Is Your Organization A Cult?

In doing research on Cults in America, and specifically those that re-form themselves as schools for troubled teens, I found this handy chart (see below), taken from Dr. Margaret Singer’s book, Cults in Our Midst (at ) outlining some of the differences between education and thought reform (also called “brain-washing”), and some of the stops along the way – advertising, indoctrination and propaganda.

Which of these processes best describe your school days? Your grade school? High school? College?

Your work environment? A corporate work environment?

Where does television news fit in this array? National Public Radio? AM talk radio?

Where do the current Presidential candidates fit on the chart?

Where does the Bird Flu scare fit?

The HPV “Cervical Cancer” Vaccine campaign? Education or Advertising? Or Propaganda?

Aids Education? (See the previous exchange with Dr. Nick Bennett for one example).

The Public debates on Evolution? Global Warming? Abortion?

Education involves:

  • Many bodies of knowledge, based on scientific findings in various fields.
  • Two way pupil-teacher exchange encouraged.
  • Change occurs as science advances; as students and other scholars offer criticisms; as students and citizens evaluate programs.
  • Uses teacher-pupil structure; logical thinking encouraged.
  • Instruction is time-limited: consensual.
  • Is not deceptive.
  • Respects differences.

In Advertising:

  • The body of knowledge concerns product, competitors; how to sell and influence via legal persuasion.
  • Exchange can occur but communication generally one-sided.
  • Consumer/buyer can accept or ignore communication.
  • Can be deceptive, selecting only positive views.
  • Puts down competition.

Propaganda Requires:

  • Takes authoritarian stance to persuade masses.
  • Learner support and engrossment expected.
  • Can be deceptive, often exaggerated.
  • Targets large political masses to make them believe a specific view or circumstance is good.
  • Wants to lessen opposition.
  • Overt persuasion sometimes unethical.

Thought Reform Demands:

  • Body of knowledge centers on changing people without their knowledge.
  • No exchange occurs, communication is one-sided.
  • Change occurs rarely; organization remains fairly rigid; change occurs primarily to improve thought-reform effectiveness.
  • Takes authoritarian and hierarchical stance; No full awareness on part of learner.
  • Group attempts to retain people forever.
  • Is deceptive.
  • Individualized target; hidden agenda (you will be changed one step at a time to become deployable to serve leaders).
  • No respect for differences.
  • Uses Improper and unethical techniques.

I think it’s a great tool, to evaluate the method that’s being used to present information in the public sphere. Thanks, and Dr. Margaret Singer (author of Cults in Our Midst). (Click HERE for a PDF Version of the chart).



  1. Another measuring tape… I like this one, too.

    Quoted entirely from:


    Coercive persuasion or thought reform as it is sometimes known, is best understood as a coordinated system of graduated coercive influence and behavior control designed to deceptively and surreptitiously manipulate and influence individuals, usually in a group setting, in order for the originators of the program to profit in some way, normally financially or politically.

    The essential strategy used by those operating such programs is to systematically select, sequence and coordinate numerous coercive persuasion tactics over CONTINUOUS PERIODS OF TIME. There are seven main tactic types found in various combinations in a coercive persuasion program. A coercive persuasion program can still be quite effective without the presence of ALL seven of these tactic types.

    TACTIC 1. The individual is prepared for thought reform through increased suggestibility and/or “softening up,” specifically through hypnotic or other suggestibility-increasing techniques such as: A. Extended audio, visual, verbal, or tactile fixation drills; B. Excessive exact repetition of routine activities; C. Decreased sleep; D. Nutritional restriction.

    TACTIC 2. Using rewards and punishments, efforts are made to establish considerable control over a person’s social environment, time, and sources of social support. Social isolation is promoted. Contact with family and friends is abridged, as is contact with persons who do not share group-approved attitudes. Economic and other dependence on the group is fostered. (In the forerunner to coercive persuasion, brainwashing, this was rather easy to achieve through simple imprisonment.)

    TACTIC 3. Disconfirming information and nonsupporting opinions are prohibited in group communication. Rules exist about permissible topics to discuss with outsiders. Communication is highly controlled. An “in-group” language is usually constructed.

    TACTIC 4. Frequent and intense attempts are made to cause a person to re-evaluate the most central aspects of his or her experience of self and prior conduct in negative ways. Efforts are designed to destabilize and undermine the subject’s basic consciousness, reality awareness, world view, emotional control, and defense mechanisms as well as getting them to reinterpret their life’s history, and adopt a new version of causality.

    TACTIC 5. Intense and frequent attempts are made to undermine a person’s confidence in himself and his judgment, creating a sense of powerlessness.

    TACTIC 6. Nonphysical punishments are used such as intense humiliation, loss of privilege, social isolation, social status changes, intense guilt, anxiety, manipulation and other techniques for creating strong aversive emotional arousals, etc.

    TACTIC 7.
    Certain secular psychological threats [force] are used or are present: That failure to adopt the approved attitude, belief, or consequent behavior will lead to severe punishment or dire consequence, (e.g. physical or mental illness, the reappearance of a prior physical illness, drug dependence, economic collapse, social failure, divorce, disintegration, failure to find a mate, etc.).

    Another set of criteria has to do with defining other common elements of mind control systems. If most of Robert Jay Lifton’s eight point model of thought reform is being used in a cultic organization, it is most likely a dangerous and destructive cult. These eight points follow:

    Robert Jay Lifton’s Eight Point Model of Thought Reform

    1. ENVIRONMENT CONTROL. Limitation of many/all forms of communication with those outside the group. Books, magazines, letters and visits with friends and family are taboo. “Come out and be separate!”

    2. MYSTICAL MANIPULATION. The potential convert to the group becomes convinced of the higher purpose and special calling of the
    group through a profound encounter / experience, for example, through an alleged miracle or prophetic word of those in the group.

    3. DEMAND FOR PURITY. An explicit goal of the group is to bring about some kind of change, whether it be on a global, social, or
    personal level. “Perfection is possible if one stays with the group and is committed.”

    4. CULT OF CONFESSION. The unhealthy practice of self disclosure to members in the group. Often in the context of a public gathering in the group, admitting past sins and imperfections, even doubts about the group and critical thoughts about the integrity of the leaders.

    5. SACRED SCIENCE. The group’s perspective is absolutely true and completely adequate to explain EVERYTHING. The doctrine is not subject to amendments or question. ABSOLUTE conformity to the doctrine is required.

    6. LOADED LANGUAGE. A new vocabulary emerges within the context of the group. Group members “think” within the very abstract
    and narrow parameters of the group’s doctrine. The terminology sufficiently stops members from thinking critically by reinforcing a “black and white” mentality. Loaded terms and clichés prejudice thinking.

    7. DOCTRINE OVER PERSON. Pre-group experience and group experience are narrowly and decisively interpreted through the absolute doctrine, even when experience contradicts the doctrine.

    8. DISPENSING OF EXISTENCE. Salvation is possible only in the group. Those who leave the group are doomed.


    Programs identified with the above-listed seven tactics have in common the elements of attempting to greatly modify a person’s self-concept, perceptions of reality, and interpersonal relations. When successful in inducing these changes, coercive thought reform programs also, among other things, create the potential forces necessary for exercising undue influence over a person’s independent decision-making ability, and even for turning the individual into a deployable agent for the organization’s benefit without the individual’s meaningful knowledge or consent.

    Coercive persuasion programs are effective because individuals experiencing the deliberately planned severe stresses they generate can only reduce the pressures by accepting the system or adopting the behaviors being promulgated by the purveyors of the coercion program. The relationship between the person and the coercive persuasion tactics are DYNAMIC in that while the force of the pressures, rewards, and punishments brought to bear on the person are considerable, they do not lead to a stable, meaningfully SELF-CHOSEN reorganization of beliefs or attitudes. Rather, they lead to a sort of coerced compliance and a situationally required elaborate rationalization, for the new conduct.

    Once again, in order to maintain the new attitudes or “decisions,” sustain the rationalization, and continue to unduly influence a person’s behavior over time, coercive tactics must be more or less CONTINUOUSLY applied. A fiery, “hell and damnation” guilt-ridden sermon from the pulpit or several hours with a high-pressure salesman or other single instances of the so-called peaceful persuasions do not constitute the “necessary chords and orchestration” of a SEQUENCED, continuous, COORDINATED, and carefully selected PROGRAM of surreptitious coercion, as found in a comprehensive program of “coercive persuasion.”

