The “Good Choices Program” a Bad Choice for Illinois Schools
The “Good Choices Program” a Bad Choice for Illinois Schools
Written By Laurie Higgins   |   05.13.11

State Representative Dan Burke (D-Chicago) is the lead sponsor of House Resolution 254 that, as of today, Friday, May 13, states the following:

RESOLVED, BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE NINETY-SEVENTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, that we recognize that the programs listed in this resolution are all qualified to teach character development, and that we acknowledge that the Good Choices Program, by virtue of the fact that it teaches common sense guidelines covering specific tools to help children evaluate situations and make good decisions that will improve life for themselves and others, is one example of a program fully in compliance with Section 27-12 of the School Code, as it seeks to enhance the character development and potential future moral judgment of the children of this State and, therefore, encourages its use and the use of similar programs by educators, coaches, mentors, and other community service leaders.

There are several problems with this resolution.

First, spending valuable work time offering formal kudos to particular curricula seems a waste of the salaries we taxpayers pay our legislators.

Second, apparently some of our legislators, like some school board members, curricula review committees, and department chairs, don’t bother to research carefully the curricula they endorse. Fortunately, we have leaders like State Reprepresentative Jerry Mitchell (R-Sterling) who discovered that one of the curricula Dan Burke is seeking to endorse is the “Good Choices Program” which is based on the writings of the controversial founder of the Church of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard. My concern is less with Resolution 254 and more with the Good Choices Program.

Integral to the Good Choices Program is Hubbard’s book, The Way to Happiness, and a video presentation of the 21 moral precepts which are found in his book. Many of the ideas in the Good Choices Program are critical to the healthy functioning of any society, but those ideas are not exclusive to the Good Choices Program or to self-actualization guru L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard has merely repackaged some of the moral truths revealed to man by God through both general revelation (truths written on men’s hearts) and special revelation (the Bible). In fact, many of Hubbard’s moral precepts, which are central to the Good Choices Program, correspond to Bible verses. Unfortunately, the Good Choices Program does not attribute these truths to the God of the Old and New Testaments. It attributes them to L. Ron Hubbard.

The Good Choices Program posits that moral rectitude and good works are the “way to happiness.” While moral rectitude makes for a healthier society and prevents a great deal of suffering, a life of good works and moral rectitude alone cannot bring real happiness. Real happiness can be found only in submission to the will of God.

And there are yet more troubling ideas promoted in the Good Choices Program. Here are a few:

  • “What is true is what is true for you… . Think your own way through things, accept what is true for you, discard the rest.”This raises the question: if truth is subjective, as this statement asserts it is, then are the 21 moral precepts objectively true? This statement is also antithetical to the Bible, which teaches that “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered” (Prov. 28:26).
  • “Happiness lies in engaging in worthwhile activities. But there is only one person who for certain can tell what will make one happy–oneself.” These teachings reveal both the primacy of works and the primacy of self in Hubbard’s false religion, both of which are incompatible with a Christian world view.
  • “Respect the Religious Beliefs of Others” Scripture has this to say about other religions: “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works” (2 John 7-11). Christians have no obligation to respect, which means “to regard with honor or esteem,” ideas that are false and destructive.
  • “Flourish and Prosper: the real way to defeat [your enemies] is to flourish and prosper…. if one flourishes and prospers, one certainly will wind up the victor. And, hopefully, without harming a single hair on their heads.” Here’s what Scripture says about dealing with our enemies, about God’s sovereignty, and about prosperity: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt.5:44-45).
  • “If one does not survive, no joy and no happiness are obtainable. …Any individual or group seeks to obtain from life what pleasure and freedom from pain that they can. Your own survival can be threatened by the bad actions of others around you. Your own happiness can be turned to tragedy and sorrow by the dishonesty and misconduct of others…. Such wrongs reduce one’s survival and impair one’s happiness. You are important to other people. You are listened to. You can influence others…. It is in your power to point the way to a less dangerous and happier life.” The assertions regarding pleasure and pain suggest an Epicurean view of life, which is also incompatible with Christianity. Scripture teaches, for example, that “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

This is not the first time Scientologists have fomented controversy by trying to get Hubbard’s ideas into public schools, and the Good Choices Program is currently used in many school districts. The problem is not just with some of the ideas present in the curriculum, however. The problem is also with the potential for this curriculum to lead children to “The Way of Happiness” website and thereby expose them more deeply to the false religion of the Church of Scientology. *

If a character-building curriculum based on the teachings of the founder of the Church of Scientology is acceptable in our Illinois public schools, then I assume a character-building curriculum based on the teachings of the “founder” of Christianity would be equally acceptable.

If moral precepts derived from the religious beliefs of L. Ron Hubbard’s Church of Scientology are acceptable in public schools, I assume the moral precepts of the Old Testament and New Testament — and from which Hubbard derived those of his precepts that have value — are equally acceptable in public schools.

The final troubling aspect of this mini-tempest concerns the maturity and judgment of some of our lawmakers. Scientologist Nancy Cartwright, the actress who provides the voice of Bart Simpson, came to Springfield to promote the Good Choices Program. The Chicago Sun Times reported that Representative “Burke said he became enthusiastic about backing the resolution because it would be ‘fun to have Bart Simpson’s voice down there,’ (in Springfield). And the Chicago Tribune reported that Burke said “he couldn’t resist the novelty of a celebrity endorsement.” Seriously? We have a lawmaker who endorses a resolution because he’s bedazzled by celebrity? Is this the message we want our leaders to convey, either in word or deed? Do we want our leaders to encourage the cult of celebrity that so besots American society? Do we really want leaders who are so besotted? I think not.

* For more on Scientology, click HERE.


Laurie Higgins
Laurie Higgins was the Illinois Family Institute’s Cultural Affairs Writer in the fall of 2008 through early 2023. Prior to working for the IFI, Laurie worked full-time for eight years...
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