The proposal by a teacher to open a charter school in the Sunland-Tujunga area, one which will include among its textbooks some written by L. Ron Hubbard, has become something of a controversy--which is a pity, because the real issue is so much more important.
Whether a controversy actually existed before a couple of Times columnists made their prejudices known is debatable. Certainly, they didn’t help. The latest came from Scott Harris, who had what he obviously thought was fun writing a column he termed a “parody,” one which included grossly altered information about Scientology. To Scientologists Harris’ idea of fun was nothing but bigotry.
Still, Scientologists are used to being misunderstood by the media and they aren’t the real casualties in this tempest in a teapot.
Only one valid question has been raised: Because L. Ron Hubbard is also founder of the religion of Scientology, do these books propagate the religion and thus violate separation of church and state?
Not according to the state Department of Education office that oversees approval of supplemental textbooks. A 20-member citizens committee reviewed the works and, according to a department spokesperson, “They don’t say anything about Scientology.” Which is why the state has approved statewide use of these textbooks.
So much for that.
Let’s get to the only important issue. Somewhere between 25% and 50% of all Americans, depending upon which study you read, are functionally illiterate. Either of those figures and anything in between is too high.
The fact is: Although you may be reading this, many, many Americans cannot.
There is no shortage of other statistics to signal that we have a crisis on our hands. While SAT scores are “recentered” to account for lowered standards, and each small upward tick is applauded, the fact is that since the 1960s they have plummeted. And when one considers the proven link between illiteracy and criminality, the cost to society is enormous.
The focus in Los Angeles is currently on the shortage of textbooks in our schools. Although this is lamentable and must be corrected, it is not the basic issue. What use are textbooks to kids who can’t read?
It is this situation that Hubbard’s methods remedy. And while educators argue over the efficacy of the “phonics” or “whole language” methods of instruction, and politicians talk about smaller classrooms and “privatization,” Hubbard undercuts all this to provide a workable method to learn how to learn, the value of which has been demonstrated in school after school in many countries since the 1960s and validated in numerous studies.
How do you absorb material so that you understand it? How do you understand it well enough so that you can actually apply it? These are the questions that his methods resolve. And their application on a widespread scale could signal a renaissance in education that will turn this dismal tide.
Why did nobody talk about this--the real issue? Were they more interested in controversy than education?
It is somewhat amusing to see that the media, which for years debated the question of whether Scientology was a religion or not, is now carping about Hubbard’s secular works, claiming “they must be religious.”
To be fair, L. Ron Hubbard was a remarkable man whose contributions cover many fields. Perhaps this is something that defies the descriptive powers of some journalists. A man who lived a life of extraordinary depth, he was known initially to the public as a fiction author, but he was also a humanitarian who researched various means to help mankind. And, in doing this, he not only developed methods that address our gravest social problems, but also founded the Scientology religion. For a founder of a 20th century religion not to do this, in view of societal decay, would have been a grave omission, he felt. He was also perfectly aware that the solutions he proposed needed to be secular in nature so that they would be available to help everyone.
L. Ron Hubbard’s motive always was to elevate the culture. And he was nothing if not prescient. In 1950 he wrote, “Today’s children will become tomorrow’s civilization. The end and goal of any society as it addresses the problem of education is to raise the ability, the initiative and cultural level and with all of that the survival level, of that society, and when a society forgets any one of these things it is destroying itself by its own education mediums.”
That we as a society did forget is painfully apparent as we look at the problem we face today. Fortunately, Hubbard did not forget and spent much of his life developing methods to effectively reverse the decline.
We would be fools not to take advantage of them.