Christian Science Monitor ~ Textbooks by Religious Figure Incite Church-State Row

Seated behind his desk at Applied Scholastics here, President Ian Lyons flips through one of the children’s learning texts his foundation has distributed worldwide for 25 years.

“Tom (noun) paints (verb) fence (noun),” reads Mr. Lyons pointing to a picture of a child with a brush. “There is nothing that could be construed as religious anywhere in these texts,” he adds.

Recently Mr. Lyons has had to repeat his disclaimer often for reporters, because the Los Angeles school district has been asked to approve a charter school that would use five such books – all written by L. Ron Hubbard – in the classroom.

Because Mr. Hubbard, who died in 1986, also founded of the religion of Scientology, school board members, citizens, and others have voiced concerns that use of the books would expose children to the works of a man whose religion actively promotes itself – and might constitute a breach of the constitutional separation of church and state.

Whatever the Los Angeles school board decides – its ruling is expected by Aug. 20 – the episode raises a tangle of church-state and free-speech issues that could have serious implications beyond the case, legal scholars and educators say.

“If it is proven that a consideration for accepting or rejecting the materials was based on the religious affiliation of the author, there could be a real problem in violating that [author’s] freedom of speech and religion,” says James Kushner, professor of law at Southwestern School of Law in Los Angeles.

“It is in a sense saying to someone who is Baptist, or Catholic, or Islamic, or Jewish, ‘We will do business with you, but if you cross the line and are too religious as a member of a church or ministry, then we are going to disable you from doing business with the government.’ That is precisely what the First Amendment clause of religion is meant to deal with.”

Los Angeles school board president Julie Korenstein says legal advice will be sought to determine if the public money used to support the charter school, and its purchase of Hubbard’s texts, would be illegal or inappropriate. Board member David Tokofsky indicated July 28 that the board would block the school application.

At the same time, the state department of education has given preliminary approval for statewide use of the books as supplemental curriculum.

“There’s no religion mentioned in those books,” said Anna Emery, of the state Department of Education. “They don’t say anything about Scientology.”

Part of what legal analysts will be trying to determine is whether the books have religious content that is overt or subtle, and where the state money used to purchase the books would go.

According to George Zervas, a constitutional scholar at Southwestern School of Law, government purchases must have a secular purpose, must neither advance nor inhibit religion, or encourage “excessive entanglement” – in which the government meddles in church affairs.

On the face of it, say several educators, the books in question deal only in matters of learning, and espouse no views that could be construed as religious.

The applicable test, he says, is whether a particular educational philosophy holds beliefs about learning that are shared outside the religion. Montessori schools, for instance, stress a child’s initiative but are not considered religious.

The other detail for legal scrutiny in the case, observers say, will be to examine the relationship among Bridge Publications, which publishes the texts; Applied Scholastics, the nonprofit foundation which has distributed them worldwide since 1972; and the church of Scientology. According to spokeswoman Rena Weinberg, Bridge Publications publishes 196 works of Hubbard, including some science-fiction titles sold in bookstores.

Applied Scholastics, she says, is a California-based, tax-exempt, public-benefit corporation that promotes Hubbard’s “educational technology,” and has trained 3 million students in 12 languages.

“The real issue is that these methods work like no other when it comes to empowering children to learn better,” says Ms. Weinberg. She cites a 30 to 40 percent higher rate of SAT scores in one secular school network, known as Delphian Academies, which has seven K-12 schools in the US. The Delphian schools have used the program exclusively since 1974.

“The program has helped our students apply superior study methods aggressively while mastering each step as they go along,” says Alan Larson, founder of the Delphian Academies. It frees [students] up from having to feel in lock step with everyone around them.”

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Sacramento Bee ~ Textbooks on hold

Then: A publishing arm of the Church of Scientology submitted a series of study-skills books to the Department of Education more than a year ago, hoping it would allow school districts to buy the books with state funds.

The materials are based on the work of L. Ron Hubbard, late founder of the controversial religion and author of “Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health.”

But the department’s Legal Compliance Review Panel was only concerned about the depiction of people with disabilities and the poor representation of people of color, not over inappropriate religious content.

In October, Church of Scientology representatives said the materials would be revised and presented later in the fall.

Now: Department of Education officials have met with the series’ publishers, according to Rovina.

The publishers brought a list of what they would change, but that wasn’t good enough, Salinas said.

“It seemed like they had done all of the work and preparation,” she said. “But we can’t just approve it on what they say they’re going to improve.”

The publishers agreed to return in December, but canceled and have not rescheduled.

Representatives of Applied Scholastics, the church wing that licenses the use of Hubbard’s learning methods, could not be reached for comment.

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Education Week ~ Letters to the Editor

October 22, 1997 under Los Angeles Unified School District

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
Sausalito, Calif.

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.

Sandra Chapman
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
Clarkson University
Potsdam, N.Y.

Oct.22, 1997
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.

Linda Kettering
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
Bridge Publications
Los Angeles, Calif.


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LA Times ~ Hubbard-Inspired Textbooks Rejected

September 23, 1997 under Los Angeles Unified School District

Schools: State review board says the revised books based on ideas of Scientology founder misrepresent minorities and the disabled. Publisher vows more changes.

By DUKE HELFAND, L.A. Times Staff Writer

State education officials on Monday rejected the latest version of a series of textbooks inspired by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, saying the books failed to properly depict disabled people and minorities.

The publisher, Bridge Publications, is seeking to have five books based on Hubbard’s educational ideas approved for use in California public classrooms as supplemental texts.

