Case study of L. Ron Hubbard's education:
The Delphi Academy in LA
In recent months, controversy has arisen in California around Scientologistsâ€™ attempts to have the textbooks and teaching methods of their organizationâ€™s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, incorporated into the public schools. First came the disclosure that a woman who had applied for a charter school in the L.A. area was a Scientologist and intended to use Hubbardâ€™s "study technology" in the new school. (See http://www.appliedscholastics.org/
for description of Hubbardâ€™s theories.) Then it was learned the state School Board was about to approve education manuals written by Hubbard for purchase by public schools.
Scientologists who have entered into the ensuing debates have often said they believe Hubbardâ€™s methods and materials should not be excluded from public schools because of their links to a religion, but should rather be evaluated solely for their effectiveness.
There is a private school in Southern California that, according to its page on the World Wide Web (http://home.earthlink.net/~delphila/psrdb.html
), uses "highly individualized, innovative and successful educational methods of L. Ron Hubbard..." That school is Delphi Academy of Los Angeles.
Delphi Academy is a year-round private school of approximately 250 students from kindergarten through twelfth grade. It is located at 4490 Cornishon in La Canada, a suburb of Los Angeles, California.
While the school claims it is not affiliated with any religion, there are numerous pictures of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, on display there, and it freely admits to being licensed by Applied Scholastics International, and to being affiliated with the Association for Better Living and Education, both of which are Scientology organizations (see http://www.scientology.org/tmnotice.htm
). According to Sandee Ferman, Delphiâ€™s Director of Admissions, 75 - 80% of its students are children of Scientologists.
Among claims made by Delphi personnel: 97% of Delphi graduates apply to college; "Delphi students are regularly accepted at the colleges and universities of their first choice;" "The School [offers] an outstanding college preparatory program..." One of its slogans is "Excellence in Education."
This report is an attempt to answer the following questions:
Is Delphi Academy accredited?
Is anyone graduating from Delphi?
Do Delphi graduates attend college?
Is Delphi Academy accredited?
Any investigation into a school must include determining whether it is accredited by the appropriate agency. In California, thatâ€™s the Accrediting Commission for Schools, part of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Carla Ferri, Director of Undergraduate Admissions for the University of California, wrote, on June 18, 1997, "WASC is the only accrediting agency we accept."
Judging from explanatory literature they provide, A.C.S. is serious about their accreditations; for example, the process includes a 3-1/2 day visit to an applicant school by a visiting committee of three to eight people. In a letter of May 14, 1997, Donald G. Haught, Ed.D., Executive Director of A.C.S., said "...Delphi Academy...La Canada, California, is NOT accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Schools..." (emphasis his).
Delphi has made some erroneous claims about its accreditation. On its web page (address above), as of Sept. 9, 1997, the following were listed as accrediting agencies: "State of California, Applied Scholastics International, CIF (Californica [sic] Interscholastic Federation)". As of Sept. 23, 1997, that item had been shortened to "Applied Scholastics International." Why the change?
The change was made because that statement was a serious misrepresentation of the facts, and the California Department of Education, once informed, made its displeasure known.
Delphi is not and never has been accredited by the State of California. In fact, by making such a claim, the school was violating state law. According to a letter written on Sept. 11, 1997 by Carolyn Pirillo, Deputy General Counsel to Delaine Eastin, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, "the State of California does not approve, accredit, evaluate or monitor private elementary and secondary schools. The statute...states that it is unlawful to represent any endorsement, accreditation, recognition or evaluation unless this is an actual fact. Delphi Academy is not authorized to make any claims pertaining to accreditation by the State of California... (Education Code section 33190...)" A copy of that letter was sent to Delphi; subsequently, the web page was changed.
Delphi is not and never has been accredited by the California Interscholastic Federation. In an e-mail dated Sept. 8, 1997, Barbara Fiege, Commissioner of the L.A. City Section of C.I.F., says, "The CIF is not an accrediting agency, but rather a federation of member schools. The CIF establishes the policies and procedures for high school athletics in the state of California..."
Delphi is probably accredited by Applied Scholastics International, which, as noted above, is a Scientology organization. Presumably, accreditation of a school devoted to Hubbardâ€™s teaching methods by an organization that exists to promote those methods is not an accomplishment of great merit.
Is Delphi Academy accredited? Yes, but only by a Scientology organization. And, until it got caught, it was misrepresenting not only its accreditation by specific agencies, but also the very business of one of those agencies.
Is anyone graduating from Delphi?
