If anyone could help me research this more, it would be most appreciated.
I recently landed a job at a summer academic camp at the University of South Florida called SuperCamp. I was extremely hopeful after several weeks of job searching. I thought I would get some extra money and get to try out my instructional abilities. I was wrong.
The other staff members and I were met with psychological abuse, intentional conflict creating, manipulation, authoritarianism, and complete disregard for ethical mental health practices.Day 1
It's Monday and staff training will continue for the next four days. Campers will arrive on Friday.
When I arrived I was greeted by the lead facilitators and the other team leaders around noon. After informal introductions we had a typical greasy lunch at the Andros dining hall on campus. Lunch ended and they brought us to what was called the "main room." They blasted Flo Rida's Got a Good Feeling and compelled us to clap along with them. This would continue to be a theme throughout the day. Anytime we would leave the main room or come back they would usually play the same song and myself and the other team leaders were required to clap along.
In the main room we were initially familiarized with some "Quantum Learning" methods. Apparently this amounts to mindless repetition for tasks that do not need to be repeated. It eventually got to the point where when one of the lead facilitators would say something in a particular tone it was understood that we were to repeat it. They would say things, and we would parrot them back, sometimes interspersed with music, sometimes without. It's difficult to explain the numbing effect this can have unless you've experienced it quite like this before.
We played a game called affinity with our fellow team leaders. The game requires that you tell the following things to complete strangers:
Tell me is something I don't know about you. Tell me something you like about me. Tell me something you think we probably have in common.
It seemed innocent enough at the time, but in retrospect this was designed to mentally exhaust and create inauthentic intimacy with others, two popular themes at SuperCamp.
More repetition. Dinner finally comes. Andros again.
We arrive back at the main room to find it completely dark. Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield is playing on repeat over the PA and there is a man wearing aviator sunglasses sitting in a chair in front of a grid pattern on the floor. We are told by our lead facilitator that we must find our way through it stepping on one square at a time. If the maze master (the creepy stranger in aviator sunglasses) says “beep”, then we must retrace our steps to the entrance of the maze. Everyone on the team must cross the maze. No talking was allowed during this exercise. Fifteen minutes in, Tubular Bells was interrupted by Dancing Queen and the man with the aviator glasses stood up from his chair and danced around on top of the maze. About a half hour into it, I was annoyed and frustrated. I got a piece of paper from my notebook and began to draw the grid in order to create a map that we could use to easily complete it. The man stood up, walked over to me and threw my notebook across the room. I retained the incomplete map somehow, and he got up once more, took the paper from me, put it in his mouth, chewed it up and sat down. The 54 square invisible maze took over an hour to complete and visibly bothered everyone. It was also divisive, pitting our frustrations against each other.
We take a break and come back for the “evening session.”
At this point, things took a turn from extremely annoying, to highly unethical and probably illegal. After having been put through a full day of inauthentic intimacy, mind-numbing repetition and a frustrating and mentally exhausting exercise, we are sat down in probably the fifteenth circle we've formed, this time with soft mood lighting.
The mysterious aviator wearing man from before has finally introduced himself as Brian, another one of our facilitators. Brian asks us to go around the circle and tell us something that would help everyone better understand us in two minutes. Brian goes firsts and spins an emotionally gripping yarn about how he deeply loved and cared for his uncle. His uncle died and he never got to say goodbye because he didn't want to feel vulnerable and weak while visiting him on his deathbed. The other staff members, including myself, open up probably much more than we should. Some give tales of addiction and suicidal behavior, others family issues. The girl sitting next to me broke down into tears giving an account of how her mother had cheated on her father and she kept it from him for so long.
The session ended with the message to the effect of, “Isn't it great how we can open up and share so much about each other?” essentially driving home the message that their program works and that this exercise, an exercise in group therapy led by people who are in no way related to the mental health field, is incontrovertibly positive.
They play terrible contemporary piano music over the PA and ask us to reflect on our thoughts of the day in our notebooks.
We are then told that there is a “lights out” at 10:45 and that the facilitators will be coming by to check to see if we've complied.
Even though I'm exhausted, I can't sleep. I feel like something is wrong, like my mind has been altered in some profound way for the worse. I stay up and research a bit about the camp. I find some reviews from ex-campers and parents who call the camp “brainwashing” but I also find a bit about their possible connections with Scientology 'tech' through a company called Landmark Est. I decide to leave the pursuit of a full investigation for day two.Day 2
I've managed to sleep about two hours. We are introduced to the staff nurse and we go to breakfast at Andros. I tell another staff member about my concerns – that I don't feel like we were given informed consent about any of the activities we participated in, and how the evening session was inappropriate and dangerous.
More awful pop music and more clapping awaits us in the main room.
We leave for our first activity. It's the standard plank walk team building exercise, but with a dark caveat – one team is chosen to fail. They split us into two teams and we start from the same side at different ends. No talking is allowed. The course for the team I was on was geometrically impossible, and they did it this way for a reason. My team stood hands on hips watching the other team, our fellow staff members breeze by the course. They made progress while we stared at each other thinking we must in some way be deficient, when it was the length of the planks that were. Then about a half hour into the exercise, after we finally acknowledge the impossibility of our situation, the other team began to help our team cross. It was only at this point where I realized it was set up and I felt deceived and manipulated.
