensure that there is a need for particular teachers to prove their ongoing right to be employed.  In this context, data collection becomes connected to professional competence, rather than actual teaching ability and learning outcomes in the lives of the children; value is given to things that can be measured and produced, rather than to the elements of a true education.  Casham writes: “By focusing on the knowable and instantly quantifiable, we may diminish the more abstract qualities of being human, such as kindness and wisdom” (p. 2).

Casham points out that Waters (2011) wrote: “In Australia, 25% of our young people (aged 15-19 years) have a mental disorder and 1 in 3 young people experience moderate to high levels of psychological distress” (Waters, 2011, p. 75).  This figure is an increase on the number of mentally disturbed young people reported in the earlier Sawyer, et al. (2000) Mental Health of Young People in Australia, report.  In the Sawyer report it was recorded that “Fourteen percent of children and adolescents in Australia have mental health problems” (p. xi).  However, it is interesting to note that Sawyer, et al. claimed that there was “a higher prevalence of child and adolescent mental health problems among those living in low-income, step/blended and sole-parent families” (Sawyer, et al., 2000, p. xi).  The Sawyer report claimed to be accurate because “the prevalence of mental health problems identified in (the) survey (was) very similar to the prevalence identified in previous Australian and overseas surveys” (p. xi).

Casham suggests that  these globalisation pressures may have a negative influence on young people.  Making educational processes finance-driven rather than education-driven may be limiting our human capabilities, and “limiting our human capabilities could paradoxically prove harmful to our mental health and the economy” (Casham, 2014, p. 2).  Maseman (2007) pointed out that the increasing trend in measuring school effectiveness “rests on productivity-oriented criteria, and analysis that is used on every level of education from early elementary school up to the tertiary level” (Maseman, 2007, p. 101).  This has led to “the increasing homogenization of the culture of education on a worldwide scale, with the accompanying assumption by educators that there is only one valid epistemology” (Maseman, 2007, p. 110).  Casham summarises this phenomenon by suggesting that “financial objectives can … be at the expense of a truly coherent focus on school improvement” (Casham, 2014, p. 6).

It is my argument that schools cannot be improved, whilst they are the recipients of Government funding.  It is the pressure of Government accountability measures that is apparently skewing pedagogical approaches.  Teachers who are anxious about their job security will not be primarily concerned about the educational outcomes of their charges, rather they will be driven by considerations that revolve around assessment imperatives.  Testing does not deliver an education.  Tests test whether the students have memorised the data that is deemed important to pass the test.  An education results in a lifestyle change.  Testing involves cramming as late as possible before the test date, then promptly forgetting as much as possible after the test.

Home-based education does have its financial pressures.  Home-based education families mostly choose to live a leaner lifestyle than they could if both parents were working and the children were sent to school.  However, when there is a resolve to live contentedly within the family’s single-income means, there are no pressures for financial accountability in relation to the education of the children.  Time can be dedicated to education, and if there is no state-mandated registration, then the testing regime can be done away with all together.  The proof of educational success is not in the results of tests; the proof is in the adjustments to lifestyle that the children make as a result of their educational development.

Casham’s essay is helpful in understanding some of the pressures upon schools and their teaching staff.  Those pressures may also be contributing to the poor mental health of many of the children attending the schools.  Add the pressures of globalisation to the factors of bullying, academic struggle and the corresponding shame that many children experience, and it is no wonder that a large number (between 14% and 25%) of children exhibit mental health problems.  However, Casham holds out hope for schools, and this is where I depart from his analysis.  The hope will be found in strengthening families, and then mandating families to deliver an education from the base of their own home sweet home.

References

Casham, S. (2014). Globalisation and Education. Unpublished Masters level assignment.

Maseman, V.L. (2007). Culture and Education. In: Arnove, R.F. and Torrens, C.A. (eds). Comparative Education: The Dialectic of the Global and the Local, 3rd Edition. pp. 101-116.

