LA Weekly ~ Letters to the Editor – December 12-18 issue

Dear Editor:

Sara Catania’s sarcastic piece about L. Ron Hubbard’s study technology ["The Learning Cure'" November 14-20] was a disgrace. As international spokesperson for Applied Scholastics, I have firsthand experience with the work that volunteers all over the world are doing utilizing Hubbard’s discoveries. These individuals devote hundreds of hours of time and heartfelt effort to help both young people and adults improve their study skills. Their work daily changes lives.

As a parent, I also have firsthand knowledge with the application of study technology. There is no question as to its efficacy. It works, plain and simple, and I have a terribly bright and terrifically competent son who reminds me of the fact daily.

There is no good reason to deny students in our public schools access to study technology. Millions of parents have become so desperate that they allow their children to be drugged in the false belief that Ritalin will succeed where the schools have failed. In such a context, how dare anyone suggest that using a dictionary or learning the correct meanings of words could be even slightly controversial?

-Anne Archer
Beverly Hills


Dear Editor:

Sara Catania’s cynical and cursory review of L. Ron Hubbard’s study technology was surprising above all for its naivete. The real problems of illiteracy and educational failure are a serious matter, not a joke, and any effort to remedy them deserves more than offhand sarcasm.

According to a recent report from the California Reading Task Force, a majority of California’s children cannot read at basic levels. These are our children. Yet rather than education, Catania seems fixated on the relationship between Applied Scholastics and the Church of Scientology. I can clear the matter up in one sentence. At Applied Scholastics, we are grateful and proud of the many years of tremendous support we have received from the Church of Scientology – and we will welcome that support for years to come.

Catania also apparently couldn’t find time to interview even one of the hundreds of Applied Scholastic’s volunteers who are working one-on-one with inner-city youth. Or the non-Scientology religious and community leaders who consider Hubbard’s methods a lifeline for underserved minorities.

If Catania had exhibited any real curiousity about how Hubbard’s methods benefit students, she might have had something substantive to discuss with the experts she interviewed. Instead, she presented speculative comments from individuals with almost no familiarity with them. Further, she chose not to interview any of the many experts and educators who do have firsthand experience with their efficacy.

But let’s get down to the real issue – our educational crisis becomes graver with each passing day. And the real story, which Catania chooses to ignore, is that L. Ron Hubbard’s study technology is making a difference.

Let’s face facts. If we do not solve the problems of illiteracy, we could be headed for a new dark age. Hubbard had the courage to provide revolutionary solutions to our 20th-century educational crisis – and we need to raise our sights to the level of a man of such vision.

-Rena Weinberg
President, Association for Better Living and Education
Los Angeles


Dear Editor:

I was surprised and disappointed at the poor journalism in your article “The Learning Cure.” I felt it was written to prove a point, not written from actual research.

I am the founder of a technology company that has grown from two employees to 800 in just over three years. I’m 26 years old, and have been written about in many national publications as a young success.

I never attended college, and I attribute much of my success to my education at the Delphian School of Oregon, which trains its students in the use of Hubbard’s study technology. This technology allows you to get the most out of the study of any subject. Knowing it, I was able to accomplish my post-high school education on my own.

Being able to thoroughly understand any subject you tackle is an invaluable skill, and Hubbard’s study technology made this possible for me. If Catania had taken the time to objectively interview several people who actually use Hubbard’s technology, she would have discovered that they were thriving in their studies, and actually studying faster than previously.

I walked away from that article with the feeling the author had an ax to grind. Why? The “crisis of education” is a national concern, and everyone agrees that our school system needs major reform. We need something that works in schools and makes universal education possible. If Hubbard’s technology is working, why attack it?

-Sky Dayton
Founder
Earthlink network Inc.


Dear Editor:

The answer to the question “Can L. Ron Hubbard’s study technology make kids smarter?,” posed and never answered, is an emphatic “Yes!”
It is very easy to be a critic. It is not so easy to roll up one’s sleeves and step in to help people who are having difficulty in literacy and learning, as the volunteers, parents, tutors and teachers involved with Applied Scholastics are doing every day.

Study technology is not an untried theory, but a proven system whereby a person can become self-sufficient in any learning environment using effective “tools,” including a dictionary. The result of this process is that one understands and can use the information being learned – a goal that education is seeking in our fast-paced techno-society. These tools for learning are not some new study aid or memorization technique or phonetic-reading program. Rather, these tools are part and parcel of the subject of how individuals learn, combined with actual procedures and methods of applying these principles on an individual basis, to give one the means to grasp any subject.

Central to Hubbard’s study technology is a delineation of the primary barriers to study that constitute the underlying reasons for most educational failures. Educators may speak of “learning disabilities.” Their students are failing to learn because no one has taught them how to learn, how to identify the barriers to learning and how to overcome these barriers.

A few key symptoms that study technology overcomes include why a student gives up on a particular study (often after initially liking it), why they appear dull and confused after certain studies, and what is the primary reason that students drop out or lose interest in learning.

-Ian Lyons
President
Applied Scholastics International


Dear Editor:

Excellent article. I hope that you are left in peace after publishing it.
I am glad that word is getting out on Applied Scholastics, as it very much is a vehicle to get L. Ron Hubbard technology and ethics into the “WOG” world.

-Betty Rhodes
Los Angeles


Dear Editor:

I’d like to commend Sara Catania and the L.A. Weekly for publishing this article, and I hope you will stand up against Scientology harassment. Your article investigated the heart of the topic: whether this study technology has any educational value. The scholars quoted in the article confirmed my own opinions, based on my experience at university and at work.

I think that Word Clearing (looking up every word in the dictionary) is a thought-stopping technique. like counting sheep or saying “Hare krishna” 2,000 times. While such techniques are excellent to get to sleep or to get obedience, they are counterproductive in an environment where individual thinking is important. This certainly applies to all schools in the Western world.

-Tilman Hausherr
Berlin, Germany


Dear Editor:

Despite the plain-vanilla fluff and rather uninspired teaching techniques that Scientologists try to push into the minds of schoolchildren, there are really only three things that Scientology teaches well: manipulation, deception and the selling of $cientology.

Make no mistake about it – Scientology’s front groups, including those that purportedly offer “”earning technology,” are all pieces of bait on a large, aggressive and expensive hook. The organization itself was founded by a con man and continues to be led by those who will go to great lengths to silence critics and former members of the cult.

-Mark Dallara
Tampa, Florida


Dear Editor:

Fantastic, excellent work by Sara Catania. She and the Weekly should be commended for the production of such a frank and accurate description of Scientology’s study technology. As a mother and a taxpayer, I thank you. I shudder to think of my children being educated with such mind-controlling, thought-stopping material

-Sandra Jamison
Robins AFB, Georgia

Copyright © 1997, Los Angeles Weekly, Inc. All rights reserved.

comments: Closed

Wichita Eagle ~ Quality of tutors goes unchecked

April 24, 2007 under Applied Scholastics, Study Technology

by Icess Fernandez

Here’s a word problem for you: There are two tutoring programs in a Wichita school. One is very structured, complete with math worksheets and teachers giving direction. The other focuses on helping students explore learning with such techniques as playing with dough. Both are part of a $1 million federally mandated experiment. Which one will be the most effective in raising students’ assessment test scores?

