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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The Boston Globe ~ Curiously, an outpost of Scientology

August 16, 2005 under Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise aside, church satellite passes 1 quiet year

A walk through Codman Square past the shoulder-to-shoulder houses of worship can put you in a spiritual state of mind: Greater Life Baptist Church, The Temple of Restoration, Global Ministries Christian Church.

But one storefront in particular, with its eight-pointed cross, has piqued local curiosity.

“Dorchester Scientology, Something Can Be Done About It,” a poster on its window declares.

Amid the 35 churches and temples in the Codman Square area, Dorchester Scientology opened a year ago as a satellite of the Church of Scientology of Boston’s main office in the Back Bay.

How has the church of Tom Cruise and high-profile controversy fared in its Dorchester digs?

“As far as I know, they have not been particularly visible in our neighborhood,” said Vicki Rugo, of the Ashmont Hill Civic Association, near Codman Square. “There hasn’t been any leafletting. You think of them being more Back Bay or Cambridge type. Not Codman Square.”.

In fact, for the past 12 months, the Dorchester ministry has quietly tutored local children and adults with free reading programs, and held anti-violence discussions with community leaders and residents. And it has garnered some positive reviews — including one from its landlord there.

Some members of the business community “had problems” with it, said Joe Onujiogu, owner of the Codman Square Pharmacy, which rents space to the ministry.

“They had doubts it was a good organization,” he said. “They have done a tremendous job for the community. Children have improved in their learning and in their school work.”

The Rev. Robert Castagna, who heads the Dorchester operation and was ordained by the Church of Scientology, said he doesn’t pay much attention to the controversy that has touched on the religion and its stance against antidepressant drugs.

He said he just wants to help a community that he believes needs help, as part of the Church of Scientology’s outreach.

“There’s not much of a need in Back Bay,” said Castagna, dressed casually in slacks and a loose-fitting gray shirt, as he sits inside the Dorchester Scientology Volunteer Ministry. “A key component in Scientology is the ability to study. I feel like I can do something in the community here. The area could definitely use a hand.

“Scientology is an applied religion that provides tools for a person to handle everyday problems in life. I am trying to have our church do something for the community regardless of race, color, or creed.”

Castagna’s volunteers currently tutors 15 youngsters and young adults one-on-one in reading, and have tutored about 200 residents over the past year, he said.

He also reached out to area ministers and local community policing officers for occasional discussions on combating drug use and street crime.

“I am trying to provide alternatives for people to improve their lives that [they] may not see out there,” adds Castagna, sitting in a study room filled with colorful student chairs and posters that encourage reading. “What they may see out there are ads to take antidepressant drugs.”

Celebrities like Cruise and Kirstie Alley say Scientology can cure addiction and depression without the use of drugs. Cruise publicly criticized actor Brooke Shields for taking antidepressants for postpartum depression, and he challenged the psychiatric profession during a June interview with NBC’s “Today” co-host Matt Lauer.

The debate has helped stir interest locally in Scientology as well as spread the church’s message, Castagna said. On the Fourth of July, two banners blasting the use of psychiatric drugs on children were draped outside the church’s Beacon Street headquarters, according to media reports.

Castagna said the church in Boston had received about 20 inquiries a week on average before the publicity, from people curious about the religion, and the number went to 200 inquiries a week on Beacon Street after Cruise’s statements. Castagna has also noticed more people stopping by the Dorchester site with questions about the religion.

Dorchester resident Shandrina Burns said she heard Cruise talk about the religion on TV and it made her wonder what the big fuss about Scientology has been all about.

“He was on ‘Extra,’ ” the syndicated TV show, “but I don’t know what the beliefs are,” said Burns, a lifelong Methodist, as she waited for a doctor’s appointment at the Codman Square Health Center across the street from the Dorchester ministry. “I may drop by and see what they are all about, since I know where they are now.”

Scientology was founded on the principles in L. Ron Hubbard’s best-selling self-help book, “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health,” first published in 1950.