Sawyer, M.G., Arney, F.M., Baghurst, P.A., Clark, J.J., Graetz, B.W., Kosky, R.J., Nurcombe, B., Patton, G.C., Prior, M.R., Raphael, B., Rey, J., Waites, L.C. and Zubrick, S.R. (2000). Mental Health of Young People in Australia. Child and adolescent component of the National Survey of Mental Health and Well-being.  Canberra: Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care.

Waters, L. (2011) A review of school-based positive psychology interventions. The Australian Educational and Developmental Psychologist. 28(2), pp. 75-90. DOI 10.1375/aedp.28.2.75

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deschooling, Discipleship, Education, Education Delivery Programs, Ivan Illich, Socialization, Teaching, Unschooling

Reflections on Illich 22: Unschooling and a flexible learning web: the dangers of age-segregation in schools

Illich, I. (1970). Deschooling Society. Cuernavaca, Mexico: CIDOC.  Downloadable from: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html

p. 93  “The inverse of school would be an institution which increased the chances that persons who at a given moment shared the same specific interest could meet–no matter what else they had in common.”

One of the important defining characteristics of school and schooling is age-grade segregation.  Age-grade segregation is justified on grounds of socialization and child-development theory.  It is argued that children need to be exposed to peer-relationships so that they can learn how to relate to a cohort of children their own age.  It is also argued that all children pass through development stages at the same time, and therefore they need to be related to, in an age-appropriate manner.

These two presuppositions are fallacious at several points.  Firstly, God placed children into families.  In most cases, families grow at the rate of one child at a time, with significant age intervals between each child.  God is wisdom personified.  The only wise God, our Saviour, would not ordain a process that is fundamentally flawed.  Therefore, I argue that the best learning environment is not age-segregated, but multi-generational, with a broad range of ages represented in the learning environment.  I have worked in schools for 25 years.  I can speak with a measure of authority.  I have worked in Christian schools, state schools, private schools, schools for Aboriginal children, and the common factor between all these schooling contexts is that age-segregated children degenerate to the lowest common denominator.  Children crave attention.  If they cannot get it from the overworked teacher, they will look for it in their peers, and the peer that they usually crave attention from is the coolest dude–the naughtiest kid in the class.  Their socialization is downwards through the pressure of wanting to conform to be accepted–even in the case of a good family, good kids are dragged down, in the school context, and many good families have lost their children to the pressures of socialization in schools.  In an inter-generational, multi-age learning setting, the child will look for attention from the strongest role model–their socialization is upwards, into the lifestyle of the patriarch of the learning environment.

Secondly, children are not equal.  There may be general growth phases, but not all children reach the same milestones at the same time in all areas of growth.  To presuppose equality of development, will lead to holding back of those who are ready to move on in some areas, and forcing outcomes from those who are not ready in other areas, and generally trying to squeeze the cohort of children into a teacher-determined mediocrity.  In this context, none of the children are fully developed in any of their strong areas, many of the children are crushed because too much is expected of them in their weak areas (and as a result of the crushing they lose confidence to learn in their good areas) and every one has the desire to learn taught out of them.

Home-based education that is firmly grounded on unschooling principles, with a discipleship emphasis, is the best means of establishing individual learning needs in children.  If there were local Flexi-Learning Centres scattered around the country, then a register of learning opportunities could be kept so that children could be connected with an appropriate local custodian of specific knowledge sets, skills, and experiences.  Those who gather around this local expert will be there because they want to learn, not because they are of the same age.  Such learning contexts may include multi-generational learners, and a distribution of a wide range of ages.  No one should be excluded from learning simply on the basis of age.  Older learners will be there to help younger learners, and learners who teach other learners will enhance their own learning–a fresh look at peer tuition.

 

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Certification, deschooling, Education, Education Delivery Programs, Ivan Illich, Schooling, Schools

Reflections on Illich 21: Schools militate against the reality that we are not all created equal

Illich, I. (1970). Deschooling Society. Cuernavaca, Mexico: CIDOC.  Downloadable from: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html

p. 92  “At their worst, schools gather classmates into the same room and subject them to the same sequence of treatment in math, citizenship and spelling.  At their best, they permit each student to choose one of a limited number of courses.  In any case, groups of peers form around the goals of teachers.  A desirable educational system would let each person specify the activity for which they sought a peer.”

