The teachings of Scientology appear to be taking root in Samoa. Last year, 10,000 copies of an educational textbook titled Learning How to Learn were given to the small Pacific island nation by Applied Scholastics: a non-profit organisation claiming to “promote the use of study techniques created by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology.” The books, supplied under the guise of educational resources, are authored by Hubbard himself, and espouse beliefs and theories based on the idea of Study Technology: a teaching method that Hubbard calls his religion’s “primary bridge to society", the ABC reports. A Samoa Observer investigation has now revealed that this material is being taught in at least six Samoan schools.
Applied Scholastics has been condemned by critics for allegedly spreading religious indoctrination materials masquerading as secular educational texts, despite the group’s insistence that it is "not part of the Church of Scientology or any other religious organisation". David Touretzky—an academic and researcher at Carnegie Mellon University—is one such critic.
"One of the reasons [the distribution of these educational materials is] objectionable is that it's covert religious instruction, it's teaching people Scientology," he told the ABC. David, who’s been denouncing the Church of Scientology and its partner organisations for years, notes that while Applied Scholastics readily admits to promoting “learning tools researched and developed by American author and educator L Ron Hubbard," they fail to acknowledge or reveal to that Hubbard himself “was a sociopath and a cult leader.” He also makes a point of discrediting the academic authority of Study Tech.
"You can't find any school of education or psychology department in the world that supports these ideas,” he says. “The only place where these concepts are taught are in the religious scripture of the Church of Scientology.
"It's harmful, it's bad educational theory and it's covert religious instruction."
While affirming their autonomy from the Church of Scientology, a spokesperson from Applied Scholastics admitted to the ABC that "parishioners are some of the biggest supporters of Applied Scholastics activities" and that donations from the church kept the lights on in its headquarters in St Louis, Missouri. It was also revealed that more than a dozen Samoan educators have recently travelled to those headquarters for training. It’s been suggested, however, that although Scientology appears to have gained a small foothold in Samoa, it’s unlikely that it will be able to properly take in the predominantly Christian country.
Applied Scholastics claims to be operating in 70 countries around the world—a figure that detractors say has been exaggerated in an attempt to make the group seem more marketable and drum up donations. In any case, at least two schools in Australia are known to be using materials supplied by the company: Yarralinda Primary School, in Melbourne, and the Athena School, in Sydney. The NSW Greens criticised the latter in 2010 for allegedly neglecting to reveal their ties to the Church of Scientology.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.
This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.