28 September 2011

Poor little girl

The one topic that I try to consciously avoid in TYWKIWDBI is "celebrity news."  I consider such material to be trivial and uninteresting.  Much or most of it is probably inaccurate as well, possibly including this item from e+  I'm posting this only because the content has implications for discussions of education and religion.
It was only a matter of time before Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes started ramping up daughter Suri's involvement with Tom's controversial belief system, Scientology, and last week, the five-year-old enrolled at a school which uses the teachings of the ‘cult's' founder, L Ron Hubbard, in its lessons.

The New Leadership Academy in chic Calabasas, California - a school established and funded by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, who have never confirmed nor denied that they are Scientologists - boasts many Scientologist teachers, and uses a teaching system called ‘Study Technology', coupled with days of fasting and lessons far removed from traditional maths, science or languages...

"Instead of learning basic words and maths, Suri and the other children will learn how to rid themselves of engrams - that is, past memories that block learning and understanding," a former Scientologist told Woman's Day. Adding, "Everything is so different."

And Suri will also take lessons in learning to build and interact with robots, as robotics are considered a major part of the ‘religion'...

With one of the core Scientology beliefs centred around the idea that an alien galactic overlord called Xenu was responsible for creating humanity and the earth as we know it today, pupils at the New Leadership Academy are taught lessons to prepare them for eventual alien contact.

"The kids are on a special diet that includes low-carb lunches and even days of fasting," the ex-Scientologist told the magazine. "And the lessons are steps towards the eventual ‘revelation' that we are all descended from aliens."
More at the link.  Image credit WENN.


  1. While this is a sad tale, it's essentially the same story of brainwashing and indoctrination that most parochial school and many home-schooled children experience.

    Back in my Catholic grade school days, I didn't get training for future interaction with aliens but I was told fantastic tales of virgin birth, magic, invisible friends and enemies, and even that I was participating in cannibalism as bread and wine were converted into the actual body and blood of Jesus when I took sacrament.

    Scientology just has newer fairy tales. The indoctrination isn't any different than other religions have refined over centuries.

  2. Hey, wait a minute:

    "And Suri will also take lessons in learning to build and interact with robots, as robotics are considered a major part of the ‘religion'..."

    Firstly, how many of you know how to build a robot?

    Also, scare quotes around the word religion? Classy. And peculiar, unless you are trying to draw a line separating the "normal" ones from the ones with weird, fantastic beliefs and practices.

  3. Hmm.. I'm not sure if we should be that concerned here... Like Manpace said... They're learning to build robots... That involves mathematics, geometry, engineering, material design, etc.

    Preparing for alien contact, could also require an understanding of biology, chemistry, math, astronomy, and other sciences...

    I mean you can say the same thing about Catholicism, that they learn about the world using science and math, to understand the wonder of God's creation. They also believe in weird things like dead people rising from the grave and that bread turns into human flesh.

    I think the only thing that might be a little frustrating here is the idea of indoctrinating a child so young... but then again... baptisms and christian indoctrination starts at birth.


    I'm pretty sure Suri will still be a functional member of society... One with weird beliefs, no doubt, but then I know plenty of people with weird beliefs.

  4. Nothing like a good bit of Catholic-bashing in defense of this school. Other Christians excluded, of course, and let's not consider any of the myriad other religious beliefs in the world.

    The issue at hand seems to be more one of the religious education being in the place of other education, rather than in addition to, or as a framework for those traditional subjects. I'd like to know more about the materials presented, for instance if the focus on robotics does in fact involved the topics that Wayne mentions.

  5. Weird religious issues aside, days of fasting? for five-year-olds?

  6. Nothing like a good bit of Catholic-bashing in defense of this school. Other Christians excluded, of course, and let's not consider any of the myriad other religious beliefs in the world.

    Chill, I don't think Catholicism is being singled out on purpose. But Catholicism does share some similarities with Scientology (ie a centralized organization) that other religions lack, which makes comparison likely. (Mormonism is similar too, but much less popular.)

    Crazy and cultish as Scientology is, it's no less crazy than any other religion, and only slightly more cultish than most. Those outraged about children being indoctrinated into Scientology should be equally incensed by any children being given a strictly religious education.

    Except... Robots! That's pretty cool.

  7. @AF Christianity/Catholicism kinda gets the majority of the bashing, because, well, its the giant elephant in the room. If I picked on some random religious group that was less usual, then the force of the argument isn't apparent. Well of course, THEY'RE weird. But Christianity/Catholicism isn't weird, since its the NORM.

    But fine... WTF, elephant headed people with 8 arms... WTF talking animals... WTF the world was hatched in an egg. WTF aliens planting people on volcanoes.

    As for Robots... I suppose its possible to build robots without learning about engineering and math, and such... But would you really be building a robot anymore? You'd just be assembling things.

    @seraph Fasting might be unusual, but there's evidence that fasting isn't harmful, and might be actually beneficial to you, healthwise. But of course it would depend on how one fasts. What counts as fasting for one group (not eating all day but eating after sundown) may not count for another (not eating anything for 5 days).