In his essay, ‘Human Variation and Individuality’, from the book, The Twelve Year Sentence, H. George Resch (1974) argues that there is no such thing as equality in the universe.  At every level, every human being, and every other created thing, has stamped upon it individuality.  The modern mantra of equality spits in the face of reality.  We are not created equal.  We should not be treated equally.  The expectation of equal outcome from equal opportunity is a hollow expectation.  It is demanding greater and greater resources for lesser and lesser result.

Those who espouse equality despise the Sovereignty of God; they despise the idea that God has fore-ordained and pre-determined all things–including our roles and functions in society.  It is true that some have used the idea of ordained roles and functions to suppress others and appoint them to positions of slavery.  This is a perversion of the doctrine of Sovereignty.  “For freedom Christ has set us free, … do be not submit again to a yoke of slavery,” Galatians 5:1 teaches us.  No, God is an infinite God, and He has created  an infinite variety in expression of the roles that He has ordained.  This means that individuality needs to be nurtured, encouraged, and allowed to become an expression of expertise.  This means that each person requires an intimately individualized education track.  Sure, there will be core skills that many will share.  However, not everyone will need all of those core skills to be the best that they can be in whatever it is that God has created them to be excellent in.  Mandating core skills will inhibit the growth and development of some for whom such skills are not appropriate.

The educational paths of individuals should touch and part, mingle and separate, and trace a learning dance across the community.  Some will learn some things from this person, but then learn different things from a range of other people, in totally different contexts.  This dance of learning will be encouraged and facilitated by parents, but be tempered with a consideration of the interests, gifts, passions, calling, abilities and other marks of individuality within the student.  It cannot be centrally predetermined.  It cannot be centrally administrated.  It cannot be centrally certificated, regulated, and controlled.  It is an expression of the creativity and providence of the Infinite Triune God.

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Certification, Education, Ivan Illich, Teaching

Reflections on Illich 20: We need to consider the wealth to be gained from deregulated teaching in the marketplace

Illich, I. (1970). Deschooling Society. Cuernavaca, Mexico: CIDOC.  Downloadable from: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html

p. 91  “To guarantee access to effective exchange of skills, we need legislation which generalizes academic freedom.  The right to teach any skill should come under the protection of freedom of speech.  Once restrictions on teaching are removed, they will quickly be removed from learning as well.”

Freedom can only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ: “For freedom Christ has set us free; …” (Galatians 5:1).  It is the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the Law of God which provide the constraints around freedom that prevents it from becoming license.  To legislate for freedom, without first ensuring there is a change in heart of the majority in the community, is only to entrench greater and greater measures of license.  So-called academic freedom in the west has morphed into an unchecked attack on truth.  Academic freedom has come to mean the proclamation of anything, without accountability.  Being that, as it may, laws concerning libel and slander and inciting riot do place a measured check around license, therefore political censorship of all speech is contrary to the freedom that Christ has offered those who believe in Him.

Furthermore, the notion of rights under girds all kinds of aberrant lifestyles and behaviours.  The Bible knows nothing of rights.  The Bible teaches privileges and responsibilities.  Those who bear their responsibilities enjoy the privileges that come with them.  Those who shirk their responsibilities lose their privileges.  Without such a balance, the claim for rights, without a corresponding check, leads once again to unrestrained license.

Having said all this, the point that Illich makes concerning the deregulation of teaching is a valid one.  Teaching should not be limited to those who hold a state-issued license.  The issue of false and dangerous teachers can be addressed with laws that prohibit the propagation of ideas that incite violence, riot, and promote degenerate and immoral lifestyles.  The free exchange of ideas is an important part of community growth and development.  New ideas, that are tested and weighed against old values, when they survive the debate, and blossom out of the trials, can lead to better conditions and enjoyment of life.  New ideas should not be feared, simply because they are new.  Untested, and unchallenged ideas cannot be embraced without due diligence.  A free education market is the best place to ensure that such ideas do get considered, debated, trialed and either embraced or rejected by the community.

