Scientology is like the competitive, angry short guy in a family of six footers. They’ve always got something to prove and they can’t stand to be outdone.
In that spirit, it would seem Scientology may be attempting to get into the public school curriculum game – Intelligent Design style!
When these kinds of issues pop up, it always seems to be a celebrity involved on the side of Scientology and it usually makes me a little sad when I find out who it is. Beck hit me hard. For some reason, Juliette Lewis disappointed me and knowing Giovanni Ribisi was raised in that religion and still believes in it makes my girl parts sad. But now – now it’s just too much.
Nancy Cartwright, who supplies Bart with his quirky high-pitched voice, spoke in favor of a resolution that supported three options for character education in the state’s public school system, including Good Choices, a curriculum based on a code of conduct created by Scientology’s founder L. Ron Hubbard.
According to the resolution, the Good Choices program would satisfy the state school code that states “every public school teacher shall teach … respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, trustworthiness, and citizenship, in order to raise pupils’ honesty, kindness, justice, discipline, respect for others and moral courage for the purpose of lessening crime and raising the standard of good character.”
The code of conduct, titled “The Way to Happiness,” offers 21 precepts for a happier life, including many principles that resemble the 10 Commandments, the Golden Rule and advice from Mom.
I’m reading The Way to Happiness website and it’s kind of creepy. For one thing, a video immediately starts playing with a frightened, desperate sounding woman making a 911 call saying ‘please help, he’s dead.’
So there’s that.
But there are additional reasons I don’t think I’d want this taught to my kid. It doesn’t strike me as necessarily religious, but then again Scientology doesn’t really strike me as necessarily a religion. More of a for-profit cult. The problem with this advice or code of conduct or whatever you want to call it is that in several areas it’s flawed. For instance, one of the precepts is “Honor and Help Your Parents” and includes this line:
In spite of all, one must remember that they are the only parents one has. And as such, no matter what, one should honor them and help them.
I’m a mom and I think that’s bullshit. What if you have crappy parents? It’s a fact of life. It happens. Should a kid be expected to honor someone who doesn’t treat them with love and respect? I don’t think so. I don’t think this is the kind of thing that should be uniformly taught without consideration for each child’s individual situation.
Another of the 21 precepts is titled “Seek To Live With The Truth”, but the idea of truth laid out in this section is pretty suspect.
What is true is what is true for you.
No one has any right to force data off on you and command you to believe it or else. If it is not true for you, it isn’t true.
Think your own way through things, accept what is true for you, discard the rest. There is nothing unhappier than one who tries to live in a chaos of lies.
Wait, what? What the hell are they talking about? If someone shows me the results of a verified scientific study, I can’t just decide that information isn’t true. That’s not how the world works. There is personal truth and then there is factual truth. This statement seems to blend the two as if both can be approached in the same way.
And I don’t mean to over-quote, but this whole section left me with a raised eyebrow:
A thief sows the environment with mysteries: what happened to this, what happened to that? A thief causes trouble far in excess of the value of things stolen.
Faced with the advertising of desirable goods, torn by the incapability of doing anything valuable enough to acquire possessions or simply driven by an impulse, those who steal imagine they are acquiring something valuable at low cost. But that is the difficulty: the cost. The actual price to the thief is high beyond belief. The greatest robbers in history paid for their loot by spending their lives in wretched hide-outs and prisons with only rare moments of “the good life.” No amount of stolen valuables would reward such a horrible fate.
Stolen goods greatly reduce in value: they have to be hidden, they are always a threat to liberty itself.
Even in communist states, the thief is sent to prison.
There is something very 1984 about that whole passage to me. But the question isn’t if it’s creepy or even bad advice, the question is – is this religious?
I don’t know. Is Scientology a religion? If it is, then I can see how this might be considered too closely related to their teachings. It even sounds similar. From the Scientology
We welcome you to Scientology. We only expect of you your help in achieving our aims and helping others. We expect you to be helped.
Scientology is the most vital movement on Earth today.
In a turbulent world the job is not easy. But then, if it were, we wouldn’t have to be doing it.
We respect Man and believe he is worthy of help. We respect you and believe you too can help.
Scientology does not owe its help. We have done nothing to cause us to propitiate. Had we done so we would not now be bright enough to do what we are doing.
Man suspects all offers of help. He has often been betrayed, his confidence shattered. Too frequently he has given his trust and been betrayed. We may err, for we build a world with broken straws. But we will never betray your faith in us so long as you are one of us.
The sun never sets on Scientology.
And may a new day dawn for you, for those you love and for Man.
Our aims are simple if great.
And we will succeed, and are succeeding at each new revolution of the Earth.
Your help is acceptable to us.
Our help is yours.
Sounds like a lot of similar airy, self help mumbo-jumbo, though the second excerpt certainly leaves me with a more defined cult vibe. Bart, however, does not agree.
“This book is not religious,” she said. Cartwright, a contributor to Scientology, insisted her effort was not an attempt to inject Hubbard’s philosophies into the classroom.
“I’m just trying to help kids do a better job,” Cartwright said. “I mean, you can all agree that you can look around. We’ve got a problem. We’ve got a problem here on this planet. It doesn’t take much to open up your eyes, whether you’re a parent or not, to see the kids are influenced by iPods, by television, by adult movies, by the internet, by drugs, by gangs. They need help, and this provides a solution for these kids that are troubled.”
Can I just step away for a minute and express my delight in the delicious irony of the voice of Bart making a public plea for decency? I know The Simpsons is tame these days, but
when I was a kid, it was considered one of the most offensive TV shows ever made. EVER MADE! And now look at her. Clutching them pearls and begging us all to think of the children!
And what a weird escalation of interests for young people, why on earth are the enjoyment of electronic devices and television – the industry in which Ms. Cartwright makes a living mind you – being lumped together with porno, drugs and gangs?! That’s right lady, one day Billy gets a new nano, the next week he’s robbing a liquor store to score some cred with his crew.
What does the local government have to say about it? Rep. Dan Burke of Chicago insists that he has no intention of making this a church state issue:
…[Rep. Dan Burk] had sought ways to help build character in youngsters today and offered a resolution with suggestions. He said he will amend the legislation to remove any unintended references which could be interpreted as faith-based.
“We’re going to make it as palatable, might we say, as we possibly can get it,” Burke said. “Don’t want to offend anyone, and we certainly don’t want to be accused of bringing religion into a state issue. I’m a firm believer of the separation of church and state, and we’re going to make that perfectly clear.”
I suppose that’s good news, but I’m still left with a nagging question – why use it at all? This is one of three choices being proposed – why even consider including it?