  2. Attack therapy

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    Attack therapy is a controversial type of psychotherapy evolved from ventilation therapy. The patient undergoing attack therapy is humiliated, abused and denunciated by a therapist, or by fellow patients during group therapy.[1]


    1 Methodology
    2 Groups that use attack therapy
    3 See also


    Attack therapy can be particularly problematic when the group members are captive, and not allowed to leave during the sessions.[2] In Group Psychotherapy with Addicted Populations , Flores notes that attack therapy can take place when individuals are psychologically intimidated in a confrontational atmosphere.[3]

    In her book Help at Any Cost, Maia Szalavitz writes that attack therapy can include the tactics of isolation, and rigid imposition of rules, which later leads to a restoration of limited permissive freedom, and an acknowledgement of those that did comply with the strict rules.[4]

    Psychologist Donald Eisner writes in The Death of Psychotherapy that attack therapy: “attempts to tear down the patient’s defenses by extreme verbal or physical measures.”[5] Tudor describes attack therapy in Group Counselling, writing that the individual is ridiculed in front of others, and cross-examined and questioned about their personal behavior patterns.[6]

    According to Maran’s book Dirty, attack therapy can take place in “all-night encounter groups and daily interactions.”[7] Monti, Colby, and O’Leary write in Adolescents, Alcohol, and Substance Abuse that in attack therapy, there was a movement to: “tear them down in order to build them up”, referring to a methodology of tearing down the individual ego in order to then educate the individual in the inherent thought-patterns of the group and the group leader.[8]

    In Concise Encyclopedia of Psychology, Corsini and Auerbach note that attack therapy puts an emphasis on the expression of anger by each individual.[9]

    One Nation Under Therapy by Satel and Sommers characterized attack therapy as among the “more bizarre expressive therapies”, and put it in the same category as Primal Scream, Nude Encounter, and Rolfing.[10] In Social Problems, Coleman and Cressey write that in attack therapy, one individual is criticized and “torn down” by the rest of the larger group. [11]

    Groups that use attack therapy
    In their textbook, Helping People Change, Kanfer and Goldstein note that controversial group Synanon used a form of attack therapy.[12]

    A publication by the National Association for Mental Health wrote that the Synanon form of attack therapy was also called the “Synanon confrontation game”.[13] The Concise Encyclopedia of Psychology also described the Synanon method of attack therapy, noting that it even differed from other models that could be seen as using a similar approach.[9] Balgooyen compared “Synanon game verbal attack therapy” to standard group therapy, in a study published in the Journal of Community Psychology.[14]

    In Dictionary of American Penology, Williams writes that attack therapy was actually first developed in the Synanon group.[15] In Therapeutic Communities for the Treatment of Drug Users , it is noted that in Synanon, attack therapy was referred to within the group by members simply as “The Game.”[16] The attack therapy techniques used in Synanon have been described in Therapeutic Community by a former participant as “brutal and bordering upon sadism.”[17]

    In addition to comparisons to Synanon, Miller and Rolnick also compare the methods of attack therapy to Scared Straight, and “therapeutic” boot camps, in their book Motivational Interviewing: Preparing People for Change. They note that the supporters of attack therapy believe that: “..people don’t change because they haven’t suffered enough.”[18]

    In the book Mindstyles, Lifestyles, Lande wrote that the use of “humiliation, ridicule, and sarcasm” in Werner Erhard’s Erhard Seminars Training was drawn from group encounter forms of attack therapy.[19] Lande also notes that Werner Erhard most likely learned this form of attack therapy from the groups Leadership Dynamics and Mind Dynamics.[19]

    The attack therapy group is compared to methodology used in Large Group Awareness Training, in Martin’s We Know What You Want: How They Change Your Mind . Martin goes on to note case studies where individuals had severe negative emotional outcomes from these trainings and the techniques utilized therein.[20] Snyder wrote in Health & Human Nature that attack therapy was combined with encounter therapy by Werner Erhard in Erhard Seminars Training in such as way so as to “jar” the individual’s perceptions.[21]

    In Encyclopedia of the American Religious Experience, it is theorized that the method of calling people “Assholes” in Erhard Seminars Training is a form of attack therapy.[22] Szalavitz notes in Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-teen Industry Cons Parents And Hurts Kids that both Werner Erhard in Erhard Seminars Training and John Hanley in his group Lifespring were prior instructors in Mind Dynamics, a group that utilized attack therapy in its techniques.[4] More generally, attack therapy has been discussed in the framework of Sensitivity training and other parts of the Human Potential Movement.[23]

    See also

    Group psychological abuse


    Singer, Margaret Thaler; Janja Lalich (1996). Crazy Therapies : What Are They? Do They Work?. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.


    ^ Dr. John Juedes; William Barton (2002). Fringe Psychology of the 1960s In Breakthrough/ Momentus Training. Retrieved on 2007-05-10.
    ^ Scripts People Live: Transactional Analysis of Life Scripts , Claude M. Steiner, Page 256. ISBN 0802132103, Grove Press, 1990

    ^ Group Psychotherapy with Addicted Populations , Philip J. Flores, Page 355., 1997, ISBN 0789060000, Haworth Press
    ^ a b Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-teen Industry Cons Parents And Hurts Kids, Maia Szalavitz , Page 7, Page 65., ISBN 1594489106, 2006, Riverhead

    ^ The Death of Psychotherapy , Donald A. Eisner, Page 45., 2000. ISBN 0275964132, Praeger/Greenwood
    ^ Group Counselling, Keith Tudor, Page 16., ISBN 0803976208, Sage Publications Inc, 1999.
    ^ Dirty: A Search for Answers Inside America’s Teenage Drug Epidemic , Meredith Maran, Page 93., 2004, ISBN 0060730617, HarperCollins

    ^ Adolescents, Alcohol, and Substance Abuse , Peter M. Monti, Suzanne M. Colby, Tracy A. O’Leary , Page x., 2004, Guilford Press, ISBN 1593850905
    ^ a b Concise Encyclopedia of Psychology, Raymond J. Corsini, Alan J. Auerbach, Page 114., 1998, John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 0471192821

    ^ One Nation Under Therapy , Christina Hoff Sommers, Dr. Sally Satel, Page 75., 2006, ISBN 0312304447, St. Martin’s Griffin
    ^ Social Problems, James William Coleman, Donald Ray Cressey , 1984, Page 351. ISBN 0060413271
    ^ Helping People Change: A Textbook of Methods, Page 508., Frederick H. Kanfer, Arnold P. Goldstein, ISBN 0080250971, 1980, Pergamon Press

    ^ The magazine of the National Association for Mental Health, v.56 no.3-4 1972 + v.57 1973, Page 50.
    ^ Balgooyen, T. J., (1974), Journal of Community Psychology., 2(1), 54-58., “A Comparison of the Synanon game verbal attack therapy and standard group therapy practice on hospitalized chronic alcoholics.”
    ^ Dictionary of American Penology , Vergil L. Williams , 1996, Page 28., ISBN 0313266891, Greenwood Press

    ^ Therapeutic Communities for the Treatment of Drug Users, Rowdy Yates, Barbara Rawlings , Page 39., 2001., ISBN 1853028177, Jessica Kingsley Publishers
    ^ Therapeutic Community: Social Systems Perspective , Fernando B. Perfas, Page 30., ISBN 0595321313, 2004.
    ^ Motivational Interviewing: Preparing People for Change, William Ross Miller, Stephen Rollnick , 2002, Page 12., ISBN 1572305630, Guilford Press

    ^ a b Mindstyles, Lifestyles, Nathaniel Lande, Page 144. ISBN 0843104090, Price/Stern/Sloan, 1976
    ^ Howard Martin, We Know What You Want: How They Change Your Mind ‘, Page 46-48., “Motivational Seminars”, ISBN 1932857052, 2005.

    ^ Health & Human Nature, D. Paul Snyder , Page 161., 1980, ISBN 0801967988
    ^ Encyclopedia of the American Religious Experience, Charles H. Lippy, Peter W. Williams, 1988, ISBN 0684188627
    ^ Gropeshrink, TIME Magazine, Brad Darach, July 27, 1970.