It is the narrowing of curriculum, through the centralization of curriculum choice, that does the most damage to education.  Centralized curriculum is indoctrination, not education.  A free education market will guarantee a much broader  curriculum in the marketplace.  Local decisions will adjust curriculum to local need, and the sharing of educational content between communities will ensure that the best of ideas are generally accessed.  This will allow individuals to follow their gifting, their passion and their interests more fully, ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to become an expert in something.  This will result in a much wealthier community that is served by a plethora of experts in a hugely diverse range of knowledge sets, giftings and skills.

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Ivan Illich, Schooling, Schools

Reflections on Illich 18: The thing that schools are best at is training up workers for the schooling industry and other total institutions

Illich, I. (1970). Deschooling Society. Cuernavaca, Mexico: CIDOC.  Downloadable from: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html

p. 48  “School either keeps people for life or makes sure that they will fit into some institution.”

I have finally left school.  I am nearly 58 years of age.  The best years of my life were given to schools and schooling.  However, when I took small breaks from school, I found myself caught up in other total institutions, the most significant being four years serving in the Australian Army.  I am living evidence of Illich’s words.  Upon deep reflection, I have come to believe that schools are poisonous places, and many attendees of schools are wounded for life as a consequence of their schooling experience.  The only real survivors of schooling are those who are oriented to the schooling process, and therefore are easily groomed to perpetuate the institution at one of its many levels (child care, pre-school, primary/elementary school, high school, university, post-graduate school, trade school, Bible school, etc.).   But are these survivors really survivors at all.  There is something satisfying about sharing knowledge with others.  However, the total institution of school breeds workplace bullying, academic ladder-climbing, playground bullying, workload stress, and gives opportunity for despots to rise to the top of the bureaucratic pyramid.

All of this is just not necessary for an education.  It is necessary to keep an industry flooded with public money to fund: mortgage payments, extended paid leave, sabbaticals, superannuation, textbook writing, seminars, tenured university positions, research projects, education journals, etc.  However, an education does not cost any where near the cost of funding public-financed schooling.

A truly educated person is not institutionalized.  An educated person knows how to live life to its fullest, is productive, creative, and knows how to think outside the school-set boundaries–an entrepreneur, an inventor, a pioneer.  A schooled person thinks narrowly, and is trained to believe that there is only one answer–the answer required by the teacher on the test that is coming up.  A schooled person is politically correct. A schooled person is passive, and expects others to provide for them–the well-trained dole recipient, or compliant worker in the top-down corporation.

It is said that it takes at least one month of deschooling to counter each year that a person has been schooled.  I have been deschooling for 15 months as of this post.  I only have three years of deschooling to go, and hopefully then I can start becoming a useful person in my community.  What a waste of a life!

A deschooled society will save the community an enormous amount of wasted money, and provide a much better educated community, as well.

 

 

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Education, Ivan Illich, Life Learning, Teaching

Reflections on Illich 17: Don’t wait to be taught: have a go and learn.

Illich, I. (1970). Deschooling Society. Cuernavaca, Mexico: CIDOC.  Downloadable from: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html

p. 48  “School prepares for the alienating institutionalization of life by teaching the need to be taught.  Once this lesson is learned, people lose their incentive to grow in independence; they no longer find relatedness attractive, and close themselves off to the surprises which life offers when it is not predetermined by institutional definition.”

It has been very painful to watch someone I know struggle with the helplessness that they feel because their schooling has instilled in them that unless they are taught, they cannot learn.  Actually, this is the condition of a number of people that I know.  They have been schooled, and they have been schooled exceptionally well.  These people live less than satisfying lives because they are always blaming their lack of knowledge on not having been taught such and so.  It is a debilitating condition to be in.

I remember that I did not really start learning to drive until after I had been given my driver’s license.  I was taught the basics, but the real lessons came from repeated practice on the open road, and having to learn how to adjust to the unpredictable as it came in my ongoing driving experience.