But in a two-page letter faxed to the publisher Monday, the state Department of Education said revisions to the original series failed to adequately address concerns raised by a 20-member citizens review panel.

The panel is one of several across the state that review supplemental materials to ensure that the works comply with the state’s social content laws.

The effort to include the books on the state-approved list–allowing, but not obligating, schools to buy them–has raised concerns among some educators and civil libertarians. Critics, including some former Scientologists, contend that Hubbard’s “Study Technology” is actually a means of drawing new adherents into Scientology. Bridge Publications, they note, also publishes literature for the Church of Scientology.

However, the citizens panel concluded that the books met the state’s guidelines on religion, which bar textbooks from encouraging particular religious beliefs.

The books were not approved by the state because they misrepresented the disabled and minorities, state officials said.

For example, disabled characters were shown with canes, representative more of the aging process than of a disability, said Ruth McKenna, the state’s chief deputy superintendent of public instruction.

A disabled character in the texts also was shown in a wheelchair alone, isolated from others. In addition, the books did not depict enough disabled people.

The state asked the publisher to show some of the main characters as being disabled and have them interact with others.

Bridge Publications had originally submitted the texts to the state in May 1996, only to have them rejected later that year. The firm submitted revised versions in August.

“The panel reviewed the final galleys to see if the changes were sufficient and determined that they were not,” McKenna said. “I’ve now looked at the galley proofs and . . . I agree with the panel’s concerns.”

According to the state’s letter, written by McKenna, the citizens panel concluded that the revisions were too weak.

In the case of minorities, for example, the state said the changes were accomplished by shading the faces of existing characters. One character ended up appearing white on certain pages but as an ethnic minority on other pages.

Bridge did meet the review panel’s requests on one point: It showed more female characters in dominant roles.

Bridge officials said they welcomed the state’s critique, saying McKenna’s two-page letter was the first detailed summary of needed changes they had received since they initiated the approval process. They vowed to make the necessary changes and resubmit a new set of books by the end of next month.

“We should easily be able to comply,” said Scott Welch, senior vice president of operations for Bridge.

Supporters say the Hubbard books and methods offer three techniques that help students overcome common barriers: Students use dictionaries to look up words they do not understand, apply their lessons to real life and gain a thorough understanding of a subject through incremental learning.

The books are not about any specific school subjects as such, but about the process of learning. Titles include “Learning How to Learn,” “How to Use a Dictionary” and “Study Skills for Life.”

The publisher thought its books had been given preliminary approval in July. A state official notified it in writing that its proposed revisions met the state’s social content guidelines–a letter that, in hindsight, may have been confusing, McKenna said.

After the state’s customary procedure, the company submitted its final hard copy version in late August for review by the citizens panel.

However, the panel found objections in that copy.

“We never give final approval until we see the book,” McKenna said. “That’s our safety net.”

McKenna said such approval does not mean the state endorses the books, but merely that schools are free to buy them.

© Copyright Los Angeles Times

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LA Times ~ Hubbard Adherent’s School Bid on Hold

September 18, 1997 under Los Angeles Unified School District

Education: Sponsor is delaying proposal for charter campus using study aids of Scientology founder because of family illness, backer says.

By DUKE HELFAND, L.A. Times Staff Writer

A proposal for a charter school featuring the teaching methods of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard has been withdrawn by its primary sponsor for personal reasons, according to her supporters.

Linda Smith, a veteran special education teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District and 16-year Church of Scientology member, had hoped to open the Northwest Charter School in the San Fernando Valley this fall. But she has postponed the plans while she cares for an ill family member, said Steve Hayes, an attorney who has been working with Smith on the committee planning the school.

Los Angeles school officials wondered if the controversy surrounding Smith’s proposal also played a role in her decision to delay the application, and pledged to scrutinize any new submission just as carefully.

“I can’t second-guess her reasons, but I’m assuming she may need to let things quiet down for a while,” said school board President Julie Korenstein. “It has been tremendously controversial, nationally and internationally.”

Smith, who could not be reached Wednesday, had originally pitched her charter school plan to the Board of Education in July without mentioning the use of the Hubbard materials or the fact that she is a Scientologist.

Her proposal immediately raised concerns among board members and civil libertarians over whether using Hubbard materials in classrooms would violate the constitutional separation of church and state. Other critics contended that the methods were a veiled attempt to introduce youngsters to Scientology, the Hollywood-based religion that has been variously described as a cult and a profit-driven enterprise.

Smith was scheduled to appear before the Board of Education next month to discuss a revised version of her proposal. She was expected to address a range of issues, from the Hubbard materials to finances and programs for special education students.

She could not meet the deadline because of her family troubles, Hayes said Wednesday.

In a letter Hayes sent to the district last week, he said Smith will resubmit her proposal in the spring.

“She’s had a lot of distractions because of her family, but she has every intention of going forward with this,” Hayes said.

Smith’s plans had called for about 100 students to attend kindergarten through grade 8 on a new campus to be established in the Sunland-Tujunga area; a site has yet to be secured.

Smith’s proposal called for her to be the principal of her proposed school, with most of her students drawn from private schools.

The Northwest curriculum would include standard texts, as well as the Hubbard Study Technology, which Smith said helps bolster student achievement by addressing three “barriers” to learning. Students use dictionaries to look up words they do not understand, apply their lessons to real life and master each rung of material to obtain a thorough understanding of a subject.

Smith and other proponents of the charter school continue to defend the use of the Hubbard study methods, which they call nonsectarian. They say the learning techniques are drawn from Hubbard’s educational technology and not his religious tenets.

