Officials at Will Smith’s school swear it’s not a Scientology school

Over a month ago I wrote a pretty long article comparing Will Smith’s private school, The New Village Academy, to both the educational practices used by Scientology schools and the basic tenants of the Scientology religion/cult. While there are multiple educational principles listed on the website for the school, including Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s Study Tech, the more in-depth explanations of their mission, philosophy, testing methods and definition of ethics use both concepts and wording that are easily identified as straight from Scientology scripture. What’s more is that five out of seventeen teachers are easily identified as Scientologists.

Now the LA Times has contacted officials at Smith’s school, as well as the Study Tech expert and critic who was kind enough to provide quotes for our earlier article, Dr. Dave Touretzky from Carnegie Mellon University. Officials at Smith’s school, New Village Academy, swear that just because nearly a third of the teachers are Scientologists and they use Hubbard’s Study Tech doesn’t mean it’s a Scientology school:

New Village Academy began about three years ago as a home school for the Smiths’ youngest children — Jaden, 9 and Willow, 7 — and those of several other families. After an extensive search, Jacqueline Olivier, previously an administrator at private schools in Santa Monica and La Jolla, was hired to head the school.

Since joining the school a year ago, she has been responsible for hiring staff and preparing for the opening of the new campus.

Olivier responded to written questions about the school submitted through Will Smith’s publicist. She said some staff members are Scientologists and others are Muslim, Christian or Jewish. The school has no religious affiliation, she said.

“We are a secular school and just like all nonreligious independent schools, faculty and staff do not promote their own religions at school or pass on the beliefs of their particular faith to children,” Olivier said.

One teaching method the school uses is study technology, which was developed by Hubbard and focuses on students gaining hands-on experience, mastering subject matter before moving to the next level, and being taught not to read past words they don’t understand.

“People tend to think study technology is a subject, but it is really just the way the subject is taught,” Olivier said. “They then come to the conclusion that we are teaching Scientology when actually a methodology doesn’t have anything to do with content.”

The school, she said, will use many philosophies, including Montessori, Bruner and Gardner. Olivier said the Smiths would pay nearly $900,000 to lease the Indian Hills High School campus in the Las Virgenes Unified School District for three years. Fall enrollment is expected to be about 40 students and will eventually rise to about 100, she said. The school will include pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, with a top annual tuition of $12,500.

[From The LA Times]

I didn’t mention this in the earlier article because it wasn’t necessary, but I have a masters in education and have studied the other educational experts the school’s head mentioned: Montesorri, Bruner and Gardner. The philosophy and “ethics” listed on the website for Smith’s school are straight from Scientology and bear little influence from other educational philosophies. Let’s revisit the comparisons we found between Scientology scripture and Smith’s school’s methodology as listed on their website. Most of the text below is from our last article on this.

Smith’s school uses terminology, phrases and concepts that are from Scientology scriptures

Smith’s School’s Mission:

We believe that an individual’s survival and prosperity are inextricably bound to the rise and fall of his or her family, social groups and humankind.

[From, emphasis added]

L. Ron Hubbard on Ethics:

Dishonest conduct is nonsurvival. Anything is unreasonable or evil which brings about the destruction of individuals, groups, or inhibits the future of the race.

[From, emphasis added]

Use of “Qual” as a test to judge understanding:

Upon completion of a subject chapter such as in math, the teacher sends the student to “Qual”, where he/she is given an test in various forms. If the student scores anything less than 100%, the Qualifications teacher will sit down with the student and go over the part of the exam that was not fully understood and make sure the student understands all of the words and concepts in the chapter. The teacher will also make sure the student did not skip any concepts which would inhibit learning. This is done to help students so that they gain 100% certainty.


The abbreviation “Qual” is directly from Scientology, and describes a concept unique to the cult. Scientology expert Dr. Dave Touretzky corresponded with me via e-mail, and provides this explanation:

I have not seen the term “Qual” used this way in the context of Scientology-affiliated educational organizations. It use here comes straight out of the Church of Scientology itself! “Qual” is where you go when you’ve completed an auditing action in Scientology, or completed a course in the Scientology church. How revealing. Also of note is the final phrase: “100% certainty”. Notice that they did not say “mastery” or “understanding” — the terms professional educators use. They said “certainty”, which is the standard profession of faith used in Scientology. Even the Delphi schools aren’t this blatant in their use of Scientology phraseology.