A proper education is like this.  At the beginning we do need to be taught some basics, such as: moral precepts, decoding/encoding skills, mathematical tables, and some basic historical, geographical and scientific facts.  However, if we are spoon-fed beyond the basics, then we lose the capacity to self-learn, and as a consequence become dependent upon others to teach us.  Those who have been institutionalized by schooling and its spoon-fed learning model, are not able to cope with the learning opportunities that life throws up at them.

The best context for learning is to have a go, fail, consider the lessons that can be learned from the attempt, then have another go with better insight.  To wait until someone teaches you, before having a go, means that you are ever learning, but never arriving at the truth, or never learning at all.

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Certification, Ivan Illich, Life Learning, Teaching

Reflections on Illich 16: The best learning takes place when contextualed, not from instruction in a hot-house

Illich, I. (1970). Deschooling Society. Cuernavaca, Mexico: CIDOC.  Downloadable from: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html

p. 40  “Most learning is not the result of instruction.  It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting.”

This comment by Illich does not negate instruction.  Clearly, instruction is an important part of the learning process.  I am a teacher, and instruction is one of the things that I do.  I cannot help myself.  It is how I am wired.  However, it is the insistence that all instruction must be conducted by a state-trained, state-certified, state-registered and state-monitored teacher that is the issue in question.  Classroom teachers are not the best people to instruct children.  Parents are.  Second to parents are the experienced custodians of relevant knowledge.  And these are often not the state-trained teachers, they are the practitioners in the field who have years and years of practical experience.

Just recently I heard a story from a friend who is a qualified Engineer.  He holds a Masters degree in Engineering.  However, he has discovered that in his field, the best custodians of relevant knowledge are the long-term tradesmen.  He told me the following story:

A newly graduated Engineer (not the one telling the story) was put in charge of a project.  The Engineer instructed a tradesman to implement a course of action.  The tradesman said to the Engineer, “It will not work.”  The Engineer over-ruled the tradesman, because of his qualification.  The tradesman then did what the Engineer told him to do.  The project completely failed and wasted a large amount of money and resources.  The tradesman was asked, “Why did you think it would not work?”  The tradesman replied, “Because I have been working in this field for a very long time, and I just knew it would not work.”  The Engineer’s mathematics, calculations, book learning, examination passing, and credentialing was no match for the knowledge gained from practical experience gained by working in a field for an extended period.

Yes, there are things that we would like people to have theoretical knowledge about before they start practicing: vital organ surgery, for example.  However, simply being instructed in a field, and being exposed to a lot of theories, does not replace hard-earned, long-term practical experience.  Credentialing often creates a pride that blocks learning from those who have worked in the field, but who do not have the pieces of paper hanging on the wall.

Being exposed to a relevant environment, where real work is being conducted, is often the best context for receiving instruction, especially when that instruction is being delivered by someone who has mastered his field over a long period of time working in the industry.

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Ivan Illich, Literacy, Schooling, Teaching

Reflections on Illich 04: Why so long to do such simple stuff (and then get it wrong at the end of the process)

Illich, I. (1970). Deschooling Society. Cuernavaca, Mexico: CIDOC.  Downloadable from: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html

pp. 13-14  “There are very few skills that cannot be mastered by intensive drill over a relatively short time at a cost far less than the cost of 12 years of schooling.”

My initial training in schooling was as a Primary Teacher.  I have qualifications and experience at every level of schooling: Diploma of Teaching (Primary), Bachelor of Education, Master of Education (Leadership), Doctor of Philosophy (Education) and Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (Vocational Training of Adults).  I also have training in the teaching of reading and writing: a Certificate in the 4S Literacy Program, a Certificate in Spalding Phonics, and an Advanced Certificate in LEM Phonics.

I have taught at all age levels from Pre-school, through High School, vocational education for post secondary students, and have tutored a very large number of university students, helping them with their undergraduate studies.

I have taught in cross-cultural contexts people from a very large range of ethnic and language backgrounds: from China, Taiwan, Korea, Maldives, South Sudan, Singapore, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, and other places.