Four years later, he founded the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles, and began promoting “Dianetics” as part of a religious movement.

Followers don’t pray. They believe they are immortal spirits inhibited by mental blocks, called engrams, which must be cleared in order to achieve spiritual awakening. Scientologists attest that once cleared, a person can lead a happier life, free of addictions.

The ridding of engrams is done in a process called “auditing,” a two-person question-and-answer counseling session that involves dealing with painful memories.

By reviewing past traumatic emotional events, the person being “audited” can reach “a state of clear,” according to the book “What is Scientology?” based on Hubbard’s works. But Castagna said none of this happens at the Codman Square site, which is open three days a week from 3 to 7 p.m.

“This is a reading and study skills program,” he said of the site, which resembles more of an after-school community program. “If someone asks about Scientology, I tell them to go down to the church on Beacon Street and check it out.”

Northeastern University religion professor Susan Setta said Scientology has always had its skeptics and critics. Some have described the religion as a cult that exploits its members for money.

Opening a tutoring program in an urban neighborhood like Dorchester is part of the religion’s community outreach work, she said, and is also a way to eventually enlist new members.

“Scientology conjures up such negative images that it looks suspicious,” said Setta, who appeared on National Public Radio’s “On Point” program on WBUR last month to talk about the religion. “If the Episcopal Church had a tutoring program in Dorchester, no one would worry about it. The assumption is that they [Scientologists] are doing something for an ulterior motive, that there is something sinister. That’s a problem for them.”

She called the Dorchester location a “face-based ministry.”

“They want to show by example what they have to offer,” she said. “They really are interested in social outreach, and they think they can change people’s lives.”

Corrine Desseau knew very little of Scientology before becoming a volunteer. The retired housekeeper and grandmother of two, who was looking for a way to stay active in the community, heard about the ministry and its search for tutoring volunteers.

Now she stops by several times a month to help her two grandchildren and other kids with their reading and coloring.

“It gives some of the kids something to do to get out of the streets,” said Desseau, 72, who said she is also brushing up on her Scientology with literature Castagna gave her. “They read and draw and get a lot out of it.”

Castagna hopes to grow out of his 1,500-square-foot storefront ministry, and doesn’t rule out establishing a bigger Scientology anchor in the neighborhood one day.

“The Church of Scientology can have its name on the marquee,” he said, “and we can help the community.”

Johnny Diaz can be reached at jodiaz@globe.com.

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PBS ~ Travolta promoting Study Technology on Tavis Smiley show

January 14, 2005 under Study Technology

On January 14, 2005, John Travolta appeared as a guest on the Tavis Smiley show on PBS. Travolta promoted Scientology, specifically study technology, and explained the “three barriers to study”. The full transcript [was] available online.

Now, speaking of education, you know, in Scientology, the first thing you’re taught is the barriers to study, and it’s a misunderstood word, basically. So dictionaries are very important in one’s education. If you hear someone speak to you, and you don’t understand a word, write it down, look it up later, remember what context it was said in. When you’re reading a newspaper article or a magazine or–remember that if you have a misunderstood word, even if it’s nomenclature, you will not grasp that subject matter. The other one is gradient. That’s usually in the field of doing this–too steep a gradient. You know, if you’re learning a dance step, you have to learn how to do this before you can do the next one–in sports, the same thing. You learn things on a physical gradient. The third would be the lack of mass itself on the subject matter. If you’re studying–let’s say jet engines–you must see a jet engine to understand the technicalities of how it works. So the misunderstood word, the gradients, and the lack of mass are the 3 barriers to study. If you just knew that, every area of knowledge would become much more interesting to you. And that’s the gift that I had, soon after I got into Scientology, was the gift of any area was possible for me because I had a dictionary. Now, you have to take your time. Dictionaries are not a glib thing. There’s derivations, and there’s the basic, and there’s the multi-definitions to any given word. I mean, most people don’t know there’s, like, 21 definitions of “the.” Tavis: So was Clinton right when he said, “It depends on what ‘is’ is”?

