Fundamentalism I: Religion and creationism in UK schools

December 9, 2013 • 8:40 am

Today we have another two-part post, this time on fundamentalism in Europe. This post is on fundamentalism in the UK’s Christian “faith schools,” some of which are funded by the state.  To those of you in the UK: why are you tolerating government funding of religious indoctrination?  Is there no movement against publicly-funded indoctrination of children?

Whoops, I put the rant before the data. Here are some facts about a set of UK Christian schools that are not state-funded (except for the nursery schools, which are), but which provide a substandard, anti-science education that the UK government accepts as equivalent to a secular education.

Some Christian schools (and homeschooling parents) in the UK use a U.S.-devised  learning system called “Accelerated Christian Education,” or ACE.  The site Leaving Fundamentalism describes it:

Accelerated Christian Eduction is a fundamentalist curriculum from Texas, distributed in the UK by Christian Education Europe (CEE). There are approximately 2,000 students of ACE in the UK, including homeschoolers. ACE students work in silence in “offices” that Ofsted describesas “rather like a modern version of a monk’s cell in a medieval monastery.” Students are not allowed to turn around, talk, or move without permission, which they gain by raising a flag to get a supervisor’s attention. ACE students complete PACEs (Packets of Accelerated Christian Education), a prescribed series of workbooks.

Official ACE literature says “students are taught to see life from God’s point of view.” Religious instruction is not a separate subject: “Biblical principles and concepts are interwoven into all aspects of the curriculum [citation].” In English, for example, students are given examples of interrogative sentences [source]: “Do you know Jesus as your personal Saviour? Can you ever praise Him enough?” and asked to underline the correct verb in a sentence like “Jesus (is, are) good.”

(See more on ACE here. It’s dreadful!) Distressingly, the UK has approved the ACE curriculum by declaring the International Certificate of Christian Education—certifying completion of the ACE curriculum—as equivalent to Cambridge International A-level standards.  And, as noted below, ACE nurseries, which teach creationism, are government funded. Without that funding, these indoctrination creches would collapse.

But what’s in that curriculum? Creationism, for one thing: as Leaving Fundamentalism notes, “Evolution is constantly ridiculed as ‘impossible’ and a ‘sinking ship.’”

Here’s a cartoon said to be typical of the curriculum (these cartoons appear throughout the students’ materials):


That’s pretty close to a Jack Chick cartoon! At any rate, the UK government has no business approving a curriculum like this.

To see how ACE students are educated (that should be “indoctrinated”), Leaving Fundamentalism has just posted a list of “33 jaw-droppingly bad multiple choice questions from Accelerated Christian Education.”  Here’s a small sample; pay attention to the ages:

Screen shot 2013-12-09 at 7.51.30 AM

Screen shot 2013-12-09 at 7.51.59 AM

Screen shot 2013-12-09 at 7.52.20 AM

Screen shot 2013-12-09 at 7.54.54 AM Screen shot 2013-12-09 at 7.55.08 AM

Screen shot 2013-12-09 at 7.56.31 AM

This would be funny except it’s the only schooling that many UK students get when they come from Christian families. What kind of education is that?  Is it comparable to A-level standards? Since I’m not familiar with the standards, UK readers can tell me.

Leaving Fundamentalism notes:

In the United Kingdom, UK NARIC has deemed qualifications based on ACE to be comparable to A-level. Ofsted routinely whitewashes ACE schools in reports, and ACE nurseries teaching creationism receive government funding.

In New Zealand, ACE qualifications are accepted for university entrance.

In the USA, ACE’s Lighthouse Christian Academy is accredited by MSA-CESS. The curriculum is used in givernment-funded creationist voucher programs in eleven states.

In South Africa, based on HESA’s recommendation, a number of universities have signed up to accept ACE graduates.

ACE says its curriculum is used in 192 countries and 6000 schools worldwide. This is happening nearer than you think.

Here are three pages from the ACE nursery school “book”; remember, UK citizens: your tax dollars are funding this (from the July Guardian article: “Creationism in UK education—Why the fight must go on.”

Picture 1

Picture 3

Picture 4

Religion might not poison everything, but it’s polluting the brains of these poor, helpless kids, born into the wrong families due to the inexorable and pitiless laws of physics.

107 thoughts on “Fundamentalism I: Religion and creationism in UK schools

  1. I am a Brit living in France where state schools and hospitals have been ‘laique’ since 1905. Why it took them so long since the revolution I have no idea, but those who wish to send their kids to faith schools can do so but they have to pay.
    The evils of faith schools are clear to see in Northern Ireland where Catholics and Protestants live in perpetual enmity.