Answer: No one will know until next year. And that’s the real problem, some local educators say.

In the Wichita school district, 583 students from schools with a high percentage of low-income families are enrolled in such after-school tutoring services.

The federal No Child Left Behind law, which aims to make all students proficient in math and reading by 2014, requires that school districts pay for these private tutoring services. In Wichita, the bill to taxpayers is $1 million.

But monitoring the students’ progress and holding tutoring programs accountable has been an issue since the law’s inception. The law is up for reauthorization by Congress this year.

The Kansas State Department of Education selects these “supplemental educational services providers.” Critics say there isn’t a provision for measuring whether their programs do any good.

Once parents sign a contract with the tutoring provider, the school district has very little say.

“If parents choose it, we have to go with it,” said Susan Smith, the Wichita district’s Title I director. Wichita is spending an average of $1,800 per student.

In the middle are the parents, who want to ensure their children do well in school, and the students who need help in reading and math.

State education officials concede that the system needs work.

“The big issue is evaluating the effectiveness,” said Judi Miller, the state Department of Education’s assistant director of state and federal programs.

Helping poorer students

Hamilton Middle School, which has been praised for closing the academic achievement gap between races on assessment tests, has 106 students signed up for private tutoring. The district is required to pay for it using part of its Title I money, federal funding for schools that have high percentages of low-income students.

Only parents of students whose family income qualifies them for free or reduced lunches can sign up, and only if they attend Curtis, Hamilton, Marshall, Mead or Pleasant Valley middle schools or Caldwell Elementary — all Title I schools that did not meet certain minimum standards on state tests for four years. The district has several other Title I schools.

Parents chose tutoring providers for their students after attending an informational meeting.

At Hamilton, two providers — Achievia Tutoring and Applied Scholastics International — help students with math. This is the first school year that both have worked with Wichita students.

Achievia, the company that most Hamilton parents chose, uses schoolteachers as tutors. Students work on math problems individually, using cards that are similar to worksheets, while their tutors offer guidance.

Parent Poppilyn DeLano said she has already seen some changes in her sixth-grader’s grades.

“He comes home and he’s more eager to do homework,” she said. “He’s not struggling with comprehension of math.”

Applied Scholastics uses a different approach, targeting why kids can’t learn.

“Students come in with many gaps,” said Mary Duda, director for research and development. “So when they have skipped gradients, students feel confused. We teach students about barriers so that they are independent learners.”

In a recent visit, students were tracing pictures out of a book and working with playdough to learn about why they are not succeeding. “They understand that learning depends on them. When they have that,” Duda said, “they realize that it’s very liberating.”

Deloris Fogle’s sixth-grader is being tutored by Applied Scholastics. She preferred tutors who didn’t already know her son, she said; she wanted to see if they could help in ways his teachers couldn’t. He’s been in the program for two months.

“I don’t feel he’s been there long enough” to see significant change in his school work, she said. “But what I have noticed is that he’s comfortable doing assignments.”

There are five other tutoring providers working in the Wichita district: ATS Project Success, Club Z Tutoring, Huddle Learning, Jefferson Learning and Urban League of Kansas.

Each one functions differently. ClubZ, for example, does individual tutoring in homes, but ATS Project Success sends home a computer and there is never any direct human contact, Smith said.

“They have to have a pre- and post-test, but that’s pretty much it,” Smith said.

The state uses federal criteria to determine whether an applicant can become a Kansas tutoring provider. Requirements include showing the program is:

• High quality and research-based

• Designed to increase academic achievement

• Consistent with district curriculum and state standards

• Secular, neutral and non-ideological

They also have to detail how they will ensure children are learning and how they will measure it.

Which method is best?

The Wichita district does spot checks and has set some basic ground rules for working with its students. But when it comes to the companies’ approach or tutoring curriculum, the district can’t interfere, said Jackie Farha, the district’s Title I improvement supervisor.

Monitoring the private providers isn’t written into the law, said Jeff Simering director of legislative services at the Council of Great City Schools, which represents 66 of the nations largest urban school districts, including Wichita. And he doesn’t know of any data that says additional tutoring by a private company works better than a teacher’s additional face time.

Miller, of the Kansas Department of Education, agreed that even if a student’s test score increases, there is no way to tell why: Maybe it’s the tutoring program; maybe it’s something a classroom teacher is doing.

Or maybe it’s something else altogether: Perhaps the student’s home life is less chaotic or a health problem has cleared up and he’s better able to focus on school.

Tutor monitoring

Although it doesn’t have direct authority, the Wichita school district is monitoring on its own. It does spot checks to make sure providers show up and that the district is being charged for tutoring and not baby-sitting, Smith said. It is watching students’ academic performance closely.

“Every kid is being tracked, because if it’s not working, there will be changes,” said Wendy Lowmaster, Hamilton’s tutoring program coordinator.

The district will report its findings to state education officials.

Smith said the district already has a reputation among tutoring companies of being “hands on.”

“We have a vested interest,” she said.

And parents with concerns are being encouraged to contact their school principal, who will give the message to her office, Smith said.

The state review occurs annually, when — and if — providers reapply to work in Kansas.

Miller said she hopes to have a system for increased state oversight in place by next school year.

Reach Icess Fernandez at 316-268-6544 or ifernandez@wichitaeagle.com. © 2007 Wichita Eagle and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. http://www.kansas.com

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Saint Petersburg Times ~ Scientology makes it in classroom door

March 20, 2007 under Applied Scholastics, Study Technology

by Robert Farley

BATON ROUGE, La. – Inside the industrial looking brick walls of one of Louisiana’s poorest performing middle schools, Scientologists finally have achieved a longtime goal.

A study skills curriculum written by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard is being taught as mainstream public education.

All the eighth-graders at Prescott Middle School are being taught learning techniques Hubbard devised four decades ago when he set out to remedy what he viewed as barriers to learning.

The curriculum and textbooks used by Prescott’s 156 eighth-graders are similar to methods and books used among Scientologists worldwide. And teaching the children is a Scientologist hired by the school district.

Scientologists helped usher Hubbard’s program into the school during the chaotic months after Hurricane Katrina. Celebrity Scientologists John Travolta and Isaac Hayes played key roles, as did a former Clearwater resident known for her persuasive voice.

The people who run the program say Hubbard’s teaching technique is divorced from Scientology, that it is just a masterful way to learn. They note that it has won the support of many non-Scientologists, including a number of academics.

Other experts, though, question the quality of the program. And some church skeptics fret that it is an insidious plan ultimately aimed at promoting Scientology.

Prescott’s principal had those same concerns. But after closely monitoring the program for more than a year, she is confident Hubbard’s program is not teaching Scientology.

All she knows is that the school’s long-dreadful scores have turned around.