[E-mail received from Dr. Dave Touretzky]

Smith’s school’s definition of ethics:

An understanding of basic ethics helps students prosper as individuals while being a part of a group. Ethics is simply the choices and actions a person takes on himself, and the ability to take responsibility for his or her actions.

[From, emphasis added]

Scientology’s definition of ethics:

Ethics may be defined as the actions an individual takes on himself to ensure his continued survival across the dynamics. It is a personal thing. When one is ethical, it is something he does himself by his own choice.

[From Wikipedia and, emphasis added]

So school officials say they just happen to use Scientology school methodology and have a bunch of teachers who are Scientologists, but they’re not a Scientology school. How do you explain then that their philosophy, mission, definition of ethics and testing methods are straight from Scientology itself?

And even if they only use Study Tech, it’s not like it’s ever been proven effective. As Dr. Touretzky explains in the LA Times article:

“There is no reputable educator anywhere who endorses [study technology],” said Touretzky, a critic of Scientology. “What happens is that children are inculcated with Scientology jargon and are led to regard L.R. Hubbard as an authority figure. They are laying the groundwork for later bringing people into Scientology.”

[From LA Times]

How would you feel if you sent your kid to a 12k a year school and they were trying to indoctrinate them into a cult the whole time, but swore the school was based on other educational principles? But it’s not like Smith can admit he’s a Scientologist, can he? They’re only going to help those kids, they don’t need to tell their parents they’re teaching them to revere L. Ron.

Will and Jada Pinkett Smith are shown on 6/27/08 at Mandela’s birthday concert, thanks to WENN.

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24 Responses to “Officials at Will Smith’s school swear it’s not a Scientology school”

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  1. geronimo says:

    Not a Will Smith fan but I really liked Will Smith for a whole 7 minutes during Mandela’s concert. But it WAS very moving and Mandela has that effect on people so I’m giving myself a pass on my temporary lapse in judgement.

    How stupid exactly are Scientologists that they think they can pull this off? Are there any clever scientologists out there? At all? Oh no, wait, that’d be a contradiction in terms.

  2. Lola says:

    Here we go again……….

  3. geronimo says:

    All I’m saying is if they were honest about it and stopped with the logic-defying denials, then at least people would be in a position to make an informed choice and have the option of avoiding them like the plague.

  4. Scott F. says:

    I get it Will: the Earth is flat, the moon is made of cheese, God is actually an alien with a penchant for tossing people in volcanoes, and you’re not a Scientologist.

    I shall make it a top priority to assimilate this new data – I just hope I don’t run in to any words I don’t know, or I’ll never make it through the process. After all, we wouldn’t want analytical thinking to accidentally kick in.

  5. RReedy says:

    These moneyed celebrities kill me: suddenly they are experts on education, architecture, blah blah blah. I might be impressed if the Will Smiths had spent the money on PUBLIC education needs in the state that shelters them and the local school districts that could provide a good public education for their brats. So far, I am UNDERWHELMED.

  6. Syko says:

    I’m with you, RReedy. My grandkids go to public schools and they don’t have enough supplies or books, the kids must bring in tons of supplies. They no longer have art or music classes because there isn’t enough funding to pay the teachers. And this is a middle-class suburban school in a wealthy state. Depressed area schools must be much worse.

  7. BlueGirl says:

    I think you’re a bit off the mark with the goal of the school. I bet the kids are not going to have $cientology pushed on them. But if they can show results, then they can open up a conversation nationally about their methods and terms. $cientology is looking for credibility and mainstream acceptance here, not a few more converts.

  8. Donaldo says:

    If they succeed in recruiting more converts, then that will give them the credibility they seek…at least in their demented minds!

  9. er says:

    They are all liars.

  10. chamalla says:

    Woohoo, CB! I have a Masters in Ed, too. I did my thesis on Gardner and kids with autism. I taught in a (public) Montessori school for many years, as well.

    Bruner, I don’t know as well, but what I read of the description of their methods doesn’t highlight ANY of the tenets of either Gardner (who’s known for his Theory of Multiple Intelligences) or Montessori (who’s more or less the mother of constructivism)

    Both of these theories are student focused, whereas each principle the school endorses is teacher centered or based in direct instruction. They can say they support these other methodologies, but it sure doesn’t look like they do.

