Suzy Amis Cameron’s ‘MUSE School’: Are They Taking Things Too Far With Kids?
A parent of a child formerly enrolled in the MUSE school in California sent us an email detailing the school's use of the Process Communications Model (PCM), while observing that the school is not as inspiring as their promotional materials suggests. How do you know when a fundamentally good idea is going too far? A cursory glance at the ‘MUSE School,’ co-founded by James Cameron’s wife, and you see an educational institution that aspires to be inclusive, inspiring, and liberating for children of all ages.
The motto on their school’s website is “Inspiring and Preparing Young People to Live Consciously with Themselves, One Another, and the Planet.” There is much to admire about the goals of this school. It started off as a small group of kids whose parents were celebrities, including James Cameron’s own.
The focus was a personalized curriculum based on learning through passion projects while being exposed to the practices of environmental sustainability. Since the program has grown, in-house vegan meals have been included in the annual tuition, which ranges from about $22,000 for pre-K children (2.3-4.9 years old) to about $33,000 for high school kids (grades 9-12).
The school was also founded by Suzy Amis Cameron’s sister Rebecca Amis, who was the first head of the school. Rebecca Amis had previously tried to start an early childhood education center called ‘childspot!’ in Witchita, Kansas, which Amis’ then-husband Scott Taylor was to be the business manager for. Surprisingly, there is no searchable information on the internet for childspot!, although our reader did provide this article from 1998 in which plans to start their early childhood education center were mentioned. A little while after co-founding the MUSE school in California, Rebecca Amis installed her new husband Jeff King as head of the school. He brought on board a new ‘communication’ methodology into the classroom.
The introduction of this method to children as young as 2 years old is the main subject I will cover here. Instead of describing this methodology myself I will start off with testimony that was emailed to me from the parent of a former student to provide some background and reveal her feelings and experiences around the use of PCM in an academic setting: “Jeff King is the one who introduced the ‘Process Communication Model’ (PCM) to the school, having himself obtained a master trainer title. Many families at this point left the school, not being comfortable with the idea of their kids being the subject of what was clearly an experiment.
The school turned plant-based at the same time so they blamed the drop in numbers to people not being happy with the new menu (which is completely false). Now let me give you some background on PCM. Created by Dr Taibi Kahler, a psychologist from Arkansas, it was designed mainly for the corporate world. According to Kahler, there are six distinct personality types: HARMONIZER, THINKER, PERSISTER, IMAGINER, REBEL, AND PROMOTER. Each of us develops a predominant personality type early in life, and that does not change. It is our basic Personality Type all our lives. Each type has specific Motivators characterized by differences in Character Strengths, Psychological Needs and Perceptions. Each personality comes with a set of psychological needs and specific communication ‘channels’ which include specific words, tone and facial expressions. Although it was never intended for children, Mr. King decided to make it the innovative tool that would differentiate his school from others. This sounds all wonderful from the outside. What parent wouldn’t want their kids to have tools that will help them communicate better with one another and the world? Unfortunately the truth is far from that. Since the personality test cannot be officially administered to the student until high school, they teach the lower grade students PCM through play and activities.
The teachers (some brand new to PCM) use their own judgment to asses the kids’ personality so they can start using their appropriate channels with them. (I have plenty of pictures I can send you giving you examples of how they teach PCM to the kids).
The teachers are constantly applying PCM to the students and using what they believe is their specific channel. In return they expect the kids to respond in the teachers’ own channel. Some are pretty rude and direct and yet the kids are expected to learn to use such language. For example, if the teacher’s channel is “tell”, she expects the students to communicate in sentences that are “tell”. So instead of “may I please have a pencil”, the tell channel will be “give me that pencil”. I have myself seen teachers snapping at students or at colleagues because they weren’t using the correct channels. Last year the high school students voted to stop practicing PCM in the high school campus. Unfortunately, the younger children are subjected to this on a daily basis. Each child is labeled a personality type and their behavior is almost always excused to their personality label.
The parents take the official PCM personality test and the results are then shared with all the faculty members (the parents are unaware of this and never were asked to sign a release form for that).