* * *

“Can you show me what ‘squashed’ looks like?” veteran educator Carol Woodruff asks a student.

The girl makes a sour face.

“Good, ” Woodruff says. “Can you draw it?”

The girl draws a stick figure with a frown.

Woodruff nods. That’s how you sometimes feel if you are learning something and you don’t have “mass, ” she explains.

Hubbard believed a key to learning is having the thing itself, its “mass, ” in front of you.

A “lack of mass, ” Hubbard taught, can cause physical reactions in a student, such as eye irritation or dizziness, or cause feelings like being squashed, bent, lifeless, bored or angry.

That’s why students at Prescott often fashion objects out of clay and use small stones and common objects such as paperclips and rubber bands to represent what they are studying.

Hubbard identified two other barriers to learning.

The second barrier is trying to learn on “too steep a gradient.” One must learn the fundamentals of ideas before moving on to more complex levels.

The third barrier is misunderstood words. When students don’t understand a passage, it’s because it included a word they didn’t understand. Hubbard’s curriculum teaches students to find the word and grab a dictionary.

Students who yawn or doodle are told to “find your misunderstood.”

These concepts are hardly revolutionary. Teachers have long known the value of hands-on learning, the need to build new concepts on the foundation of prior knowledge, and that it is important to understand the meanings of words. Where study tech is different, proponents say, is that Hubbard identified specific and absolute physiological responses to his three barriers to learning. For example, if you yawn, it is always because you misunderstood a word in the last passage you read.

The Baton Rouge School District hired Woodruff, a Scientologist, to teach five 90-minute classes each day. Helping her are another full-time teacher and a half dozen unpaid teacher aides, mostly teenagers from a private school in Oregon that uses study tech. They volunteer for three weeks at a time, fulfilling a community service requirement at their school.

Their presence also assures that Hubbard’s program has the advantage of student to teacher ratios of no more than 5 to 1. The program is self-directed, and students are broken into small clusters of desk. Kids work at their own pace and an instructor is available at each cluster to give one-on-one attention.

A science fiction writer, Hubbard created Scientology in the early 1950s. He taught that a person is a spiritual being called a Thetan, whose mind has a “reactive” or subconscious side that stores mental images and is not under a person’s control. Through spiritual counseling called “auditing, ” he taught, a person can solve personal problems by locating these images and addressing them.

According to Scientology literature, Hubbard began researching the barriers to learning when he noticed some Scientologists struggling with their courses.

Hubbard released his “study technology” in 1964, touting it as a way not only to help Scientologists, but also to solve the world’s struggles with education.

In 1972, Scientologists founded the nonprofit Applied Scholastics to advance Hubbard’s “study technology” outside Scientology. Nothing in its literature notes any ties to Scientology. Nor should it, they say; his study curriculum is secular and, therefore, appropriate for public schools.

It’s used in hundreds of after-school tutoring programs, but perceived ties to Scientology have slowed its expansion into the core curricula of public education. School districts in San Antonio, the St. Louis area and Nevada backed off the program after parents or educators voiced concerns.

In 2001, Applied Scholastics bought and renovated a former retirement home of the sisters of Notre Dame outside St. Louis. The building, on nearly 100 acres, became Applied Scholastics’ headquarters.

Watching from afar was Clearwater’s most prominent Scientology parishioner, Bennetta Slaughter. Time and again, the savvy coalition builder and respected community volunteer persuaded members of Clearwater’s civic establishment to be accepting of volunteering Scientologists.

To Slaughter, Applied Scholastics’ purchase of the St. Louis property signaled a commitment to serious expansion. She became chief executive in 2001 and in the years since, Applied Scholastics recorded dramatic growth.

* * *

Prescott Middle is in a predominantly black neighborhood of small, aging homes with chain link fences and convenience stores with bars across the windows.

More than a quarter of its students have been held back at least two years. Another quarter are special education students.

Prescott was the first Louisiana school to be “reconstituted” two years ago as a result of enduring academic failures. Elida Bera was hired from Texas to take over the school and essentially start over.

“The school was horrible, ” she says. She kept just 10 of the school’s 75 employees.

And that was before Katrina.

Hurricane evacuees made their way to every corner of southern Louisiana. Prescott’s classes swelled.

After Thanksgiving of 2005, Bera got a call from the office of Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden. He had a program he thought the school should consider. He had been visited before and after Katrina by Slaughter – the chief executive of Applied Scholastics.

Holden also had met Travolta and his wife, Kelly Preston, when the two actors came to Baton Rouge after Katrina. Musician Isaac Hayes, a longtime proponent of Hubbard study tech, also put a word in Holden’s ear.

At Holden’s suggestion, Bera met with two representatives from Applied Scholastics. She had done her homework on the Internet. Her first question: What does this have to do with Scientology?

“I’m so glad you asked, ” Bera says she was told. “We want to put that on the table.” They said the program has nothing to do with Scientology other than sharing a common architect.

Bera was sold. The Baton Rouge school district agreed to pay $20, 000 a year to Applied Scholastics for a licensing fee and to hire a teacher from the nonprofit to help teach the course. Costs were offset by seed money that Travolta contributed and by donations from local businesses. Parents were enlisted to volunteer as tutors.

Bera rolled out Hubbard’s classes as a pilot program for a small sample of students in grades six, seven and eight. She was impressed when Applied Scholastics reps asked her to put the most challenging students in the pilot classes.

Positive results came fast, astonishing Bera and district leaders. Absenteeism dropped. Students became more involved in their studies. But the real affirmation was in the LEAP test scores, Louisiana’s version of Florida’s FCAT. Every one of the 20 eighth-graders in the pilot passed in the spring of 2006. Among the Prescott students not in the pilot, 77 percent passed.

Bera decided to teach the program to all of Prescott’s eighth-graders during the 2006-07 school year.

Last week, the LEAP scores came in. In English and langauge arts, the students performed just slightly better, with 78 percent performing at a level of “approaching basic” understanding or higher. That’s an increase of one percentage point. But math scores increased from 52 percent competency last year to 59 percent this year.

Bera said last week she was “very happy” with the scores, though they remain well below district and state averages. Next year, in addition to teaching the program to all eighth-graders, she plans to make it available to all grade levels as an elective.

Several Prescott students picked by the school for interviews said they like the study skills program. They said when they find themselves struggling with a subject, now they know ways to identify and attack the problem.

Tanika McDaniel, 14, said she was skeptical at first, but it became fun. “You want to see how far you can get, ” she said. “And the next day, you want to get even further.”

Jonisha Williams, 15, said the program has given her “a whole new reading strategy.” And it gave her a system to “find out what’s wrong with me when I don’t understand something. I know how to break down paragraphs and find the main idea.”

It has helped her with her passion, writing poems. Now she knows and uses bigger words.

“It helps you out in other classes, ” said Reginald LeBrane, 13. Before he took the class, he said, he got A’s, B’s and C’s. “Now, ” he said, “it’s all A’s.”

None of the students said they know who L. Ron Hubbard was.

