The members of the Tustin-based Orange County chapter of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) might say that OC schools are going to hell in a handbasket-if they believed in hell. CCHR is an anti-psychology operative of the Church of Scientology whose members believe students in OC schools are going somewhere much worse than hell-an insane, drug-induced stupor engineered by school officials, psychiatrists and parents.Speaking on Jan. 29 to a group of about 25 at Garden Grove Medical Center, CCHR organizer Jacki Panzik said, "Something devastating has happened to American education." Her evidence: "a sharp decline in literacy and morality in our schools.""This has not happened by chance, but rather it is the result of a carefully orchestrated sequence of events," Panzik said.For the next 90 harrowing minutes, a slide show and video presentation provided terrifying proof of a several-hundred-year-old plot by psychologists to undermine public education. Attendees listened slack-jawed as CCHR volunteers described the creation of such "fictitious" afflictions as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), psychology-based classroom programs such as "Death Education" and "Indoctrination into the Gay Lifestyle," and forcible drugging of students by school officials.Meanwhile, the trio of CCHR volunteers seated randomly throughout the room acted as a sort of Greek chorus, peppering the presentation with additional shocking details, as audience members-mostly gruff old-schoolers and citizen-watchdog types-grunted, gasped and vigorously shook their heads in horror. By the end of the meeting, audience members decried the schools as tyrannical vessels of evil, spawn of Hitler, and akin to homeowners associations.Even a Scientologist may sometimes be right, and there's no question that the diagnosis of cognitive disorders such as ADD (as well as even-fishier-sounding maladies like Math Disorder and Oppositional Defiance Disorder) and subsequent treatment with drugs like Ritalin have skyrocketed in the past decade. Further suspicion might be raised by the curious alliance between drug companies and ADD-research facilities, such as UCI's Center for Child Development, which diagnoses hundreds of OC children every year. But what to make of the Church of Scientology, whose academic program, which is known as Applied Scholastics, claims that all learning disabilities are the result of "misunderstood words" and can be remedied through the use of a simple dictionary? All of this is explained in the Applied Scholastics book How to Use a Dictionary by the probably late L. Ron Hubbard.CCHR meeting organizer Clay Bock insisted that the organization does not endorse specific curriculum for use in the classroom, but Tulia Connan, director of the Los Angeles headquarters of CCHR, raved about Applied Scholastics."There are a number of schools that are running with the program. It is very successful. We can definitely recommend that," she said, adding that some students using the program are graduating from high school at 13.The state Department of Education deemed Applied Scholastics textbooks unsuitable for use in public schools in 1997. However, according to the Applied Scholastics Web site, there are currently more than a dozen private schools in Southern California using the materials, including schools in Santa Ana and Orange. And although the church's instructional materials have not made it into the public schools, church members have continued to work at making inroads in recent years.A few Garden Grove Unified officials interviewed by the Weekly said Bock has long since worn out his welcome there. He has appeared before the Board of Education numerous times over the past few years to complain about the district's math curriculum, charging that the program attempts to "indoctrinate" and "scare the hell out of" students. His letters proclaiming that Orange County schools "cannot be trusted" have been published in the Times Orange County and The Orange County Register.In October 1997, Bock organized a "Back to Basics Education Crusade," but support dwindled considerably when several key participants suspected the event was backed by Scientologists."I've been a Scientologist for 20 years; I don't make it a secret. But this has never been about that," Bock claimed in a Reg report. "I have two kids in public schools; I have a right to speak out on that."The agenda for the crusade, however, revealed a number of topics that bore striking resemblances to those on the docket at the January CCHR meeting: the threat of psychology and the evil of school-to-work programs.Not all supporters pulled out of Bock's crusade, however. There was still keynote speaker Carolyn Steinke, founder of the Palm Desert-based Parents Involved in Education and the recipient of a 1995 award-from CCHR.Bock considered last month's meeting a success and indicated that whenever the organization meets, at least 90 percent of attendees agree with the presentation. Given this fact, it's not surprising that no one seems to notice the irony of an organization like the Church of Scientology using CCHR as a mouthpiece in its battle against "mind control." But then, given the public's perception of our failing public schools, it might also be true that desperate parents will listen to just about anyone.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Orange County, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.