What will Suri Cruise learn at her Scientology-influenced school?

Brian Palmer

Suri Cruise and Katie Holmes. Click image to expand.Katie Holmes and Suri Cruise, who has begun attending a Scientology-influenced schoolSuri Cruise attended her first day of school last week. The daughter of the world’s most famous Scientologist matriculated at the New Village Leadership Academy in Calabasas, California, which employs educational methods developed by L. Ron Hubbard. What happens at a Scientology-influenced school?

Independent study, sculpting, and possibly a little grade inflation. The schools that employ Hubbard’s "study technology" system aren’t directly affiliated with the Church of Scientology, so there is some variation among institutions. Generally speaking, students begin the day with a check sheet of things to accomplish. It’s usually a series of short lessons followed by tasks that require the students to apply their knowledge. For example, a student may have to read the first chapter of a novel, then write a brief essay on what she learned. When she completes a task, a teacher or a more advanced student checks the task off the list before she moves on to the next. Since each student works from her own sheet at her own pace, teachers usually do not lecture the class as a whole. Instead, they circulate to support the students’ independent activities.

Sculpting is a big deal at Hubbard-influenced schools. The founder of Scientology believed that an absence of "mass"—that is, the physical presence of the object under study—frustrates a student. (The official website for study technology says the absence of mass makes students feel "squashed, "bent," "sort of spinny," "sort of dead," or "bored.") Whenever a student is having trouble understanding a concept, like the orbital path of planets, the teacher encourages her to sculpt it using clay.

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