* * *

The folks at Prescott Middle School aren’t the only ones buying in. Diola Bagayoko, a professor at nearby Southern University and CEO of the Timbuktu Institute, a nonprofit think tank on teaching practices, has become a cheerleader for Hubbard’s program.

Study tech puts knowledge into a hierarchical order, one idea building upon another, he said. Students pass tests before they move on to the next ideas, so “progress is assured, not assumed.”

It’s the best program he has seen, he said. “I would like to see this in many more schools.”

The obstacle is money. The program requires lots of one-on-one instruction. Next year, Bagayoko has arranged for student teachers from Southern to be the teacher aides at Prescott, replacing the teen volunteers. But that model is too costly to be expanded beyond Prescott, district officials say.

Slaughter also provided the Times a letter of enthusiastic endorsement from Venetta Whitaker, a University of Missouri professor and former assistant superintendent for the Los Angeles United School District.

“This application allows students to become more accountable, self-directed and self-advocating, ” Whitaker wrote, “while teaching them strategies and skills to help them think, learn and develop more of their potential over an entire lifetime.”

The Times asked two independent academics to review the study tech text used at Prescott. Both were underwhelmed.

“It’s hard to believe that someone is putting stock in this, ” said Linda Behar-Horenstein, a professor and distinguished teaching scholar in the department of educational administration at the University of Florida. “I’m a little stunned. It ignores everything we know about brain-based learning.”

She criticized the concepts as overly simplistic and the activities “moronic.”

“I can’t imagine kids sitting still doing this, ” she said.

Also alarming, she said, is that there is no research to back up whether the concepts work, whether the program is cost-effective and how students fare over time.

The lack of peer-reviewed research was also of concern to Michele Gill, assistant professor of educational psychology at the University of Central Florida.

If used as an after-school program, Gill said it would be “fairly harmless and could be somewhat helpful.” But, she said, “I would not want to be taught this way.”

The text is prone to overstatement, she said, like the idea that if you are bored it is always because of a misunderstood word. That may be a good first place to start, but sometimes kids know the words, “but they are hungry or their parents are getting a divorce.”

So how to explain the success at Prescott?

Both said a likely key is the low teacher-student ratio. It also could be attributed to the quality of the instructor.

“There are other things at play, ” Behar-Horenstein said. “It may not be the curriculum at all.”

While critical of the program, neither of these experts saw any hidden Scientology agenda or proselytizing in the text.

According to one of the program’s harshest critics, Dave Touretsky, a research professor at Carnegie Mellon University, that’s only because the academic experts don’t know the intricacies of Scientology.

Study tech is “covert religious instruction” and therefore unconstitutional to teach in public schools, said Touretsky, who has studied Scientology and written extensively about Hubbard’s study skills curriculum.

The vocabulary used in Hubbard’s texts echoes the language of Scientology, he said. For example, using “misunderstood” as a noun – as in, “Find your misunderstood” – is part of the argot of Scientology. He also calls the physiological effects attributed to various barriers to learning “nonsense” and “like believing in Bigfoot.”

Scientologists will use the program at Prescott to sell the program to other struggling communities, Touretsky said, and to promote the image of Scientology.

The idea, he said, is probably not to convert people directly, but rather to establish Scientologists as “do-gooders” and then to “slip in more Scientology down the road.”

That’s essentially how it worked for Tom Cruise. The actor has said Hubbard’s study tech helped him improve his reading and writing – and piqued his interest in Scientology.

Slaughter said it’s absurd to characterize study tech as a recruitment tool for Scientology. Sure, she would love for people to check out Scientology, she said, but the study tech program is purely secular. The only fair criticism is that she has been slow to get it peer reviewed.

“I don’t have to justify this, ” she said. “What I care about is that it is working and making a difference for children. I don’t need to care about anything else.”

Robert Farley can be reached at farley@sptimes.com or 727 893-8603.

Fast Facts:

CEO gives Applied Scholastics a boost

L. Ron Hubbard’s study skills program is advanced worldwide by Applied Scholastics, a nonprofit organization that Scientologists created in 1972. It has racked up impressive growth since former Clearwater businesswoman Bennetta Slaughter became chief executive six years ago.

- Hubbard’s study tech now is licensed for use in 738 private schools, community centers and after-school or tutoring programs, more than twice the participation levels from when Slaughter took over (many other programs use its ideas). Florida has 24 such programs, 23 of them in Clearwater, the church’s worldwide spiritual headquarters. The other is in Miami.

- Applied Scholastics has significantly increased its training of private and public school educators. It reports training 45, 000 since 2001 at its headquarters outside St. Louis, compared with 50, 000 trained in the three previous decades.

- Applied Scholastics has licensed 112 private schools to use study tech. Another 3, 500 schools use study tech in some way, Slaughter said.

- Globally, Applied Scholastics has made its biggest strides in Africa, where it claims to have taught thousands of educators who are exposing study tech to hundreds of thousands in Nigeria, South Africa and other nations. Slaughter said 2.6-million worldwide were taught study tech last year.

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Riverfront Times ~ L Is for L. Ron

October 26, 2005 under Applied Scholastics, St. Louis Schools

By Kristen Hinman

In July 2003, a nonprofit called Applied Scholastics International opened a spanking-new headquarters on 55 acres in Spanish Lake. Among those who attended the festivities were U.S. Congressman William “Lacy” Clay and actors Tom Cruise and Anne Archer. Newspapers from coast to coast published stories heralding the group’s move from LA to the great Midwest.

After the initial fanfare, Applied Scholastics quietly went about its business: pitching tutoring services to local groups with after-school programs and looking to ally with prominent urban-education researchers, Washington University’s Garrett Duncan among them.

Fast-forward two years to the fall of 2005. Applied Scholastics makes headlines once again, but this time the occasion is no celebration: Two local school districts, St. Louis and Hazelwood, say the group isn’t welcome in their classrooms.

As reported in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis Public Schools superintendent Creg Williams last month told area principals to quit sending teachers to professional-development workshops at Applied Scholastics. And in early October, Hazelwood School District superintendent Chris Wright penned a letter to the nonprofit’s CEO, Bennetta Slaughter, admonishing the organization to stop claiming a “partnership” with Hazelwood.

What’s so repugnant about Applied Scholastics?

“We know that some of their learning strategies are specifically referred to in the Scientology doctrine,” Wright sums up.

This is by no means the first time Scientologists have been accused of attempting to infiltrate public-school classrooms. In 1997 officials in California fended off a bid to allow Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s teaching materials into classrooms. Just last week came reports that a school district in San Antonio, Texas, was under fire for purchasing textbooks written by Hubbard.

The fuss isn’t so much a church-state issue as it is skepticism regarding Scientology itself. Followers of Hubbard, a science-fiction writer who founded the church in 1954, see themselves as immortal spirits hindered by numerous mental blocks, or “engrams.” “Clearing” the blocks can lead to spiritual awakening and a happy life, free of addiction. Scientologists eschew psychiatry and traditional counseling in favor of “auditing” sessions in which one church member questions another about painful memories and helps to “clear” him.