  2. …underline the correct verb in a sentence like “Jesus (is, are) good.”

    Hmmm. This is a trick question, right? (given the mysterious, inexplicable, ineffable, threefold nature of Jeebus.)

      1. I disagree; if the Catholics had their way during the renaisance and enlightenment you wouldn’t know the asteroid belt existed.

          1. Correct. However I think Christopher Hitchens was correct in using the subtitle, “how religion poisons everything”, rather than, “…poisons our knowledge of everything”, which would have been too cumbersome: In human affiars religion most definitely poisons everything.

            1. The point is that “everything” and “everything it touches” are not the same. Hence, Jerry’s phrasing is perfectly reasonable.

              1. Yes, but that was exactly the point of the subtitle he alluded to. We all know “everything” means “everything it touches” in that context.

              2. Hmm… If we ALL know that then why your objection in the first place? Besides the pleasures of a battle of the pedants.

    1. There is certainly nothing that it enriches

      Not so! Jerry Falwell, Oral Roberts, a whole lot of other megachurch leaders – not to mention the bishop of bling – were unquestionably enriched by religion.

  3. Here to in Quebec the govt funds religious schools. The same govt that recently said they wanted to keep religion and state appart. I read today on Jeff Schweitzer’s blogue an article on the consequences of religious “teaching” (like you said in your article “indoctrination” is a better word):

    1. Ontario supports Catholic schools only (which is bad enough & changed when I myself was in highschool as they were only financed until a certain grade and then parents had to pay or send their kids to public school).

      There is an independent group that lobbies to stop this as well as CFI but it’s to no avail. The government won’t hear of it.

      At least the other schools are not funded.

  4. love the image of the ramp and the animals. shows just how TrueChristians can’t agree on what the heck the “ark” is supposed to look like.

    it’s a shame that parents intentionally harm their children by lying to them and showing them how to be hypocrites.

    1. The perspective in that drawing makes it look like the animals have to jump from the ramp to the door.

      An why aren’t there 14 cows? They’re “clean” animals, right?

      1. LOL another instance of atheists knowing the Bible better than even fundys
        ‘ Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.’ Genesis 7:2

      2. As I recall, the first bit says “two two” for all, and then later it says the bit about clean. Of course, how does Noah which animals are clean? *Moses* gets the dietary laws!

      3. Anybody who thinks cows are clean animals has never seen a track after cows have walked up it…. it would be hard to think of a filthier animal, actually.

        OK, I know, ‘clean’ has a religious meaning which therefore bears no detectable relation whatever to any sort of reality…

    2. All I could think of was the mess that the tortoises would have crawl through to get in the ark. Would you really want to walk right behind the elephants – especially at turtle speed?

      1. At least the tortoises are used to crawling on the ground. Think of the tree sloths that had to walk to the Middle East from South America and back again….


          1. Wait…I thought it was supposed to be turtle all the way down…now you’re telling me it’s llamas?

            How’s a guy supposed to keep up with these things, anyway?


      2. Those tortoises would make a mess too. I had one for most of my life & you’d think a cow made the mess!

        1. They also arrived on mats of floating vegetation, but also returned not just to the Galapagos but to the exact place on the exact same island that they left 150 days previously. Surely the Almighty is wonderful in his ways.

  5. To put the record straight the British Humanist Association campaigns against state funding of faith schools. It punches above its weight, encouraging parents, lobbying MPs and holding education ministers to account.

  6. Faith schools persist in the UK because they can select pupils whereas other state schools cannot. There is therefore a drive to create “faith” schools in middle class areas where they can keep out the lower classes. They can therefore attain higher average grades for these selected pupils and are therefore seen as “better” schools.

    1. And it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy; kids do better in schools where more kids come from homes with higher aspirations. And such schools also find it easier to attract and hold teachers good enough to pick and choose. So the policy is popular with those who benefit from it.

  7. I want to cry when I see this sort of garbage being shoved down childre’s eager maws. There are a lot of new dangerous religious lunatics in the UK who have brought their fundamentalist creeds from Africa in recent years (mohammedan & christian), & I think that is a major reason behind the increase in evangelical christianity & islam.

    1. “I think that is a major reason behind the increase in evangelical christianity & islam.” – but I could be wrong. I wonder whether it is ‘moderate’ christians like Blair who are really responsible.

