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The ‘Controversial’ School Owned by Will and Jada Smith – That Closed After 5 Years

When you think of Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith, blockbuster movies, red-carpet events, and their charismatic children might be the first things that come to mind. Of course, not to mention Will and Jada’s controversial ‘Oscar Slap.’ However, in 2008, the two ventured into uncharted territory: the world of education.

Their ambitious project? The New Village Leadership Academy (NVLA). A bold endeavor, it generated both admiration and controversy, making it an intriguing chapter in the annals of celebrity ventures.

Will Smith / IG / To offer ‘free’ education to locals, Will and Jada Smith kickstarted New Village Leadership Academy back in 2008.

Hollywood Meets Education

Will and Jada, always ones to push boundaries, sought to break the mold of conventional education. They envisioned NVLA as a haven for holistic, student-centric learning. While their goal was noble – to reshape and innovate the education landscape – did the NVLA manage to strike the right chord?

Well, it turns out that it did not age well. The academy soon faced controversies and was forced to close down after five years.

The Scientology Link: Coincidence or Deliberate?

Perhaps the most newsworthy aspect of NVLA was its rumored association with Scientology. Although the power couple never openly endorsed the church, traces of its philosophy permeated the school’s curriculum. The teaching method, influenced by L. Ron Hubbard’s Study Technology, undeniably drew parallels with Scientology’s principles.

Jada / IG / Since the school was criticized for its notorious Scientology curriculum, the school was forced to shut down in 2013.

The link became a flashpoint, leading to a whirlwind of discussions. The challenge was deciphering the line between adopting educational strategies and endorsing an entire belief system. Given the Smiths’ global recognition, every element of NVLA was under intense scrutiny, amplifying the controversy.

In the Classroom: Exploring the Hands-On Approach

Beyond the religious overtones, NVLA made headlines for its emphasis on experiential learning. The idea? Shift from the conventional classroom set-up and dive deep into immersive, real-world experiences.

While such a method can be a breath of fresh air, giving students the chance to “learn by doing,” it was not without its critics. Detractors posed a valid question: In the quest for novelty, was NVLA potentially bypassing the core fundamentals?

The “Misunderstood Word” Philosophy

One of the most unique pedagogical tools at NVLA was the “misunderstood word” principle. Stemming from Hubbard’s teachings, this method suggests that a single misunderstood term can derail a student’s entire comprehension process.

Jada / IG / Since the New Village Leadership Academy was driven by the “Misunderstood Philosophy,” critics argued that this oversimplification could mask deeper learning issues.

It is a compelling concept, emphasizing thorough understanding at every step. However, its rigid application posed challenges. Could every academic hurdle be traced back to a single word? Critics argued that this oversimplification could mask deeper learning issues, a claim substantiated by the fact that most students in the NVLA were too weak in reading and comprehension.

Journey Before Destination: The NVLA Way

Another distinctive NVLA trait was the belief that students did not need a complete grasp of a topic before progressing. While this might nurture a love for exploration and discovery, the pitfalls are evident: Potential gaps in foundational knowledge.

For some students, this approach could be liberating. For others, it might mean skating on thin ice, building on shaky foundations. The jury was out on whether this method was avant-garde brilliance or a risky gamble. Thus, Will and Jada Smith’s dream of offering ‘free’ education was shattered when the academy closed its doors in 2013.

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