Despite the limelight afforded by adherents like Cruise, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley, some have called Scientology a cult. In a 1984 opinion, a judge in Los Angeles wrote that “[Scientology] is nothing in reality but a vast enterprise to extract the maximum amount of money from its adepts by pseudo-scientific theories.” More recently television viewers saw an emotional Cruise decry psychiatry on the Today show and tell Larry King that Hubbard’s study methods cured his dyslexia.

Enter Applied Scholastics, which uses texts authored by Hubbard. Though the books don’t overtly make the link between the writer and the religion, St. Louis Board of Education member Bill Purdy points out that titles like Learning How to Learn and How to Use a Dictionary prominently feature Hubbard’s name on their covers. And each contains a directory of Scientology churches in the U.S. Walk into one of the churches, and a congregant will tell you the books are used in classes there. “Clearly the books are based on L. Ron Hubbard’s belief system,” says Purdy.

Applied Scholastics’ methodology (which Hubbard calls “Study Technology”) holds that students have trouble in school because they never learn how to learn. Hubbard’s books identify three main barriers: “lack of mass” (a paucity of visual aids and diagrams); “skipped gradient” (failing to allow students to master simple steps in a complex lesson); and the “misunderstood word” (a weak vocabulary).

Chris Wright says Applied Scholastics personnel “aggressively” began trying to partner with her district almost as soon as the group took up residence in Spanish Lake. “They wanted to provide us with materials and training for our teachers,” says the Hazelwood superintendent. “They wanted to come into our schools and do tutoring, a number of activities.”

In response, Wright asked her staff to look into the program. She says they searched in vain for independent academic research that supports the method. Instead they found critics like David Touretzky, a computer-science professor at Carnegie Mellon University who operates a Web site called www.studytech.org.

“Applied Scholastics is Scientology. They’re no different,” asserts Touretzky, who has spent a decade probing Scientology and Applied Scholastics and posting his findings on studytech.org along with links to pertinent news stories. He says “learning how to learn” and overcoming the three barriers to learning comprise fundamental Scientology principles.

“Applied Scholastics teaches you nine different methods of ‘word clearing,’ or looking up words in dictionaries, for example. These same methods are laid out in Scientology scripture,” Touretzky points out.

Applied Scholastics spokeswoman Mary Adams dismisses Touretzky as “a little bit loony” and notes that his personal page on Carnegie Mellon’s Web site contains instructions for homemade bombs. (The site is filled with information concerning First Amendment issues, another of Touretzky’s passions.) “L. Ron Hubbard developed the educational materials and gifted them to Applied Scholastics in 1972. They have nothing whatsoever to do with religion,” Adams says. “He happens to be the founder of the Church of Scientology.”

“That’s exactly where the danger is,” counters Judith Cochran, an education professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and director of the E. Desmond Lee Regional Institute of Tutorial Education. “How does a guy that starts a religion know what’s needed academically?”

Adds Cochran’s UMSL colleague Kathleen Sullivan Brown: “I am aware of research on effective strategies for learning, and this is not one of them.”

Adams blames Purdy and public-schools gadfly Peter Downs for thrusting her organization under the media’s microscope. Last month, after some St. Louis teachers complained to local union officials about being sent to workshops at Applied Scholastics, Purdy and Downs toured the facility, after which the latter wrote a story that was published in the St. Louis Argus.

In his article, Downs reported that Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education had recently approved Applied Scholastics as a Supplemental Educational Service. This cleared the way for the group to tutor low-income children in underperforming schools statewide, as mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind law. The service is funded with federal money.

“The whole point of this tutoring is to get kids back on grade level,” Downs argues. “But there’s nothing in the Applied Scholastics curriculum designed to do that. It teaches kids what L. Ron Hubbard has to say about the barriers to learning and tells them to go back on their own and pick up what they missed. I think that’s a crock.”

Responds Adams: “The gentleman has an agenda, and he’s using our big name to forward it.”

In his Argus article, Downs wrote that Applied Scholastics was “gearing up for a partnership with Hazelwood Public Schools….”

That was news to Chris Wright, who fired off a letter to the nonprofit noting that the school district “has on many occasions declined offers from your organization” and demanding that the group “refrain from any future reference to a ‘partnership’ with Hazelwood School District.”

Downs, who publishes an e-mail newsletter called “St. Louis Schools Watch” and is a regular contributor to the Argus, wrote a follow-up article about Wright’s letter, slated for publication October 13.

At the last minute, Argus publisher Eddie Hasan pulled the story and replaced it with a press release supplied by Applied Scholastics.

“I might have given them free marketing,” Hasan concedes. “But I’m never one to sit on the sidelines and watch people attack somebody based on their religion.” The decision was partly personal, he says, stemming from the “mocking” he suffered 30 years ago when he converted to Islam. Hasan had another beef with Downs’ story. “You read Peter’s articles, and they make it seem like Scientology is the big bad wolf,” says the publisher. “If it is, well, why? I want some facts on the Applied Scholastics program, and is it effective?”

Downs published his story in his newsletter with an “editor’s note” rebuking Hasan.

UMSL’s Judith Cochran reviewed the Supplemental Educational Service application Applied Scholastics submitted to the state of Missouri. “It’s entirely misleading,” Cochran says of the document, noting that the program applied under the name “Spanish Lake Academy Tutoring Center/Applied Scholastics.” Cochran says the application fails to include sources for the data it presents as evidence of the program’s effectiveness. “I can’t tell where any of their tests were administered, how long the children were tutored or who did the testing. They’ve got to document that,” she says.

Missouri only requires that tutoring programs describe their “research and effectiveness”; the state does not stipulate that independent observers must weigh in on a program’s efficacy — a step Cochran says is essential.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education stands by its decision. Dee Beck, the department’s coordinator of federal programs, says the agency did not review Applied Scholastics’ texts before approving the application but has “asked for a set of materials from this particular provider so we can see for ourselves that they are not putting forth any ideology.”

According to www.tutorsforkids.org, a Web site funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Arizona and Missouri are the only states that have approved Applied Scholastics to date. Adams says her organization has applications pending in other states.

Meanwhile, Washington University education professor Garrett Duncan says he plans to continue ignoring Applied Scholastics’ overtures. Says Duncan: “Their literature is rather dogmatic, and their pursuit of me over the last year has shown that same type of zeal. I just don’t feel right about calling them back.”

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Saint Louis Post Dispatch ~ Hazelwood schools reject firm with ties to Scientology founder

October 18, 2005 under Applied Scholastics, St. Louis Schools

by Carolyn Bower

The Hazelwood School District has rebuffed a private tutoring provider with ties to the founder of Scientology, but parents will have the final say in whether they use the company.

The tutoring company, Applied Scholastics International, has made numerous overtures to the school district, Hazelwood superintendent Chris Wright said.

“We are not interested in your services, not willing to participate in your training programs, do not want your materials, and will not enter into any association with Applied Scholastics,” Wright wrote earlier this month. Her comments were in a letter to Bennetta Slaughter, chief executive officer of Applied Scholastics.