The staff will then go out of their way to address you in the designated channel as they believe that’s what’s needed to keep you a happy customer. Issues brought up by the students or their families are disregarded as they are seen as a sign of distress. Once that happens the main focus of the faculty is to get the parent or the child out of the system by using manipulation techniques mixed with PCM jargon. Kids that are being bullied are made to believe that they are just as much at fault as the bully. Parents are constantly told that there are absolutely no issues to worry about and the ones that dare to protest end up always getting kicked out of school or forced to leave. Discrimination is obvious based on your personality type, whether it’s a student or parent.
There are a couple of personalities that are viewed as more troublesome and risky, and the school is keen to identify those individuals. PCM was born as a tool for the corporate world, not for a school and this is the only school in the world that uses it. It is very much a “cultish” atmosphere.
The staff is so concentrated on listening carefully to your words and observing your body language in order to figure out what channel to use and if by any chance you have ‘phased’ to another personality then it becomes impossible to have a real honest conversation. And they do the same with the kids depriving them of an authentic connection or the tools to learn to connect with others. By third grade kids and parents are in full mode PCM.
The kids are robotic and set into their ‘personality’.
They have a set language and manners which unfortunately the outside world does not always understand. I wish you could meet some of the students. Some are like robots, they just seem to repeat scripts.
There is no talk of consciousness or free thinking which I guess is ’normal’ in many schools, but PCM is close to brainwashing. It’s like an instruction manual on how you should behave, think and speak. I watched our own child going through the struggle of mentally detoxing from it once we were out of the school. For a while my child was confused, lost in a way especially when the world didn’t respond to my child’s PCM channel, unable to relate. And we are talking about a healthy bright child with no social or personal issues. And now my child doesn’t even want to hear the word PCM. In my experience Mr. King (as per the book he published – Beyond Drama) enforces the belief that everyone is okay and there are no issues. In order to stay out of drama, individuals must believe that they are okay and everyone else is okay. So basically there are never any issues.
They believe and support that philosophy to an extreme and therefore refuse to really acknowledge any real serious issue brought to them. So they hide the problems hoping time will make them go away without having to act on them. Naturally when real issues are brought up to him by parents, the concerns are dismissed and seen as a sign of distress of the parent. At this point all effort are made to PCM the parent out of the distress and pretend all is good. Same for students. He doesn’t for example seem to believe in bullying and I have personally watched a 5th grader who had just been repeatedly teased to tears by a classmate being told that he must have had a part in it to deserve it. Through what appeared in my opinion as clever manipulation, the kid and the parents left the meeting believing that there was no bullying in the first place. Global Expansion. This year, coinciding with Suzy Cameron’s new book launch (One Meal a day) the school decided to create a new for-profit corporation, MUSE Global. Mr. King is their CEO (while retaining his position of Head of the School at MUSE, which is a non-profit).
The company focuses on the expansion of the MUSE School’s model globally. Despite the original school being far from successful (people keep leaving, they are unable to raise funds and students score very poorly academically), they seem to be on a mission to convince the world that their module is the best a child can get.
They have already signed an agreement with some investors in China and working on more. Power, Manipulation and Scare Tactics. Numerous families are not happy but they are too scared to say anything for fear of their kids being kicked out (it has happened to many families that dared to challenge the system, 5 in the past school year alone). Some of those families tried to appeal to the school’s board of directors (a few of the members were MUSE parents themselves).
The ones that tried to help those families were forced to leave the school, their kids included.