All private schools in California are required to file an affidavit annually with the California Department of Education. Examination of Delphiâ€™s affidavits for 1992 through 1996 reveals, among other things, that, in the 5 years preceeding the Fall of 1996, from an average total enrollment of 246, the school graduated a grand total of eight students.
Is anyone graduating from Delphi? During the 5 years preceeding Fall, 1996, the school has graduated an average of only 1.6 students per year.
Do Delphi graduates attend College?
Among promotional and explanatory information provided by Delphi is a pale green-covered brochure titled "Delphi," with the schoolâ€™s address in La Canada on the cover. The penultimate page is titled, "Partial List of Colleges and Universities that have Accepted Delphi Graduates;" 35 institutions are listed, most of them well-known. Given how few Delphi graduates there seem to be, that is a remarkable claim.
Those 35 colleges and universities were contacted in an attempt to verify Delphiâ€™s information. 21 replied in writing and 6 others were contacted by phone or in person. Of the total of 27 institutions from which information was received, 8 were unwilling or unable to provide information. Replies from the remaining 19 institutions are tabulated below:
Schools not having received Delphi applications (recent years, at least): 13
Schools unwilling to accept Delphi applications: 3
Schools acknowledging having received Delphi applications: 3
Schools having accepted a Delphi graduate (included in number above): 2
Of the 6 campuses of the University of California that appeared on Delphiâ€™s list, 4 provided information. Shannon Tanguay, Assistant to the Director of Admissions at U.C. Santa Barbara, wrote, "UC Santa Barbara does not accept students applying from Delphi Academy in La Canada because Delphi is not an accredited institution. It is the policy of the University of California not to accept students from unaccredited institutions." Personnel at the admissions office of U.C.L.A. said the same thing in a personal interview. In an interview with Marcy Reed of the Office of Admissions at U.C. Irvine, she said that school cannot accept applications from Delphi students because Delphi has not filed a course list with the University of California, as required by university policy. The fourth U.C. campus that provided information, Riverside, said "...we did not receive any applications from students attending this school in 1996 and 1997."
Here are a few more quotations from written responses to inquiries:
Jennifer Rowe Havlicek, Admissions Counselor for M.I.T., wrote, on May 20, 1997, "Our records show that there have been no students from Delphi Academy who have applied to Massachusetts Institute of Technology..."
On April 25, 1997, Vivian Barry, Assistant Dean for Administration at Stanford, wrote, "To my knowledge we have never had an applicant to Stanford University from the Delphi Academy..."
Alex Segura, Senior Assistant Director of Admission for the University of Miami, wrote, on June 4, 1997, "Obviously Delphi Academy exists because we did find it in a national book of high schools...but we show no record of ever having heard from anyone at the school."
All of the above schools, of course, are on Delphiâ€™s list and therefore, according to Delphi, have not only received applications from its students, but have accepted at least one for admission.
In the 1996 / 97 edition of the Pacific Bell Yellow Pages for Glendale and Burbank, on page 756, is an ad for Delphi Academy which contains the words "College Preparatory." Given the information provided by numerous colleges, that is a severe stretch of the truth.
Do Delphi graduates attend college? Apparently, very few do; only two could be documented.
I began this investigation because my youngest daughter enrolled at Delphi early in 1997, and a visit I paid the school in March, which included a tour of the annual science fair, left me deeply suspicious of the efficacy of the teaching methods of L. Ron Hubbard as practiced at Delphi Academy.
In every area Iâ€™ve investigated, be it science education, school accreditation, graduation of students, or facilitation of graduatesâ€™ further educations, Delphi Academy, L.A., is a failure. That failure is perhaps best exemplified by the unwillingness of several of its home stateâ€™s major universities even to consider its graduates for admission.
Equally alarming is the obvious conclusion that Delphi is misrepresenting its credentials and its achievements. Claiming graduatesâ€™ admissions to colleges that have never heard of it is deception. Claiming to be a "college prep" school is misrepresentation. Claiming accreditation by the state is a violation of the law. Claiming to be accredited by an organization whose purpose is promoting high school athletics is fraud.
As an institution with a history of devotion to the teaching theories of L. Ron Hubbard, Delphi is a good place in which to study their effectiveness. Delphiâ€™s failures implicate Hubbardâ€™s methods. For public schools to risk pupilsâ€™ futures by experimenting with his theories and his texts would be unconscionable, especially given the apparent willingness of Hubbardâ€™s supporters to manipulate facts and to falsify achievements.
Unfortunately, some important questions remain unanswered, for example: What happens to Delphi students? Where do they go? In attempting to answer these and other questions, I will continue my research. For that reason, this must be considered a preliminary report.