Tol­er­ance of other views de­sir­able

ACE is a glob­ally recog­nised ed­u­ca­tion op­tion of the high­est aca­demic cal­i­bre, writes Roy Her­bert­son.

Otago Daily Times - - OPINION - Roy Her­bert­son is a Whangarei teacher.

AS a state­trained teacher with many years’ ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with a va­ri­ety of curriculum op­tions in a range of ed­u­ca­tional con­texts, I be­lieve Jean Balchin’s ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled ‘‘When ACE is not the best’’ (ODT Opin­ion, 9.11.17) paints a twisted view of this ed­u­ca­tion op­tion.

The Ac­cel­er­ated Chris­tian Ed­u­ca­tion curriculum is made avail­able glob­ally to any in­di­vid­ual or or­gan­i­sa­tion. It is bib­li­cally­based, but no ed­u­ca­tion ever takes place in some sort of moral vac­uum. Since the ex­is­tence of God can be nei­ther proven nor dis­proven, what­ever one be­lieves or dis­be­lieves is founded upon as­sump­tions about what is true and what is not. As the na­ture of ed­u­ca­tion is in­ex­tri­ca­bly rooted in the na­ture of truth, all ed­u­ca­tion is there­fore fun­da­men­tally re­li­gious. Con­se­quently, what dis­tin­guishes one curriculum from an­other at its root level is its un­der­pin­ning re­li­gious bias.

Given the aim of any ed­u­ca­tion is to in­flu­ence think­ing, the ques­tion is not ‘‘is my child be­ing brain­washed?’’, but ‘‘who is brain­wash­ing my child?’’. As a home­school­ing par­ent, I have never been afraid of ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­rial com­ing into my home that I dis­agree with, as it has given us as par­ents the chance to dis­cuss with our chil­dren what we be­lieve and why, as op­posed to what we don’t (an op­por­tu­nity that few par­ents of pupils in state schools have, given they have no idea who is pros­e­lytis­ing their chil­dren and what in­for­ma­tion they are do­ing it with).

The ad­min­is­tra­tion of the curriculum within Balchin’s home en­vi­ron­ment may have left some­thing to be de­sired, but if so, that was an is­sue of lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tion, not global curriculum qual­ity or con­tent. As ACE is used in 149 coun­tries, it is safe to as­sume there will be a wide spec­trum in re­gard to its im­ple­men­ta­tion.

In re­gard to aca­demic stan­dards (dis­missed by Balchin as re­ly­ing upon ‘‘dis­proved out­dated meth­ods of teach­ing and learn­ing, that re­strict a child’s imag­i­na­tive and creative po­ten­tial as well as dis­cour­ag­ing ac­tual un­der­stand­ing in favour or rote mem­o­ri­sa­tion’’), the ACE curriculum has been rated by the Na­tional Agency for the Recog­ni­tion and Com­par­i­son of In­ter­na­tional Qual­i­fi­ca­tions as com­pa­ra­ble to Cam­bridge In­ter­na­tional Ex­am­i­na­tions Ad­vanced Level Stan­dard.

Can you re­ally as­cribe racism to ACE on the ba­sis of the state­ment that: ‘‘White busi­ness­men and devel­op­ers . . . turned South Africa into a mod­ern in­dus­tri­alised na­tion, which the poor, un­e­d­u­cated blacks couldn’t have ac­com­plished in sev­eral more decades.’’ In and of it­self, the state­ment is true, but it merely com­ments on the is­sue of eco­nomic devel­op­ment and not on so­cial jus­tice. Balchin’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion is as disin­gen­u­ous as claim­ing that to make the state­ment, ‘‘Kauri log­ging led to an eco­nomic boom in pi­o­neer North­land,’’ would be to af­firm the rape of the land that went hand in hand with it.

As Balchin points out, re­li­gious fun­da­men­tal­ism and fem­i­nism aren’t com­pat­i­ble. Tra­di­tional views of fem­i­nin­ity and mas­culin­ity are re­in­forced through­out ACE, but to de­scribe these as ‘‘re­stric­tive’’ merely un­der­scores her re­jec­tion of those views in favour of an­drog­yny. While that is con­sis­tent with her post­mod­ern, fem­i­nist­in­spired be­lief sys­tem, her po­si­tion too is faith­based, so the is­sue of who is right and who is wrong re­mains a moot point.

While ACE clearly and unashamedly takes a cre­ation­ist stand­point in re­gard to science, it also dis­cusses evo­lu­tion at length. I have been in­volved in state ed­u­ca­tion at pri­mary, in­ter­me­di­ate and sec­ondary level for many years, and have never heard a pupil within the state sys­tem be­ing given any other viewpoint to con­sider apart from evo­lu­tion.

These is­sues aside, Balchin’s core mo­ti­va­tion for her scathing at­tack is clearly her bit­ter­ness towards a Judeo­Chris­tian world­view. Yes, within the ACE curriculum you will find clear and unashamed ac­cep­tance and sup­port of bib­li­cal prin­ci­ple over and above that of an al­ter­na­tive. Each of these points of dif­fer­ence is in­tel­li­gently ar­guable, but in­tel­lec­tual in­tegrity is not the is­sue at stake. The key point is open­mind­ed­ness.

Big­otry is de­fined as be­ing in­tol­er­ant of any opin­ions that dif­fer from one’s own. Balchin is wel­come to be­lieve what she does and to act in ac­cor­dance with her views. This in­cludes the right to seek an ed­u­ca­tion that builds upon a dif­fer­ent set of faith­based pre­sup­po­si­tions. How­ever, I hope that in our ‘‘tol­er­ant’’ so­ci­ety she would at least of­fer the same de­gree of in­tel­lec­tual and moral lib­erty to oth­ers that she her­self en­joys.

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