We take a break.
They ask us each to pick a partner we think we can trust. Then our partners blindfolded us. Then our partners led us around outside, first with touch, then only using audible cues, such as clapping in front of our faces or whistling. When we took our blindfolds off, we realized we had been lied to once again. The partner we picked and the person who were shepherding us around like cattle were different. It was a mixture of trust exercise and Stanford Prison Experiment.
We go to lunch at Andros.
Main room has the same pop music blaring. More clapping.
Our facilitators Richard and Brian fake an argument by cursing, shouting and storming off. They give an incredible performance, and since I've never seen them act authentically during camp I have no way to discern definitively whether the argument is fake or not. I can only assume that it's another one of their tactics. It's only after the other facilitators act uncomfortably for ten minutes giving us a lecture on professionalism that they reveal they were lying once again.
Dinner time arrives. Andros again.
We go back to the main room, soft lighting again for the evening session. We all line up in the center of the room and on opposite ends of the room are signs that read “Strongly Agree” and “Strongly Disagree.”
They make polarizing statements.
“I think abortion is murder.”
“I believe life would be meaningless without religion.”
“I think humans are superior to animals.”
Everyone goes to their respective positions. There are several questions like these, some personal and alienating. Then they ask “I think the world would be a better place if everyone attended SuperCamp.” I was the only one who strongly disagreed, and there was just one other, our lead facilitator, who mildly disagreed.
We then sat in a circle of chairs and had to come up with our own “I” statements. If the statement another person said applied to us, we were to stand as well.
One of our facilitators stands up and says "I strongly believe in the law of attraction." Around 10 people stand.
The girl I talked to at breakfast began to cry. She stood up and said “I don't know who I am.” A few people stood up with her.
I stood up and said “I think exercises like this are mentally exhausting and negative.” I was alone.
The same terrible contemporary piano music was played and they asked us to journal. They told us that if we brought any, we were to leave all of our medicine with the staff nurse. We were to bring them to her tonight.
Lights out, 10:30. I leave without wishing anyone goodnight.
I do more research when I get back to my dorm room. I reflect on all the red flags. I have so many questions about the medicine burning on my mind. Are these people Scientolgists? Just what the hell is going on here? I find out they have direct and indirect connections to Scientology and other cult and cult-like organizations.
I wake up, meet with the group to go to Andros for breakfast. I find the nurse and ask her what sort of medications we were supposed to bring her, and that I forgot to drop mine off with her. She tells me everything except birth control and vitamins. I ask why. She tells me it's a precautionary measure in case someone leaves their door unlocked, a camper can't get to them. It requires entry through two doors, both with locks to get inside a suite room in Cypress Hall. The campers don't arrive until Friday.
I tell the lead facilitator my ethical concerns regarding the camp -- that I feel like the program brainwashes people, and that we shouldn't be doing group therapy. She acknowledges that no one on staff is a licensed mental health professional. She seems empathetic and agrees that it "isn't for everyone" and that some people can view it as brainwashing.
I quit. She hugs me before I leave.
The first SuperCamp was first held in 1982 in California. Since its founding, SuperCamp has significantly grown and is now international. In all, over 62,000 kids have completed SuperCamp since its inception.
What they didn't tell the staff, the campers, or the parents is that SuperCamp's founders are connected with the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, a cult based in remote Yelm, Washington.From Wikipedia
: The President of the Quantum Learning Network, Bobbi DePorter, first studied accelerated learning methods with the educational pioneer Dr. Georgi Lozanov in the 1970s. These methods became the basis of the SuperCamp program which DePorter co-founded in the early-1980s with Eric Jensen and Greg Simmons and further developed with husband/partner, Joe Chapon. The first SuperCamp was held in 1982 at Kirkwood Meadows, California.
Richard Cohn writes in I am Ramtha:
"At the Burklyn Business School, where my wife Cindy and I met, the director, Greg Simmons, had always maintained that successful business required unlimited thinking, and living with integrity. Greg had also been the person who introduced us to Ramtha. So it was only natural that we call upon him in developing this publishing venture?"
"Greg Simmons is an appointed teacher at Ramtha's School of Enlightenment and has been a student of that school of ancient wisdom for over twenty years."
Former students of the School have accused the RSE of practicing brain-washing and mind-control, as well as using intimidation and fear techniques to keep students in the School. David McCarthy, a student of the RSE between 1989 and 1996, calls Knight a "spiritual predator", and he mentions various parts of the teachings which had an intimidating character, such as the prophecy that unless students remain faithful to Ramtha, they will become prey of the "lizard people", and that the ancient figure of Jehovah would return to earth accompanied by lizard people, in a spaceship. (Source: http://www.culteducation.com/reference/ramtha/ramtha26.html
)TLDR: I got hired at an "academic" summer camp. When I arrived at training I was subjected to brainwashing techniques -- the same techniques I was to use on the campers. I then found out that the camp's founder is a teacher at the Ramtha School for Enlightenment, a cult in the rural town of Yelm, Washington.