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Posted 03 Sep 2001   For week ended August 31, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 01Sep01

By Kent Larsen

Covey Attacked for London, Ontario Schools Use of Book, Seminars

LONDON, ONTARIO, CANADA -- Parents, teachers and activists in the London, Ontario schools are attacking their school board over the used of training materials and seminars produced by Franklin-Covey, the firm founded by LDS Church members Hyrum Smith and Stephen R. Covey. But while the complaints allege that the money could be better used and that the materials don't help make better teachers and instruction in the district, they also claim that the materials promote the teachings of the LDS Church. And some of the complaints seem to object simply because Stephen R. Covey is Mormon.

The complaints were published in recent articles in the London Free Press. In those reports critics claimed that the public school board in London has "come under the sway" of a "Mormon business guru." The parents, education activists and former school trustees allege that teachers and administrators are forced to take Franklin-Covey seminars to get promoted and worry that the board is spending "unknown amounts of money" on the company's materials while programs for students are being cut. One school board trustee, Terry Roberts, is also charged with a conflict of interest because he has a contract with Franklin-Covey.

Another article charges that the book "The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Teens" by Covey's son, Sean Covey, is being used as a textbook in a guidance program and that the book is distributed to all students in the high school.

But the school district disputes many of the claims. John Laughlin, education director of the Thames Valley board does admit, "We use some of their material to offer personal and professional growth. Its only one of the programs we offer to people who ask for it." The board also uses some Franklin-Covey material in its training programs for teachers and administrators and some schools purchase planners for students from Franklin-Covey subsidiary, Premier School Agendas.

According to district records, the Franklin-Covey materials cost the board $35,000 to $40,000 (Canadian) this year and $65,000 to $70,000 last year, according to Laughlin. But he says that the district recoups about half that amount by charging those taking the Covey-based course $300 each.

But beyond the cost, what troubles some critics is the degree to which Covey materials have been integrated into the district's plans, including its cornerstone plan for every staff member, school and student -- called "Attainment of Our Vision." The 32-pages in the plan written by the Board includes Covey concepts such as "paradigm shift" and "circles of concern," charge the critics.

From these complaints some critics have gone even farther, charging that the Franklin-Covey material is of a "cultish nature." University of Western Ontario associate professor of education Rebecca Coulter told the London Free Press that the London board should be careful about using an "American model with ties to the Mormon Church," and added that the Franklin-Covey material smacks of "indoctrination." London School Board Special Education Advisory Committee member Carol Hawthorne asked, "How is this program run by Mormon leaders going to be inclusive and address our diverse population?" And former Board trustee Cynthia Nurse said she found Covey's materials troubling because Franklin-Covey and the Covey philosophy seem to have "very close ties to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

But Laughlin continued to dispute the claims, saying that the Franklin-Covey materials were not overtly religious, "If you can point to me the connection ... to any faith, I would be more than pleased to look at it. I haven't seen it."


School board under firm's sway: critics
London Canada Free Press 30Aug01 B2
By Hank Daniszewski and Randy Richmond: Free Press Reporters

Trustees worried about 'cultish' nature of Covey
London Canada Free Press 30Aug01 B2
By Hank Daniszewski and Randy Richmond: Free Press Reporters

'American biz-babble' in schools slammed
London Canada Free Press 31Aug01 B2
By Hank Daniszewski and Randy Richmond: Free Press Reporters


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