John: Yes. [Laughs]

Tavis: OK. I just love talkin’ to John Travolta.

John: What’s the 16th definition of “is”?

Tavis: Of “is,” yeah. [Laughs]

John: You know what I mean?

Tavis: I would not have gone here, John Travolta, had you not raised it because I try to respect people’s personal and spiritual space. But I won’t surprise you when I say to you that there are critics of Scientology. I don’t want to get into a debate about that, but I want to ask you, though, because when I listen to you talk about this and explain it, it makes perfect sense to me. What, then, do you think is most misunderstood about what you believe–Scientology?

John: Well, you know, if there is anything. I mean, lately, I think it’s being much more understood because of the evolution of the reading on the subject matter, which is what I’ve always insisted on: read a book. But, moreover, I’m getting opportunities to give specific examples, like I just gave you with the misunderstood word, a very basic thing in Scientology. So if I ever get the opportunity to give examples, it’s much better than not giving an example. But, at any rate, I don’t know, it’s going very well.

comments: Closed

The Houston Press ~ Between the Lines: A Scientology-backed tutoring program looks to expand in the Houston area

December 16, 2004 under Project CALL (Houston)

Article originally appeared at: http://www.houston-press.com/issues/2004-12-16/news/news.html

Minot Edwards of Houston’s Project CALL hopes to bring study technology into public schools. But his ties to Scientology may be working against him…

BY CRAIG MALISOW

Minot Edwards is juggling three knives.

This is one of the better ways to get kids’ attention. The dozen children and adults in the Project CALL learning center are focused on the short distance between the tips of the blades and Edwards’s nose.

Add to this show Edwards’s gregarious, self-deprecating humor, and you’ve got someone who can make both children and adults feel at ease.

Edwards uses the knives (and balls, and bowling pins) to demonstrate the technique he uses to teach kids and adults how to study. It’s called “study technology,” and it’s based on the works of L. Ron Hubbard.

Now, just in case the people sitting around the tables in this Missouri City strip-mall space don’t know who Hubbard was, Edwards is there to explain. Hubbard, he tells everyone, was a humanitarian who founded the Church of Scientology. He was a novelist, educator and World War II officer. Study technology grew out of his educational research and is used in classrooms around the world. His followers also developed a drug rehab group called Narconon, which also works in some public schools.

So what exactly is study technology? Edwards says it isolates and defines the three barriers to learning. These common-sense concepts are uniquely labeled as “mass,” “gradient” and “misunderstood.” Mass means that if you’re trying to teach a kid the meaning of the word “boat,” it’s best to show him an actual boat. Gradient means that a child needs to learn incrementally; just because the kid now knows what a boat is doesn’t mean he knows how the engine works. And misunderstood is the most important of all. When kids encounter a misunderstood word, they will not be able to understand anything past that word. They will often feel sleepy, nauseated, dizzy.

Students of study technology (which, like Church of Scientology, is a copyrighted concept) are told to immediately consult a dictionary when they encounter a misunderstood. If, say, they still didn’t understand the meaning of “Scientology,” the dictionary would tell them it’s a religion based on self-knowledge and spiritual fulfillment.

What it wouldn’t tell them is that the church is an extremely secretive, controversial, complex organization that charges members thousands of dollars to achieve spiritual fulfillment, at which time they are told that the galaxy was once ruled by an evil alien named Xenu and that humans evolved from clams. There will be no mention of Hubbard’s claims that most ailments, including arthritis, tuberculosis — and possibly cancer and diabetes — are psychosomatic.

The dictionary won’t tell them that Hubbard, who died in 1986, misrepresented his military and school records and said he’d visited heaven and Venus. It won’t tell them that the church was behind the biggest burglary of federal government offices in U.S. history.

It won’t tell them about Hubbard’s internal memos, leaked by defectors, telling Scientologists that their sole purpose is to recruit new members — what he called “raw meat.”

Critics say that organizations like Project CALL are really fronts for sanitizing Hubbard’s questionable background and setting the stage for recruiting raw meat.

