Oct. 8, 1997
Educators Should Be Wary Of Scientology Claims
To the Editor:
Thank you for giving us your report on the Church of Scientology’s effort to induce the state of California to approve five books produced by the church’s publishing company, Bridge Publications Inc. (“Texts Highlight Scientology’s Role in Education,” Sept. 17, 1997.) Please let me offer some comments based on information I have gathered during my own inquiry into the same matter.
You report that all five of the Bridge Publications books are “based on the works of L. Ron Hubbard,” the founder of the Church of Scientology. This is an accurate restatement of a claim made by Bridge Publications, but the claim itself has not been substantiated. All five books show 1992 as their copyright date (though L. Ron Hubbard died in 1986), and all five books are anonymously written. None of the books shows any author or editor on its title page, and there is no indication of where the material in the book originated, or who assembled it. Moreover, the copyright page of each book displays one of the most bizarre disclaimers I have ever seen:
“This book is part of the works of L. Ron Hubbard. It is presented to the reader as part of the record of his personal research into life, and the application of same by others, and should be construed only as a written report of such research and not as a statement of claims made by the author.”
If I understand this, it means that these authorless books really do have an author, but the multitude of claims made in the books were devised not by the author but by some other, unidentified person or persons.
As you have reported, Bridge Publications is one of several interconnected organizations that promote L. Ron Hubbard and distribute materials which may be related to Mr. Hubbard in one way or another. The other organizations include the L. Ron Hubbard Library, the Association for Better Living and Education, or ABLE, Applied Scholastics, and the World Literacy Crusade. It is important to know that Applied Scholastics is an offspring of ABLE (which owns the rights to the name Applied Scholastics) and that the World Literacy Crusade is an “initiative” of Applied Scholastics. It was explicitly called an Applied Scholastics “initiative” by Rena Weinberg, ABLE’s president, in a piece that ran in Solutions, ABLE’s official magazine.
This helps explain why, as your article states, materials sold by Applied Scholastics are used in “literacy programs,” and why “The Rev. Alfreddie Johnson … runs the World Literacy Crusade, with a reported 35 chapters around the world using [Applied Scholastics] books to help children learn to read.” This Rev. Johnson and his so-called crusade are creatures of Applied Scholastics, so it is not surprising that the crusade uses and promotes Applied Scholastics books.
You report cogent remarks by Professor MaryEllen Vogt, who “becomes wary” when instructional materials are promoted by the use of testimonials. In plugging Applied Scholastics materials and “L. Ron Hubbard Study Technology,” the Church of Scientology and its affiliates rely heavily on testimonials–almost all of which are anonymous and cannot be checked. (In a recent promotional piece issued by the L. Ron Hubbard Library, typical testimonials are ascribed to “L.M., First Year Education Student, South Africa,” “J.K., California Institute of Technology,” “D.S., High School Sophomore,” and “L.K., Teacher, New York.”)
Reliance upon testimonials is a classic technique of quacks and con artists, of course. Such persons use testimonials and endorsements because they cannot support their claims with evidence–and this seems to be true in the case at hand. As far as I have been able to learn, there is no evidence to suggest that “L. Ron Hubbard Study Technology” or the Applied Scholastics books have any particular pedagogic merit.
I suggest that anyone who wants to know more about L. Ron Hubbard should read the obituary that ran in The New York Times on Jan. 29, 1986. For a much more extensive account, see Jon Atack’s A Piece of Blue Sky (Carol Publishing Group, 1990).
William J. Bennetta
The Textbook League
Hubbard Teaching Aids Offer Viable Solutions
To the Editor:
I am writing in response to your articles “Hubbard’s Education Theories Focus on Barriers to Learning” and “Texts Highlight Scientology’s Role in Education” (Sept. 17, 1997).
In the first article, you very briefly define L. Ron Hubbard’s “three barriers to learning.” I am familiar with these principles and the application of the study techniques mentioned, and I have found them to be logical, down-to-earth, and quite useful in helping students with literacy and comprehension problems.
I am a certified reading specialist, a member of the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English, and hold a graduate degree in curriculum and instruction (specifically in reading instruction). I have taught students at the elementary through the college level and have found the Hubbard materials quite valuable as curriculum supplements with a broad range of educational populations. Specifically, I have used them with elementary Chapter 1 students and with low-literacy adult readers. But I have also found the principles extremely useful in teaching academic-skills workshops for students at the college level. They were effective in providing study strategies for students performing both at high and low levels.
