Front page article today Sep 7th in Svenska Dagbladet, the second largest "quality" newspaper in Sweden. http://www.svd.se/
Background: the majority of schools in Sweden are state schools run by the local cities and municipalities, but there is an increasing number of "free schools" of various kinds, run by parents, associations, religious congregations, and even companies. These free schools are entitled to substantial funding from tax payer's monies if they fulfil (or promise to fulfil) certain basic criteria. The National Agency for Education http://www.skolverket.se/english/index.shtml
is, among many other things, responsible for doing regular check-ups of these free schools. They are however quite short of staff, and it now passes several years between check-ups. The Studema school is the single Scientology school in Sweden that presently receives such public funding.
From the article, abbreviated:
The National Agency for Education wants to look into the possibilities to stop controversial religious groups from running their own schools, giving examples of schools where several pages about the origins of Earth were torn out of the children's books, and certain pictures and words crossed out.
- We have to watch out for this kind of business, says the Director General of the agency Mats Ekholm, who in a statement to the government raises the question whether "organizations that have been designated as harmful cults" should be allowed to run schools.
- We also have the duty to protect children, and to help them to make a free choice about their future. That's why we are raising the debate about whether it is good to allow those who are extremely introverted and cult-creators the right to use schools as an instrument of indoctrination, Ekholm continues.
Director General Mats Ekholm gives as an example Föreningen Aktiva Studier [Active Studies Association] in western Sweden. They want to start a school in Gothenburg, Cityskolan [The City School]. The study method, Applied Scholastics, is developed by the front man of Scientology, L Ron Hubbard, and is already in use at Studemaskolan [the Studema School] in Stockholm. But after a thorough review of the study method, the National Agency for Education says no. Föreningen Aktiva Studier has appealed, and the case is now referred to the county administrative court.
Ann Swenne-Johanson, principal of the Studema school, is strongly critical to the fact that the National Agency for Education refers to information from FRI [Föreningen Rädda Individen, Save The Individual Association, a Swedish anti-cult group] that she calls "a known anti-religious association".
- It is also written in the Europe Convention that parents should have the possibility to choose the school for their children, she says.
The Lutheran priest Karl-Erik Nylund, who has had a special interest in various religious groups, says he thinks the system of non-governmental religious schools is fine, as long as the government inspection routines work properly. Also Peter Åkerbäck, who is writing a thesis on new religious movements at Stockholm university, thinks that controversial groups should be allowed to run schools.
- It's one way to get these groups included in society. But one always has to monitor what they are teaching.
(There is a lot more to the article, including an interview with a former student of a charismatic Christian school, and the article series will continue tomorrow)