  8. The BHA has a campaign against “faith”schools. These are government funded but have to follow the national curriculum which is something. The issue is less education with these than social division.

    1. I regret that Academies and Free Schools, status to which many fairth schools aspire and that the most creationism-suspect schools already largely possess, do NOT have to follow the National Curriculum, which in any case is being whittled down in the name of “reducing Government micromanagement”.

  9. Even ignoring the religious content of those “tests,” they’re inexcusable. They’re not at all determining the student’s mastery of the subject; they’re bludgeoning the child into spouting the party line.

    I hate multiple-guess tests. Hate with a passion. The only way to salvage them would be to require the students to submit a pair of detailed answers for each option, arguing the affirmative case in the one and the negative case in the other.

    Yes, even in arithmetic. A student who can make a defensible case that 2 + 2 = 5 or that 2 + 2 != 4 absolutely deserves an “A.” Presumably, early attempts will involve division by zero or naive use of square roots. Those with a linguistic bent will redefine one or more symbols. The ones who go beyond that are the stars of the class.

    Too advanced for the students most likely to see that on a test today? My point exactly….



    1. I agree that in most cases multiple choice tests are cack, but I really enjoyed the multiple choice tests I did for A level Biology 30 years ago. You had to work hard to eliminate all the credible but just slightly flawed answers.

      In any maths-type topic they are worse than useless, rewarding a big mistake (you get told that your answer must be wrong) but penalising small mistakes. Horrible.

    2. Yeah for the highschool aged kids those questions seemed entirely too easy. I got a kick out of the MacBeth ones though – honouring God, whose ancestors came from Scotland. 🙂

    3. Multiple-choice tests can be constructed in such a way as to gauge a basic grasp of a subject – so long as it only forms a percentage of the student’t test; however these are particularly bad.

      The only thing you can ascertain from these question is basic literacy. It’s the sort of thing I would expect to see on a poorly constructed English-As-Foreign-Language test.

      I used to be a teacher which is why reading these questions made my hair stand on end. Children do not deserve to put through this sort of mockery of an education.

      1. Multiple-choice tests can be constructed in such a way as to gauge a basic grasp of a subject

        Yes, they can. But, in my experience, they rarely are…probably because designing such a test is so bloody hard. Worse, there are more effective ways of gauging a student’s basic grasp of a subject.

        In practice, these sorts of tests are primarily a way to industrialize education, including students as well as teachers. Teachers like them because they’re easy to grade; just stack the forms in the hopper, press a button, and a class of an hundred students gets graded in less time than it takes to read a single page of essay questions. That the students get indoctrinated into believing that complex questions can be distilled into four options, two of which are clearly jokes and one of which is only slightly worng but you’ll go along with it to get a good grade…well, that’s just a bonus. The end result is perfect from a “job preparedness” perspective: people who’ll rather unquestionably follow instructions they know aren’t correct but that they don’t care about because they’re being rewarded for it.

        …and that’s probably my cue to stop ranting….


      2. I teach large classes, and although I would love to really test the little darlings for writing and comprehension, multiple choice is a necessary evil for those classes.
        What we do to address the issues being pointed out here is we mix in a number of mid- and high-level questions based on Blooms’ taxonomy. These are questions where knowledge of the terms and concepts are assumed, and I ask questions that require them to apply ‘critical thinking’. They hate ’em, but they need them.

        1. What you point out is a deeper educational policy problem. To wit: multiple choice exams are a necessary evil assuming we don’t want to pay for more instructors per student.

          I totally agree that it is unreasonable to make today’s teachers spend even more of their out-of-work time grading. As a parent I might want a higher quality test for my kid, but I don’t think its right that a teacher work an 80-hour week just to make that happen. The solution is to give teachers fewer or smaller classes, so that their regular 8- or 9- hour work day is sufficient to teach and grade high quality homework and tests. (I know, I know – flying pigs, snowballs in hell, etc…)

        2. I teach large classes

          That’s the problem, right there.

          Not your fault, of course, and multiple-guess may well be the least evil option on your part.

          But the student-to-teacher ratio is second only to the low pay on the list of fundamental problems with the American education system.

          Education is not a profit center, damnit! A quality education is expensive, and it’s not the sort of thing one cuts costs on. Would you build your house on cheap mud rather than a proper foundation simply to save a few pennies?

          Again with the ranting…sorry ’bout that….


