L. Ron Hubbard, the late science fiction writer and the founder of the Church of Scientology, wrote and lectured prolifically about education and learning skills, his supporters say. He identified three “barriers to learning":
- An “absence of mass” or the lack of the physical object a student is studying, which leads to confusion. Hubbard encouraged learners to use clay to create representations of objects.
- Too steep a study “gradient.” Students will become confused if they attempt to master a skill without grasping a necessary previous step.
- The “misunderstood word.” Readers should not skip over words they do not comprehend. Instead, they should consult a dictionary to go through a process called “word clearing.”
Word clearing involves not just looking up the word, but also using it in a sentence and understanding any secondary meanings. Students should sometimes work together to define misunderstood words in a form of cooperative learning, according to the theory.
Hubbard’s educational theories form what he called Study Technology. They are the basis for five educational texts that Hubbard-related organizations have submitted to the California Department of Education for approval as supplementary learning materials that could be purchased with public money for use in public school classrooms.
Church of the Mind
In 1950, after years of writing science fiction novels, Hubbard published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, which laid the foundation for the Church of Scientology. The book “offered something that was never before available--a workable technology of the mind that could be used to improve anyone’s life,” church President Heber Jentzch says on the church’s World Wide Web site.
The Los Angeles-based church claims more than 8 million adherents worldwide. Many critics argue that its membership figures are inflated.
After years of legal battles, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service granted the church a tax exemption in 1993.
Scientology relies heavily on training and spiritual counseling to help individuals overcome mental obstacles. Hubbard said that humans have spiritual beings called “thetans” that have been reincarnated over thousands of years. But in each reincarnation humans are burdened with “engrams,” or spiritual pain.
The church says that to become free of such engrams and reach a state of “clear,” members must undergo many hours of Dianetics “auditing,” or counseling. The church uses an “E-meter,” similar to a polygraph, to measure changes in the mind.
Critics say the church charges hundreds and even thousands of dollars for auditing sessions and courses in which members study Hubbard’s teachings.
Scientology is especially at odds with modern psychiatry and psychology, whose treatments it views as harmful to the human mind.
“Psychiatry is not a science and has no proven methods to justify the billions of [dollars in] government funds that are poured into it,” a document on the church’s Web site says.
Applied Scholastics International was established in 1972 to advance L. Ron Hubbard’s Study Technology. Applied Scholastics maintains it is one of several purely secular organizations established to perform humanitarian work around the world in the name of Hubbard.
Other organizations affiliated with the church but engaged in what it says is secular work include Narconon, a drug-rehabilitation effort; Criminon, a prisoner-rehabilitation program; and The Way to Happiness Foundation, which distributes booklets with a “nonreligious moral code” written by Hubbard. According to the church’s Web site, more than 7,000 schools have participated in contests based on the booklet.