Illinois already has a broken school system, but our legislators took time yesterday to hear a curriculum suggestion from a celebrity Scientologist: Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson.
Well, first, you have to understand that the Illinois School Code currently mandates that public schools teach character education: “which includes the teaching of 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.”
Cartwright represents the “Good Choices Program,” a Scientology program that publishes The Way of Happiness, a book cited in House Resolution 254, a resolution regarding how this curriculum would be taught. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dan Burke (D-Chicago), may strike the book from the bill’s text, but he was happy to have Cartwright there to defend her cult’s text:
The celebrity Scientologist’s appearance before the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee at times turned surreal and contentious as her religion’s controversial teachings overshadowed her feel-good book for kids, and some lawmakers appeared stricken by her star power.
Cartwright’s “Good Choices” program — which she has said is based on the book “The Way to Happiness” by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard — was among the curricula a House resolution would have encouraged Illinois teachers to use to fulfill the state requirement that character education be taught.
So why not use this book? Well, it has a clear link to Scientology. And it contains a lot of junk in the guise of common sense. It’s like using the Bible to teach kids to “love thy neighbor.”
“It’s totally innocuous, basic, good citizenship stuff,” Burke said.
That’s not true. Has Burke even read the book? If he did, he might have noticed what’s actually written in it.
For example, check out what it says for one of the 21 Precepts: Be Competent (#17) — emphasis theirs:
The test of any “truth” is whether it is true for you. If, when one has gotten the body of data, cleared up any misunderstood words in it and looked over the scene, it still doesn’t seem true, then it isn’t true so far as you are concerned. Reject it. And, if you like, carry it further and conclude what the truth is for you. After all, you are the one who is going to have to use it or not use it, think with it or not think with it. If one blindly accepts “facts” or “truths” just because he is told he must, “facts” and “truths” which do not seem true to one, or even false, the end result can be an unhappy one. That is the alley to the trash bin of incompetence.
There’s also this weird running thread that says life is all about “survival”:
Your own survival chances will be bettered in the long run since others, influenced, will become less of a threat. There are other benefits.
In an age of intricate equipment and high-speed machines and vehicles, one’s survival and that of one’s family and friends depends in no small measure upon the general competence of others.
If those around one lie to him or her, one is led into making errors and his survival potential is reduced.
And don’t forget this fantastic piece of advice:
The way to happiness does not include murdering or your friends, your family or yourself being murdered.
Gee, thanks L. Ron Hubbard!
At least there were some people on our side during the lobbying attempt by Cartwright.
First, there was Rep. Jerry Mitchell (R-Sterling):
The program’s ties to the Church of Scientology risks violating the “strong separation of church and state in our constitution,” he said. He would knock a code of conduct authored by Pope John Paul II as much as the one authored by Hubbard, he said.
Then, there was Rob Sherman, the atheist activist:
“The Way of Happiness is the Bible of the Church of Scientology. This would be no different than Francis Cardinal George coming here in and saying, ‘Well, we need character education so teach the Holy Bible,’” Sherman said.
What Cartwright didn’t say to the House members is that the book is a recruiting tool for Scientology — a book designed to make the cult seem less batshit insane.
A Newsweek article from 1993 even noted this:
Critics of Scientology, including some former officials, argue that “The Way to Happiness” is primarily a recruiting tool for the church. According to Vicki Aznaran, who once served as inspector general of the Religious Technology Center, the church’s highest ecclesiastical organization, The Way to Happiness Foundation is “a front group to get people into Scientology” and the book is designed “to make Scientology palatable to the masses.”
We don’t need The Way of Happiness to teach moral character. And we don’t need the Ten Commandments or any other religious rules, either. We need teachers who exemplify good ethics and personal responsibility, and who can lead students in discussions about these things and what we can do to improve ourselves within each school. You don’t need to bring religion into the mix — and certainly, not one hellbent on recruiting future clients.
***Edit***: I made a couple changes to this article since the original posting, only to clarify a few points I felt were confusing. The original content is still here.