In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Prescott Middle School of Baton Rouge, LA has mandated all 8th graders take a "study skills" course written by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and taught by a practicing Scientologist. Prescott serves poor, predominantly African-American students including many evacuees from parts of southeastern Louisiana devastated by Katrina.
The actor John Travolta, a Scientologist, provided much of the money for the $20,000 program.
The program has been harshly criticized by Professor Dave Touretsky of Carnegie Mellon, an expert on Scientology. He calls it "covert religious instruction" and therefore unconstitutional to teach in public schools: "Scientologists will use the program at Prescott to sell the program to other struggling communities and to promote the image of Scientology. The idea is probably not to convert people directly, but rather to establish Scientologists as 'do-gooders' and then to slip in more Scientology down the road."
Apparently, that's how Tom Cruise (raised Catholic and who at one time considered entering the seminary) discovered Scientology. The actor has claimed Hubbard's study program helped him overcome dyslexia and piqued his interest in Scientology.
Were the parents of the Prescott schoolchildren even made aware of the program's links to Scientology? Is there an "opt-out" provision for those who do not want their children exposed to the pseudoscience and the problematic from a Judeo-Christian standpoint spiritual beliefs of Scientology?
Scientology has been widely criticized as a cult and a fraud. L. Ron Hubbard was a science fiction writer who in the late 1940's told a writer's convention: "You don't get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion." A few years later he published the book Dianetics and Scientology was born.
I find it extremely troubling that Scientology has been allowed to gain a foothold in public education. The ACLU just filed a lawsuit in Texas last week over an elective "Bible in History and Literature" high school course- why are they silent about this required middle school Scientology one?????