Group linked with Scientology cult denied school lease

The Cupertino Courier/June 18, 1980
By Mike Myslinski

An education group organizing in the Cupertino School District area may have tried to play down its affiliation with a controversial religious cult, the Church of Scientology.

The non-profit Applied Scholastics Inc. (ASI) has also held unauthorized training courses for three district teachers at the district's Hoover School after a request to have the district sponsor ASI programs was turned down by Associate Superintendent for Instruction William Zachmeier.

"We're not a front for Scientology," stressed ASI Executive Director Lisa Patella. "Our purpose and our interest is mainly education."

Patella has been a Scientologist for about five years. District Teachers Sue Pratt and Martha Williams, who plan to help Patella give ASI study courses to the public, are Scientologists.

And Williams, a teacher at Serra School in Sunnyvale, has already put in a purchase order with the district to buy two books from ASI that she intends to use in her classroom.

Ten percent of the gross that the local ASI program office brings in for courses costing as much as $350 goes to the Church of Scientology for "consultancy fees" because L. Ron Hubbard - found of the church - developed the study methods used in ASI, Patella said.

She said ASI is not trying to play down its connection to Scientology and that Zachmeier and Henry Dacuyan, principal of Hoover School, were informed that ASI was offering courses to district teachers in the Hoover library from last November to March.

Both school officials said they were not informed and plan to look into the matter.

Patella is negotiating with Shepherd School of San Jose to rent a classroom for ASI at the district's vacant Murdock School where Shepherd School has the main lease. Sheperd was not told of the connection between ASI and Scientology because the private school "never asked," Patella said.

Whether Shepherd is going to sublet to ASI is still up in the air.

The Church of Scientology was founded about 26 years ago by Hubbard, a former science-fiction writer. According to the New York Times, Hubbard, in 1949, told a meeting of other authors: "Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion."

The church, using various communication drills and a device that works like a crude lie-detector called the E-meter, says it can help persons reach a state of "clear" by getting them - for a large fee - to confront and overcome "engrams," or troubling experiences that happened in this or past lives.

Officials of the church, now a worldwide organization, including Hubbard's wife, Sue Mary [sic], were sentenced to jail last fall for directing a conspiracy to steal government documents about the church, which has also had run-ins with the government over its tax-exempt status. The convictions are on appeal.

Today there are about 5.4 million Scientologist practicing all over the world, claims Jeff Quiros, director of public relations for Northern California.

The basic stance of the church, Quiros said, is that it is being persecuted for its beliefs. He said Scientologists who forged credentials to gain access a few years back to government offices, including the CIA and the U.S. Justice Department, were being "overzealous" in their service of the church.

"We don't condone illegal acts," he said.

ASI was founded by five Los Angeles teachers who were also Scientologists back in 1972, said Frank Zurn, ASI president and director of the L.A. center. He said it is fair to say that Scientologists staff most of the ASI centers across the nation and in Mexico.

But he sees no conflict here. Critics just "assume they (ASI staff) are disseminating Scientology" to those who take ASI study courses. But every effort is made to avoid mention of Scientology, and ASI teaching methods - or "study technology" - are not connected to methods used in the church, Zurn said.

But a look at the books Patella plans to use if the ASI office opens up at Murdock School in West San Jose as planned July 1 shows that some ASI methods are the same as those used in Scientology.

In the church, there is a "communication" drill used that is known as "bull-baiting," according to John Biagiotti of Palo Alto, Scientologist minister who will oversee the ASI office at Murdock.

In this drill, a coach sits in front of a subject. While the coach yells obscenities, makes sexual remarks or otherwise taunts the subject at will, the subject must remain still, showing no emotion. If the subject laughs, sighs or begins to fidget, the coach yells "Flunk!" and the drill resumes, sometimes for hours.

This helps people to confront their weaknesses, Biagiotti said.

Bull-baiting and other, similar psychological drills used in the Church of Scientology can be found in the textbooks used by ASI to teach L. Ron Hubbard's study technology to Cupertino Union School District teachers recently.

However, the elementary school teachers said the drills were not used in the classroom, only the portions of the study technology relating to overcoming what ASI terms the "three barriers of study."

The first barrier, ASI says, involves knowing that "education in the absence of the mass in which the technology will be involved is very hard on the student."

Patella said an example of this is trying to teach a student about tractors without using a tractor. To overcome this, ASI places great importance on "demo kits" that are actually just collections of household items like yarn, a rubber band or a bottle cap. She said these kits are used by ASI-enrolled students, parents and teachers to give "mass" to a difficult word or idea, like the operation of a tractor.

These demo kits can "show any kind of idea," Patella said, and are an important learning tool in the ASI program.