    “The Human Potential Movement is a loose chain of several hundred psychological supermarkets in which a customer can buy almost anything his little hurt desires: Sensitivity Training, Interracial Encounters, Creative Divorce Workshops, Heterosexual Body Sandwiches, Nude Psychodrama, Attack Therapy, Vomit Training.”

  3. The Cedu/Brown schools, developed or evolved from the Synanon cult religion, took in many thousands of students (and even more of their parents dollars) from the 1980s through the early 2000s.

    Was your school anything like this?

    Verbatim from the fornits wiki –

    CEDU Lingo

    Language was one method of control and coercion at the CEDU facilities, since it conditioned the detainees to perceive their world and environment within the context of the program. As such, the use of specialized language played a key role in creating a cohesive mini-culture, opaque and unintelligible to outsiders and outside scrutiny, and encouraged the students to feel as if they are part of something special and unique.

    When the lingo from a particular culture, group, profession, cult, behavior modification facility or any type of social structure which employs a specialized language is studied and the definitions are explained to outsiders, it often helps to demystify that particular group’s way of life, work and behavior.
    List of Terms

    The following is a partial list of terms from the CEDU schools.

    Older/Younger Student

    This needs to be specified simply for clarification that this is not indicative of a student’s age, but rather, where they are at in the program. Older = upper school, younger = lower school.

    RMANKs and CEDUNKs

    Acronyms for “RMA New Kid” and “CEDU New Kid.”


    A 24 hour workshop. Named after Khalil Ghbiran’s “The Prophet”. Passages from the prophet are read at one point in each propheet. During the Wasserman years, there were 7 propheets and two workshops. The propheets employed sleep-deprivation, humiliation, occasional exposure to large variations in temperature, guided imagery, loud and repetitive music, regression therapy, bizarre ritual, and forced emoting. This normally resulted in a feeling of euphoria and exhaustion after the experience. Certain propheets actually caused students to temporarily lose their voice. Propheets contained exercises which used metaphor to convey their message. Each propheet, with the exception of the last one, also consisted of disclosures and a lengthy rap (see below) where everyone in the room was spoken to. The students are “allowed” what appears on the surface to be a one hour nap the next day. However, staff walk amongst the kids as they try to fall asleep on the floor, and when they notice that the last one has fallen asleep, they wake up the students and tell them that the hour nap is over. After you complete a propheet, you are sworn to secrecy. However, you are allowed to speak to students who have already been through the experience. The list of propheets are The Truth, The Childrens, The Brothers Keeper, The Dreams, The I Want to Live, The Values and The Imagine. The two, multi-day workshops, are the I & Me and the Summit. They employ similar techniques, but the structure is very different, and the intensity is stepped up significantly. The last workshop, the Summit, was based on the Large Group Awareness Training seminar Lifespring. Wasserman purchased the rights to use the workshop at his own school, in addition to adding his own exercises.

    Getting Out

    At the end of a propheet, older students come into the workshop to “get out” a younger student. Normally this is done by a big brother or sister, but if a kid is unpopular enough, the older student responsible for coordinating this will make a plea to the house during lunchtime requesting a volunteer to get that student out. It was the nightmare of many students that this might happen to them, so they made a point of finding someone to get them out before they went into the propheet.

    When a student gets someone out of a propheet, they will bring with them the propheet scroll, normally colored in, and possibly some cards. Getting someone out, and conversely, being gotten out, was supposed to help strengthen the bond between two students who now share the same experience.
    Propheet Scroll

    Each propheet was represented by a paper scroll. On this scroll were the xeroxed lyrics to a song that was associated with the workshop, in addition to a drawing. A student who was getting someone out of a propheet would color one in and bring it to present to the participant when the propheet was over. Most students thumbtacked the scrolls of their most recent propheets onto the wall in their bunk space.

    Ice Breaker

    A propheet exercise, done in the beginning, that is normally funny, or tries to be, but most often employs some level of humiliation. It is used to lull the students into a feeling of security to ease their nerves before the more intense exercises.


    A group session, mostly confrontational and verbally abusive. Based on Synanon’s “The game”. Raps were held three days a week, and lasted around four hours.
    Rap Request

    When a student or a staff requests another student to be in a rap with them. Requests would be made by writing your name and writing the name of the person you are requesting on a piece of paper, and putting it in the rap request box. The requests were normally for screaming and yelling at another person, otherwise known as an indictment (see below) but could also occasionally be used to request support.


    When a staff or student confronts another student in a rap. Most often, this is done through browbeating, screaming, and abusive and embarrassing dialogue. This is normally because the student being indicted did something to anger the other person, or because they are considered to be “not growing”, “out of agreement”, or any other number of reasons or non-reasons. Occasionally, an indictment will be civil and kept at a decent volume. When a student is indicted, the person indicting them must sit across from them, since it was considered too intimidating to have a person sitting right next to you scream in your face. If a student was sitting in the wrong position and wanted to talk to the student being yelled at, they were required to get up and trade chairs with someone across the room from that person. You could also indict yourself in a rap, by saying “I need to talk”. Self-indictments were known as “creating space”. Sometimes, instead of saying “I need to talk”, a student would say “I need space.”

    Blown Away

    Being screamed at in a rap. This was abuse of the worst degree. The goal in any rap situation was to bring a child/teen to tears and/or tear them down. The problem with this method was the lack of “building back up,” which never happened.

    As already mentioned, these “therapeutic sessions” lasted usually four hours, three days a week.

    The counselors (although 99% of them had no formal education to work with troubled youth)were normally never yelled at in a rap.

    Synonym to blown away.


    A more esoteric term, and as a result, a bit more difficult to explain. It basically meant someone who has ulterior motives for speaking to you in a rap. Normally this revolved around the person having resentment towards the target, and indicting them, not out of concern for their well-being or development, but because they simply wanted to say nasty things to you and make you squirm. Ironically, almost everything that was said to someone in a rap could fit into this category. It’s just that some people were more obvious about it than others, and they were the ones who got confronted on it. Also referred to as “getting your needs out” on someone.

    Side Conversation

    A conversation you are having with someone in a rap, while the rest of the members are focused on someone else. Literally, having a conversation “on the side”. Forbidden.

    “Let’s Move On”

    Spoken by rap facilitators, when they wanted to shift the focus from one student to another. Probably one of the most frightening things to hear in a rap, if you had not yet been indicted.

    “Where are you at?”

    This was a common question, referring to how you are feeling. Although that term is common in regular culture, it held a different level of significance at CEDU. “Where are you at?” was often asked at the beginning and/or end of an indictment.

    “My gut is flipping.”

    Accusatory statement implying that the person you are addressing is lying or acting in a dishonest or suspicious manner. Can also be phrased “That makes my gut flip.”

    Rap Pass

    This could mean a few things. It could mean that a student who is expected to be indicted in a rap is not, or a student is not talking in a rap or “giving feedback”, and is not confronted on their lack of participation. Essentially, it means you got a free pass for the day.

    Running Your Anger

    This was forced, cathartic, screaming and crying, similar in technique to Primal Therapy. However, it is not yet ascertained whether Mel Wasserman was a follower of Dr. Arthur Janov. Although, it is interesting to note that John Lennon explored primal therapy in his album Plastic Ono Band, and the music from that album is used in the I & Me Workshop.

    Running your anger was an expected part of emotional growth at the CEDU schools, and normally involved being worked up into a lather, either by yourself or your peers and staff, via methods such as screaming confrontation, browbeating, humiliation and regression/guided imagery (i.e. remembering things from your past.) Running your anger was always done from one position… that of sitting in your chair, doubled over, fists or hands around your head, and screaming at the floor. Most often, the episode would be started off by the student shouting “FUUUCK” or “FUUUUCCCK YOOOU!” This statement was usually addressed at their “negative thinking” (explained below.) Running your anger always caused large expectorations of mucus from the nose and mouth which dribbled as a constant stream from the student’s head to the floor. Occasionally, students would also vomit. Running your anger was also known as running your shit.

    “That’s Right!”

    This was a common term of encouragement uttered by faculty in raps, propheets and workshops, to spur on people who were “running their anger”. Facilitators would also bark at a student to “Say that again!” when they wanted a student who was “running their anger” to repeat something.

