In the previous post in this series I described how the Church of Scientology (in the name of L Ron Hubbard) banned a number of texts about Scientology in 1983. These were written by Scientologists with official approval and sold in orgs. They included themed ‘easy introductions’ to the longer books of L Ron Hubbard. I suggested that there were two reasons for this:
- To prevent embarrassment when authors break with the Church of Scientology, leaving their books to serve as a public reminder that Scientologists rarely remain committed to the Church for life (and are sometimes purged)
- To prevent any individual Scientologists acquiring prestige among their comrades for their own achievements. In the paranoid world of Scientology’s ‘leadership’ anyone who builds a following represents a potential threat to their absolute power
“How to Cure The Selfish Destructive Child” was one of these banned texts. I will examine this short pamphlet here to demonstrate that there are no other reasons for banning it (and to describe the terrible advice it gives).
Minshull’s text is based on the writings of L Ron Hubbard and quotes him extensively. It acknowledges his copyrights, which implies that these quotes were used with the blessing of the copyright holder, the Church of Scientology. There is not a single idea in it that is original to the author – it is all taken from Hubbard. In short, it is as orthodox a text as it possible to be.
Approved By L Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology
It’s obvious from the beginning that this pamphlet is an official, approved, Scientology text. The first Hubbard quote occurs on page 2, right after the table of contents. This is followed on page 4 by the statement that the contents are:
[…] taken from an article “How to Live With Children” contained in the book Scientology: A New Slant on Life, by L Ron Hubbard Founder of Dianetics and Scientology.
It is also clearly stated that “Dianetics” and “Scientology” are registered names controlled by L Ron Hubbard and that the extracts used (and possibly the pamphlet itself) is the copyright of L Ron Hubbard.
If this pamphlet did not have official approval it would not have received permission to quote Hubbard, neither would orgs be allowed to sell it. To remove all doubt we are assured that, “Issue Authority [is] granted by World Institute of Scientology Enterprises International.”
WISE is an front group for the Church of Scientology. One of its official functions it to promote the the application of Hubbard’s ideas about business administration by selling consultation services, predominantly to Scientologists who own businesses. It is noted for trying to force the study of Scientology onto employees to ‘improve their performance’.
Scientologists would know that WISE was an official organ of the Church, and interpret its approval to mean that this pamphlet, on sale at their Org, was an ‘approved text’.
Warning: Anecdotal ‘Evidence’ to Come
On page 5 there is a ‘definition’ of Scientology claiming that it is “[…] an applied religious philosophy” which “[…] offers highly workable methods by which an individual can assume more positive control over his life and destiny”. This is followed by another (rather over the top) quote from Hubbard.
So far, the author had made no original contribution. However, she promises:
This booklet is one of a series which demonstrates various ways the author and others have successfully applied a few of the basic principles of Scientology.
If this sounds as if we are about to be presented with anecdotal ‘evidence’ for Scientology (i.e. little more than customer endorsements) that’s because we are. However, there are still more direct quotes from Hubbard to come.
Misunderstood Words and Study Tech
Page 6 is devoted to a long Hubbard quote which warns against passing over a word you do not understand. This is a fixture at the beginning of almost all Scientology books and courses. Hubbard considered its content to be a profound and insight in to learning, and it is basic principle of Scientology ‘Study Tech’. In his own words:
The only reason a person gives up a study or becomes confused or unable to learn is because he or she has gone past a word that was not understood. […] This datum about not going past an undefined word is the most important fact in the whole subject of study. Every subject you have taken up and abandoned had its words which you failed to get defined.
Critics point out that not only is this idea simplistic (we learn the meaning of words from context, as well as from dictionaries) but it also closes down any questioning of Hubbard’s ideas. If you think he is wrong you must have passed a ‘misunderstood word’. Scientologists are required to look up every word in a text until they ‘understand’ and acknowledge the superior wisdom of the founder. In this scheme, it is impossible for a book to be wrong.
Hubbard’s ideas about study are promoted by another Scientology front group “Applied Scholastics” which operates schools internationally. Their simplistic educational practices are unsupported by evidence and critics point out that Scientology schools serve as a recruiting ground for Scientology’s para-military ‘religious order,’ the Sea Org.