Applied Scholastics is one of 68 tutors on a state list of approved supplemental educational service providers in Missouri. Mary Adams, senior vice president for external affairs for Applied Scholastics, said the company was not faith-based but was based on methods developed by the late L. Ron Hubbard, the developer of the religious philosophy of Scientology.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Law, any high-poverty school that fails to meet standards three years in a row must offer free tutoring. More than 100 schools have been on Missouri’s list of those needing improvement, but not all of those have to offer tutoring.

Most of the approved tutoring providers are private companies. Nationwide, hundreds of new businesses have jumped into the lucrative market of tutoring low-performing students. The influx has concerned some parents and teachers who worry about a lack of state and federal guidelines for evaluating the providers at a time when public schools face strict performance requirements.

Applied Scholastics opened in north St. Louis County in July 2003. On the Missouri education department Web site, Applied Scholastics goes by the name Spanish Lake Academy Tutoring Center/Applied Scholastics International and lists an intention to serve all schools in Missouri.

The Applied Scholastics center also offers teacher training. Two St. Louis public schools – Fanning and Long middle schools – sent teachers to the center this fall to learn about teaching. Some teachers and parents raised concerns about that with union Local 420, said Byron Clemens, the union’s first vice president.

St. Louis Superintendent Creg Williams later said the district would not use the center for training. No one from the St. Louis schools uses Applied Scholastics for tutoring, but parents have the option to choose anyone on the state’s list, said Johnny Little, a district spokesman.

Wright said Hazelwood offered its own tutors and did not use Applied Scholastics or any outside providers. Although many Hazelwood students have tutors for various reasons, only 11 of 334 eligible students get it under the supplemental provider program. Those 11 use district tutors.

Dee Beck, director of federal programs for Missouri’s education department, confirmed that picking a tutor is up to a parent, working with a district from the state list of approved providers.

In a letter sent Oct. 4 to Missouri’s education commissioner, D. Kent King, Wright said Applied Scholastics had “approached the district many, many times to try to get us to send teachers to their training, to get us to use their ‘instructional materials’ or to otherwise connect themselves to our children and families.

“We investigated them thoroughly at the time and found that they were closely connected to the Church of Scientology,” Wright wrote. “We made the decision that this connection was not in the interests of our children ….”

Wright asked that the state tighten its screening of tutoring companies. “I hope that you will evaluate those programs that have already been approved and establish some criteria for their approval,” she wrote.

Adams said she preferred not to comment on Wright’s letters, to avoid continuing what she considers “a miscommunication,” and would like to be neighborly to the Hazelwood district.

Beck said the state reviewed providers once a year, in spring. When a tutoring company applies to be on the list, three people look at the application. The application requires information about fees, when and where tutoring will take place and general qualifications of tutors. She said the state planned to revise applications to ask for more information. State officials also want to begin visiting tutoring sites.

“We are all learning how to do this better,” Beck said.

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Saint Louis Schools Watch ~ Union Leader Praises Williams

October 13, 2005 under Applied Scholastics, St. Louis Schools

by Peter Downs

A leader of the union representing teachers and other staff in the St. Louis Public Schools Tuesday evening thanked Superintendent Creg Williams for his actions in the Applied Scholastics controversy.

As previously reported in the Argus, two middle school principals in St. Louis Public Schools had sent their teachers to the Applied Scholastics campus in Spanish Lake to learn the teaching ideas of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology.

Last month, after complaints from some of the teachers involved, Williams ordered a stop to those principal-mandated training visits.

Byron Clemons, the first vice president of the St. Louis Federation of Teachers and School-Related Personnel, said that the principals at Fanning and Long Middle Schools then launched a hunt to find out who had complained about Applied Scholastics. He said they interrogated teachers without a union representative present, and began to harass those they thought had complained to their union and to school board members.

Clemons said he and union president Mary Armstrong first found out about hunt during a visit to Applied Scholastics. The chief executive officer of the company, Bennetta Slaughter, mentioned they were trying to find out who complained about the company’s training, and displayed some emails about teacher interrogations.

Union leaders later met with Williams about the complaints of harassment and interrogation of teachers. Williams then told the principals to stop.

“Thank you for stopping the witch hunt,” Clemons said to Williams at the school board meeting Tuesday.

School board member Bill Purdy said he supported Williams’ action. “We have policies that prohibit retaliation against any employees who exercises their right to complain to their union,” he said.

Clemons also raised concern that Applied Scholastics could get money from the school district for “tutoring” students. Applied Scholastics is on a list of companies approved by the State to provide tutoring services under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The school board would vote later in the evening on a resolution approving the tutoring option for children in low performing schools.

Clemons urged the St. Louis school board to exclude Applied Scholastics from the tutoring program as, he said, Hazelwood was doing. Ken Brostron, the school district’s attorney, had advised the school board that federal law required that the district let parents choose a tutor from the entire list of companies approved by the State.

The school board approved the tutoring option, with Applied Scholastics included, by a vote of 5-1-1.

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Saint Louis Schools Watch ~ Hazelwood Public Schools Rejects Applied Scholastics

October 13, 2005 under Applied Scholastics, St. Louis Schools

[Editor's note: The following article was set to run in the St. Louis Argus on October 13, 2005. While at the printer, the publisher pulled the article and replaced it with a press release from Applied Scholastics. A senior vice president of Applied Scholastics, Mary Adams, invited the publisher, Eddie Hasan, to visit their headquarters with his daughter to meet Isaac Hayes.]

by Peter Downs

October 11, 2005 — Chris Wright, the superintendent of Hazelwood Public Schools, has written a sharply-worded letter to the chief executive office of Applied Scholastics rejecting her claim that the company is working with Hazelwood Public Schools to tutor students from low performing schools.

In the letter, dated October 4, 2005, Wright characterizes the claim by Bennetta Slaughter of Applied Scholastics as “patently false.”

Wright continued: “We have repeatedly indicated that we are not interested in your services, not willing to participate in your training programs, do not want your materials, and will not enter into any association with Applied Scholastics.”

Adding that Hazelwood Public Schools intends to provide any tutoring required by federal law itself, Wright concluded her letter to Slaughter stating: “We do not need or want an association with Applied Scholastics.”

In a separate letter to Kent King, commissioner of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Wright explained her rejection of Applied Scholastics. She said that the company, which has its world headquarters in the Hazelwood school district, has approached the district many times during the last three years about working together. “We investigated them thoroughly . . . and found that they were closely connected to the Church of Scientology. We made the decision that this connection was not in the interests of our children and refused all efforts to “partner” with the District.”

Ellen Mahler-Forney, a spokesperson for the Church of Scientology in University City, said Wright’s attitude reflects a misunderstanding of the church. “We are a new religion,” she said, and “any new religion has a lot of misunderstanding to overcome.”