Scientologists say their idiosyncratic concepts are leaked out of context to a prejudiced press, perpetuating the myth of their religion as a cult.

Whether it’s a cult, a pyramid scheme or a religion, one thing’s for sure: As with the world’s major religions, a lot of money works its way up the echelon. These “fixed donations” are the price members pay to shed “engrams” — negative buried thoughts — on the way to becoming “Clear.”

As Hubbard once wrote in an internal memo to the church’s financial office: “Make money, make more money, make others produce so as to make more money. However you get them in, or why, just do it.”

Edwards hopes to bring his study technology into public schools. But his ties to Scientology may be working against him.

Minot Edwards was certified to teach study technology by St. Louis-based Applied Scholastics. The company is not legally connected to the church, but it deals in Scientology-related material.

Applied Scholastics satellites in other cities have tried for years to get their books into public schools, succeeding mostly in California. Some districts embraced the material, while others were wary of potentially violating the separation of church and state. In July, the University of Wisconsin-Fond du Lac dropped a study-technology course after a parent complained about the school’s perceived religious endorsement. But in Boston, city officials said they received only a few complaints after the city awarded a $1,000 grant to a study-technology tutoring center.

Project CALL already has a working relationship with Fort Bend Justice of the Peace Joel Clouser. Clouser gives first-time truants the chance to spend a day volunteering or being tutored at Project CALL instead of paying a fine.

“I’ve had a lot of parents and kids to say they’ve really improved once they went to them,” Clouser says. “It’s like anything: You get out of it what you put into it.”

Clouser says he was unaware of the Scientology connection, but he’s never received a complaint about religion being preached at Project CALL.

“I’m not concerned about Scientology,” he says. “I’m not a Scientologist…the only thing I was interested in was the program.”

Project CALL was started seven years ago by Fort Bend dentist Willis Pumphrey. According to a Web site that posts excerpts from the Scientology magazine Freewinds, Pumphrey has been a Scientologist since at least 1996.

Pumphrey did not return phone calls from the Press, so it’s impossible to tell if he found Scientology the way some dentists have: through a church-affiliated consulting firm called Sterling Management. The Los Angeles Times reported in a series of articles that for years Sterling has targeted dentists and chiropractors, inviting them to seminars where they learn Hubbard’s keys to business management. In turn, many of these professionals joined the church.

After holding workshops in various locations for years, Project CALL moved into the strip mall in 2002. Since then, Edwards says, he’s helped hundreds of kids improve their grades. He’s well aware of the debates over Scientology, and he says he’s careful to avoid discussing Scientology matters during the tutoring.

“I am very wary of, very aware of, and very overexaggerated about the separation of church and state,” Edwards says over the phone. “I have no problem with that policy. I think it should be that way…Applied Scholastics was formed so that this study technology could be used by people of any religion, or of no religion.”

Moreover, he says, study technology works — mostly because it demands parental involvement. Overcrowded public schools mean even the best teachers can’t reach all of their students, he says. Parents need to offer crucial one-on-one time. Edwards points to Applied Scholastics studies that show study technology has been successfully implemented in schools around the world.

“You can blame schools and you can blame teachers, but that’s not been my experience,” he says. “The problem is that, frankly, parents are leaving the education of their children to the schools, and it’s really their job.”

Juanita Copley, an associate professor and chair of the University of Houston’s College of Education, was not aware of study technology. But when explained the approach of mass, gradient and misunderstoods, she said they are just different names for major concepts that have been around for years.

“If they’re implemented correctly, I think those are probably good educational ideas,” she says. “They’ve been around forever, and I use them in public education. I haven’t heard any uniqueness there.”

As the spokesperson for Austin’s Church of Scientology, Cathy Norman has an unenviable job. The church receives mostly negative media attention, as a result of what Norman and other Scientologists say is a push by the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association and drug companies to paint Scientologists as wackos.