    So depending on how she's fasting, we should be concerned, or we should just shrug.

  8. Building robots will, must, necessarily be at best mechanical until kids are at minimum well versed in many basics. So if "Instead of learning basic words and maths" they're learning to build and interact with (note) robots, they're not learning the basics. How will they get advanced enough to design and build robots without a foundation built over a number of years? Seriously.

    OTOH, as has been said, belief systems are belief systems, and it's hard to fault a belief in robots and aliens over the deities other religions.

    At the least, however, all schooling must provide the same basic curriculum of maths, sciences, arts and so on. If this school is *not* teaching those basics, it should be shut down or required to adjust. Other teachings, as long as they're not explicitly harmful to individual or society, that's the part where our society has agreed people should have freedom.

  9. Sorry, OTOH should be "As to the rest"

  10. it's pretty hard to destroy a kid (Christ Scientists excepted) if its parents love it. I wouldn't worry about her.

  11. Count me as one of the people unconvinced that she'll be getting a worse education that her public school, union taught peers.

  12. Agree with Seraph - days of fasting surely can't be healthy for such young children. Even in Islam children aren't required to fast for Ramadan until they reach puberty, although they may participate younger if they wish.

  13. Bret- oh I get it, because if you can't afford private school you child deserves to be stupid and their schools and despicable teachers mindlessly denigrated.

  14. Way I figure it, she's a rich little girl (providing her parents don't leave all their money to The Church and she's smart enough to play along until they kick off).

  15. Once upon a time, I'm told, elementary schools used to teach kids a little bit about basic logic, in addition to the three R's. It was before my time, but that's what I heard. The fact that they no longer do this may be contributing to the dumbing down of America and our seeming inability to critically evaluate information. What, for example, is the difference between real journalism and tabloid journalism? A real reporter, when faced with anonymous allegations that a religious sect is running a school where they teach five year olds to build robots in between making them fast for days--in other words, starving them--would investigate to see whether any of it was remotely true. Which, probably, let's face it, it isn't. No story there. Too bad. However, the tabloid journalist simply prints the allegations, and the information free-for-all that is the internet carries it away. Then it ends up at a blog like this, where the host posts it not because it's true, but because it has "implications for discussions of education and religion". Now, much like a bunch of religious scholars debating Noah's ark, we are involved in an intelligent discussion of something that probably never happened.
    Having said all that, they get to build robots? Coolest school EVER.

  16. Scientology has some very, very bad history, but there's little insight into what it's currently doing. What insight I've seen, I don't like. If you wanted to invent a religion to make lots and lots of money from and gain lots and lots of control over your 'followers', it'd look exactly like Scientology. Hopefully Suri's parents are not so brainwashed that they'll allow their child to be harmed.

  17. Okay, all. I'm a Scientologist and I'd like to say a few things.

    1. I WISH I learned robotics as part of my religion. However, in my years of religious study and everyday interaction at church, I have never heard of robots as part of my religion. This is the first time I've heard about this.

    2. Aliens. Oh, god. ALIENS. We don't worship aliens and none of us expect to meet one. We don't CARE about aliens, or if there even ARE aliens. Why should we? I get asked about this a lot and I don't have any answers as to where this idea came from.

    3. We don't fast. If anything, emphasis is placed on getting good nutrition, as it keeps you healthy and happy. And by "nutrition" I don't mean "low-carb". I'm not sure where that's coming from, either.

    4. No one gets rid of memories. I hear this one a lot, too.

    So much of this seems ridiculous to me. I really wish people could just come to my church and see how normal things are.

  18. Abbie -- Absolutely. Your trumped up straw man is *exactly* what I'm advocating. Don't fool yourself by thinking you're actually helping children by controlling the entire education system. You're doing more harm than good.

    Eve -- Thank you for the perspective, but you seem to have killed the thread. That'll teach you to inject actual perspective into a discussion!

  19. I'm surprised how many posters don't think we need Math and Science or that public schools with "union" teachers can't do a good job. Really "out there" stuff.

    Eve, Maybe you have just not been told about the aliens YET.

    Maybe they sanitize it for certain audiences.

    Assuming you stay with this group, they will tell you. But first you have to give a bunch of money and be really committed. You might not be worshipping them, but it is in your tenet. L. Ron was a science fiction writer.

    "Purification Rundown ( PR or "Purif" as it's known to Scientologists) consists of taking toxic doses of the B vitamin Niacin while fasting, exercising and sitting in the sauna for many hours at a time."

    "Clear in Dianetics and Scientology is one of two levels a practitioner can achieve on the way to personal salvation. A state of Clear is reached when a person becomes free of the influence of engrams, unwanted emotions or painful traumas not readily available to the conscious mind."

  20. the food seems like it would set up really unhealthy eating habits and eating disorders for kids later in life... the rest is weird but not like AWFUL.

  21. Honestly, very little difference between Suri's schooling and any other school where religion is at the forefront.


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