Accelerated Christian Education Exposed: A Critical Look

Christian education aims to nurture children in the faith, but some methods are controversial. Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), used in Christian schools worldwide, has faced scrutiny for rigid teaching practices and ideological bias.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick overview: Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) utilizes packaged workbooks with minimal teacher instruction. Critics contend the curriculum isolates children, discourages critical thinking, and promotes religious and racial bias.

Former ACE students report negative experiences.

This article will take an in-depth look at the ACE system, examining its teaching methods, ideological leanings, and effects on students. We’ll outline the curriculum’s history, provide context on its worldwide use, highlight concerns from experts and former students, and explore the debate around ACE’s merits and faults.

The Origins and Growth of Accelerated Christian Education

History of ACE

Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), also known as School of Tomorrow, was founded in 1970 by Dr. Donald R. Howard. It emerged as a response to the perceived decline in moral values and standards in traditional educational systems.

Driven by a desire to provide a Christ-centered education, ACE aimed to develop students academically while instilling biblical values and principles.

ACE started as a small organization but quickly gained popularity, particularly among Christian homeschooling families and conservative Christian schools. Its approach to education, which emphasized individualized learning and character development, resonated with parents who sought to integrate faith into their children’s education.

An Overview of the ACE System

The ACE system is based on a self-instructional model, where students work independently through a series of workbooks called PACEs (Packet of Accelerated Christian Education). Each PACE covers a specific subject, such as math, science, English, or social studies, and includes a combination of reading assignments, fill-in-the-blank exercises, and self-tests.

One distinctive feature of ACE is the concept of “mastery learning,” where students are required to achieve a high level of proficiency in a topic before moving on to the next one. This approach aims to ensure that students have a solid foundation in each subject area before progressing further.

The ACE system also incorporates character development through the implementation of the “Character Trait” program. This program focuses on teaching students values such as honesty, respect, responsibility, and perseverance, aiming to shape their character and moral compass.

Use of ACE Curriculum Worldwide

The ACE curriculum has gained international recognition and is used in various educational settings around the world. It is utilized in Christian schools, homeschooling environments, and even in some traditional schools seeking to incorporate a Christian worldview into their curriculum.

According to the ACE website, their curriculum is currently used in over 145 countries, indicating the widespread adoption and impact of their educational approach. This global reach showcases the influence and appeal of ACE’s emphasis on combining academic excellence with spiritual growth.

If you want to learn more about Accelerated Christian Education and their curriculum, you can visit their official website at

Criticisms of the ACE Educational Model

Isolation and Lack of Socialization

One of the main criticisms of the ACE educational model is the perceived isolation and lack of socialization that students may experience. In this model, students often work independently at their own pace, which can lead to limited interaction with peers.

Critics argue that this lack of socialization can hinder the development of important social skills and the ability to collaborate effectively with others in the real world.

According to a study conducted by the National Education Association, students who lack socialization opportunities may struggle with communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and building relationships.

It is important for educational models to provide a balance between individualized learning and opportunities for students to interact and engage with their peers.

Minimal Teacher Involvement

Another criticism of the ACE educational model is the minimal involvement of teachers in the learning process. In this model, teachers primarily serve as facilitators and supervisors rather than active instructors.

Critics argue that this lack of teacher involvement can lead to a lack of guidance, support, and personalized instruction for students.

While the ACE model emphasizes self-directed learning, it is important to recognize the value of teacher expertise and guidance in the educational process. Research has shown that effective teaching strategies, such as providing feedback and guidance, can significantly enhance student learning outcomes.

Therefore, critics argue that the minimal teacher involvement in the ACE model may limit the effectiveness of instruction and hinder student progress.

Discouraging Critical Thinking

A major criticism of the ACE educational model is its alleged discouragement of critical thinking skills. Critics argue that the model relies heavily on rote memorization and regurgitation of information, rather than encouraging students to think critically, analyze information, and develop independent thought.

According to a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, students who are actively engaged in critical thinking are more likely to develop problem-solving abilities, creativity, and higher-order cognitive skills.

Therefore, critics argue that the ACE model’s focus on memorization and information recall may hinder the development of these important skills, which are essential for success in higher education and the workforce.

Ideological Bias

Some critics of the ACE educational model have raised concerns about potential ideological bias in the curriculum. The ACE curriculum is based on a conservative Christian worldview, which may present a limited perspective on certain subjects such as science, history, and social issues.

It is important for educational institutions to provide a balanced and comprehensive education that exposes students to diverse perspectives and encourages critical thinking. Critics argue that the ideological bias present in the ACE curriculum may limit students’ exposure to different ideas and hinder their ability to think critically and objectively.

It is worth noting that these criticisms are based on the perception of the ACE educational model and may vary depending on individual experiences and perspectives.

Accounts From Former ACE Students

Feeling Unprepared for Mainstream Schools

Many former students of the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum have expressed feeling unprepared for the challenges of mainstream schools. Due to the self-paced nature of ACE, students often work independently and at their own speed, which can result in a lack of exposure to group work, collaboration, and critical thinking skills.

This can leave students ill-equipped to navigate the more interactive and collaborative environments of traditional schools.

