Study Technology, or Study Tech, is a teaching method developed by L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology. Study Technology is used by Scientologists as part of their training, and is also promoted outside the church by an affiliated corporation known as Applied Scholastics, which presents Study Tech as a secular, universally applicable method to enhance the comprehension of any student, studying any topic. However, the method has many critics, including former teachers, claiming that the "technology" and associated schools are intrinsically linked with religious aspects of Scientology.
Hubbard wrote in a Scientology policy letter in 1972 that "Study Tech is our primary bridge to Society." Most Study Tech books include a two-page biography of Hubbard that does not mention his role in creating Scientology. Religious scholar J. Gordon Melton said that Hubbard wrote the Study Tech materials to help people who joined Scientology with a low level of literacy, and that the materials are used within the Church of Scientology “not to proselytize for the religion but to teach people how to read.”
According to Study Tech, there are three barriers that prevent students from learning: "absence of mass", too steep a gradient, and the misunderstood word. Each barrier will, according to Hubbard, produce a physiological response in the student such as yawning, or feeling bored or frustrated. In accordance with L. Ron Hubbard's beliefs, the method denies the existence of psychiatric conditions, including any learning difficulties.
Study Tech materials claim that "absence of mass" is the idea that abstractions must be illustrated physically before they can be fully understood: learning about trains is accelerated if the student can see a train or a representation of one. Scientology classrooms are therefore equipped with modelling clay and "demo kits." One of the course requirements for people learning to be Scientology trainers is to model in clay the premise of every paragraph in Hubbard's book, Dianetics 55!.
"Too steep a study gradient" occurs when the student tries to learn too quickly, in which case the teacher directs the student back to the point where he last demonstrated understanding.
The "misunderstood word" is what Hubbard called the "misunderstood definition or the not comprehended definition, the undefined word." Scientology classrooms are therefore equipped with different kinds of dictionaries, and students are directed to "find your misunderstood." Yawning is taken as a physical sign that a student has misunderstood a word or concept.
Study tech emphasizes the principle of “word clearing,” (not a parallel of the Scientology concept of clearing engrams), where readers are asked to look up the meaning of words that they do not understand, and then in turn to look up unfamiliar words within the word’s definition.
As of 1991, there were 150 schools using Study Tech worldwide according to the St. Petersburg Times, including in Australia, several European countries, South Africa, and the United States. Supporters say the schools achieve good results and are "drug-free", though this is mostly referring to psychiatric drugs. Several Florida Study Tech schools have been discredited for this hard-line anti-psychiatric approach.
In the United States, the method is used by Delphi Schools, which runs a number of primary, middle, and secondary schools, and New Village Academy, a private school in Calabasas, California. Materials from the program were accepted as "supplementary texts" (i.e. not mandatory, but allowed) by the California Department of Education, as they were found not to mention religion. Before approval, minor modifications were required to include more women, people of color, and disabled people. The materials were, however, criticized by a number of experts, for example for the practice of "word clearing" was criticized as not being appropriate to all levels of reading skill, and for being a subtle way to advance religious practice of clearing technology; and there was also criticism for religiously loaded use of words like "mass", "gradient" and "demo kit". As of 1998, it was being used in 26 cities by the Scientology-supported World Literacy Crusade. The Literacy, Education and Ability Program (LEAP) of Memphis, Tennessee, an Applied Scholastics member organization, received a grant of $250,000 from the U.S. government's Fund for the Improvement of Education (FIE) in 2005. In 2006, Scientology partnered with the Nation of Islam, the Glorious Church of God in Christ in Tampa, Florida, and Joy Tabernacle Cathedral in Ybor City. These groups adopted Study Tech, and their community support volunteers were trained in using Study Tech to teach children. However, in 2012 the Pinellas County School Board revoked the school's charter, with teachers blaming the Study Tech curriculum for poor test results. Teachers complained that their colleagues had been fired for rejecting Scientology's teachings, and that teachers even worked after school, without pay, to try and assist children, with no substantial results.
In Canada, Study Tech was introduced in September 2008 at Bambolino Montessori Academy, a private school in Toronto; the school's principal and dean said that the method is secular and that they do not teach Scientology. However, by 2012 Toronto, as well as Georgia, San Antonio, Texas, St. Louis, and Nevada had backed away from supporting Study Tech, after numerous complaints from educators and parents.
Applied Scholastics received accreditation from the Italian Ministry of Education in 2005 as an organization that teachers can choose to attend for their continuing education requirement. In South Africa, schools that apply Study Tech have been backed by local companies and have reported widespread success. In Germany, Monika Schipmann of the Berlin Education Department told the St. Petersburg Times in 1991 that the authorities there considered Study Tech to be "psychologically damaging."
In 2007 two professors from the University of Florida were asked to examine Study Tech. Both professors expressed concern about the practice being taught, with one calling the material "moronic", though they agreed the process is essentially harmless.
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