The second great barrier to study taught in the ASI courses for young and old alike has to do with recognizing that a "sort of confusion or a reelingness" results when a student jumps ahead to his next assignment without fully grasping a previous one.

ASI says the third barrier produces a "blow" in a student: he loses interest in the subject, or wants to "blow" the classroom out of boredom. The barrier causing a "distinctly blank feeling or a washed-out feeling" is the misunderstood word.

L. Ron Hubbard calls this the most important of the barriers in his ASI study technology and claims that a child's inability to study a particular lesson can be traced back to a single word in a lesson that was not fully comprehended.

Dictionaries play a major role in all the ASI programs. ASI President Zurn says using a dictionary is not stressed in public schools and that this is the reason many students graduate but know very little.

Basically ASI helps people overcome the misunderstood word by having the "twin" partner who is always teamed up with another student trained in asking the person to stop at the difficult word, then look it up in a dictionary and use it in several sentences to assure that meaning is grasped.

When asked if this method isn't pretty much already the standard fare in American classrooms, Patella said yes, but there is more emphasis placed on words in the ASI method.

The non-Scientologist teachers who took the ASI course for instructors praised the methods taught. These teachers were Kay Matthews and Alice Stuart at Serra School in Sunnyvale and Betty Swartz at Lincoln in Cupertino.

In a testimonial letter graduates are invited to submit to ASI, Swartz wrote that dealing with the three barriers to study "is a new concept to me and I have begun to recognize the blocks in various students and deal with them in the prescribed manner."

A Saratoga mother of a child in Sue Pratt's class at Hoover also praised the ASI methods Pratt was using in her classroom. The mother, who asked not to be identified, said she was unaware of the connection between ASI and Scientology.

ASI promotional material mentions a test of 19 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District that purports to show "significant improvement in comprehension" for the 10 students in the test group that took ASI programs while the other nine remained in regular curriculums.

Other tests backing ASI came from the Los Feliz Apple School.

Apple Schools use ASI study technology and are affiliated with the Church of Scientology. These schools were the subject of an NBC news report broadcast on Saturday night that questioned whether the methods used in the school were actually indoctrinating students with the dogma of Scientology, and whether these methods were a form of brainwashing.

In the NBC report, Harvard psychiatrist Dr. John Clark said the Scientology methods of learning "train the child to be either a willing subject of tyranny or to be a tyrant himself."

The NBC report showed children performing the same TRs (training routines) that are spelled out in the ASI programs. One of these, designed to help a child learn better, involved having a student read sentences at random from "Alice in Wonderland" as another student, over and over, replies with "Good."

The practice of Scientology suggesting that it can improve a participant's life for a fee led to a jury last Aug. 16 awarding more than $2 million in damages to a former Scientologist.

Julie C. Thichbourne of Oregon alleged in her suit against Scientology that she suffered emotional distress as a result of her experiences with the church in 1975-76. The jury ruled the church had committed fraud. The case is on appeal.

And Boston attorney Michael Flynn has filed a $200 million federal class-action suit for fraud, outrageous conduct and breach of contract on behalf of a former Scientologist and others who felt they had been abused by the cult.

Local ASI Executive Director Lisa Patella lives in the county near the edge of Cupertino. She is sincere, she says, about her desire to want to help children learn better.

She has an associate degree in early childhood education from Gavilan College in Gilroy and works as an aide in the English as a Second language program at Orchard Valley School in San Jose.

She believes in Scientology. "It makes me angry to see people knock it," she said. "It just helps people to do better and be happier."

She adds: "I've seen too many people be helped (by Scientology). I've seen too many people be happy to ever consider the few that have been dissatisfied."

And despite some apparent connections, she maintains that ASI is a separate organization not influenced by Scientology.

"We really want to help people," she says of ASI's goals. "We're really out to help students."

The Cupertino Union School District Board of Education members were hesitant to comment on the presence of ASI in the area until they had more facts.

Board President Severene Bylin, commenting on whether the district would approve of having ASI as a tenant at Murdock School, said it would depend on the feelings of the people who live around the school, and whether ASI would be compatible with the other groups that are slated to lease portions of Murdock.

Unless the board says otherwise, Bylin noted that approval of subleases don't even come before the board, but are decided by the district administration, in conjunction with the holder of the main lease. "Of course there's a connection," between the Church of Scientology and ASI, noted the Rev. Doug Smith, the church's public affairs director for California.

Critics who charge that Scientology is using ASI as a front don't understand the positive things ASI is doing for education, Smith said.

Despite the financial ties, and the sharing of some of the same methodology, Smith said he feels the two organizations are still independent.

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