L. Ron Hubbard: inspiration for Michelle Rhee?
Well, would you?
Would you let Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, founder of Scientology—a man who believed that 76 million years ago, Xenu (the head of the Galactic Confederation) brought billions of people to Earth to be murdered, and that their disembodied spirits cling to humans and afflict us to this day—teach your kids? Would you let a man who founded a quasi-religious naval paramilitary organization—who routinely "overboarded" subordinates, and who on occasion imprisoned children in a ship's chain locker—design a curriculum for your child's school?
No? Well, how'd you feel about paying with your tax dollars for a school run using Hubbard's educational theories? Not great? Well, I hope you don't live in Florida.
Because that's just what's happening at Life Force Arts and Technology Academy in Dunedin, Florida, according to an excellent investigative piece by the Tampa Bay Times' Drew Harwell. Harwell has uncovered the inextricable ties between the Church of Scientology and Life Force, a charter school paid for by the taxpayers of Pinellas County. The leaders of the school are directly affiliated with Church front groups like the World Literacy Crusade. Kids at this public charter school are being taught using Scientology "study tech," an educational methodology designed by L. Ron Hubbard and employed throughout Scientology studies. Life Force teachers—whose wages are ultimately paid by the state!—were required to learn "study tech" by attending classes at the Church of Scientology's world headquarters in Clearwater. And not only is Life Force essentially a front for the Church; it seems to have adopted some of Scientology's most heinous practices with regard to the treatment of kids:
One morning in November, a Pinellas County schools employee saw two young boys sitting in the Life Force lobby. Near them stood the school custodian, holding a wringer bucket and an industrial-sized mop. The boys, the employee told school district officials, had gotten in trouble. For punishment they were to work alongside the school custodian. One boy would mop the floors; the other, scrub a bathroom.
Williams, Life Force's director of operations, told the school district this was ordinary practice at Life Force. Student discipline entailed forfeiting recess for "work detail." Dot Clark, the school district's coordinator of partnership schools, told Life Force administrators that forcing young children to clean bathrooms was "inappropriate, unhealthy and a possible safety concern."
But Islam defended the practice. "We have found in many programs," Islam wrote to Clark, "having children contribute to the cleanliness of their environment (can) enhance their level of ownership and build their self-esteem." ... The punishment mirrors the approach of the Church of Scientology's Rehabilitation Project Force, where staffers in the Sea Org, Scientology's religious order, are forced to perform menial labor to redeem themselves for what the church considers transgressions.
But the broader point here isn't about what's wrong with Scientology. Life Force is pretty much the embodiment of what's wrong with charter schools
. Charters take public money, the taxes that you and I pay, and place it in the hands of private entities that are too often poorly vetted, and which too often have dubious pedagogical agendas. As long as there is a mad push to privatize our public schools, there will be charlatans and frauds waiting to cash in and grab a cut of that sweet, sweet taxpayer-funded pie. The Church of Scientology is just one of them.