Scientology Link at Montessori School Alarms Parents

Source: CBC News
Date: September 18, 2008

Some parents are upset with a study method introduced by a Montessori school in northwest Toronto, which they say has its roots in the Church of Scientology.

Parents said the owner of the Bambolino Montessori Academy, a private school, told parents last week that it was introducing a new learning method called applied scholastics.

Janice Blundon said parents like her weren't given a choice when the dean at her son's school told them they'd be implementing the study technique.

"I let him know I wasn't familiar with that, and [asked] who was teaching that, and what was it based on. He said it was based on L. Ron Hubbard," she said.

When Blundon found out Hubbard was the founder of the Church of Scientology, she pulled her son out of the school.

"If the sign says Montessori, parents [are] expecting Montessori, then they should be provided a Montessori education. And if they're not, that's fine, but they should be made aware of the situation," said Blundon.

"We have nothing to hide," said Julia Simon, the owner and principal of Bambolino. "Come in openly, anytime in the classroom, observe, grab a chair, sit down, watch the method."

Applied scholastics is also known as study technology. According to the theory, when students don't understand a concept, it's because they've misunderstood a particular word in a sentence. They're told to look at pictures or definitions in a dictionary, until the concept becomes clear.

Critics say it suppresses freedom of thought, a charge the head of Applied Scholastics Canada calls ridiculous.

"The whole point of children understanding is so that they can think for themselves," said Liz Zahari, the director of the organization.

The school also follows a curriculum supplied by the province's Ministry of Education.

Both Simon and the new dean are Scientologists, but say the school doesn't teach Scientology and that applied scholastics is secular.

Of her 120 students, she said, only seven in the senior grades will be using applied scholastics, as the rest are all too young.

"If I plan to implement [applied scholastics] in lower elementary, I would talk to parents one on one and get their consent," said Simon.