    Taking Care of Your Feelings

    This meant doing what you believe is expected of you in a rap. Understood as a need to “run your anger” or cry. Indoctrinated students believed this to be a necessity for their mental well-being. There was a common fear that if a student went too long without doing this, something bad would happen.

    Going for Broke

    Giving your all in a rap. This normally consisted of participating in every indictment in the rap in the appropriate manner (i.e. yelling and screaming at the person), possibly indicting someone yourself, and then asking for space for you to take care of your feelings by running your anger.

    Playing it Safe

    The opposite of going for broke. Looked upon unfavorably.


    Most often phrased as “In your thinking” or “In your head.” This meant that you were having rational thoughts and thinking for yourself, instead of behaving as expected in a rap. This was often an accusation towards an indicted individual who spoke in a normal, calm tone of voice in raps. In short, your thinking was literally bad. You shouldn’t think. Only after the I & Me, do they mention, briefly, that I (thinking) and Me (feeling) should work together. However, it was emphasized that “Me” should be the one in charge. A current parody of this mentality, although not directed at CEDU, is Stephen Colbert’s concept Truthiness. “I don’t care about the facts, I just go with what’s in my gut.”

    Thinking was also attributed to what was understood as “negative thinking”. These were negative things the student told themselves about how horrible a person they were. However, the source of such thoughts was never truly addressed, (especially if these thoughts stemmed from the program ideology itself) simply demonized as messages from the past, and therefore should be addressed by running your anger.

    In Your Shit

    Similar to “in your thinking”, except that it implied more that you were in an overall negative emotional mental state. It could also mean something akin to wallowing in your past.


    Rules. This euphemistic term was used to give the illusion that these were rules the students consented to. Agreements can be temporary or constant in nature, the temporary ones being those that are issued to a student during a rap, workshop or propheet, the constant being those that students are expected to keep on a continuous basis. When you are following the rules, you are considered “in agreement.”

    Some examples of constant agreements are: No sex No drugs No violence Student must keep shirt tucked in at all time. Students are only allowed five minute showers. Students are forbidden from singing or mentioning “unacceptables” (see below) Students are forbidden from playing “air guitar”. What is said in a rap, stays in a rap.

    Examples of temporary agreements are: Violence is forbidden in this workshop unless we say otherwise. No side conversations. No masturbating. (In reference to a workshop which lasts six days.) We cannot continue until we are all in agreement.

    Out of Agreement/Dirty

    This meant that you had broken one of the rules. The term “dirty” had the tactical edge of making someone feel unclean and shameful. In addition, the things that you did that were against the rules were known as “dirt”.

    Copping out/Disclosing

    The act of disclosing or copping out operated on several levels at the CEDU schools. It could mean anything from the mundane logistical issues of confessing to a staff or peer what agreements you had broken, to things that you had done in the past that you felt ashamed of, negative thoughts, or complete and utter fabrications because you were under pressure from faculty to come up with more “dirt”. As a student progressed through the school, many came up with increasingly elaborate and extreme “disclosures”, which involved things such as bestiality, prostitution, and acts of extreme violence. Disclosing was a ritualistic activity that was done before (as it pertained to “dirt”) and during every propheet and workshop (as it pertained to revealing private secrets about one’s past.) The significance the act of disclosure held at the schools created an atmosphere supportive of false and forced confessions.

    Dirt List

    One method of confession. A dirt list was a list of rules that you broke, which you write yourself. It was required before propheets and workshops, on “full-times” (see below), and any other time the staff felt you were “dirty”.

    Stash List

    Different in a dirt list in that it is supposed to list things in your life that you need to get rid or let go of. It served the same purpose as a dirt list or disclosures in that it encouraged you to look at your list of items as moral transgressions and feel ashamed of them. As such, a stash list was simply another version of a dirt list. It was a written confession.

    Pulling Up

    When a student attempted to enforce the school rules (agreements) with another student, it was referred to as “pulling them up.” If a student sees another student out of agreement and does not “pull them up”, then they themselves become “dirty” and will need to account for it on their next dirt list.

    Enforcing compliance at CEDU was only partially done via the faculty. A great majority of the oversight was by older students, expected to keep the younger ones in line.

    Ups and Downs

    This was a privilege that allowed the younger student to go up and down to the dorms by themselves, without needing to be escorted by an older student.


    Was one version of the phased system of progress through the school. This system existed from early inception to the early 90s at both CEDU RS and Rocky Mountain Academy. The higher you got within the family/phase system, the more privileges you were permitted, such as no longer having to have your mail or phone calls monitored, being able to wear black and other non-standard CEDU issued clothing, and being able to visit home. You graduated after you completed your last family. There were six families during this era. Voyageurs and Discovery, which were the lower school, Quest and Challenge, which were the middle school, and New Horizons and Summit, which were the upper school. You were required to apply to each family and make a portfolio before you were allowed to “move up”. The Summit portfolio being the most comprehensive and time-consuming to create. When you moved up to Summit, your ascension was announced before the student body and you were required to dress formal and say something.


    Teams were a system of organization applied to staff and students, which coexisted with the peer group and phase systems (phases applied to students only).

    Teams were lead by a team leader and an assistant team leader, who were both senior staff members, and were composed of students and staff at different points of the program. Each team was therefor a cross section of the school. Teams were primarily used for dividing the school into large non – hierarchical units for purposes such as chores and activities.

    At NWA in the late 90s there were three teams which were named for stellar formations: Polaris, Phoenix, and Orion, which were male only, female only, and coed respectively (though staff could be on any team regardless of gender).

    Peer Group

    This was the group of students one would go through all the propheets, workshops and wilderness expeditions with. Essentially, your graduating class. Students were often “dropped” (demoted) peer groups if they were believed not to be progressing. In addition, a lot of times, peer groups were merged in the upper school, so that two peer groups would end up going through their last two workshops together.

    Big Brother/Sister, Little Brother/Sister

    Self-explanatory. Older students taking younger ones under their wing. As an older student, you could have official (i.e. assigned or requested) and unofficial younger siblings.

    House Around the Pit

    Students were required to assemble around the fireplace, for announcements, and the calling out of who would be attending what rap.


    This meant that there was a specific student, or a group of students (normally from a family on down) that you could not speak with. (You were “on bans” from them.) This also meant that you could not have any eye contact, or engage in any other means of communication, such as passing notes. If there are a group of students which were having a conversation, and you were on bans from one of the students within that conversation, you could not be allowed to participate in that discussion, even if you don’t speak directly with the person you are on bans from. Students could also be put on bans from the opposite sex.


    This was the forced, no-boundaries, and often inappropriate affection that was considered expected behavior between same-sex students (or faculty and students, regardless of gender). During social and down time, when students would spend time together, they would normally be curled up with each other, sitting between a friend’s legs, laying their head on another person’s stomach, or any other method of affection that is normally reserved for a much more intimate sort of connection with someone. Students often held hands while walking as well. Normally, if a student was not participating in smooshing and spending time by themselves in the living room, they were pressured to join someone by the staff and/or older students.

    A more widely-used term by cult experts for this phenomenon is love bombing.

    Ironically, before the early 90s, CEDU was also incredibly homophobic, and held gay-identified kids up to double-standards regarding smooshing appropriateness, until the student converted to believing they were straight. They also had a strict no-hire policy for gays wanting to be staff. There is also believed to be some discrepancy over the severity of this as it pertains to the Running Springs campus versus the Idaho one.

    Tight/Plum and Square

    These terms meant to keep your personal space and the student facilities clean. The term “plumb and square” was specific to the CEDU Running Springs campus, and to the CEDU Ascent wilderness program.

    Going Slow

    This term meant that the student was in such a vulnerable space that they were hypersensitive to any sort of stimuli. This state of mind happened most often after extreme exercises in propheets/workshops, or after a student had run their anger in a rap. It is normally a result of a pseudo-cathartic explosion of emotion. It was looked upon positively, and was encouraged.

    Going Fast

    This meant the opposite. It was normally attached to behavior that was considered too loud, active, lively, or hyper, and was looked upon negatively. People accused of “going fast” were normally blamed with “creating an unsafe space” (explained below.)