In her 27 years with the church, Norman has worked her way up to “OT-Five” level. Until OT-Three data turned up in an ex-Scientologist’s court case in the 1980s, most members had no idea that 75 million years ago, Xenu the evil spacelord banished all beings to Teegeeack (now called Earth), piled them up around volcanoes and blew them up with hydrogen bombs.

Norman says the tale of Xenu, and other stories, are taken out of context. She says the “make money” quotation, for example, is just one bit of “thousands of pages of administrative directives” — it is about keeping the church financially stable, not just about recruitment.

But Norman says that throughout history, groups that challenged conventional thought have been persecuted or ridiculed. Sixty years ago, shock therapy and lobotomies were acceptable medical treatments. History is rife with allegedly overzealous groups who, years later, are vindicated. Scientology, she says, might just be ahead of its time. (Norman speaks only for the church, and is not a spokesperson for Applied Scholastics, Project CALL or any other church-affiliated group.)

Scientologists are so wary of contemporary medicine that to progress up the ladder of levels, they must sign waivers allowing their peers to intervene if they become mentally or physically incapacitated. The waiver allows the person to be isolated from friends and family and kept under 24-hour watch. It was created following the death of a mentally unstable church member who had been locked in a church-owned Florida hotel room for 17 days.

The depth and complexity of Scientology’s concepts are so different from Judeo-Christian thought that they are difficult for outsiders to grasp, Norman says. There’s no Old Testament narrative to sink your teeth into.

“It’s not a story like that,” she says. “It’s a philosophy” — one with applicable principles, she adds.

However, the Scientology philosophy may be hindering the tutorial program’s progress in the Houston area.

Edwards had hoped that a proposed grant from Alief ISD’s Smith Elementary would open the door for him to deliver monthly workshops to parents. School officials are looking to team up with a nonprofit in order to gain the grant that would bolster their onsite parent-learning center.

Principal Helen Wilk said she initially was unaware of the program’s ties to Scientology. She stressed that the proposed grant would not include the use of any study-technology books in the school — it would be limited to having Edwards speak to parents about helping their kids study.

However, late last week, school officials dropped Edwards from contention for the grant. Their decision: Utilizing a method related to Scientology could violate the separation of church and state.

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UW-Fond Du Lac

July 29, 2004 under Study Technology

UW Fond Du Lac
Letter to parents

July 29, 2004

Dear Parents,

We feel it is important to notify you of a concern that has been brought to our attention by a parent regarding the Applied Scholastics ™ curriculum utilized in our College for Kids Study Technology course. Some organizations believe this curriculum is being used by Scientology to promote their philosophies and teachings. This five-day course was purely designed as a study skills class.

The intent of Study Technology is to assist students by teaching them how to overcome barriers to learning. Although L Ron Hubbard developed the ‘Study Technology’ concept, and L Ron Hubbard is the founder of Scientology, Applied Scholastics ™ is a secular, charitable organization independent of Scientology.

The University of Wisconsin-Fond Du Lac supports diversity and does not in any way promote any particular group or religious ethic. Nor do we discriminate based on religion.

The instructor has been made aware of this concern. While your child may demonstrate an exceptional level of performance in one or more if the five areas of giftedness, your child may benefit by improving study skills in other areas. The intent is not to promote specific philosophies of beliefs, the intent is to provide creative and stimulating ideas for improving study skills. We thank the parent for bringing this information to our attention. Because these perceptions exist, we will not offer the course again in the future.

As stated in a memo that was sent home with your child on Tuesday, please know you are invited to attend classes with your child on Friday. Feel free to contact me at 929-3622 or Dean Blankenship at 929-3602 if you have any questions or would like further information. We value and appreciate your support of our programming for area gifted and talented youth.

Sincerely,
Leanne Doyle

Continuing Education
400 University Drive, Fond Du Lac, WI 54935-2998
Phone 920-929-3622
Fax 920-929-2919
www.fdl.uwc.edu

View a scan of the actual letter

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ~ Class yields a surprise subject

July 29, 2004 under Study Technology

UW-Fond du Lac study course based on writings of Scientology founder

When Sydney Dillmann, a 12-year-old from Fond du Lac, enrolled in five-day course called “Study Technology” at her local University of Wisconsin campus this summer, she and her mother thought it would be a good way for young Sydney to improve her study skills.