Smith, 45, said she has been using the methods informally for two decades as a special education teacher, including the last six years at Esperanza Elementary School in downtown Los Angeles.

But Korenstein and other school board members said they remain unclear about the distinction between Hubbard’s religious teachings and his educational philosophies.

Korenstein said she expects the same concerns to arise in the spring when Smith resubmits her plan.

“If there continues to be any connection at all with Scientology, I would be derelict in my duties as a Board of Education member to support something like that,” she said. “There has to be a clear division between church and state.”

Board member David Tokofsky, who has publicly stated his opposition to the charter school, said a revised proposal will get close scrutiny.

© Copyright Los Angeles Times

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Education Week ~ Texts Highlight Scientology’s Role in Education

September 17, 1997 under Los Angeles Unified School District

By Mark Walsh

The California Department of Education received a request last year from a Los Angeles publisher to place five study-skills books on a state list of approved learning materials.

Such requests aren’t unusual. The list includes thousands of books that California districts are authorized to buy with public dollars and that teachers may use in their classrooms.

The five books from Bridge Publications, however, were all based on the works of L. Ron Hubbard, the late science fiction author and the founder of the Church of Scientology.

The books, with such titles as Learning How to Learn and How to Use a Dictionary, have drawn increasing scrutiny in the wake of a recent proposal for a Los Angeles charter school that had plans to rely heavily on the materials. As it turns out, there has been scattered use of the books by public school teachers in California and elsewhere for years.

The Church of Scientology has long been a subject of controversy over its efforts to gain acceptance as a recognized religion and its sensitivity to media scrutiny. In 1993, the church won its years-long bid for tax-exempt status from the federal government.

But much less has been known about its involvement in education.

For teachers and administrators, the attention sparked by the charter school proposal in Los Angeles highlights important questions about the quality of the study-skills books as teaching materials, their possible links with Scientology’s religious teachings, and the legality or appropriateness of using them in public school classrooms.

For now, many of those questions remain unanswered. Few education experts have studied the materials for their instructional value, though some critics charge that they are overly simplistic and that they contain subtle references to the church’s teachings.

“I have some fairly serious questions about the constitutionality and, from a public-policy standpoint, the propriety of using these materials in public schools,” said Douglas Mirell, a board member of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, who has examined some of the study-skills books and compared them with materials from the church. “It seems like the books go out of their way to use terms that have a technical definition within the religion.”

Secular Mission?

Officials who oversee Applied Scholastics International, the Los Angeles-based organization that licenses the use of Hubbard’s educational methodology, insist that its mission is purely secular.

“Applied Scholastics, for 25 years, has been and will always be a nonprofit organization that uses the Study Technology of L. Ron Hubbard,” Rena Weinberg, the president of the Association for Better Living and Education International, said in a recent interview. ABLE oversees Applied Scholastics as well as several other Hubbard-inspired organizations, including groups devoted to drug-abuse prevention and prisoner rehabilitation.

“Should L. Ron Hubbard be precluded from writing a book on grammar education?” Ms. Weinberg said.

Critics of the Church of Scientology charge that organizations such as ABLE and Applied Scholastics are “front groups” whose purpose is to gain wider social acceptance for the church itself.

“The idea is to create a link across the church-state chasm so you drag people across without them realizing they are going across,” said Robert Vaughn Young, a former public relations official of the Church of Scientology who is now one of its most outspoken critics.

Ms. Weinberg vehemently disagreed. “Vaughn Young knows nothing about my organization,” she said. “He has a personal ax to grind.”

The books, she added, “are clearly not religious.”

Content Review

California education officials weren’t sure what to make of the Hubbard-inspired materials, so they submitted them to a review process that all supplementary books go through.

While core textbooks receive far more rigorous scrutiny, supplementary materials need only satisfy “social content” requirements. For example, they must not disparage ethnic groups or show men and women in stereotypical roles. Nor can they encourage religion.

A review panel that looked at the Hubbard-inspired books concluded that the books did not appear to advance the religion of Scientology. But the panel was concerned about some of the images in the books.

“Males and females were shown doing only traditional activities,” said Anna Emery, a curriculum analyst with the state education department. For example, Learning How to Learn depicts girls holding brooms and learning how to sew, while boys play sports and use tools to build a doghouse.

“There was very little representation of nonwhite groups, and little or no representation of the disabled,” Ms. Emery said.

Bridge Publications, a church-affiliated company that also publishes Scientology-related books such as Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, told state officials the books would be changed. By July of this year, state officials gave preliminary approval to the proposed revisions and promised that as soon as the revised texts were produced, they could be listed in an education department catalog.

Charter Controversy

The whole process gained little public notice until this past summer, when the Los Angeles school board began reviewing a charter school proposal by one of its teachers, Linda Smith. Ms. Smith, a veteran special education teacher and a longtime Scientologist, proposed opening a charter school for about 100 students in grades K-8 in the San Fernando Valley area of the city.

But Ms. Smith didn’t mention in her lengthy charter proposal that she planned to build the school’s curriculum around L. Ron Hubbard’s “Study Technology” approach.

When they learned of the link to the founder of Scientology, some school board members worried that approving public funds for a charter school using the texts might run afoul of the constitutional prohibition against government establishment of religion.

They have asked their lawyers to look into the matter, and the charter proposal is on hold until at least next month.

In addition to state education department officials, some others who have examined the five Hubbard educational books have concluded that they are not overtly religious.

J. Gordon Melton, the author of the Encyclopedia of American Religions, has researched the Church of Scientology and examined the books.