  11. daisyfly says:

    “Oh no. This school is not a Scientology school. Here. To prove it, we’ll give you some free e-meter sessions, and an auditing just for fun!”

  12. oh puhleeze says:

    There are Christian Schools, there are Hindu Schools, there are christian science schools, there are schools where children meditate and chant (right here in the US), and there are yoga schools. Lay off scientology already! and to hell with all of these conspiracy theories. As long as people are calling out to Buddha it’s ok, but everything else is a “cult”. damn!

  13. vdantev says:

    Didn’t we already do this ? Will Smith was among my favorite actors, but he’s been cozying up to the Scientologist’s version of Jesus Christ Tom Cruise for too long and I lost all patience with him.

    Bluegirl, how are those clams tasting ? I bet you’ve been to a clambake or two in Clearwater Florida, haven’t you ?

  14. Donaldo says:

    Oh Puhleeze,

    The difference here is that parents are KNOWINGLY sending their children to Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist schools.

    In Scientology’s case, the parents are largely unaware because Scientology wants to hide the association!! It’s a business scam, not a religion entitled to protections.

    Don’t be so open-minded that your brain falls out.

  15. daisyfly says:

    To Oh Puhleeze, I have 2 issues with this school. The first one being that it purports to NOT be a scientology school, when it is. People will be sending their kids to this school thinking one thing, and they’ll be getting something totally different, and it, in all likely, will NOT be what they wanted. The second issue I have with this school is the fact that it is Scientology based. Having ex-scientology friends, I can tell you that while yes, there are Christian, Catholic, Hindi, etc… schools out there, the difference between those paths of faith and Scientology is that should you choose to leave them, the heads of the religion don’t try to blackmail you and your family, use your confessions against you, use your debts against you, use your whole life against you.

    Scientology gets a bad rap because it deserves it. Families get torn apart NOT because so many people have a strong belief in it, but rather because they’re scared sh|tless about the things they revealed being plastered across their hometown, being accused of things they didn’t do, and worse.

  16. Mrs Kay says:

    I would just like to say that no matter what you all say about Will Smith. He is opening a school weather or not its private its a school. Why would you call their children “brats”? Thats just plain WRONG, those children dine NOTHING to anyone. So what if his children and some others are home schooled. That is the choice that THEIR PARENTS made they seem to be happy about it. So don’t hate.

    Would you rather see him being arrested for gun violence, domestic or drugs like some of the celerities? He is doing something positive with his money, be happy for him and what he’s doing.

  17. Anon says:

    Oh, if they say it’s not true it must not be true. There, glad that’s cleared up! 🙄

  18. northwesterly says:

    LR Hubbard is a terrible writer. How anyone can even understand him in the first place is beyond me, let alone the concepts behind his ideas being totally bizarre. You can find LR’s “secret” writings at wikileaks. It’s creepy stuff.

    Private schools promote division of class, so while Will Smith may not be on drugs or being arrested on gun charges, this isn’t exactly an act of philanthropy.

  19. devilgirl says:

    I have to admit, I still have no idea what Scientology is about. I haven’t a clue what xenu means, or anything really, and I am not an idiot, I just really cannot get the real gist or concept of what it is all about.

  20. They can say anything says:

    Clever how they intersperse, or so they say, just enough of the “other” education based theories (maybe like Piaget) in order to float the real crux of the learning and social makeup of this school.

    Will, this is an AHA! moment for you, and damn, you’re just not passing the smell test on this one buddy. Your stock is falling with each protestation and disclaimer and every new Tommy endorsement. Sorry dude, but you’re starting to stink up the place with all your recent smoke screens and you might be on your 14th minute of fame right about now.

  21. Lola says:

    Can any one send a child to a school like this, pay that much money and not check on the cirriculum to see what they teach and whether or not they agree with it?

  22. ed says:

    CB you are SO right on. I’ve spent countless hours immersed in the ramblings of L. Ron, as well as the true HORROR stories of the victims of Scientology. This is not an open faith. It is a money-grubbing scam that has cost many people their LIVES. Cruise on down to Clearwater and ask any of the few NON-Scientologists left there what their experiences have been. The crazies have bought or scared off the whole freakin’ town. Will’s pulling a Tommy-girl and he can’t even see what an asinine move it is. Jada’s out of the closet. Will’s gonna be next.

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