I have worked with Australian Aboriginal students, particularly from the Warlpiri nation, both in and through English and in and through their native language, Warlpiri.

I think I know a little about what I am talking about when discussing education and schooling. 

Well, when I ran a small tutoring business, providing help to illiterate children and adults who had been going to school for many years, or who had left school after many years of attendance, it amazed me how very short a time it took to get the students to independently read and write using an Intensive Phonics method.  I had one student, who had been ascertained Level 7 Learning Disabled, who had an attention span of only 2-5 seconds in the classroom, who could not read and write by the end of primary (elementary) school. Over a four-week period he developed an attention span of up to 20 minutes a session, and wrote beautifully crafted words, correctly spelled, in properly formed sentences, and then was able to read them back to me accurately.

Why couldn’t seven years of primary schooling produce the result that I was able to produce in four weeks?  I have the dated befores and afters in my files, for anyone who wants evidence.  And yet, repeatedly, I have been persecuted, bullied, and forbidden to use in my school classrooms the techniques that I used successfully in my tutoring business.

Anyone can teach children to read and write.  It does not take a long time.  It does not require complex resources, and years of study and preparation.  I can teach anyone who wants to learn, how to teach their child to be an independent reader and writer in a matter of moths for a younger child, and in a few weeks for an older child.  It is not hard.  It is not a mystery, and it does not take four years teacher-training, and then 12 to 13 years of application in a school (and even then a very large number of school graduates cannot read and write) to produce the results.

There is something wrong with schools–no, there are lot of things wrong with schools–and one of those things is the length of time it takes to do badly what really only should take a short time to do well.

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Accelerated Christian Education (ACE)

Some Comments on my Involvement with Accelerated Christian Education (ACE)

My experience with Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) stretches all the way back to 1981, when, on our honeymoon, my wife and I visited the Christian Life Community Centre in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia.  We were introduced, at that time, to the school that was associated with the church, and which was using the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum and mode of educational delivery (the school is now called Toowoomba Christian College (TCC), and has not used the ACE material for a long time).  We were told that the program enabled Christian parents to provide a Christian education for their children.  The program had been brought to Toowoomba from Blackheath in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, where it had been introduced into Australia in late 1976, and was being used by Mountains Christian Academy.  My wife and I joined Christian Life Community in 1982, shortly after I was discharged from the Army on 11th May, of that year.

From early 1984 to late 1986 I studied at the Darling Downs Institute of Advance Education (in Toowoomba) the units that led to my obtaining a Diploma of Teaching (Primary).  I did very well in my studies, achieving 17 Distinctions (A’s), 10 Credits (B’s), 2 Pass (C’s) and 1 Ungraded Pass (P).  I then went, in 1987, to Bible College in the Blue Mountains and obtained a Diploma of Biblical Studies with Honours (subsequently I have obtained a Bachelor of Education, a Master of Education (Leadership,) a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, and am in the latter stages of a Doctor of Philosophy (Education) degree).  It was my hope that I would be employed by the Christian Life Community Centre School.  However, I was not.  So, I never got to work in an ACE School, but I did get to see, at close hand, how an ACE school functioned.  I read through many of the PACEs, witnessed the children seated in their cubicles with star charts, flags, no communication, waiting, independent scoring (after getting permission), and everything else that characterized an ACE school in those days.

Whilst working on my Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology and Teaching Methodology units for my Diploma of Teaching (Primary) I came across the work of B. F. Skinner and his Behaviourism School.  I was particularly interested in his teaching machines, which reminded me so much of the ACE way of educational delivery.

My first teaching appointment was at the Christian Outreach College (COC) in Toowoomba, which also started as an ACE school, but which very early on in its history dropped the ACE curriculum and embraced the Queensland state curriculum.  By the time I was teaching at COC Toowoomba, it was like a regular school, with age-segregated classes, using traditional didactic approaches to educational delivery.  TCC was still an ACE school at that time.