“Many people coming into the church were dysfunctional in literacy,” said Mr. Melton, a research specialist in the department of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “So Hubbard wrote some materials that would help.”

The Study Technology materials are used widely within the church, he added, “not to proselytize for the religion but to teach people how to read.”

“They are used within the church in much the same way as, when I was in seminary, we used speech manuals in preaching class,” said Mr. Melton, who is an ordained Methodist minister.

Barriers to Learning

“Study Technology” comes from a series of writings and lectures on education by Hubbard, who died in 1986. He believed that most obstacles to learning could be traced to readers’ inability to get past words they did not comprehend.

Hubbard argued that there are three central barriers to learning: the absence of a physical representation of an object being studied, too steep a “gradient” for learning a subject, and the misunderstood word. (“Hubbard’s Education Theories Focus on ‘Barriers to Learning,’“ in This Week’s News.)

The Hubbard books all emphasize a principle called “word clearing,” in which the reader is supposed to stop and look up in a dictionary any word he doesn’t understand. The materials also call for “clearing” words used in the definition of the first word, and they describe a procedure by which two readers can work together to clear words.

“The only reason a person would stop studying or get confused or not be able to learn is because he has passed a word that he did not understand,” states the book Learning How to Learn, which is for 8- to 12-year-olds.

The books have struck some educators as common-sense tools that may be appropriate for some learners, but others say they are repetitive and overlook some current theories about how children learn to read.

Helen Magee, the principal of St. Antoine Elementary School in Lafayette, La., recalls that one classroom in her public school used the Hubbard materials about five years ago.

After learning of the materials’ affiliation with L. Ron Hubbard, Ms. Magee said, she scrutinized them closely. But she decided they were not religious, and she allowed some of her teachers to be trained to use the books with their children.

Ms. Magee said achievement scores for the children exposed to the Hubbard books “went way up.” “They never mentioned anything about religion,” she added. “I think it was just good [reading] strategies.”

After a year or so, Ms. Magee said, the local Applied Scholastics representative moved, and the school went back to using district reading materials.

Applied Scholastics touts the success of the program at St. Antoine in its promotional materials.

Educational Questions

MaryEllen Vogt, an education professor at California State University-Long Beach, said she becomes wary when materials for teaching reading rely heavily on such testimonials.

After reviewing some of L. Ron Hubbard’s writings on education and some of Applied Scholastics’ promotional materials, she said the methodology’s emphasis on “word clearing” concerned her.

“The reading process is so complex,” she said. The principles in Hubbard’s three barriers to learning focus primarily on reading at the word level.

“But there is a whole other aspect of the reading process that is ignored,” added Ms. Vogt, who is a former president of the California Reading Association and a past board member of the International Reading Association.

“For older readers, we sometimes say, ‘Skip a word you don’t understand and try to gain comprehension from the whole context,’“ she said. “We don’t say that for young readers. But for older readers, it is extremely cumbersome to try to attend to every word.”

Church Terms Questioned

Although some educators have not found the books to be overtly religious, some legal experts and Church of Scientology critics believe they contain words and lessons that subtly advance the religion.

The church, which claims some 8 million members worldwide, stresses spiritual-counseling sessions called “auditing” through which members overcome past mental obstacles.

Mr. Mirell of the ACLU said that he met last month with Ms. Weinberg of the Association for Better Living and Education and with the president of Applied Scholastics, Ian Lyons, to learn more about the books. Mr. Mirell, a lawyer who has handled several cases for the ACLU chapter involving church-state issues, compared at least two of the texts with publications of the Church of Scientology.

Mr. Mirell said he is concerned that the books introduce the vernacular of the church.

For example, Learning How to Learn “uses a number of terms such as ‘mass,’ ‘gradient,’ and ‘demo kit,’“ he said. “Those are all terms which have specific definitions in the Dianetics and Scientology Technical Dictionary, by L. Ron Hubbard.”

A Scientologist employing these materials in a public school classroom “could very easily provide entree into the religion through class discussion,” Mr. Mirell said. “And it would be very difficult for parents and others on the outside to detect it.”

Mr. Young, the Church of Scientology critic, said the textbooks’ lessons on “word clearing” have an obvious similarity to the Church of Scientology’s concept of “becoming clear,” which according to the church’s definition means achieving the end result of Dianetics–a state in which a person is free of past negative experiences.

The textbooks contain some lessons that also tie in with broader Scientology themes. At least one of the books, for example, contains a brief but disparaging reference to Wilhelm Wundt, a 19th-century German researcher and theorist of experimentalpsychology.

Wundt was “the originator of the false doctrine that man is no more than an animal,” says the Basic Study Manual, a book written for teenagers and older students.

Modern psychology and psychiatry are frequent targets of criticism by the Church of Scientology.

Charter on Hold

Ms. Smith, the teacher who proposed the Los Angeles charter school, could not be reached for comment for this article. She has been a special education teacher at Esperanza Elementary School in Los Angeles for several years, and told the Los Angeles Times in July that she had used the Hubbard-related materials in her classroom.

Rowena Lagrosa, the principal of Esperanza Elementary, recalled that a few years ago, Ms. Smith asked her about having the school purchase some of the books. Ms. Lagrosa said she looked at some of the materials but concluded they were “not necessary.”

“I suggested to her that there were a variety of other materials for special education students that were more appropriate,” Ms. Lagrosa said.

Ms. Smith has temporarily withdrawn her charter application, said Joe Rao, a district official who oversees the charter process. He and other administrators were waiting last week to hear whether she would resubmit the proposal.

As of last week, the principal said, Ms. Smith had not reported to Esperanza for the new school year.