    Safety, or, “keeping a safe space”, was a euphemism for enforcing the status quo and maintaining the proper atmosphere within the school to keep students compliant and vulnerable. Slow behavior was approved of, fast was not. This also encompassed the strict following of agreements for all students. If there were many students out of agreement, or perceived to be out of agreement, they were believed to be creating an unsafe environment for everyone else.


    This meant that you weren’t allowing yourself to succumb to the program. The staff at the school would say all too often that they needed to “break down your resistance.”


    This referred to how you represented yourself before you came to CEDU. It implied that you were sporting a false and contrived persona, akin to a stereotype, that was contrary to who you truly were as a person. What CEDU neglected to mention, however, was that it perpetuated it’s own “image” onto students: conformity under the guise of individuality. “You’re an individual, just like everyone else.” Images were, a lot of times, assigned to you by the staff. i.e. a staff member would accuse you of being a slut, or a druggie, or a junkie. Upper school students who came back from a home visit with new clothes that the staff believed “supported their image” had those clothes confiscated. In addition, from the moment of arrival, students are under constant scrutiny not to “fall back into their image”. There are several exercises in propheets where a student’s identity prior to CEDU is demoized to the point of being labeled “their nightmare” or “their death.”


    An esoteric term as well as a spoken taunt. Used to make students feel as if they were being greedy if they did something such as rushing the cafeteria line. The premise was that the student was acting out of scarcity as opposed to trusting that there would be enough for themselves and everyone else. When a student or group of students were discovered acting this way, many students would jeer “scarcity! scarcity!” and laugh. An RMA version of the scarcity taunt is to moo like cows when students rush the line. The RMA campus would occasionally run out of food, which exacerbated this situation.

    Cutting up the Streets

    This meant that you were discussing places in your hometown with another student who also lived there. It was strictly forbidden.


    This referred to musicians or bands that were not permitted to be mentioned at the school. Obviously, the music could also not be played, you could not sing it, and you could not listen to them on a home visit. What was deemed acceptable and unacceptable changed over the course of CEDU. Some bands that were unacceptable early on were later actually used in propheets and played as house music.

    Examples of how “unacceptable” was used within the context of the CEDU language would consist of statements like: “Don’t sing that, that’s unacceptable.” or “Stop singing unacceptables.”

    Fiending Out

    This meant that you were getting overly excited about unacceptable music, whether it be singing it, or hearing it somewhere and enjoying it.. Also forbidden.

    Popping Off

    When a student accidentally starts singing a song by an unacceptable band. Despite the fact that most times, it was unintentional, it was still considered “dirt”.


    When a student speaks badly about another student or staff behind their back. Also against the rules, and considered “dirt”.

    Hiding Out

    When a student is spending time in the library, or some other area of campus by themselves. Alone time. Frowned upon. Students were made to feel ashamed if they did this, as if they were a loser who could not make friends.


    A passive-agressive, hurtful comment you say to another person.


    Otherwise known as “finding cracks.” Attempting to find a loophole in an agreement. For instance, instead of mentioning an unacceptable band, you would possibly mention only the initials, or give a brief but recognizable description of them.



    Sex Contract

    Two students who are planning on having sex. Severely against the rules. This also applies to 2 students who had or were planning ANY form of sexual contact.


    Running Away

    Split Contract

    Two students who are planning on running away. Also severely against the rules.

    Rap Contract

    Two students who form an agreement not to indict or talk to each other in raps.

    Work Detail

    A form of punishment through manual labor. A student worked on their own on a particular project, such as digging up stumps, landscaping, building walls, etc. People on work details were on bans from the entire student body while working, and were not allowed a watch. Also called Work Assignment.

    Work Crews

    The assigned jobs that each family participated in during the day. Work was done in the mornings on rap days, and all day (plus phys ed) on non rap days. Each family had a different job. For example, at Rocky Mountain Academy in the 80s, Voyageurs were at the wood corral, Discovery did forestry, Quest was the farm, Challenge was either the woodshop or the kitchen, and by the time the Emerson academic building was built New Horizons and Summit students attended classes. The term work crews also applied to Saturday cleaning crews.

    First Light

    The meeting of the students in one particular family, before going to work or class for the day.

    Last Light

    The final meeting of the entire school, before going to bed. Normally consisted of a particular student being assigned to read or talk to the rest of the student body.


    A student stands up and talks about themselves, sometimes directed at anther student they like and want to offer support to.


    The phys ed credit. Normally consisted of some sort of team-building exercise, or the ropes course.


    An event involving the entire student body. This happened before a peer group went into a propheet or workshop. It normally involved guided imagery and loud, cheesy music. Often, the entire student and staff body is brought to tears, depending on how intense the warm-up is. It culminates with other students “sharing” with the ones who are about to go into the propheet.


    Occasionally this followed the common psychiatric term which meant that you were accusing someone else of a behavior, when in reality, you were the one guilty of that behavior. More often than that, projecting in CEDU was a rap exercise where one participant imagines that the person sitting across from them is either a negative representation of themselves, or a representation of someone in their past that they hate or have issues with. The end result is the target being screamed at by the person projecting.


    A term referring to specific kinds of exercises in propheets and workshops that resulted in physical and emotional exertion, and possible physical injury. Normally consisted of a repetitious act, such as pounding a pillow, having to fight physical restraint, laying on a mattress while kicking and punching, running in place until you scream and sob, or biting down on a towel while simultaneously trying to yank it out of your mouth. This was always accompanied by explosive, emotional venting.

    Bioenergetics are first introduced to the students in the I Want to Live propheet.

    It cannot be verified with certainty at this time whether Mel Wasserman borrowed heavily from the techniques used in Bioenergetic Analysis, but the methods and theory are similar.

    Battle of the Bands

    The icebreaker in the Truth Propheet. The peer group is divided up into bands, and each band is required to lip-synch and perform an assigned song. The songs are supposed to allude to specific behavior which was considered negative. The students were divided up into which song corresponded most to their behavior. For example, all of the students who were perceived to be manipulative would be in a band together and have to perform a song such as “Snake Charmer”. For the students who were perceived to be loners and kept to themselves, they would be grouped together and have to perform something like “The Wanderer”. The exercise essentially made broad, sweeping generalizations regarding the real or imagined behavior of the members of the peer group.
    The Pendulum

    A tool in the truth propheet. The passage from The Prophet that is focused on in the truth is “To the extent that you feel your sorrow, you will feel your joy.” This is depicted in the truth propheet by a pendulum, which swings from one side, which is sorrow, to the other, which is joy. Whatever Gibran’s intent, CEDU ideology translated this as meaning that, in order to feel any happiness, the student must be made as miserable as possible first.

    Your Chrome Ball

    A tool in the truth. Your chrome ball was supposed to represent you at birth; pure and unsullied. Students are told that throughout their life, their ball has been dirtied and tarnished by things such as bad experiences, people treating you poorly, and you doing things you felt ashamed of. (Which leads into disclosures in the disclosure circles. See below.)

    Disclosure Circles

    An exercise in the truth propheet. Students are divided up into two groups, one each run by a staff. They sit around in a circle, and everybody goes around and confesses to things that they have done in the past that they feel bad about, in addition to copping out to any dirt. As the night progresses, students are pressured to come up with more and more dirt, even if the student says they don’t have any more. This often leads to fabricated confessions.

    Your Truth

    A tool/concept from the truth propheet. “Your truth” meant what you were, essentially. Part of the CEDU ideology was to oversimplify identity by assigning your persona basic labels. Some examples of assigned truths would be “honest” or “beautiful”.

    Your Lie

    This is the other side of the “your truth” label, and was assigned to you in the rap section of the truth propheet. After your indictment, which normally consisted of how you deny your truth every day, you are assigned what is “your lie”, which was normally a blunt and brutal accusation of your negative behavior. Some examples of this are “Liar”, “Victim”, “Cripple”, “Slut” and “Faggot”.

    Bubble Gum Blowing Contest

    The ice breaker in the children’s propheet. Pretty self-explanatory. Students are given a piece of gum and whoever blows the largest bubble wins. For some bizarre reason, this contest was performed on one’s knees.

    Your Little Girl/Boy

    A tool/concept from the children’s propheet. This propheet was geared towards getting the students in touch with their “inner child.” One way of doing this was to give more tangibility to the concept. As such, students are required to come up with a name for their little boy or girl. This name was supposed to be a pet name your parents had for you when you were young. This tool also falls into the category of “identity labels” that the CEDU propheets employed.


