Creative Learning: A Scientological Experiment in Schools | V Solcox and LJ Maynard | 1955
Download the complete book as a .pdf file here
In 1961 there was a scandal in the sleepy UK town of East Grinstead. This is the Scientology book that contained the ‘process’ which led to genuine and justified outrage when it was practiced upon young children at school without consent.
L Ron Hubbard had recently bought Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead, and taken up residence there. It became an international centre for Scientology and is still its UK headquarters.
The scandal concerned ‘lessons’, taken from a Scientology text. which were given at Aston House, a preparatory school for girls. Its pupils were aged between 3 1/2 and 11 years.
It emerged (when a frightened child told her doctor, who passed it on to her parents) that they had been recieving ‘lessons’ during which they were required to imagine dying as a result of failing all of their exams, and to imagine that their bodies subsequently turned to dust.
In case you don’t believe a teacher would do something so stupid, the passage is reproduced below (it appears on page 215, Section 7). The plain text is addressed to the children and the italic “Acknowlege” indicates where the teacher should say something to show that the kids has completed their stange ‘task’.
After the break, I will describe the scandal in East Grinstead, L Ron Hubbard’s agressive reaction to it, and look at some of the other ‘lessons’ in the book, which would be laughable if they hadn’t actually been applied in schools.
This book was, of course, a Scientology text, dating from the days before books about Scientology not written by L Ron Hubbard were banned by the organisation. “Creative Learning” was written by two teachers who described how they applied Scientology in their own School. It included claims that their exercise had brought about vast improvements in the children at a (convenienently unspecified) school, who had been required to do the same things as the kids in East Grinstead.
After a long, rambling description of Scientology as a revoltionary new science that is going to transform the world, it describes the nonsensical Scientology ‘exercises’ that were performed in their school. These were probably also ‘taught’ at Aston House. It’s hard to understand how an educated person can give them any credence.
An Early Account of the ‘Death Lessons’ in the Book “The Scandal of Scientology”
The ‘Death Lessons’ Incident was described as follows in “The Scandal Of Scientology” by Paulette Cooper (1971)
One case in which the Scientologists did get into a school caused a scandal in England in 1960. At that time, Miss Sheila Hoad, owner of the East Grinstead Aston House Prep school for boys and girls from three-and-a-half to eleven, became friendly with an American Scientologist named Dr. (perhaps of Scientology) Thompson, who lived in an apartment adjoining the school.
Dr. Thompson gave Miss Hoad a book called Creative Learning: A Scientological Experiment in Schools, which was written by two Scientologists and was once actively promoted in Scientology publications. Miss Hoad proceeded to follow the instructions in the book, and for twenty minutes each day, instead of English grammar lessons, she gave the following exercises to do.
[‘Exercises’ on pp 212 – 222 of “Creative Learning” – Download here – ‘Death Lesson’ on page 215]
Miss Hoad told twenty-five of her pupils to “close your eyes. Concentrate. Now imagine you are dying. Imagine you are dead. Now you have turned to dust and ashes. Now imagine you are putting the ashes back inside yourself.” These “death lessons,” as they came to be called, were given behind locked doors with a “Do Not Disturb” sign outside, and the children were told “never think about these lessons after they are over,” which suggested to many that she was warning the children not to tell their parents about it.
But one nine-year-old pupil became so depressed after the lessons that her mother had to take her to a doctor and she whispered the secret to him. Another child, after ointment was rubbed on her chest for a cold said “Mummy, I am going to die. I feel funny inside.” That mother, who had perhaps heard about Hubbard’s attaching an E-meter into plants to see if they could feel pain, said “Let Dr. Thompson inject his cucumbers when he thinks they are in pain. But let him leave my daughter alone.”
The other parents were equally outraged, although Miss Hoad insisted that the lessons were the same as saying “The Lord’s Prayer.” The parents disagreed. Miss Hoad resigned after several parents pulled their children out of the school and even more were absent. The Scientologists dissociated themselves from the treatment saying that those methods were “outdated and dangerous” and that the current practice was to imagine “beautiful things.” Dr. Thompson, who had a child in the school, said he would not remove the child. Rumors to the effect that death lessons were being given in other English schools persisted for a long time after the incident.