Officials with ABLE and Applied Scholastics said they are not involved in the charter school application. They said they have no current plans to promote the purchase of L. Ron Hubbard’s education books by public schools.

“They are not especially promoted to public school teachers,” Ms. Weinberg of ABLE said.

Celebrity Advocates

Applied Scholastics licenses the use of its materials to a variety of mostly private literacy programs and neighborhood foundations. It also conducts training for adults, including teachers, in the use of the methodology. The organization estimates that more than 1,300 educators underwent training in the United States last year.

In addition to their use within the Church of Scientology, the materials are used in several inner-city literacy programs involving children. The Rev. Alfreddie Johnson, a Baptist minister from Compton, Calif., runs the World Literacy Crusade, with a reported 35 chapters around the world using the books to help children learn to read.

The musician Isaac Hayes has promoted efforts of the literacy crusade in New York City and Memphis, Tenn.

Other prominent Scientologists, such as the actors Anne Archer and John Travolta, are pictured in promotional materials supporting the World Literacy Crusade and Applied Scholastics.

Ms. Weinberg said that Applied Scholastics also licenses the materials to a small number of private schools around the country. And, she said, “there are a lot of public school teachers who use these books on an individual basis.”

State Is Waiting

As for the effort to win a spot on the California education department’s list of approved supplementary materials, Ms. Weinberg said that is being done to help those teachers who want to use them. “It’s not something we are trying to get into the core curriculum.”

State officials stressed that the review for “social content” does not address the books’ pedagogy.

“It’s not appropriate to imply that the department of education or the screening committee has approved the content,” said Ruth McKenna, the chief deputy superintendent.

So when Ms. Weinberg mentioned in an opinion column in the Los Angeles Times that the state “has approved statewide use of these textbooks,” department officials quickly wrote a letter to the newspaper to point out that they were still waiting for the final corrected materials.

“Our concern is that they are using us and the process to imply pending approval,” Ms. McKenna said. “The books on sale today are not approved. They should not be in use at all in California classrooms.”

The Association for Better Living and Education Web site provides more insight into this organizations goals, including an overview of the organization’s activities and a letter from Rena Weinberg, the president of ABLE.

Read more about the background of Applied Scholastics, including L. Ron Hubbard’s ideas on education.

The Rev. Heber Jentzch, president of the Church of Scientology, answers the most commonly asked questions about the controversial faith.

The American Civil Liberties Union Web page provides an overview of issues surrounding religion in public schools from this organization’s perspective.

© 1997 Editorial Projects in Education

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR – Oct. 8 and Oct. 22, 1997

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LA Times ~ Second Opinion: Education is the real issue

The problems facing schools are too great to ignore the methods of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.


Rena Weinberg Is President of the Assn. for Better Living and Education (Able), an Organization Formed to Coordinate the Use of L. Ron Hubbard’s Social Betterment Methods in Society

The proposal by a teacher to open a charter school in the Sunland-Tujunga area, one which will include among its textbooks some written by L. Ron Hubbard, has become something of a controversy–which is a pity, because the real issue is so much more important.

Whether a controversy actually existed before a couple of Times columnists made their prejudices known is debatable. Certainly, they didn’t help. The latest came from Scott Harris, who had what he obviously thought was fun writing a column he termed a “parody,” one which included grossly altered information about Scientology. To Scientologists Harris’ idea of fun was nothing but bigotry.

Still, Scientologists are used to being misunderstood by the media and they aren’t the real casualties in this tempest in a teapot.

Only one valid question has been raised: Because L. Ron Hubbard is also founder of the religion of Scientology, do these books propagate the religion and thus violate separation of church and state?

Not according to the state Department of Education office that oversees approval of supplemental textbooks. A 20-member citizens committee reviewed the works and, according to a department spokesperson, “They don’t say anything about Scientology.” Which is why the state has approved statewide use of these textbooks.

So much for that.

Let’s get to the only important issue. Somewhere between 25% and 50% of all Americans, depending upon which study you read, are functionally illiterate. Either of those figures and anything in between is too high.

The fact is: Although you may be reading this, many, many Americans cannot.

There is no shortage of other statistics to signal that we have a crisis on our hands. While SAT scores are “recentered” to account for lowered standards, and each small upward tick is applauded, the fact is that since the 1960s they have plummeted. And when one considers the proven link between illiteracy and criminality, the cost to society is enormous.

The focus in Los Angeles is currently on the shortage of textbooks in our schools. Although this is lamentable and must be corrected, it is not the basic issue. What use are textbooks to kids who can’t read?

It is this situation that Hubbard’s methods remedy. And while educators argue over the efficacy of the “phonics” or “whole language” methods of instruction, and politicians talk about smaller classrooms and “privatization,” Hubbard undercuts all this to provide a workable method to learn how to learn, the value of which has been demonstrated in school after school in many countries since the 1960s and validated in numerous studies.

How do you absorb material so that you understand it? How do you understand it well enough so that you can actually apply it? These are the questions that his methods resolve. And their application on a widespread scale could signal a renaissance in education that will turn this dismal tide.

* * *

Why did nobody talk about this–the real issue? Were they more interested in controversy than education?

It is somewhat amusing to see that the media, which for years debated the question of whether Scientology was a religion or not, is now carping about Hubbard’s secular works, claiming “they must be religious.”