Hubbard was an opinionated man, but not a well-informed one. He claimed to have ‘discovered’ solutions to many intractable problems, which he presented in books surrounded by digressions and pseudo-scientific claims.
Mishull’s text tries to put Hubbard basic message (in this case about child rearing) in simple terms. In doing so she reveals how simplistic (and simply wrong) they are. This is true of Hubbard’s other pronouncements. Scientology is nothing more than the sum of Hubbard’s unsupported opinions, presented as great insights which supersede all previous knowledge.
In trying to popularise Hubbard, Minshull inadvertently reveals that the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. Without the hand-waving and distractions that dominate Hubbard’s writing we can clearly see how banal his ‘insights’ really are.
Several chapters open with a quotation from the same Hubbard article, and Hubbard’s advice is ‘clarified’ with an anecdote from Mishull’s life .
Chapter One (pg7)
Minshull’s contribution is an anecdote about her child and a visitor’s child fighting over a toy. Her visitor complains that:
If we didn’t keep an eye on him every toy he owns would be destroyed. I’ve gotten so I put most of them up on the top shelf of his closet and just let him have one or two at a time.
What’s the cure? Is there a way to turn a selfish, destructive child into a generous and responsible person? Yes. It can be done. The cure can be found in a remarkably simple concept…
Chapter Two (pg 9)
The solution, according to Minshull is that, if you give a child a toy (or anything else for that matter) it becomes absolutely theirs. She advises:
Don’t tell him how to care for it.
Don’t tell him where to keep it.
Don’t tell him when or how to play with it.
Above all, don’t force him to share his property with someone else.
Minshull argues that, if someone gave you something and expected you to use it properly and look after it and perhaps even lend it someone else “Unless you have an uncommonly placid nature, you would probably want to smash the thing.”
Anyone who has even looked after children will likely raise a sceptical eyebrow. It’s also interesting that the child in question is always referred to as “He”.
Chapter Three (pg 10)
A child will destroy everything (his own things, your belongings, the house, and your peace of mind) just to escape your domination
The solution presented (giving him complete control of his possessions) is supposed to teach responsibility and judgement. Minshull relates how her son “nearly always took his toys apart” and justified this with the observation that they were later used as props in imaginative play.
While we are all familiar with situations where a child will spend less time playing with a toy than the box it came in, you can’t help but wonder if Minshull is just making excuses for her “destructive child” so as not to disagree with Hubbard.
Chapter Four (pg 12)
This anecdote emphasises the message of the previous chapter. Minshull relates how another son sold all his toys in a yard sale for 18 cents and a toy Jeep. She let him. He had to return the Jeep after the previous owner’s parent objected.
The child (supposedly) never regretted losing every toy he owned. If the lad learned anything it was not responsibility. It was that he was not going to get any parental help or advice when he needed it. Minshull’s response was to give her kids only money for birthdays and Christmas from then on.
Chapter Five (pg 13)
Another anecdote – an argument between kids over sharing is rather unrealistically ‘solved’ by persuading them to negotiate which toys to swap for a day.
While this is presented as encouraging sharing and generosity it isn’t. These qualities are shown when you offer something for nothing. However, it is consistent with another Scientology teaching – “fair exchange”. Hubbard declared that nothing must ever be given away unless something of equal value is received. This idea is used to the high prices of Scientology ‘courses’.
Chapter Six (pg 15)
She also notes making a rule that their doors must be kept closed in the presence of guests unless their rooms were tidy.
Rules? I thought the whole point was that they were free to do whatever they wanted with the things they owned and the resentment of rules would drive them to… destructive behaviour.
Chapter Seven (pg 16)
The principle above is (again, somewhat inconsistently) applied to choosing, wearing and cleaning clothes.
Chapter Eight (pg 17)
Minshull urges parents not to obsess about the ‘dollar value’ of expensive toys that their children might sell for pennies or smash up, asking “are we trying to give the child happiness, or are we trying to manipulate him?” (again with the him).
