|Illustration by Edd Cartier for Hubbard's story "Fear"
Fox News is not normally one to criticize education reform, not unless a religious cult is profiting from it. In this case, Washington, D.C. schools has approved Applied Scholastics International (ASI) to provide Supplemental Educational Services (SES) to failing schools—one of the consequences of repeated failure under No Child Left Behind (NCLB)—and ASI is connected to the Church of Scientology. (For more on SES, see here and here).
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According to the ASI website, the organization emphasizes “Study Technology," a system developed by L. Ron Hubbard. The system, which proponents tout as secular, has been criticized for relying on core Scientology methods and ideology and for suppressing freedom of thought. Critics argue that both Study Tech and ASI are front groups for the Church of Scientology. Indeed, Hubbard said that Study Tech was directly affiliated with Scientology and the church’s “primary bridge to society” (Hubbard, Ethics and Study Tech, Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letters of 4 April 1972, and Wikipedia).
Study Tech is also based on a lot of quackery, like the notion that when a student yawns it is because he doesn’t understand one of the words, or the idea that misunderstood words are the cause of all student confusion.
FOX 5 reported that D.C. Public Schools paid the group a total of $12,000 in federal funds for tutoring services provided for the 2009-2010 school year at the same time the district was laying off teachers and making other deep program cuts. ASI licenses its material to schools and demands 4% of the school’s gross income in return.
This is not the Church’s only attempt to cash in on the education reform mania sweeping the nation. Fox News reported that according to ASI’s latest IRS records, it sold its services to 248 school districts throughout the U.S. in 2010. In that same year, the organization made $1.3 million from its education and literacy programs. Study Tech and other Hubbard methodologies are also at the core of the World Literacy Crusade.
Huffington Post reported that a charter school in Clearwater, FL, The Life Force Arts and Technology Academy, was heavily influenced by the Church of Scientology, including the use of Hubbard’s “Study Technology.” The school even held its Christmas party at a Scientology church in Tampa and students were given Scientology books and DVDs.
ASI also took advantage of the chaos following hurricane Katrina to make inroads in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Prescott Middle School adopted Study Tech and purchased ASI services, in part due to the urging of Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, who had met John Travolta and Isaac Hayes and heard recommendations of the program from these two famous scientologists, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Travolta also provided seed money to get the program up and running.