    4. I’ve seen that 2+2 conundrum solved completely by a tagline: “2 + 2 = 5, for sufficiently large values of 2”. 😉

  10. “Is there no movement against publicly-funded indoctrination of children?”

    Someone’s already mentioned the British Humanist Association. There’s also the Accord Coalition:

    Sadly neither of these campaigns could be seen as main-stream. Us Brits are woefully complacent about religion in schools.

  11. Is the Francesco Redi question an attempt to discredit scientists? Because maggots do not come from meat. Redi also figured out where flies actually come from. He nailed it using the scientific method as opposed to faith in rampant speculation and guesses.

    1. The correct answer, of course, is that maggots come from God.

      In surprisingly large volumes and voracious appetite, which explains the miracle of the empty tomb.

      1. Maggots, seeing their propensity to inhabit corpses and work underground in cemeteries (in spite of many of the latter being “hallowed” ground), more likely would come from Satan, wouldn’t you think?

        1. @vierotchka

          I think Martin Luther (?) had it nailed – he concluded that flies were an invention of the Devil, because all God’s creations had a purpose and he could think of no useful purpose whatsoever for flies.

          About the only thing I’d agree with M. Luther on.

            1. I don’t know what Guinea Worm is and I really don’t want to.

              But the answer is, God, obviously. Because (a) his powers are so much greater than Old Nick and (b) if it’s as horrific as I imagine it is, it obviously causes huge suffering – which, as we know from Mother Theresa, is a Good Thing – and also has the valuable use of frightening the fritz out of the population and causing much prayer as a consequence.

              Will that do?

  12. This is shaming for a Brit like me. Thanks for the prompt. We have in Cheltenham, my local town, a Liberal MP who has a record of opposition to this sort of travesty of education. I am writing to him to protest.

  13. Reblogged this on π's blog and commented:
    Unfortunately, I can’t eat as much as I would like to puke when I read this. I have a son, aged 2, and I sure as hell will never let any of such religious crap anywhere near him! Actually, he’s very interested in how nature works and knows the right names of all local birds. THAT’S what I like him to learn about the world, not this Accelerated Cretinism Education.

  14. Jebus Kristus, that cartoon! I am gagging here. How about explaining why the kids need to protect themselves from the inclement weather? And for them to be encouraged to use parental knowledge as just one source? Oh right, it is not about education or their well being, it about breaking the will of young humans so they will be mindless, helpless, and dependent on the powers-to-be.

    No wonder adults who were educated in this way when young are problematic in so many ways. Yet, they are able to vote. 🙁

    1. Obey your parents and you will have long life, they say.

      Because if you disobey they are under god’s command to kill you.

      Nice childhood you got there, be a shame if anything should happen to it.

  15. Remember that the UK does not have a Constitution as such, no first amendment, no separation of Church and State.

    On the other hand, state-run schools such as Grammar Schools are secular.

  16. 17 and 18 year olds would be taking A levels, and only one of the questions is aimed at them. However, when I took A levels (and admittedly I didn’t take English) questions were more difficult than that. However, I took them in 1989 and there is a school of thought that O and A levels are significantly easier than they were. So perhaps that question is representative of A level standards now 🙁

    1. I took my “A” levels in 1972. We worked through previously set papers as part of our preparation. Back to the early sixties they were more or less what we expected, although they did seem to be a bit harder the older they were. Once we got back into the fifties they became increasingly terrifying-Oxbridge entrance standard and beyond…

      1. Interesting. I sat Cambridge board maths A levels in the early 80s, and from the past papers we had there is no doubt that (for that board at least) A level maths questions became dramatically easier between the late 60s and the early 80s.

  17. I particularly got a kick out of the question…

    Macbeth was probably written to honor (a) Macbeth (b) Shakespeare (c) James I (d) God whose ancestors came from Scotland.

    Since all things are to honor God, (d) is the obvious answer, and thus we conclude that God is descended from Scotsmen.

    1. Actually, it was called, “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”

      No doubt if a student had pointed this out in the test, he or she would have gotten zero marks.

  18. I received most of my education in a Grammar School in Yorkshire, the first record of which was in 1320.I left at the age of 18, 67 years ago and I was already a sceptic,thanks to a 30 minute period of RI up to the age of 15. Our RI mistress,(most of the masters were away fighting for King and Country),was Miss Bagnall and like most red-blooded English 15 year-old boys we spent all of the 30 minutes per week checking out her body – from afar. She had the best body, by far, of all the women teachers.