Pgs 101- 103
L Ron Hubbard’s Response to bad PR
Scientology’s reaction to the bad PR (which failed to address the facts of the case or simply denied them) was characteristically agressive and irrational. Before we read that, be assured that there’s little doubt this book was associated with and approved by Scientology. See the images below.
On the left is an image of the flysheet which credits Scientology to “L Ron Hubbard CE Phd”. Hubbard actually failed to obtain the CE qualification (Civil Engineer) only completing the first year of his course. The Phd was awarded by “Sequioa University”, a degree mill in which Hubbard had an interest. It wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.
Even if Hubbard had passed a degree in civil engineering (he hadn’t) that did not qualify him as an expert in education.
The title page (to the right) explicitly claims ownership of the text for the “Hubbard Association of Scientologists Int” – an organisation wholly owned by the Church of Scientology which was, in turn, wholly owned by L Ron Hubbard. It’s not credible for Hubbard to pretend that he had not approved of this text.
L Ron Hubbard Responds – It Didn’t Happen and If It Did It Was Somebody Else’s Fault
Hubbard’s response to the scandal was decisive.
He denied it happened and disowned the Scientologists involved and presented the whole incident as an attack on Scientology by his favourite scapegoats – psychiatrists (in the person of Lord Balniel, in this case).
Along the way, he casually characterised the kids at both schools as “retarded”.
His evasion is difficult to follow – for example this claim:
Somebody […] dreamed up the “Death Lessons” scandal of 1961 which made international “anti-Scientology” press… The story claimed that the children were taught to imagine themselves dead. We are not sure why this was a crime because any Church does it.
- It actually happened, and harm was done to young children
- As you can see from the text, the children were taught not only to imagine themselves dead, but dead because they failed all of their exams – and that bodies turned into dust
- Nobody called it a crime – stupid, irresponsible, unprofessional and harmful, yes – but not criminal
- “Any Church” teaches children to imagine that because they failed all of their exams, they died and turned to dust? I don’t think so, Ron.
Putting Your Hands on Your Head at School will End War, Criminality and Insanity
For those who don’t want to wade through the whole book here’s the first ‘lesson’ It involves simple actions and mind-bending repetition – which is quite typical of Scientology practice.
It’s hard to be believe that a number of qualified teachers could think this could be educational – to the point that they actually performed an “experiment” on kids. On the face of it, it’s banal nonsense.
Nevertheless, these ‘lessons’ are introduced by L Ron Hubbard Jr (aka “Nibs”) who assures reader that they would save the world (pp 210 – 212). Even Nibs changed his mind about Scientology. Later he also changed his name so as to no longer be associated with his infamous father.
The D.Scn. is “Doctor of Scientology”, another worthless ‘qualification’ conferred by unqualified L Ron Hubbard. After that buildup, the actual “Session” (the authors are using Scientology terminology) is a serious anticlimax. It’s really hard to understand how anyone can believe that this kind of thing can end war criminality and insanity.
If you agree with me, don‘t put your hands on your head when I tell you to 🙂
An Echo from an Ethically Clueless Age
Finally: the school in which the authors did their original ‘research’ is not mentioned anywhere in the text. They did not report any negative effects from their lessons, and it’s obvious from the text that they were fully committed to proving the validity of Scientology.
However, the modern reader can’t help but stand back in awe at their cavailier attitude to professional ethics, expressed on page 130
Reaction to the ‘Death Lessons’ in England conclusively demonstrated just how ethically clueless the authors actually were. Harm did come from giving the idea a try, and it’s interesting that they were more interested in whether anyone would complain. They didn’t exactly put the Children’s interests first.
When they say,
After all” we argued, “we are merely giving the children an exercise in imagination
Who were they presenting this argument to? Not to an ethics committe, but to each other. Unsurprisingly, they gave themselves a pass for a proposal that any university would have rejected with astonishment.