My background is similar to truckeeboater's, and I am a level 4 ACA instructor. I have been out of pocket as this thread was developing, but I have found the comments all fascinating. Particularly comments by truckeeboater, Hazard Harry, Tommy, and Smurfwarrior.
I have some thoughts specifically related to the comments from Harry, Tommy, and Smurfwarrior, which point out some real problems with canoe instruction (and, by extension, ACA instructor programs). I think everything they have brought up is really productive, and none of this is meant to be argumentative.
I would be interested in getting more info from Smurf's perspective wrt how the ACA program could improve. I think the ACA is dealing with a specific challenge of trying to train volunteers to be instructors. In both of the Instructor courses I have taken, the trainers spent probably half of their time teaching people to be teachers, not focusing on paddling skills. Another big aspect was checking the instructor candidates skill competency (are they safe to be in this place with participants), judgement, and finally actually teaching the skills comes fourth. It's a lot to accomplish in 5-6 days with people who won't likely ever break even on their investment in the course.
That said, I do think there are a lot of ACA instructors in this world who could and should be better! I am fortunate that the ITs I have gotten to work with all have the ability to tell their candidates hard truths and fail people if their priorities are wrong.
WRT to all of the others, I think, in canoeing we miss the critical difference between classes and coaching. The ski industry has gotten this right, I think. Rank beginners need classes in order to see what the basic skills are and how they are applied. This would be equivalent to the first ~2 days or so of ski school. Obviously some participants chafe at ANY program that is made up of rote exercises and skills checks. It sounds like, from Harry, that this is what the AMC clinic is set up like. I don't think this is a failure of the clinic, but if they won't allow Harry to learn in his own style (not through their intro classes), and rejoin the flow for more advanced coaching later, than they are really sticking their foot in it!
I believe any athletic skill beyond the basic level needs to be treated as coaching, where the instructor has the responsibility to let the participant do the activity in their own way, observe, provide constructive feedback, and set appropriate challenges. Sadly, coaching is difficult to teach, and very few people seem to understand the difference. It's also not possible to coach as many people as it is to run through a class, which also makes it more difficult organizationally and economically. I think this is what people like Eli and others really excel at, and where I do believe that Tommy, Harry, me, and pretty much everyone else in the world could benefit from this, unfortunately we aren't clear on the difference, and good coaching is hard to find!