    A propheet/workshop exercise where two students face each other in chairs, and engage each other, while being coached by the staff. Normally involves a lot of screaming, repetitive chanting/shouting (Such as “Mommy made me ____ . Daddy made me ______.”) and regression. Dyads are used primarily in the children’s propheet, the Summit workshop, and during trust counseling.


    Part of the ice breaker in the Brother’s Keeper propheet. A student is required to come up with a short performance that makes fun of themselves, and act it out for the entire peer group. This is done repeatedly, since every time a new member of the peer group comes up with and performs their “lug”, all of the previous students who have already come up with theirs have to do it again. (Similar structure to the “12 days of Christmas” song.) It could also simply mean the act of a staff member imitating you and making fun of how you behave.

    The Circle

    An exercise in the brother’s keeper propheet. Two students are singled out from the rest of the peer group. These students are normally the omegas of the group, (i.e. the bottom of the pecking order) and as such, command the least respect. The rest of the peer group is instructed to close ranks and form a circle, with everyone facing inside and linking arms. The two ostracized students are then required to try to break into the circle any way they can, while the rest of the peer group has to try to keep them from getting inside. The purpose was to provide a metaphor for 1. How you keep people on the outside every day. and 2. How you keep yourself on the outside every day.

    Turning your back

    An exercise from the brother’s keeper. Students are paired up and take turns turning their back on each other.

    Pushing away

    An exercise from the brother’s keeper. Students are paired up and take turns shoving each other. The exercise was supposed to signify how you push people away every day.


    The icebreaker in the dreams propheet. The dreams propheet had an unpopular reputation, and was not a favorite of the students. As such, it held a certain level of intimidation. (But not as much as the I Want To Live). The faculty found it humorous to start out the propheet by playing jaws music. A can was placed in the middle of the room, and each student had to mime to the jaws music, and interact with the can in some humorous fashion.

    Additional information is needed, because there was more to this exercise than this contributor remembers. There was apparently a piece of paper the student had to pull out of the can which had something written on it, but this contributor is uncertain if this information is correct, as well as what happened after the paper was drawn.

    Your Nightmare

    One of the exercises in the dreams propheet. The concept was that your nightmare was how you were before you came to RMA… i.e. your image. Students are given a black crayon and a piece of paper, and are required to draw a picture of themselves as this nightmare. After everyone is finished, they all mill around and look at each others’ drawings. Then they are required to sit in front of their own nightmare for an extended amount of time and ruminate over it. They are then talked to about it in the propheet rap.

    Your Dream

    This is the identity label from the dreams propheet. Prior to being bestowed with this label, there is an exercise where students are required to cry about when their dream died. You are then supposed to come up with what your dream was. It was then written on a golden paper star.

    The Weasel

    Probably one of the most frustrating, infuriating exercises in the values propheet. Students are required to have a discussion about what makes humans unique to all other creatures, for example, a weasel. What ensues is a huge argument among the entire peer group as to what quality differentiates humans from weasels.


    An exercise used in the Values propheet and the I & Me workshop. A student lays on their back, and is directed through a guided imagery experience, via a staff member whispering in their ear. Often very emotional and upsetting. After the experience, the student normally feels an intense connection with that staff member. (See: Stockholm Syndrome)

    Rock Bottom

    A term/concept from the imagine propheet. Rock bottom.. or “who you were, rock bottom” was another term for inner child, as the imagine propheet deals with the inner child concept and regression similar to the children’s propheet.

    The Game

    An exercise in the imagine propheet. This replaced the rap that occurs in the other six propheets. Staff initiate the exercise by asking “Who has something to say?” Students then engage in disorganized arguing. Unlike a rap, there is little to no structure, and is more of an open melee. Staff never reveal to the students what the purpose of the exercise is, so there is a significant amount of confusion and frustration through the entire exercise. It is unknown at this point whether the game in the imagine is similar in any way to Synanon’s the game.
    I vs. Me

    The core concept from the I & Me workshop. “I” was supposed to represent your thinking, which stifled your true self. “Me” were your feelings, which was being oppressed by “I”. All exercises in the workshop are geared towards this single idea, and each one depicted the internal struggle between I and Me in a different way. During the I & Me reunion, (see below) it is explained that ideally, I & Me should work together, but Me should be in charge of I.

    The Fight

    An exercise from the I & Me workshop. Students lay down on the floor, bite down on a towel, grab the ends, and yank upwards, pulling as hard as they can, while simultaneously attempting to bite down tightly with their teeth. They are goaded on my staff, the other students in the peer group, and students from the peer group above, who come in specifically for that exercise to support. (Note: it is normally surprising and rather shocking to see students other than those in your peer group in a propheet or workshop. This happens two times in the CEDU program. One in the values propheet, and the other in the I & Me.) The students are required to maintain the tension between their fists and their teeth throughout the entire Rocky song. Then they are allowed to rest, before going through round two. This was one of the exercises which symbolized the fight between I and Me.

    The Fanstastic Voyage

    An exercise from the I & Me. It essentially takes the concept of the containment exercise and elaborates on it. Students lie on their back on a mattress and a staff whispers in their ear, using guided imagery. At one point, the student is required to begin flailing on the mattress, kicking their legs and beating their arms, in addition to crying/running your anger. At the end of that part, they are “brought down” via listening to somewhat soothing music, while the staff who has been whispering to them uses guided imagery which describes them as flying.
    Trust Walks

    An exercise in which two students are paired up and one is blindfolded. The entire group is then led on a walk through the woods, while the one who can see assists the one who is blindfolded. Nobody is allowed to talk. This exercise is used many times throughout the school, such as the ropes course, but it is also used in the I & Me.

    Trust Counseling

    Students could not participate in this until after their I & Me workshop. Two members of the same peer group would set up an appointment for the counseling session, and meet in a room or dormitory when no one is there. The format is like a “dyad”, complete with running your anger, and it also can involve bioenergetics, and often does. The students often write in their journals or notebooks afterwards about the experience.

    The Red/Green Game

    An exercise in the Summit. Otherwise known as the “Red/Black Game” in Lifespring. The peer group is divided into two groups, A and B. The groups are then put in two different rooms. Each group is told that they are going to play a game and the object is to win, while working as a team and working together. The game consists of several rounds. In each round, each group is supposed to vote on a color, either red or green. Choosing a particular color will result in a shifting of points for both your group and the other group. The following is a description on how the points are distributed.

    If group a and group b both vote red, both groups lose five points.

    If group a votes red and group b votes green, group a gains five points and group b loses five points.

    If group a votes green and group b votes red, then group a loses five points and group b gains five points.

    If group a and group b both vote green, both groups gain three points.

    The object of the game is for both teams to end up voting green consistently, the message being that things should be a green/green win/win situation. Followed by the question “What if no one was out to get you?” During the exercise, the group is goaded on by the staff to vote for the wrong color, sometimes refusing to accept a vote if they think that the students have figured out how the game works too early. Students are later shamed about the fact that they tried so hard to “get” the other team.

    An exercise in the summit workshop. Each student goes around the circle, looks in the eyes of the person sitting down, and tells them whether they think that person is a giver or a taker. Every student was required to keep a tally of both the giver and taker votes they received, as well as circling their own vote.

    The Lifeboat

    An extremely grueling exercise in the summit workshop. The exercise itself is actually a variation of a rather innocuous, team building exercise that is used in the regular world. However, the summit version is significantly darker.