To be fair, L. Ron Hubbard was a remarkable man whose contributions cover many fields. Perhaps this is something that defies the descriptive powers of some journalists. A man who lived a life of extraordinary depth, he was known initially to the public as a fiction author, but he was also a humanitarian who researched various means to help mankind. And, in doing this, he not only developed methods that address our gravest social problems, but also founded the Scientology religion. For a founder of a 20th century religion not to do this, in view of societal decay, would have been a grave omission, he felt. He was also perfectly aware that the solutions he proposed needed to be secular in nature so that they would be available to help everyone.

L. Ron Hubbard’s motive always was to elevate the culture. And he was nothing if not prescient. In 1950 he wrote, “Today’s children will become tomorrow’s civilization. The end and goal of any society as it addresses the problem of education is to raise the ability, the initiative and cultural level and with all of that the survival level, of that society, and when a society forgets any one of these things it is destroying itself by its own education mediums.”

That we as a society did forget is painfully apparent as we look at the problem we face today. Fortunately, Hubbard did not forget and spent much of his life developing methods to effectively reverse the decline.

We would be fools not to take advantage of them.

© Copyright Los Angeles Times

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LA Times ~ Literacy Drive Uses Scientology Founder’s Lessons

Education: Head of inner-city campaign praises methods. Applied Scholastics officials deny that the program is an attempt to recruit members.

By DUKE HELFAND, L.A. Times Staff Writer

Applied Scholastics International, the Hollywood organization that promotes the teaching methods of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, is spreading its ideas and school textbooks through inner-city communities in a partnership with a Baptist minister from Compton.

The company has teamed up with the Rev. Alfreddie Johnson in a grass-roots campaign to bring Hubbard’s “Study Technology” to church and community tutoring programs in low-income areas.

The Hubbard methods and their relationship to Scientology have come under scrutiny in recent weeks because of a proposed charter school in the Los Angeles Unified School District that would rely on the techniques.

The proposal has called into question whether the Applied Scholastics texts–which are nearing approval from the state Department of Education for use in public schools–violate the constitutional separation of church and state.

* * *

Critics of the 5-year-old campaign to build links with the inner city call it a veiled attempt to recruit members to Scientology, the controversial religion Hubbard founded in the early 1950s that has been variously criticized as a for-profit business and a cult.

Former Scientologists say one goal of the church’s “social betterment” programs, such as Applied Scholastics, is to build broad acceptance for the religion and Hubbard.

Johnson runs the World Literacy Crusade, which has more than 35 chapters from South Los Angeles to South Africa that he says have been established to promote the educational program.

Johnson, who works out of his storefront church and community center, says he is not troubled by suggestions that Applied Scholastics has greater ambitions than education.

“I’m only interested in the product, and Applied Scholastics produces responsible human beings with the ability to learn and communicate in any subject,” said Johnson, who keeps copies of the Hubbard texts on bookshelves in his True Faith Christian Center.

Applied Scholastics and Johnson observe a simple philosophy: Illiteracy is at the root of social ills, from crime and drug use to poverty itself.

* * *

Applied Scholastics, which charges Johnson and the other groups from Pacoima to Miami a licensing fee to use its methods, actively promotes the crusade. It supplies volunteers to train local activists in the Hubbard techniques and has featured Johnson in one of its glossy annual reports.

Another Scientology organization that promotes Applied Scholastics, the Assn. for Better Living and Education, devoted a recent issue of its magazine, “Solutions,” to Johnson’s crusade, complete with testimonials from young students.

Advocates of the Hubbard techniques say they help students by removing three “barriers” to learning. Students use dictionaries to look up words they do not understand, so they fully grasp reading material; they apply their lessons to real life; and they master each rung of a lesson to obtain a thorough understanding of a subject.

The colorful books that make up the Applied Scholastics series prominently feature Hubbard’s name on the front and a short biography in the back that makes no mention of him as Scientology’s founder.

* * *

“These are front groups,” said Robert Vaughn Young, a former national Scientology spokesman who left the church in 1989. “They are set up to get Scientology into areas where it could never go as a religion.”

Church spokeswoman Gail Armstrong called Young’s assertions a “mischaracterization.” She said the church publicly reaches out for new members with its own programs.

“This claim that we are seeking to get new recruits through these programs is completely disingenuous,” she said.

Applied Scholastics officials say the World Literacy Crusade is merely one of many educational endeavors they promote, and say the Hubbard books contain no references to any religion.

They complain that they are being singled out for criticism while organizations affiliated with other churches earn praise for working in needy communities.

“The purpose of Applied Scholastics is to help students of all ages to improve their studies. If someone can find some hidden agenda, I have not heard of it,” said Rena Weinberg, a spokeswoman. “I have never been asked to take some kid who is a gang member and bring him into Scientology.”

* * *

Religious scholars have mixed opinions about the inner-city campaign, seeing both altruism and opportunism.

J. Gordon Melton, author of the Encyclopedia of American Religion, has reviewed the Hubbard textbooks and calls them “purely secular.” Melton said he has collected about 200 works of Scientology.

“For those who run Applied Scholastics, I think it’s a perfectly honest attempt to help people,” said Melton, who is a research specialist in the religious studies department at UC Santa Barbara. “I think among the higher-ups in the Church of Scientology, those at a strategic level, they see this as a way of indirectly spreading Scientology by building the reputation of their leader.”

Church spokeswoman Armstrong said that Scientologists proudly take part in Applied Scholastics campaigns and that any resulting community goodwill is a “natural byproduct,” not a goal, of the programs.

Clearly, Applied Scholastics has managed to generate goodwill with Johnson and his followers.

Johnson says that Applied Scholastics has never pressed anyone at his church to study Scientology, and that none of the 700 people who have used the techniques follow the religion.

