The curriculum at Smith’s New Village Academy of Calabasas, on which he has spent nearly £500,000, uses different educational theories including “study technology” – a learning method developed by L Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology.
Websites dedicated to monitoring Scientologist activity are also claiming that at least six members of staff employed at the £6,000-a-year private academy are members of the controversial sect.
The religious organisation has raised its profile in the last few years as a number of celebrity adherents have made their beliefs public.
Smith has been surrounded by rumours that he is now a fully-fledged member of the Church of Scientology, due largely to his close friendship with the organisation’s star member, Tom Cruise.
Last month, Smith brushed aside the rumours saying: “You don’t have to be Jewish to be a friend of Steven Spielberg. You don’t have to be a Muslim to be a friend of Muhammad Ali. And you don’t have to be a Scientologist to be a friend of Tom Cruise.”
“I am a Christian. I am a student of all religions. And I respect all people and all paths.”
“I don’t necessarily believe in organised religion. I love my God, my higher power, but it is mine and mine alone, and I create my connection, and I decide how my connection is going to be,” he added.
The curriculum on his academy’s website makes no mention of Scientology but in the glossary explaining its teaching methods, Study Technology is described as: “An educational model developed by L R Hubbard, study technology focuses on three principles. First is the use of “mass” (manipulatives and hands-on experiences) to foster understanding – children need to see and feel what they are learning about. Second is the attention to the ‘gradient’, which ensures students master one level before moving on to the next.
“Third is the ‘misunderstood word’, in which students master word definitions and are taught not to read past words they don’t know the meanings of in order to understand completely what they are reading and learning. NVA uses study technology as an umbrella methodology woven through the subjects.”
Critics have attacked the system for its basis in religious dogma, its undisclosed ties to Scientology and a lack of data with which to evaluate its educational value.
Study Technology is not widely used in the US. Apart from the Hubbard College of Administration International, an unaccredited post-secondary school, only students taught in a number of academies run by the Delphi Schools organisation across the US use the system. None of them are accredited by their regional or national accreditation bodies.
Schools are charged up to 10% of their course fees for using the system.
Smith paid $890,000 ( £445,000) to lease the Indian Hills high school in Calabasas, near his California home after failing to find a suitable institute for his two young children, Jaden, nine and Willow, seven.
Until now, the I Am Legend star and his wife Jada Pinkett have been home schooling the pair.
A spokesperson for Smith says of the school – renamed the New Village academy of Calabasas: “Will is leasing the campus for three years, plus he’ll cover all costs such as utilities. The academy will be run privately, and will include pre-kindergarten through grade six.”
On the school’s website, prospective parents are told that the school operates a sugar-free policy and that students will each be fed nutritional breakfasts, lunch and two “high quality” snacks every day.
And when it comes to discipline: “If a child makes a wrong decision, instead of going to the principal’s office, he or she speaks to the ethics teacher.”
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