by Catherine Edman
The Delphi Academy, a national network of schools using methods created by Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, is opening its doors in Lombard.
Though the school operated in the village for five years as the Chicagoland Academy, and already used Hubbard’s methods and books, joining with Delphi gives it greater resources, said Char Miller, the Lombard school’s director.
“There’s other groups, other teachers, directors,” she said. “It’s just having a bigger family.”
And while Hubbard’s name is on the books published by Applied Scholastics International, the school doesn’t teach Scientology, Miller said.
“I am a Scientologist, but none of my teachers are,” she said.
The Delphi school, the first in the Midwest, is holding its grand opening today. Nationally, there are eight other schools, primarily based in California and the East Coast.
There are just under 100 schools nationwide using the Applied Scholastics books and methods, though Delphi is the largest network of schools in the United States, said Mary Adams, president of Applied Scholastics.
When asked whether the St. Louis-based Applied Scholastics was related to the religious organization ” perhaps best known recently for the actor Tom Cruise’s endorsement ” the business faxed a copy of a letter indicating that its tax-exempt status is separate from that of the church and “religious mission.”
“We just use the (educational methods) licensed to us,” Adams said.
Those methods, known as Study Technology, focus on removing barriers that prevent children from learning, giving individualized attention and working with students until they understand all concepts fully, Miller said.
But a Carnegie Mellon University professor, and long-time critic of Applied Scholastics, says some of the education methods overlap with the religion, making it impossible to separate the two.
David Touretzky, a computer science researcher, pointed to the first study barrier, “absence of mass,” which means a child must have a picture of something ” or the object itself ” to understand what it is, for example. Scientology highlights “mental image pictures which have mass and energy” and change when people have a thought, look at the mental picture, or experience a feeling, according to the official church Web site.
“Study Technology is Scientology,” Touretzky said. “It’s a little piece of the whole religion, but it’s a piece.”
Miller emphasizes that the school does not teach Scientology. The school emphasizes achievement, she said.
All students must get all answers correct on every test or they fail to progress to the next level. If a student receives a score of 93, “the teacher has to take you through that 7 percent and fix it,” she said.
Because it’s private, the school is not required to be recognized by the state, though it can choose to do so, explained Darlene Ruscitti, DuPage County regional superintendent of schools. She said there’s no indication the school applied for recognition.
Miller said that, unlike in public schools, Delphi teachers don’t need to be certified by the state, though they must be certified in the teaching methods her school uses. That’s a three-month-long process.
In fact, Miller herself had no background in teaching or education when she decided to get involved with Chicagoland Academy, previously known as Chicagoland Achievement Academy when it operated in Arlington Heights and then Des Plaines.
Miller, a former computer programmer and office manager, wanted her own children to use the Hubbard-inspired teaching methods, particularly those that advance children to the next level as they’re ready.
“I would have home-schooled (my children) because that’s my philosophy, that they can move at their own pace,” she said.
Lombard parent Beth Brand enrolled her 4 ?-year-old son in the school last year because she didn’t think he was being pushed to learn enough in another program. Now, he’s already reading books to himself and asking about multiplication problems.
But she admits she felt reason to pause when she saw “L. Ron Hubbard” on book covers and on school literature. She said she specifically asked if Scientology was taught.
It caused me concern because it’s not my background,” said Brand, who described her family as Evangelical Christian.
Her concerns have since faded.
“I’ve never seen the influence. I’ve never seen anything,” she said. “No one’s ever mentioned it.”