* * *

Johnson acknowledges that the “nonreligious” methods may engender skepticism from outsiders, but he sees them as a means to improve lives.

“The power to become a fireman or a doctor or a scientist is bound up in concepts, which are bound up in words,” he said.

Johnson co-founded the Compton Literacy Project with another minister, Frederick Shaw Jr., shortly after the Los Angeles riots in 1992. Johnson learned about the Hubbard methods at an Applied Scholastics meeting at Shaw’s home. Shaw is the son of Compton City Councilwoman Marcine Shaw, whose late husband was a Scientologist.

At the time, Johnson was running a community program in Compton offering young men counseling and other services. He recalled hearing about the idea of clearing up midsunderstood words–one key to the Hubbard methods–and being immediately impressed by its potential for teaching literacy.

“The light went off,” said Johnson, who subsequently moved the headquarters of his community center to Lynwood. “It’s what I was looking for. This was what I needed for my boys.”

Shaw has even taken a handful of classes given by Scientologists.

“I love Scientologists,” he said. “They are wonderful people.”

Johnson says he employs other literacy tools, such as a phonics program.

Students of the Hubbard methods at the center say it has transformed their lives.

* * *

Ronnie Brown, who spent 13 years in various jails for drug-related offenses and at one point lost custody of his three young children, says the “study tech” helped him improve his reading level and taught him how to focus on his work.

“A lot of times we give up on learning, thinking there’s something wrong with us, that we’re dumb or we can’t get it,” said Brown, 40. “After completing this course, I understand that there are certain barriers to learning.”

Now Brown is working at the center and says he has regained custody of his three children. Making progress on his scholastics also has brought realizations about his personal life.

“The tech gave me the ability to understand why I used drugs,” he said. “It was because of my ignorance and the pain and hurt within me.”

Such stories of success have won Johnson’s World Literacy Crusade recognition from local officials in Compton, where the City Council earlier this year declared Jan. 18 “World Literacy Crusade Day” in honor of the organization’s five-year anniversary.

* * *

Compton Councilwoman Shaw says the methods can break the cycle of violence in her community.

“The only way to do it is to make a person literate so they can become self-sustaining,” said Shaw, who is a Baptist. The Rev. Joseph Peay, who began using the Hubbard methods earlier this month at his Praise Sanctuary in the Crenshaw district, shares the enthusiasm.

Peay says that he was initially reluctant to embrace the methods because of the link to Hubbard, but that fellow ministers encouraged him to try the techniques, thinking they might provide a new and valuable educational tool. He reviewed the materials and says he found nothing religious in them. An Applied Scholastics volunteer came to the church in recent months and trained six of his parishioners, who in turn are now tutoring about 12 students.

Peay says that one of his tutors’ children, a 5-year-old boy, came to his office recently to show how he could read the Bible–in part because of listening to the Applied Scholastics training. Peay had the boy read the same passages aloud to his congregation at a subsequent Sunday church service.

* * *

The minister and members of his parish plan to walk door-to-door in their neighborhood next week to attract more students.

“There is no doubt in my mind that this particular course of instruction can remedy the educational deficiencies in South-Central Los Angeles,” Peay said.

Peay says there is an added benefit to the instruction: It is helping his congregants gain a deeper appreciation of their own religion.

“This program has made me realize that when the Gospel is being preached, people don’t understand because they don’t understand the words,” he said. “And if they don’t understand, how can they be saved?”

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The Oregonian ~ Hubbard Texts Spark California Controversy

Books on how to read by the founder of Scientology become an issue in Los Angeles

by Robert Jablon

In a matter that has raised delicate questions of church and state, the Los Angeles school district is being asked to approve a so-called charter school that would use reading textbooks written by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Special education teacher Linda Smith, a 20-year member of the Church of Scientology, wants to set up a 100-student charter school in suburban Tujunga. It would rely on texts employing Hubbard’s “study technology.”

“These are incredible study techniques. . . . that have nothing to do with religion,” Smith said. She said she has used the books to teach reading for more than 20 years “with stellar results.”

The Los Angeles school district — the nation’s second-largest, with more than 660,000 students — has 14 charter schools. Aimed at improving education, they are freed from most state or local curriculum requirements but still are publicly funded.

Scientology was founded 40 years ago by Hubbard, a science fiction writer. It teaches that technology can expand the mind and help solve human problems. With 8 million members worldwide, it won legal status as a church in the United States in 1993, though critics claim it is a cult or a business.

Hubbard died in 1986.

The charter school would seek to help students who have a hard time learning. Scientology would not be taught there, supporters said.

“It has nothing to do with religion or L. Ron Hubbard or anything,” said Don Woods of inner-city Jefferson High, one of three other district teachers and Scientologists who already use the materials. “It’s just a method, a way of learning.”

All this raises strong constitutional issues for School Board member David Tokofsky.

“We can’t hand public funds over to institutions that are running around the country saying that they’re a religion and they deserve tax-free status,” he said Monday.

Tokofsky predicted the board will kill the application. Board President Julie Korenstein said staff and legal advice will be sought before the board takes up the request next month.

In two of the books geared toward students, boy and girl characters teach nouns, verbs, adjectives and other common reading concepts. The only references to Scientology are in the back, where teachers and parents are told about Hubbard and his views on overcoming “barriers to study.”

Hubbard’s three basic theories for overcoming these barriers:

Students should immediately consult a dictionary when they encounter a word they don’t understand; difficult concepts should be taught by relating them to real life; students should conquer difficult material by studying it incrementally.