It does not seem to occur to her than managing this sort of behaviour might teach a child about the monetary value of things and not to act on impulse – lessons in life which adults are supposed to pass on to children.
Chapter Nine (pg 19)
Minshull is amazingly inconsistent. There again, so is her mentor, L Ron Hubbard. In this chapter she relates a visit from a ‘friend’ whose pre-school children left her house a mess. “I wondered why these children would do such a thing. It would never occur to either of my sons to violate the property rights of another person this way”.
The obvious answer is that the parents, and Minshull herself let them. Minshull has just advocated letting kids treat their possessions as badly as they please. It’s hardly surprising that they would think that think that the same lack of rules applies to other people’s stuff – which makes me sceptical about her claim that her kids respect the property rights of others.
I realized then that my taking L. Ron Hubbard’s advice on ownership and implementing it had brought side benefits that I had never appreciated. Since they were both allowed to exercise complete control over their own possessions, no one in our household ever used something belonging to another without permission. As a result of this, the children grew up with a respect for the property of others.
It emerges that Minshull’s kids were expected to behave according to many rules regarding the rights of others, which she lays out, adding, “Children thrive when they understand the exact boundaries of the freedom they enjoy”.
However this is not consistent with the advice given back in chapter three which claims that, if you establish and enforce rules:
A child will destroy everything (his own things, your belongings, the house, and your
peace of mind) just to escape your domination
Very confusing (especially for the kids).
Chapter Ten (pg 20)
This boils down to: don’t buy your kids expensive gifts. Buy things for yourself and let the kids use them. Sometimes When you feel like it. Under supervision.
This seems to be the very opposite of granting them autonomy, and an implicit admission that, if you let them treat their own stuff as they please they may pretty soon have nothing.
Chapter Eleven (pg 21)
After establishing it is unnecessary to teach kids the value of their own things, Minshull argues that they need to learn of value of money by working jobs as soon as possible.
Some “great authorities” have argued that if you make a child work for his allowance he will never give his services generously. While this is an interesting theory, it just isn’t true.
We are back to the Scientology ‘theory’ of ‘fair exchange’ here. Giving things for nothing supposedly deprives the donor and degrades the recipient. Only exchange for things of equal value is allowed.
Minshull relates how her son saved money he had earned for bike – which was stolen. His grief at this loss demonstrated to her that he valued it all them more because he had worked for it. Fair enough (for kids who are old enough to understand this). Some parents would have been moved to buy him a new one. Not Minshull. That would have been against the teachings of L Ron Hubbard. He had to earn the money all over again.
Chapter Twelve (pg 23)
This recapitulates the advice given above, an boils down to “Give him his rights of ownership while he’s young. He’ll soon demonstrate his natural capacity for responsibility and generosity.”
Hubbard still required kids to live according a lot of rules – mostly those which prevented them inconveniencing their parents. The only freedom they are granted is absolute control over their own possessions. I don’t understand how this teaches “responsibility and [especially] generosity.” I can see how it saved Hubbard a lot of trouble.
The clue is the words “natural capacity”. According to Hubbard, we are eternal beings who have lived many lives – and that includes children who are seen as adults in small bodies. Left alone (and taught Scientology) kids should recover the wisdom of their previous lives. They don’t need to be taught about life by their parents. They need Scientology.
Treating kids with appropriate respect does not mean treating them like adults – and it certainly does not mean leaving them to their devices. Establishing consistent boundaries for behaviour (which must include the ways they treat their own possessions and own space) supervising them and paying then personal undivided attention is obviously a better approach, for adult and child alike.
Hubbard reveals himself, through his advice, as a man who places more value on his own possessions than on the welfare of his children, who should be “seen but not heard”, and not take up too much of his attention either. His theories sound like an elaborate excuse to avoid being inconvenienced by his own kids.
Finally, if you read Hubbard article alongside Minshull’s text, you can see that it follows his ideas precisely, neither adding anything nor leaving anything out. It as as orthodox a Scientology text as it is possible to be. The only reasons for it to be banned proceed from the paranoia of L Ron Hubbard and the organisation which he created in his own image.