  19. In that first pictogram, besides Bambi and Thumper, that giraffe could be interpreted to suggest some familiarity with the concept of Out of Africa. That way, they can explain who’s keeping the lawn mowed, too.

  20. A levels are reputed have dumbed down in the last 20 years or so. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but if the ACE curriculum is considered equivalent to A level, then A level has dumbed down A LOT.

    1. The government responsible for this “improvement”;the previous one; trumpeted a 40% increase in ‘A’ grades at ‘A’level.

      This can only have been due to a 40% increase in the intelligence of the nations children, or quite heroic efforts on the part of their teachers.

      The idea that the tests were just made easier,is just a gratuitous slur on our politicians good name. LOL

  21. Took one look at that cartoon and just said ‘Fuck!’. (I get fairly unprintable when confronted with offensively unbelievable garbage like that. I say ‘offensively’ because it’s an insult to the intelligence). My next thought was ‘Nobody would swallow that sanctimonious crap!’ Maybe I credit kids with being as sceptical as I am. I do hope I’m right in that…

    One hopeful circumstance is Ofsted’s description of instructional conditions in ACE schools – if there were any atmosphere more calculated to make kids rebel and utterly reject, not just the instructional regime but by association the religious message, I can’t imagine it. If I was aiming to indoctrinate kids in some message, I’d make it fun to learn.

    I think a fair component of my early doubts about Sunday School were prompted, not just by the unbelievability of some of the Bible stories, but possibly even more by the fact that it was b-o-r-i-n-g and wasting my time on a Sunday afternoon.

  22. I don’t see that ACE is used in private schools in Sweden. But I can’t exclude it either.

    I found a 90’s study (before Sweden got rid of a state religion), claiming that Denmark had schools using ACE.

    1. AFAIK there’s about 35 christian schools in total and of those 3 are using ACE material, but none of them exclusively. About ten years ago there was a case where a shcool was stripped of its government funding because of their use of ACE and back then the remaining three schools were monitored closely and their educational standards were deemed appropiate( they only used ACE material as a supplement to other systems ).

      In general during the last few decades there’s been an increase in christian “free”-schools as we call them.

  23. I’ve always wanted to see an illustrated book of the Noah’s Ark Story where the centerfold was two pages of bodies floating on the water.

    1. That’s a point – they do tend to leave that out.
      Also the picture books tend to leave out things like putting the populations of any number of Caananite cities to the sword.

  24. “To those of you in the UK: why are you tolerating government funding of religious indoctrination? Is there no movement against publicly-funded indoctrination of children?”

    Well, I can’t vote as a non-UK national, however even if I could it would make little difference.
    Of course volumes could be written but the short of it is this:

    1) There is no real choice. The two main parties support faith schools unequivocally – it was Labour’s idea and of course the much more religion-friendly Conservatives have now run with it. The LibDems may be technically against it but are too small (and spineless) to push this. The Greens only have one seat in parliament (I think, maybe they’ve gained one or two more) so their opinion is irrelevant. The upcoming UKIP is anti-islam but strongly pro-christianity so if they will get any power they will merely push for one type of faith school.

    2) The voters don’t care. There are still I think more out-and-out religious than atheists; and the agnostics/part-time religious who do make up the majority are mostly of the “ah surely this won’t do much harm” variety or the “why do you always have to attack religion?/just let them be” kind or “I don’t care as long as the council tax doesn’t go up”.

    First past the post doesn’t help, as smaller parties don’t have the chance of getting a foot in the door and expanding on that.

  25. Naw- if it were a Chick cartoon, the little girl would ignore the teacher, get run over or something immediately upon leaving school, and find herself burning in Hell forever!

  26. “To those of you in the UK: why are you tolerating government funding of religious indoctrination? Is there no movement against publicly-funded indoctrination of children?”

    As a Brit, I echo the frustration of your words wholeheartedly. In July 2012 I emailed Richard Dawkins personally (I don’t know him, but a mutual friend passed on the email for me) to ask if his foundation would be interested in a limited project to fund the start-up work for a professionally run campaign that would work towards the abolition of faith schools in the UK state education system. I linked to a quite detailed discussion I and some others had had in a thread on his site (, my comments start at 15). I got no reply, from him personally or from the UK branch of his foundation, which I also emailed.

    So, Jerry, when you next see Richard, why not ask him how he feels about it? Because I honestly don’t know. (Feel free to email me at for further details).

Leave a Reply