One former ACE student, Sarah, shared her experience, stating, “When I transitioned to a regular high school, I struggled to keep up with the fast-paced classroom discussions and group projects. ACE didn’t provide me with the necessary skills to effectively communicate and work with others.”

According to a study conducted by the National Education Policy Center, students who have been solely educated using ACE materials may face challenges when transitioning to higher education or the workforce.

The study found that ACE students scored lower on standardized tests and had lower college acceptance rates compared to students from traditional schools.

Social Disconnection

Another common concern among former ACE students is the social disconnection they experienced due to the isolationist nature of the curriculum. ACE promotes a strict adherence to conservative Christian values and discourages interaction with individuals outside of the faith.

This can lead to a limited worldview and a difficulty in forming relationships with people from diverse backgrounds.

Mark, a former ACE student, shared his perspective, saying, “I felt like I was living in a bubble during my time with ACE. I didn’t have the opportunity to interact with people who had different beliefs or experiences. It made it difficult for me to connect with others once I entered college.”

Research conducted by the American Psychological Association suggests that social interactions and exposure to diverse perspectives are crucial for the development of social skills, empathy, and tolerance.

ACE’s emphasis on a singular religious perspective may hinder students’ ability to navigate the complexities of the real world.

Internalizing Ideological Bias

Former ACE students have also raised concerns about the curriculum’s ideological bias. ACE materials often present a narrow, literal interpretation of the Bible and promote conservative political and social views.

This can lead to students internalizing these beliefs without critical examination or exposure to alternative perspectives.

Emily, a former ACE student, shared her experience, stating, “ACE taught me to accept certain ideas without question. It wasn’t until I left that I realized there were other valid viewpoints that I hadn’t been exposed to. It felt like I had been sheltered from the real world.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center has criticized ACE for promoting a distorted view of history, particularly regarding topics such as slavery, civil rights, and the role of women in society. The center argues that the curriculum’s bias perpetuates harmful stereotypes and limits students’ ability to think critically and independently.

It’s important to note that these accounts represent the experiences of some former ACE students and may not reflect the experiences of all individuals who have been educated using this curriculum. However, they do shed light on some of the concerns raised by critics of ACE.

Ongoing Debate Around ACE Curriculum

The Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum has been the subject of ongoing debate among educators, parents, and students. While some praise the program for its emphasis on Christian values and individualized learning, others criticize it for its perceived lack of academic rigor and limited scope of knowledge.

This article will explore the different arguments surrounding the ACE curriculum, as well as discuss calls for reform and the future of ACE.

Arguments in Defense of ACE

Supporters of the ACE curriculum argue that it provides a unique approach to education by integrating biblical principles into all subjects. They believe that this helps students develop a strong moral compass and a deeper understanding of their faith.

Additionally, ACE promotes individualized learning, allowing students to progress at their own pace and focusing on their personal strengths and weaknesses. Proponents of ACE also highlight the program’s emphasis on character development, critical thinking, and a strong work ethic.

According to the Accelerated Christian Education website, ACE has been used in over 6,000 schools worldwide, with many educators and parents attesting to its effectiveness in nurturing well-rounded individuals with a solid academic foundation and a strong faith.

They argue that ACE provides a safe and nurturing environment for students to grow spiritually and academically, instilling in them the values necessary for success in life.

Calls for Reform and Modernization

While there are those who support the ACE curriculum, critics argue that it falls short in several areas. One of the main concerns is its limited scope of knowledge, with some claiming that the curriculum lacks exposure to a diverse range of perspectives and ideas.

Critics argue that this can lead to a narrow understanding of the world and hinder critical thinking skills.

Others argue that ACE places too much emphasis on rote memorization and regurgitation of information, rather than promoting deeper understanding and analytical thinking. They believe that this approach can hinder students’ ability to think critically and apply their knowledge in real-world scenarios.

Additionally, some critics argue that the ACE curriculum does not adequately prepare students for higher education or the demands of the modern workforce. They believe that a more comprehensive and up-to-date curriculum is needed to equip students with the skills necessary for success in an increasingly globalized and fast-paced world.

The Future of ACE

The future of the ACE curriculum remains uncertain. While there are ongoing debates surrounding its effectiveness and suitability for modern education, ACE continues to be used in many schools around the world.

However, there have been calls for reform and modernization to address some of the concerns raised by critics.

It is important for educators, parents, and students to engage in open and constructive dialogue about the strengths and weaknesses of the ACE curriculum. By addressing these concerns and seeking ways to enhance the curriculum, ACE can potentially evolve and adapt to meet the changing needs of students in the 21st century.

As the debate around the ACE curriculum continues, it is crucial to consider the long-term impact of the curriculum on students’ academic and personal development. Education plays a vital role in shaping the future generation, and finding the right balance between academic rigor, critical thinking, and the nurturing of values is essential for a well-rounded education.


While providing a Christian education, Accelerated Christian Education has drawn criticism for isolating children and potentially indoctrinating them with ideological bias. Former ACE students have highlighted feeling socially unprepared and wrestling with internalized prejudices.

The merits and faults of ACE continue being debated. Some defend the curriculum for preserving Christian beliefs, while others contend reform is needed to create a more balanced, open-minded educational approach.

The future will likely see ongoing examination of ACE and its effects on students worldwide.

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