Much is being made of the private school funded by Will and Jada Pinkett Smith in Calabasas, Calif.
Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Times published an article about New Village Academy, citing its inclusion of Scientology teaching in its curriculum. Some of the teachers, the Times said, are Scientologists. The Smiths deny being members of the group.
I told you in this column last year that Smith had donated money to Scientology’s LEAP curriculum. The Smiths' burgeoning friendship with Tom Cruise, Will Smith’s proclamations about Cruise's incredible work ethic and even Smith's new movie, "Hancock," which is about a reluctant superhero, point to an interest in the religious sect started by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.
But a visit to the Web site for New Village Academy is even more revealing about the direction of the school, if not the Scientology involvement.
Smith’s students are getting an odd education in global policy. According to the school’s mission statement, students "recycle plastic bottles at 10 cents per bottle. Once we have $100 (1,000 bottles) we have enough money to buy a goat for a village in Africa, which can ensure the survival of this village."
Most rural Africans would agree that goats are not what they need at this point. When I got a tour of an extremely rural village in Botswana’s Okavango Delta last summer, I asked what the children there needed most.
"A school," replied our guide, Xanthe, without hesitation. He didn’t say, "goat." New Village Academy might be interested in this. African villages also need things like shoes, electricity, irrigation and medical supplies. That $100 might go a long way to getting those items through Save the Children, UNICEF and other proper organizations.
But the goat - this is what is making me nervous about New Village Academy. It’s not just the presence of a Scientology curriculum; it’s that the school was devised by movie stars who homeschooled their kids because they didn’t concur with the National Education Association or the United Teachers, groups that disseminate public education to 99 percent of the schoolkids in the United States.
As for the Scientology influence at New Village Academy: The school’s much-invoked mantra is "Spiral Up." Whether the Smiths know it or not, and I suspect they do, the word "spiral" is very much a part of the Scientologists' lexicon. It appears constantly throughout their propaganda. A "dwindling spiral" is when "one commits overt acts unwittingly."
That certainly describes Smith’s character, "Hancock," in his movie opening on Wednesday. Hancock uses his superpowers to keep disrupting society in big ways - destroying highways, buildings, etc., when "saving" victims - until he sees the light.