While taken aback by the tone of Wright’s letter, the officers of Applied Scholastics said it does not affect their plans to tutor students from Hazelwood Public Schools. “It is not [Wright's] decision,” said Mary Adams, senior vice president for external affairs at Applied Scholastics. “The senior vice president for external affairs at Applied Scholastics. “The choice is the parents. If they chose us to tutor their children, the school district has to pay for, because we are an approved provider in Missouri.”

Wright, however, is urging King to reevaluate the approval of Applied Scholastics. “As the Department reviews renewal applications from potential providers for Supplemental Education Services this year,” she wrote, “I hope that you will evaluate those programs which have already been approved and establish some criteria for their approval.”

Wright’s was not the only letter King received last week urging him to reevaluate Applied Scholastics. David Touretzky, research professor in the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University, also sent a letter detailing his claims that: “What Applied Scholastics calls secular “study technology” is actually covert instruction in the Scientology religion.”

Adams and other representatives of Applied Scholastics and its parent company, Association for Better Living and Education International, denied that Applied Scholastics covertly instructs students in the Scientology religion. They said the Church of Scientology does use “study technology,” but only as a way to help church members study their religious texts, not as part of the religion itself.

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Hazelwood (Missouri) School Superintendent Rejects Applied Scholastics

October 4, 2005 under Applied Scholastics, St. Louis Schools

Dr. Chris Wright, Superintendent of the Hazelwood School District in Missouri, was not pleased when Bennetta Slaughter (CEO of Applied Scholastics) falsely announced that her group would be partnering with the Hazelwood Public Schools to provide supplementary tutoring to Hazelwood Students. Dr. Wright’s letter to Slaughter says:

“We have repeatedly indicated that we are not interested in your services, not willing to participate in your training programs, do not want your materials, and will not enter into any association with Applied Scholastics.”

PDF of the letter to Bennetta Slaughter [see plain text version here]

Dr. Wright was also not happy with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which granted Applied Scholastics’ application for approved provider status without any meaningful review of the organization or its materials. Her letter to Commissioner Dr. Kent King warns that Applied Scholastics is trying to hide its Scientology connection, and suggests that the department should reexamine its approval.

PDF of the letter to Dr. Kent King [see plain text version here]

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St. Louis Post Dispatch ~ St. Louis schools end training at center with Scientology ties

September 22, 2005 under Applied Scholastics, St. Louis Schools

by Trisha Howard

St. Louis Public Schools will no longer participate in teacher training at a center affiliated with the Church of Scientology, the district’s superintendent said Wednesday.

The district’s teachers union had complained that several schools had sent teachers to training at the center in Spanish Lake, called Applied Scholastics International.

Superintendent Creg Williams said that he wasn’t familiar enough with the center’s program to judge its worth, but he didn’t want its training to distract from professional development that the district already provides its teachers.

“I want to make sure we’re focusing on the initiatives we already have in place, and that’s not one of our initiatives,” Williams said. “The district has had its hands in so many programs and activities. You can’t focus that way.”

Applied Scholastics International opened its teacher training center here in July 2003, relying on methods developed by the late L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer and the founder of Scientology.

The principals of Fanning and Long middle schools sent some of their teachers to the center this fall to learn about teaching strategies, district officials said.

Some of those teachers took their concerns to the union, Local 420, which in turn raised the issue with the School Board. Byron Clemens, the union’s first vice president, said several teachers were uncomfortable attending workshops at the center.

An Applied Scholastics spokeswoman could not be reached Wednesday for comment The Scientology Web site describes Applied Scholastics as “a separate and autonomous charitable program that is independent of the churches of Scientology.”

School Board member Bill Purdy called for an investigation of the program last week, citing the union’s concerns. He also visited the center.

The center’s directors told Purdy that the training programs “were not connected to the Church of Scientology,” he said. “But all of the materials they sent home with me, on every cover, it says, ‘Based on the works of L. Ron Hubbard.’ It’s right on the cover. You draw your own conclusions.”

thoward@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8172

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Saint Louis Schools Watch ~ Scientology and the Schools

September 22, 2005 under Applied Scholastics, St. Louis Schools

September 22, 2005 — A controversy over sending St. Louis Public School teachers to a training program connected to the Church of Scientology underscores a major flaw in the federal No Child Left Behind Act: rigorous performance standards for public schools, but none for private companies that are supposed to repair the failures.

The controversy began to simmer before Labor Day when approximately two dozen teachers from Fanning and Long middle schools were sent for training to the Spanish Lake headquarters of Applied Scholastics International.

Some of the teachers complained to their union — the St. Louis Teachers and School-Related Personnel Union, American Federation of Teachers Local 420 — that the program is run by the Church of Scientology. Local 420 President Mary Armstrong and First Vice President Byron Clemons took the complaints about the workshops, Clemons called them “Church of Scientology workshops,” to school board member Bill Purdy. On September 13, Purdy asked Superintendent Creg Williams to look into the complaints and report back to the school board at its regular meeting on September 20.

In an interview with St. Louis Schools Watch, Applied Scholastics Chief Executive Officer Bennetta Slaughter denied that her organization has any connection to Scientology, a 35-year-old religion that holds that humans are made of clusters of extraterrestrial spirits called “thetans”, who were banished to Earth million years ago by an cruel galactic ruler named Xenu. Through an extensive series of costly “auditing” sessions by church “conductors,” individuals can supposedly “clear” the bad thetans away from the good thetans and achieve a higher level of understanding and a better life.

Slaughter said the confusion about Applied Scholastics comes from the fact that it is based on the educational writings and “study technology” of the man who founded Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, but, she said, the church is not involved in any way. Applied Scholastics licenses the right to use Hubbard’s educational writings from his estate, she said, not from the church. She also that she has no connection with Scientology.

Hubbard is everywhere in evidence at Applied Scholastic. His picture adorns walls, every book carries his name, and the curriculum talks about how Hubbard discovered “the barriers to learning” and the actual psychological states students enter when they come up against one of those barriers.

The connections to Scientology are stronger than just a common reverence of Hubbard, however. The promotional material and testimonials for Applied Scholastics feature such well known Scientologists as Tom Cruise, Isaac Hayes, and John Travolta. The “What is Scientology” web site of the Church of Scientology discusses Applied Scholastics and Hubbard’s “study technology” under the heading “Scientology Helping Students to Study.”

The web site of the Church of Scientology International says that Scientologists have made “programmes using Mr. Hubbard’s educational discoveries . . . available to the public through Applied Scholastics International.” The web site devotes several pages to Applied Scholastics.

The church’s magazine, “Freedom,” has featured Bennetta Slaughter and Applied Scholastics, and the web version links to the Applied Scholastics web site.

On her own web page, Slaughter attributes her success to Scientology: “Through Scientology counseling and courses I was able to gradiently dissolve away all those things that were stopping me,” she wrote. Slaughter formerly headed a Scientology publishing company called AMC Publishing, first in Dallas, Texas and later in Clearwater, Florida. In the course of an investigation into the death of a woman named Lisa McPherson in December 1995, Slaughter testified that she had been a Scientologist for over 20 years. In November 1998, Florida charged the Church of Scientology with murdering McPherson by keeping her locked up in a room and denying her medical attention until she died of dehydration. The medical examiner reported that it appeared she had not had water for five days.

