Will Smith's New School Sparks Controversy Over Scientology
Posted on Mon Jun 30, 2008 08:56 AM PDT

Will Smith WillSmith0329_02.jpg LOS ANGELES, California (X17online) - Will Smith's new school, New Village Academy, has sparked controversy lately, due to the fact that several teachers are members of the Church of Scientology, and teaching methods developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard will be used at the private school in Calabasas.

According to the Los Angeles Times, both Smiths have denied that they are Scientologists, and Smith even made a statement about his intentions, saying:

"About 10 years ago, Jada and I started dreaming about the possibility of creating an ideal educational environment, where children could feel happy, positive and excited about learning. New Village Academy was born of a simple question, 'Is it possible to create an educational environment in which children have fun learning?' Jada and I believe the answer is 'Yes.' "

The head of the school, Jacqueline Olivier, confirmed that some staff members are Scientologists, as well as Christian and Jewish, and that the school has no religious affiliation.

Olivier added,

"We are a secular school and just like all nonreligious independent schools, faculty and staff do not promote their own religions at school or pass on the beliefs of their particular faith to children."

One teaching method the school will employ is study technology, which was developed by Hubbard and focuses on students getting hands-on experience, and mastering subject matter before moving to the next level. Olivier explained, "People tend to think study technology is a subject, but it is really just the way the subject is taught. They then come to the conclusion that we are teaching Scientology when actually a methodology doesn't have anything to do with content." She added that the school will use many other philosophies, including Montessori, Bruner and Gardner.

However, critics claim that the school is not being honest about its ties to Scientology. David S. Touretzky, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University argues that it is Scientology disguised as education. Touretzky states:

"There is no reputable educator anywhere who endorses [study technology]. What happens is that children are inculcated with Scientology jargon and are led to regard L.R. Hubbard as an authority figure. They are laying the groundwork for later bringing people into Scientology."

Ron Reynolds, executive director of the California Assocation of Private School Organizations, remained somewhat neutral, but certainly has his doubts, as he said:

"I know next to nothing about Scientology, but if you're using some method or technology closely associated with Scientology and Scientology is characterized as a church or religious body, it raises a question if they proclaim themselves as other than religious. I don't want to insinuate the school is failing to disclose anything. But as a matter of good practice, if a school has an affiliation, it would behoove it to expose it."

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