Thanks to the course, she stumbled upon a surprise subject – the Church of Scientology.

The Study Technology curriculum relies on the educational writings of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Scientology movement.

On one hand, it appears rather routine, and, in the words of Sydney and some of her friends, “boring.” The children are taught effective methods of using a dictionary, for example, or how to associate abstract math exercises with concrete objects.

But according to some scholars who follow Scientology, the same Hubbard writings used to devise Study Technology are considered scriptures in the church. The point of sponsoring such courses is to promote Scientology methods and beliefs while burnishing Hubbard’s image, skeptics say.

Much of this Sydney and her mother, Mary, learned from scouring the Internet. And they haven’t been shy about challenging UW-Fond du Lac or the session’s teacher, Barbara Abler. “It’s just such junk science,” Mary Dillmann said.

But that’s one side.

Study Technology has its defenders, and they adamantly deny trying to promote a religion in the classroom. UW-Fond du Lac officials, for the record, say they’re comfortable with the summer enrichment offering.

Abler declined Thursday to identify her religious background and said she never tried to promote Scientology in the classroom.

“I’m teaching a study skills class – it’s a totally secular class,” Abler said, adding that she welcomed calls and visits from parents.

She referred a reporter to Mary Adams, a senior vice president for external affairs at Applied Scholastics International in St. Louis. Applied Scholastics is a non-profit group founded in 1972 that promotes Hubbard’s Study Technology. However, outside of using his educational writings, Applied Scholastics isn’t affiliated with the church itself, Adams said.

“It’s just a misconception,” Adams said. “When people see Mr. Hubbard’s name, they immediately think of the things that they are familiar with that he is associated with. I don’t know if they know of Study Technology.”

Adams said Applied Scholastics has 450 groups on six continents. She defined groups as “schools, community learning centers or tutoring centers.” She also said school districts in the United States had started to use Study Technology but declined to identify which ones or how many.

A spokeswoman for the church, Karin Pouw, offered this statement: “The church completely supports Applied Scholastics, but Applied Scholastics is an independent, secular organization.”

UW-Fond du Lac’s dean, Dan Blankenship, said the two-year college was not allowed to question its employees about their religious backgrounds before hiring them. He said he’d talked to Abler after hearing about the concerns.

“It sounded like, to me, that the allegations that she was teaching a religion seemed extraordinary and didn’t seem consistent with what she was doing,” he said.

Leanne Doyle, director of continuing education at UW-Fond du Lac, said the college was aware that Study Technology was based on educational methods devised by Hubbard, but she observed the class and doesn’t believe Abler was promoting the church.

Mary and Sydney Dillmann said they didn’t believe Abler was trying to convert the students to Scientology either, but the methods and ideas didn’t make sense.

According to the Dillmanns, the students were told that a key part of learning is knowing certain words, and that if they ever felt tired or dizzy that they needed to learn the meanings of certain words to get re-energized.

David S. Touretzky, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who has studied Scientologists, said such concepts were central to church teachings.

“Scientology believes that if someone has misunderstood a word, that that can actually cause a kind of pain or trauma,” said Touretzky, a frequent critic of Scientology whose academic specialty is computational neuroscience.

Touretzky believes teaching Study Technology in public schools violates laws governing separation of church and state and promotes Scientology beliefs. The church spokeswoman, Pouw, blasted Touretzky, insisting: “He is discredited in the field that he’s trying to comment on. He is a specialist in rat brains.”

Despite her concerns, Dillmann chose to keep Sydney in the class, which ends today.

“This is the best time she’s had all summer,” Dillmann said. “Her forensic skills, her research skills, her sifting through different Web sites, looking at data, interpreting information. . . . You wouldn’t believe how much she learned from this class. It’s just not the type of information we thought she’d get out of it.”

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