    The exercise begins by students laying down on their backs, closing their eyes and being subjected to guided imagery which describes that they are all on a sailboat. The fantasy is brought short when the students are told that the boat is on fire and it is sinking, and for the kids to open their eyes and sit up. The lights are then turned on and anywhere from 2 to 4 chairs have been situated against a wall, depending on how large the peer groups is. The students are then told that the chairs are the lifeboat, and those are the only seats. At that point, the staff instructs the students to fight for the chairs. The fight lasts for a lengthy amount of time, and is eventually broken up by the staff. Everyone is then required to get up in front of the group and explain why they deserve one of the seats in the lifeboat. After that, the peer group stands up and forms a circle. It is explained that each student is to take a turn, and go around to every person in the circle, look them in the eyes, and give them a “you live” or a “you die” vote. You are only allowed to give out four “you live” votes. You are also allowed to vote for yourself. Every time a person receives a “you live” vote, they shout out their name followed by “lives”. Staff will then put a hash mark next to that students name on an easel and pad. If a peer group was particularly large, (i.e. 20 or more people), this exercise could take hours, which was very wearying and created stress on the body, since the students are standing for a long amount of time. After this part is completed, the votes are tallied and the people who were chosen sit in the chairs. The rest of the peer group sits opposite them on the floor, i.e. “water”. Each student then has five minutes to say their piece, such as giving the survivors messages to relay to their families and loved ones. The survivors also say their goodbyes to the people who didn’t get enough “you live” votes.

    The exercise is ended by the students being given a writing assignment describing how they cast “you die” votes every day.
    The Funeral

    This is a follow-up to the lifeboat exercise, and is done the next day. It begins by the staff telling the students that the lifeboat sunk, so everyone drowned. The participants are then required to write their own epitaph, and read it in front of the group. After the student finishes, they go and lay on their backs on the floor. When everyone is prone, students are subjected to guided imagery that they are getting buried. This exercise in the 70s also involved the students getting covered in comforters, simulating dirt being thrown on top of them. However, too many students were panicking and vomiting, so that practice was abolished. During the guided imagery part, staff will occasionally call out names of people who have died that individuals in the peer group knew. The staff then states that the students may sit up when, and only when, they are ready to get on with their life.

    Your key/contract

    An exercise in the summit workshop. Each student is to come up with what is known as a “contract.” This contract consists of the statement “I am a _________ and _________ man/woman.” The student is to then sign it with their name. It is at this point in the workshop where many students change their names, if their current name is associated with their old “image”. In most cases, the staff have already chosen out words or at least basic ideas of what should go on each student’s contract. As such, the student essentially has to guess what the staff wants their contract to be, as any conflicting or contradictory suggestions will be rejected. Students state their contract by getting up in front of their peer group. What ensues is then a discussion on whether the student’s ideas of what the words should be are accurate. Name changes are also discussed. In the summit reunion (see below), each student is given a key, which signifies their contract.
    Urban Challenge

    One of the final exercises in the summit workshop, and done on the last day. Students are told that they are going to participate in an exercise called “walk on the wild side”, where they will be going on a quest to make the world a better place. They are all then driven into town, and dropped off at a mall. Prior to this, the students are given several tasks that they must complete while in town within the time span of one hour. The tasks are as follows:

    1. Have at least three conversations that include both sexes.

    2. Buy food and/or drink for one of them.

    3. Exchange your name and address with another one.

    4. One of the conversations must be with a person you would usually avoid.

    5. Other than the conversations, NO communication from the moment you leave this room until the moment you return to this room.

    6. Do not choose anyone under 15 years of age.

    7. Do not choose elderly people.

    8. Do not choose anyone who is paid to service (waitresses, police, etc.)

    9. You cannot tell people you are on a workshop or assignment.

    10. All agreements are in effect.

    11. On bans from entire peer group.

    12. There will be an obvious clock to see.

    13. Remember your contract!

    Many times, not all of the students completed the required tasks in enough time. They were then considered out of agreement, and needed to come up with ideas on how to get back in agreement. This was normally a set of goals that they needed to accomplish in the school, such as coming down harder in the dorms, doing a celebration with a number of younger students on a particular theme or concept. (A celebration normally consisted of the students having some sort of slumber party in one of the campus buildings and watching movies, while also doing “emotional growth” building exercises like role play.) The other requirement to get back into agreement is to go on a trip at a later date to complete the tasks that you failed to finish the first time.

    This term had a dual meaning.

    1. Doing something that is difficult for you, or that makes you uncomfortable.

    2. An exercise in the Summit workshop. Otherwise known as “The costume party.” Students are assigned characters to dress up as. Each character is expected to do specific things and behave in a certain way. The actions were normally a combination of doing something that was contrary to your (already heavily compromised) personae, in addition to a “lug”. However, instead of calling these assignments “characters”, they were called “stretches”. Students were required to fashion their own costumes within a specific amount of time, from limited materials that they had to scavenge from the entire campus, and then participate in a “party” where everyone goes around and acts out their “stretch” repeatedly while interacting with each other. Most stretches involved a high degree of humiliation, as well as exhaustion, because of having to repeat their stretch to loud music and in the context of a contrived, party-like atmosphere over a long period of time. Later, students were then required to perform their “stretch” solo, in front of the peer group, repeatedly, until they got it “right” and the staff were satisfied with their performance. At that point, the rest of the peer group carries them around triumphantly, crowd-surf style, normally to a song like “Fame”. That part of the stretch exercise was known as “flying”.

    It is believed that the stretch exercise was one of the things that Mel Wasserman did not borrow from Lifespring.

    Propheet/Workshop Reunion

    This is an event that takes place during rap time, the monday after the workshop or propheet gets out, which is normally on saturday. During this time, new concepts or ideas are introduced, while others are rehashed and clarified.

    “You set it up”

    This was when a student was accused of creating the situation or predicament they are currently in. It could also mean setting yourself up for ridicule.

    Beat Sheet

    Normally the standard issue wool blanket, thumbtacked up around the bunk bed to give you privacy while you masturbate.

    Thumbtacks were a very popular item.

    Jack Shack

    Synonym to beat sheet.


    A communal masturbatory game participated by the male students. Each student masturbates in bed. The first one to reach orgasm shouted “bingo”, and essentially “won”. Variation of the circle jerk.

    Shower Power

    The female students’ answer to “bingo”, with the exception that it took place in the shower stalls, and there was no race to see who reached orgasm first.


    This was a method of punishment for more severe infractions against the rules. Such as running away, having sex, or a sex contract, or self-inflicted injuries, such as carving. At Rocky Mountain Academy, the term was referred to as a full-time. At the CEDU Running Springs campus, it was referred to as an ILE, or Independent Learning Exercise. (Need additional verification on this.) A student was to remain isolated at a booth in the dining room for x amount of days. While there, they were supposed to be completing writing assignments in their notebook, as well as complete a reading assignment given to them by the staff that ran their full time. During the day, they were on a work detail. Normally it was a very long project that would last the entirety of their full time, and the student could not complete the full-time until they completed that project.. On non-rap days, the student worked all day, on rap days, they worked half a day and then were in a rap. A full-time student would be on bans from most of the school, with the exception of upper school students. The only times they could speak with others was in raps. They could not leave their booth unless escorted by a staff or student. They were not allowed to smile, laugh, sing or hug. If you smoked, you were limited to four cigarettes per day. Your watch was also taken away for the duration of the full time. Staff and older students would occasionally sit down with the student and talk with them about their progress. Often, when a student got on a full-time, they would also have to move dorms. Once you were taken off of a full time, you were relieved, and sometimes felt that you had “learned something about yourself.” The main objective of a full-time was to “break” a student’s resistance down to its lowest possible level.

    Students at NWA, BCA and possibly RMA (no conformation for RMA, and no knowledge of such practices at RS) were sometimes given jumpsuits to wear during thier full-time. This lead to the closely related term Jumpsuit, which refered to a full-time or subset of full-time restrictions.

    The full-time was the only restriction used at the CEDU Ascent wilderness program. Students on a full-time at Ascent were given an orange vest, assigned a stump to dig out during work crews, made to eat alone during meals, and given writing assignments. The lifestyle at Ascent was harsh enough that a full-time was a small distinction from normal life.

    What follows is an example of a list of full-time agreements and the daily schedule, which was written by the staff on the inside cover of the full time notebook before it is presented to the student for the first time.

    Full time agreements:

    1. Restricted to table. You must ask faculty permission to leave for any reason. (cigarette/bathroom)

    2. There are no privileges

    3. Bans – (list of families. i.e. voyageurs, discovery, quest)

    4. No smiling, laughing, singing or hugging

    5. No talking to people from your table.

    6. Ask questions about all assignments before you start them (work, reading or writing.)

    7. Come prepared to work every day. (boots, gloves, jacket, rain gear, etc.)

    8. Work hours:

    M-F 8:00 – 11:45, 1:00 – 4:45

    Sat 9:00 – 10:45, 1:00 – 4:45

    Sun 9:00 – 10:45, 12:30 – 3:45

    9. Dorm head or dorm support will walk you up and down from your dorm

    10. Total involvement in raps

    11. Limited to four cigarettes per day

    12. Keep a daily journal of your thoughts and feelings for each day. Include raps, work, booth restriction, or whatever comes up that needs exploring.