As I taught at COC it became clearer and clearer to me that the ACE system, delivered in a school context (as originally conceived) was a defective mode of educational delivery.  Sentences are important in the development of complete thought.  Writing sentences is an important part of the process of creating a multi-sensory connection between the knowledge that is to be engaged, learning, long-term memory, and the practical usefulness of the knowledge.  By getting children to simply fill in spaces with words was getting them to focus on isolated incidents in the text, and not drawing them into the complete thoughts being communicated.  I came to the conclusion that ACE was not teaching children to think, it was indoctrinating them and brainwashing them into a set worldview.  The set worldview was Dispensational Fundamentalism.  It became my opinion that ACE PACEs could only be useful, if after filling in the spaces, the children were required to engage with the text by writing summaries in full sentences, or at the least, copying some of the sentences completely in another exercise book, so that the thoughts in the sentences could be considered in their entirety, not just key words being memorization so that they can be written into the spaces of the tests.

I went to Canberra in 1998 and worked with Light Educational Ministries.  In Canberra I was trained in Intensive Phonics, both in Spalding Phonics and LEM Phonics.  It was that training that convinced me that a multi-sensory, multi-modal approach to education was essential for solid learning (this was explored in my Master of Education (Leadership) final dissertation**).  ACE was neither multi-sensory, nor was it multi-modal.  By this time, also, I had become a Biblical Christian, rather than a New Testament Christian (as exemplified in Dispensational, Fundamentalism).  ACE was now further down in my consideration of educational approaches: it was defective in its pedagogy, in its curriculum content and in the worldview that it was seeking to imbed into young minds.  I wanted to be generous, so I thought that it might be a useful way for Christian parents to bridge into homeschooling.  ACE, by 1993, was the largest provider of resources for Christian homeschoolers in Australia*.  However, whenever I spoke to parents who were considering the use of ACE material, I always advised them to get the children to interact with other materials outside of the ACE provided PACEs, and to get the children to summarize the PACEs into a separate notebook, or at least copy some of the sentences in their entirety into the notebook, so that the children were engaging in complete thoughts.

Amongst my research respondents, I received a range of comments, in regards to the ACE program.  They ranged from: “It was done very badly, … fruitloops were using ACE … ACE was a crappy progam; it was childish … We cheated all the way through our home schooling … focused on academics more than the social elements of education … I was so lonely … I hated schooling” through to: “It (ACE) is a brilliant curriculum … a curriculum that builds on itself … the curriculum enables the child to take pauses, and when they are ready again, to continue their progression through the curriculum. … there are no gaps, and there is no wasted time having to go back over things–minimize gaps”.  One respondent reported that the ACE material was: “boring material … there were entire books of time tables, and I had to work for 45 minutes at a time through the books … I remember there were sentences and I had to fill in gaps with words.  It was all writing stuff.  There was not much talking. … I was mostly expected to finish a certain number of pages.”

The family that reported the worst experiences with ACE material, was a family that employed the material in a home school context that followed the ACE Procedures Manual implicitly.  By bringing an ACE School into the home, the worst elements of ACE were concentrated and the result was a hatred for education and learning, which spilled over into fractured family relationships.

The family that reported the best experiences with ACE material threw the Procedures Manual out the window (metaphorically), and used the PACEs as resources to explore ideas,rather than as an end in themselves.  They were used as a jump-off point to pursue other lines of thought, and there were many other educational aspects to their home-based education than simply being schooled by the Manual.

I am still of the opinion that an ACE education is defective pedagogically, in academic content, and in its brand of Christian world and life view.  However, I do concede that some people may be able to use the ACE resources to good effect, if they use the PACEs as a jumping-off point to then go and do lots of other pedagogically sound activities.  I would never try to stop families using ACE material, but I would always counsel them to use the material interactively and creatively, and never use it as a tool to keep their children in isolation from others.  At its best, this is cruel, and at its worst it is abusive.  Children need socialization – not in schools, but in the context of learning alongside significant others with a range of ages and life experiences.  ACE, as it was originally conceived, militates against this.

For a more detailed critique of Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), refer to: http://leavingfundamentalism.wordpress.com/

 

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