The state Education Department recently gave preliminary approval to five of the Hubbard texts, a step toward allowing state public schools to buy the books.

“There’s no religion mentioned in those books,” said Anna Emery of the Education Department. If given final approval, they could be in schools by September. Purchase would be up to each district.

Scientology has been branded a cult by conservative Christians and, in Germany, a threat to the government.

“I would be suspicious that they would still be able to expose them (children) to their doctrine,” said Tujunga resident Patty Garland, who has two school-age children.

Others said the critics are over-reacting.

“Webster wrote the first American dictionary. He was a devout Christian,” said Ian Lyons, president of Scientology’s publishing arm. “We’re not going to throw dictionaries out of the classroom because Webster wrote it.”

In Lafayette, La., the Hubbard books were used in a two-year experiment in 1993. Children showed definite improvement in their reading, said Helen Magee, principal at St. Antoine Elementary School.

“It was a joy to watch that class and see them improving,” said Magee, who took the teacher training program herself.

“This is a strong Catholic area. We’re strong in our faith, and there’s no way we would have allowed” religious instruction. “But it was never brought in. It was all about helping children.”

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LA Times ~ Hubbard Textbooks Have State Approval

Education: Materials inspired by controversial Scientology founder are expected to go on list for optional use by schools. Officials say they don’t violate content guidelines.

By DUKE HELFAND, L.A. Times Staff Writer

The state education department has given preliminary approval to statewide use of school textbooks inspired by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard that already are at the center of a controversy in Los Angeles schools.

Five books based on Hubbard’s education ideas are expected to be placed on a list of supplementary texts that schools across the state can purchase–possibly as soon as September, an education official said Monday.

“There’s no religion mentioned in those books,” said Anna Emery of the state Department of Education office that oversees the approval of supplemental textbooks. “They don’t say anything about Scientology.”

The action makes the books eligible, but not mandatory, for purchase and use by local school districts.

Under state education guidelines, schools can spend 30% of their textbook budgets on such supplemental materials when the texts meet minimum content requirements that govern such things as the depiction of ethnic groups and references to religion.

A 20-member citizens committee–one of many across the state selected by state and county education officials–reviewed the Hubbard works and approved them for the list after requiring a series of revisions, said Emery, an analyst with the curriculum, frameworks and instructional resources office at the state Department of Education.

Emery said some members of the panel expressed concerns about the use of the books because of the link to Hubbard, the controversial religious leader whose name is featured prominently on the front of the books.

The books, which teach a learning method known as Applied Scholastics, are published by Bridge Publications, which also produces literature for the Church of Scientology. But the panelists could find no legal reason to deny the works a place on the list on the basis of religion, Emery said.

“They were not real thrilled about it,” Emery said. “The name L. Ron Hubbard made them not want to approve it. But they had no choice.”

The proposed use of Hubbard-inspired texts has drawn attention because of the religious nature of Scientology, which has been variously criticized as a cult and a profit-driven enterprise since Hubbard began it in the early 1950s. Critics, including former Scientologists, contend that the works are simply an extension of Hubbard’s religious teachings.

But the citizens panel weighed 13 criteria drawn from the state education code in evaluating the texts, including one that bars texts from encouraging religious beliefs.

The panel, Emery said, could find no violation of the guideline on religion. Instead, the panel required Bridge to make changes in the ways the texts portrayed men and women and the disabled, and to add more ethnic minorities to the text or illustrations.

Los Angeles Unified School District officials expressed concern when they were told of the state’s action. The Hubbard-inspired texts have been the subject of controversy because of a proposal by a teacher who is a Scientologist to open a charter school in the Sunland-Tujunga area that would feature the Applied Scholastics works. A few other district teachers say they have been using the Hubbard-based texts and methods in their classrooms for years.

During a closed-door meeting to discuss possible church-state conflicts raised by the charter school proposal, the Los Angeles Board of Education decided Monday to seek an outside legal opinion from a constitutional law expert.

“The plot thickens,” said school board President Julie Korenstein. “We’ll have to let our attorneys know about this. We somewhat take our orders from the state Department of Education. When they have an approved list, we go to that approved list. This is all brand new information. It’s a total surprise.”

Administrators at Applied Scholastics, a private company in Hollywood that promotes the Hubbard teaching methods, applauded the state’s decision.

“I think this is fabulous news,” said Rena Weinberg, an Applied Scholastics spokeswoman. “I think it is very fitting because these sound educational principles are being recognized as they should, considering they have been in use so many years.”

Advocates say the Hubbard methods help students improve by removing three fundamental barriers to learning: students use dictionaries to look up words they do not understand in a process known as “word clearing,” they apply their lessons to real life and they master each rung of material to obtain a thorough understanding of a subject.

Critics, including former Scientologists, contend that the learning methods are a means of drawing new adherents into Scientology. The critics note, for example, the similarity between the “word clearing” principle taught in Applied Scholastics and the process of “clearing” away negative past experiences through Scientology courses.

Bridge Publications submitted the Applied Scholastics texts to the state in May 1996. The texts were reviewed by the citizens panel, and Bridge was notified of the need for three sets of changes:

Women, who had originally been depicted in passive roles, had to be shown in more dominant ways; for example, the revised versions had one woman riding a tractor.

Bridge also was required to add more ethnic groups, which it did by including more illustrations of minorities.

The publisher also was required to include disabled people in the books, which it did by showing them in wheelchairs, Emery said.

The panel approved Bridge’s revisions Wednesday. The books could be included in the September version of a catalog the state distributes to school districts three times a year announcing books on the supplemental list.

© Copyright Los Angeles Times

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