    A variation of a full-time. Considered not as severe. A student was still restricted to a booth in the dining hall and had work detail, but some of the rules that applied to someone on a full time did not apply to a booth restriction.

    (If anyone can please add to this entry that would be most helpful.)

    Living Room

    Another form of restriction. A student is placed on bans from others and is forced to remain in the living room and write in their notebook. They cannot initiate conversations with others, just like a full-time and a booth, but others can come and talk to them. The bans restrictions tend to be less rigid as well… i.e. you can speak with a wider range of families.


    A form of punishment from the Northwest Academy/Boulder Creek Academy era. A student is forced to wear a jumpsuit while on work detail. Used primarily for humiliation, since the jumpsuits were intentionally ill-fitting and uncomfortable.

    Tent Restriction

    The proper term for this restriction is not verified at this time. (Please help by editing this entry.)

    This is also a form of punishment from the Northwest Academy/Boulder Creek Academy era. It is a variation of the full time, except that instead of a booth in the dining hall, a student is forced to live and sleep outside in a tent when not on work detail or in a rap. Meals are brought to them. They are also not permitted to live in the dorms.

    More information is currently needed as to what else this method of punishment entailed.

    Writing Assignments

    Writing assignments could be given out for a number of reasons. One is when a student is on any type of restriction. However, it can also be imposed on a student when their family head feels that they are not progressing quickly enough, or appear to be “stagnating” developmentally. These assignments normally consisted of writing a dirt list, a list of negative thinking, a list of flags (see below), a stash list, a list of lies, a list of what you hate about yourself, a list of how you push people away, etc. Basically, you have to make a lot of lists.

    (Parent) Visits

    Students were only allowed to see parents when the school deemed it acceptable. In the lower school, students are only allowed to visit their parents on campus. On the first visit, the student is required to go over a list of their disclosures with their parents. This can normally include very embarrassing and private information. When the student reaches the middle school, they are allowed to go on off-campus visits, but still within the general area of the school. As the student progresses through the middle school, they can stay at places further away. For example, in the case of the Idaho campus, a student would start by having an off campus visit in Bonners Ferry. The next one allows the student to visit in Sandpoint, and the third allows them to visit Coeur D’alene. Once students reach the challenge family, they are allowed to go on home visits. The number of days allowed home increase with each visit, the first visit consisting of 4 days, while the last one is one to two weeks. Students were not allowed to home visit any other family member except for their parents.


    A goal, set either by staff or the student themselves. Such as “My direction is to spend more time with my little brothers or sisters.” or “My direction is to make more rap requests.” A direction can be either short-term, or an issue that is worked on throughout the student’s stay.

    The Floor

    Literally, the floor of the main house. Students would often be sitting on it, playing cards, or “smooshing”. A common phrase was “I’m going to go spend some time on the floor with people.”

    The House

    The main lodge. This building contained the dining room, the “floor”, fireplace area, phone rooms, and the nurse’s station. It was the main area for socializing when not working or in raps. It was also the place where warm-ups took place, as well as when people came out of propheets and workshops and shared about their experience with the rest of the student body.

    Your Story

    Your life story. Students were often encouraged to tell a friend their “story”.

    Moving Up

    Graduating from one family to the next.

    Doing the Loop

    The only thing worse than being alone at CEDU was being seen alone at CEDU. As a result, some kids would literally “do the loop” around the house, i.e. walk through the main area, into adjacent rooms, the bathroom and back to the floor. It basically meant that you had no one at the moment to hang out with, and didn’t want to be caught hanging out by yourself, so you kept moving.


    Not to be confused with synanon’s “the game”. “Game” was when a student was believed to be acting in a dishonest manner. “You have so many games.” or “You’re playing a game.” or “I can spot your game from a mile away.”


    The alternate facility that your parents were planning on sending you to. Faculty would often hang someone’s “option” over a student’s head and remind them of it, to scare them into wanting to stay at CEDU. It is unknown whether or not all of the options students were threatened with were actually options their parents had considered, or whether they were complete fabrications by the faculty.


    To insult someone, mostly by calling them names. i.e. “capping on” them. Making fun of them. Frowned upon. The rules and standards for this seemed rather arbitrary, since it was perfectly ok to say very demeaning things to someone in a rap. For instance, you could not call someone an asshole, but it was perfectly legitimate to say they were acting like one. The linguistic origin of the word, according to CEDU was that when you insult someone, you “put a cap” on their feelings.


    Acting or being tough. Frowned upon.


    Being vulnerable and sensitive. Students who were equated with having a “hard image” were constantly given direction to be soft.

    Look Good

    A kid who is believed to be following the rules without sincerity. A non-indoctrinated student who tries to look like one who is. Also Fake or Full of Shit.

    “Get a feel good”

    Essentially, copping a feel when “smooshing”. This does not necessarily have to manifest itself in any overt physical action. It could simply be that someone is suspected of enjoying the intimacy for sexual gratification. Predictably, staff were mostly exempt from this scrutiny, and students who were accused of such behavior were normally innocent.

    News and Goods

    A list of things that are going on with you that are positive. Students were required to start their presentation by saying “here is what is new and good in my life.” This exercise is introduced after students have been through the I & Me Workshop.


    Humiliating things you feel bad about, especially if it pertains to something you did in your past prior to CEDU. Students were often required to “cop” to their “scum” in raps. Different than “dirt” in that it wasn’t necessarily something that was against the rules.


    This had a similar meaning to its real-world counterpart, albeit the criteria was far different. A flag was a warning sign. A student demonstrating unacceptable behavior was often told that “their flags were flying”, and that it was indicative that something more sinister was going on with them. On full-times, students were sometimes given a writing assignment to list their “flags”.
    [to] Walk

    To leave the program by choice after one’s eighteenth birthday. Distinct from [to] Run which was used in cases where parents still had custody. The use of extended custody and threats to deny financial help were often used by parents to prevent students from walking. Staff also strongly discouraged students from walking. Also (at NWA) [to] Walk off the Hill.
    Hygiene Program

    Students could be scrutinized for thier physical hygiene, and if they were found to be too unkempt they were given special agreements and scrutiny. This special attention (and humiliation) was termed a hygiene program.

    Specific to Ascent.

    This was the only name allowed for the outhouses at basecamp; a peculiarity that was strictly enforced. Potty Circles were gatherings wherin students would form a circle and be called on and allowed to use the potty. Potty Circles were also where tooth brushing occured (at night), and where the student’s 1 liter nalgene bottle was filled with water. Students were required to drink full liters at every meal, were often denied use of the potty as a cruelty, and it was not uncommon for students to involuntarily urinate on themselves as a result. When a student had to use the potty at night they would put on topless boot shells at the center of the teepee called Potty Boots (along with their full garb), walk out of the teepee, and shout Potty Please!. They would then be escorted to the potty by a nightstaff member. The strictures regarding the bathroom were mainly used as a novel means of cruelty and humiliation.

    The dwelling one lived in at Ascent. Literally a 30ft tall copy of the dwelling associated with some Native Americans. These were located on wooden Teepee Decks which were fitted with duct work to pump heat from a woodburning stove into the teepee and warm it. All of the wood used for heat was cut by the students.

    The main campus of Ascent. Comprised of a Teepee Deck with four Teepees, a mess tent, a wood corral, and the potty, all layed out on a wood chip parimeter in the shape of a medicine wheel. All the structures at basecamp were heated by wood cut by students. Showers were separate, and had modern heating. Students were given a 1.5 to 3 minute shower every other day while at basecamp. Students at basecamp were always under the supervision of a staff member.

    The 14 day wilderness excursion that formed the pinnical of the curriculum at Ascent. It was marked by intense hiking with heavy packs through mountainous terrain, and a somewhat more relaxed lifestyle than a student would find at basecamp.
    Retrieved from “”

  4. When I was at ascent, there were no showers. There was a hygine tent…which I got to use twice during my 6 week stay.

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