By Frank Schultz
Here’s the connection between a tiny new school in Janesville and Scientology:
L. Ron Hubbard founded Scientology, a religion popular among some Hollywood types such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Hubbard wrote science fiction books, but he also wrote about education. His educational theories are the basis for something called Applied Scholastics.
Applied Scholastics is the method used by Sequoia Academy, a fledgling school that will open its doors Sept. 4 in the home of Christine Koth on the city’s northeast side.
Koth, who founded Sequoia Academy, is not a Scientologist, and neither are her teachers, she said.
Koth said she has read some of Hubbard’s writings, but she doesn’t know a lot about Scientology.
“We use his educational philosophy, not his religious philosophy,” Koth said Monday in a presentation to the Janesville Noon Rotary.
Applied Scholastics has nothing in it about Scientology, Koth said, and people who train in the A.S. must sign documents stating that they will not teach religion in their schools, Koth said.
Indeed, A.S. methods are used in some public schools around the country.
Koth and her head teacher, Caitlin Johnston, are certified in A.S. They took a series of courses at Applied Scholastics International in St. Louis, about three months’ worth over the course of a year. They also apprenticed at an A.S. school, Clearwater Academy in Clearwater, Fla., they said.
Koth has a master’s degree in physical therapy but has never been a schoolteacher. Johnston said she studied to be a teacher for three years at Edgewood College.
So far, the pair have four preschool children signed up. They have room for four more children, through third grade.
School is in the attractively finished basement in Koth’s home, a new house she shares with her husband and two small children.
Koth said she hopes to move out of the basement to a more permanent facility and expand the school. She is excited about the possibility of improving the community through helping children learn, she said.
Applied Scholastics can help children who have trouble learning, even those with ADHD and dyslexia, Koth believes.
Applied Scholastics teachers are trained to identify barriers to learning and then apply methods to overcome those barriers, Koth explained.
A student who is staring out the window might have a problem with a “misunderstood word,” one of the three barriers. The teacher diagnoses the problem and backtracks to teach that word to the student, Koth said.
Or, the student might not be grasping an idea because he is not getting enough concrete examples of what it is about. This is called “lack of mass.” In simple terms, it’s easier to teach what an apple is by using real apples than to try to describe one.
Or, the students may not be learning because the learning “gradient’ is too steep. In other words, the topic should be broken into more steps so that the topic is easier to grasp.
The method boasts “100 percent comprehension.”
Koth said no method is perfect, “but I do believe that if you really use these tools and you apply them in the way they’re meant to be applied, that gives you the best chance for success.”
Koth said Sequoia will be the first Applied Scholastics school in Wisconsin. She said her application to be a licensed home day-care center is being processed. She is aware of the state regulations for private schools and would comply with them if she begins teaching school-age children, she said.
And, while she understands people will have questions, she’d like to put this Scientology connection behind her because, she said, there really is no connection between what she does and the Church of Scientology.