MaryEllen Vogt expresses concern in one of your articles about the “word clearing” strategy. While it is true that there are important strategies to learn that apply to the textual levels above words (such as those that deal with sentences, paragraphs, and general text structure), when we deal with tasks that require precise understanding and application (such as those of an adult reader whose job depends on reading and understanding acurately the manual for a technology or machine), there is no leeway to use the strategies of guessing at word meaning through context clues. Only precise definitions will do.
This holds true for elementary- through college-age students in subjects such as science and math. Students simply need a collection of dependable reading-strategy tools. I found that “word clearing” (which is a very precise method of comprehension checking) provided such a tool.
Many of your readers are deeply concerned about educational solutions and could have benefited from more detailed coverage of these principles, rather than the lengthy sections in the two articles that added an alarming, tabloid-style tone to the coverage, collapsing the teaching concerns with religious controversy, and quoting professional Church of Scientology critics rather than professional educators. The Hubbard Method materials are secular (no church-state conflict exists) and, to my knowledge, their use is international.
In a world where we have so many literacy concerns, it might behoove us to look to sources with workable methods.
Reading Specialist/Curriculum Writer
San Diego, Calif.
To the Editor:
I teach second-year college mathematics to science and engineering students. It is a fact well known to scientists and engineers that you cannot learn a subject in these areas unless you also learn the terminology that goes along with it. As a consequence, the quickest way to find out if a student knows the subject he is studying is to take a couple of the basic concepts from this subject and ask him for definitions and examples.
I regularly ask a couple of such questions on every exam. The results are predictable. The bright students can give answers. They also can do something with the subject matter. The student who is still fumbling with the subject matter cannot return a coherent and sensible answer to these questions.
After the first exam, the poor student’s performance usually encourages him to start studying the definitions and really trying to learn them, not just memorize them. As he starts to master the terminology, he also fumbles less. This can mean the difference between knowing what the exam question is asking and then answering it correctly, or not knowing what it is asking and answering incorrectly. It can be the difference between passing and failing–and between being able to do scientific work and only pretending to do it.
The methods of “word clearing” and study, as given in the Hubbard Study Manuals, are valid educational methods. They are simple, easy to learn, and easy to apply. They will improve the study skills of any student.
David J. Kaup
Joint Professor of Mathematics, Computer Science, and Physics
Responding to Criticism Of Hubbard Education Books
To the Editor:
In William J. Bennetta’s recent letter to the editor, he discredits the educational technology of L. Ron Hubbard, claiming that only anonymous testimonials of success are published–signed with initials rather than names–a practice he finds suspicious (“Educators Should Be Wary of Scientology Claims,” Letters, Oct. 8, 1997).
Being the “L.K., Teacher, New York,” (from an “anonymous” testimonial he referred to in his letter), I would like to correct his misconception. When I wrote the testimonial, I signed my name and gave permission for its use.
I have utilized Mr. Hubbard’s study technology with my students for over 20 years and have found his methods to be the most workable system of instruction available. Its emphasis is on understanding with application, and it provides the tools to use when barriers interfere with this goal.
The result is a classroom where teachers are better educators and students are better learners.
Teacher, English as a Second Language
Valley Stream, N.Y.
To the Editor:
I would like to comment on a portion of William J. Bennetta’s letter regarding five educational books published by Bridge Publications, all based on the works of L. Ron Hubbard. His comments are misleading and specious.
Mr. Hubbard was the author of the ideas and the technology of study–which has been used with great success for over 25 years–as now contained in these books: How to Use a Dictionary, Grammar and Communication for Children, Learning How to Learn, Study Skills for Life, and the Basic Study Manual.
As they are Mr. Hubbard’s ideas and methodologies, and his alone, Bridge Publications assigned the credit where it is incontrovertibly due, to L. Ron Hubbard, the originator.
Scott D. Welch
Senior Vice President
Los Angeles, Calif.
TEXTS HIGHLIGHT SCIENTOLOGY’S ROLE IN EDUCATION – Sept. 17, 1997
HUBBARD’S EDUCATION THEORIES – Sept. 17, 1997