Slaughter’s lack of forthrightness about the Scientology connections to Applied Scholastics raises a red flag about the group’s “study technology.” As Clemons said, “if there is a wall, it is a very thin wall, so thin you can hear the Scientologists talking on the other side.”

A second red flag is the “study technology” itself.

Applied Scholastics claims to use only the “educational discoveries” of L. Ron Hubbard, who died in 1986, and no one else, because Hubbard discovered the barriers to learning and the ten rules for effective teaching.

According to Applied Scholastics, the first barrier to study is “lack of mass,” or “not having the real thing there that you are studying about.” Slaughter admitted that that is neither new nor profound, but said that what Hubbard did, “through hundreds of case studies,” was determine “the actual mental states and physical reactions” of students who bump up against this barrier. “They feel squashed, bent, sort of spinny, sort of lifeless, bored, or angry,” she said, reading from one of Applied Scholastics’ texts. “They can wind up with their stomach feeling funny, with headaches, feeling dizzy, and very often their eyes will hurt.”

The solution, according to Hubbard and Applied Scholastics, is to put the real thing that students are studying about right in front of them in the classroom. If teachers can’t do that — the Moon, for example, might not fit — “pictures help. Movies would help too.”

This stuff is so elementary, and so trite, that Applied Scholastic’s hype comes off as just plain silliness. Applied Scholastics teaches its methods with large comic books and cartoon posters mounted on the walls. The principals of Fanning and Long middle schools spent their professional development budgets on sending teachers to Applied Scholastics to study those comic books.

No Child Left Behind

Applied Scholastics is an approved provider in Missouri for supplemental education services under Title I of No Child Left Behind. That law requires that public schools that are labeled as “need improvement” have to set aside 20% of their Title I money for tutoring or transportation to tutoring from approved providers of supplemental education services.

Kaye Bartles, who is in charge of supplemental education services at Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), said Applied Scholastics is a new provider, “so we don’t know much about it.” She said organizations apply for approval by submitting an application, which gets read and graded by three people. There are no site visits to evaluate the organization, no review of the organization’s texts, because DESE does not have the staff to do those things.

Randy Rook, director of federal grant management at DESE, said that when President George W. Bush signed No Child Left Behind four years ago, “a lot of people saw this as a great way to get into real money.” Most of those people have dropped by the side, he said, but, he admitted, as of yet there has been no evaluation of those private tutoring programs. “There will be,” he added. He said he does not know anything about Applied Scholastics.

The third red flag to add to the dissembling and the trite programming at Applied Scholastics is the history of the Church of Scientology, which was involved in many frauds and scams.

Scientology

In May, 1991, Time magazine detailed a list of scams and financial frauds perpetrated by Scientology in an article that labeled Scientology “The Thriving Cult of Power and Greed.” The Church of Scientology sued Time for libel, and lost.

Scientology has roots back in the publication in 1950 of Hubbard’s book “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.” Hubbard claimed that unhappiness sprang from mental aberrations (or “engrams”) caused by early traumas, and that through “auditing” sessions with an “e-meter,” he could remove engrams, cure blindness, and improve a person’s intelligence and appearance.

Hubbard set up centers to sell his dianetics auditing services. In 1971, however, a federal court ruled that his claims that auditing had medical benefits were phony and his e-meter auditing could not be called scientific. Hubbard then declared that auditing was a religious rite, ordered Scientology officials to wear clerical garb, and began referring to payment for dianetics as “donations.”

The 1970s and ’80s marked the height of government investigations into Scientology. Eleven top Scientologists, including Hubbard’s wife, were sent to prison in the early 1980s for infiltrating, burglarizing and wiretapping more than 100 private and government agencies in attempts to block their investigations.

Hubbard himself went into hiding in 1981 as the IRS moved to indict him for tax fraud. He died, still in hiding, in 1986. Among the evidence against him were memos in which Hubbard urged his subordinates to: “Make money. Make more money. Make others produce so as to make money . . . However you get them in or why, just do it.”

Among scams identified by Time magazine were: Sterling Management Systems, formed in 1983, which mailed a free newsletter to more than 300,000 health-care professionals, mostly dentists, promising to increase their incomes dramatically, but which actually marketed Scientology auditing sessions.

HealthMed, a chain of clinics run by Scientologists, which promoted a grueling and excessive system of saunas, exercise and vitamins designed by Hubbard to purify the body. Experts denounced the regime as quackery and potentially harmful.

Narconon, a Scientology-run chain of 33 alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers based on Hubbard’s “purification” treatments.

A Florida rare coin dealership run by Scientologists, which was a front for money laundering.

And Applied Scholastics.

The church has claimed to have purged criminal elements from its organization in the mid 1980s. In 1993, during the administration of President Bill Clinton, the IRS recognized Scientology as a religion.

How did Applied Scholastics get into St. Louis Public Schools?

Slaughter credited Rev. Sammie Jones and school board member Ron Jackson with spreading positive words about her organization. Applied Scholastics trains tutors for a tutoring program at Jones’ church, and Slaughter has Jones’ photo on her office wall. She said Jones also has introduced the program to other ministers, including Rev. C. Jessell Strong.

Slaughter’s name dropping did not stop with Jones and Jackson. She said Applied Scholastics had a testimonial letter from Sumner Principal George Edwards, and she threw out such names as Harold Brown (aide to State Sen. Pat Dougherty), Congressman Lacy Clay, and former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education Rod Paige as people who had been in contact with Applied Scholastics. Not all of them may have known of Scientology’s connections to Applied Scholastics.

So extensive is her rolodex that on the Tuesday morning before the St. Louis school board was supposed to her a report on her group, Slaughter said that Paige’s former chief of staff, John Danielson, had spoken the night before to Lynn Spampinato in favor of Applied Scholastics. Spampinato is the chief academic officer of St. Louis Public Schools. At the school board meeting that night, Spampinato reported that she had talked to Danielson. While acknowledging an arms length tie between Scientology and Applied Scholastics, she said: “The academic program has some credibility.”

Seven years ago, a Boston Herald expose on the Church of Scientology concluded that the World Literacy Crusade, one of the 580 subsidiary organizations of Applied Scholastics, “is part of a nationwide effort by the church to entice blacks into Scientology and then convince them to take other, expensive programs, according to critics and former members of the church.” As part of that effort, Applied Scholastics gained the endorsement of prominent local African Americans, got their methods introduced into a handful of Boston schools, and established a charter school, the Delphi Academy, that even used Scientology e-meters on students.

St. Louis Public Schools appeared headed in a different direction, however. At the school board meeting on September 20, Superintendent Williams concluded the discussion on Applied Scholastics with the declaration “lesson learned.” He said he would instruct principals to stop sending teachers to the organization for training.

Meanwhile, Applied Scholastics is gearing up for a partnership with Hazelwood Public Schools as an approved provider of tutoring services to children, who attend underperforming schools in that north county school district.

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