The ones who refused to intervene explained, ‘Nothing we can do, they have us by the balls.” Unfortunately they know how powerful they are and they appear to be using that power to keep families in a state of fear. Many of the students come from families that are in the show business and nobody wants to be on the wrong side of the Camerons, no matter what their children were put through.”–parent of a former MUSE School student We must be careful in discerning one person’s testimony. We must look for signs of an inner consistency, and a plausibility that links facts and observations with the opinions this person holds. For me, this testimony has a high level of consistency, especially around the potential dangers of introducing a fully integrated system of labeling and classifying students and teachers in an academic setting. “Once you label me, you negate me.”–Soren Kierkegaard When I was doing my life-coaching training, many of the coaches who had already been working in the corporate world spoke highly of the Myers-Briggs type indicator and other tools that categorized a person’s personality type. As a life coach, I always had a resistance to any form of ‘typing’ of a client into a category. I felt it would limit my perception of a person, affect the ways I would challenge them to see things differently, and, most importantly, could limit the person’s belief in what they were capable of. Even when clients would give me their Myers-Briggs ‘identity,’ (i.e. “I’m an INTJ and that’s why I see things this way...”), I would not seek to capitalize on the information behind the client’s self-classification and would remain present to the identity being revealed through the person words, tone, expressions, and so on. Categorizing oneself as the fundamental guideline of one’s sense of identity is, in my opinion, very limiting. I understand that these personality-typing tools can have some benefits for allowing managers in the corporate world to understand better what makes each individual employee tick. It can help them accept that people have different strengths and weaknesses, learn in different ways, and get satisfaction in different ways.
These insights can lead a manager to work with greater compassion, patience, and flexibility. If the information is used to benefit the employee and enable them to get more satisfaction and fulfillment from their job, leading them to become more productive, then it is a win-win proposition. However, these tools can very easily be used as means of manipulation in the hands of those who lack maturity or have a hidden agenda to control people rather than act in service to the people they are using these tools on. In a classroom setting with children as young as two, where the foundations of a child’s perception of reality are still in their formative stages, it is reasonable to fear that PCM has the potential to cause harm to a child, perhaps in ways even worse than described above by our parent.
These are subtle matters, but certainly worth thinking about. Below is a clip from a video from the MUSE school which promotes the use of PCM techniques in elementary classrooms. Does this video leave you with the feeling that empowering communication is going on here, or manipulation? And if this is what is being touted as proof that the methodology works and is beneficial, can we see the potential for this methodology to go too far and lead to discrimination and some forms of mind programming? To some extent, good teachers naturally learn to communicate with students in different ways based on their personalities. While I applaud MUSE’s philosophy of attempting to communicate with children in the ways that they respond to best and most comfortably, it is the formalization of this process that scares me. And certainly, when we hear that young children are truly being trained to see the world through the filter of PCM, and potentially can be rebuked if they don’t respond to teachers according to each teacher’s ‘channel,’ then we can understand why parents like our reader above have had serious concerns about PCM in an academic setting.
The reader who emailed us is not alone in their criticism of PCM and its implementation in the school. If you take a look at answers to the question ‘How would you rate your experience at this school?’ on greatschools.org from other parents whose children are/were in MUSE, you will see an interesting pattern: 55 top ‘5 star’ reviews, 16 bottom ‘1 star’ reviews, and only 7 in the 2,3,4 star category. Many of the 5-star reviews are cookie-cutter ‘agree’ comments on pre-written bullet points. Our reader told us, “During the PCM training new parents are asked to submit their reviews which at that point are generally amazing.” The 1 star reviews tend to be long, thoughtful criticisms of many of the same points made by our reader. Some even bring into question the authenticity of many of the positive reviews: “Notice how the last 7 positive reviews were all posted on the same day, December 18, really??” If you are interested, I would highly recommend going through some of these reviews, both the good and the bad, to help you discern what you think is really going on inside the MUSE school. As I mentioned earlier, the stated goals of the MUSE school evoke hope and inspiration. Where the education of our young has long been criticized as a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach, the MUSE school has stepped boldly towards an approach to respect individual students’ differences and preferences.
The only question is whether or not they are stepping too far. If the high school students at MUSE voted to stop practicing PCM last spring, then one would suspect that this would cause school leaders to strongly question the use of PCM in earlier grades, especially Pre-K, where students obviously don’t have a voice in the matter themselves. Certainly, the MUSE philosophy speaks to a willingness to change and evolve based on the information at hand: MUSE is ever-evolving.
The MUSE community includes creative and critical thinkers who know that flexibility and adaptability are critical keys to our success. We enthusiastically embrace change and consistently challenge ourselves in our ongoing efforts to learn, grow, and improve. However, our reader’s testimony gives the impression that rather than being listened to and incorporated, dissenting views and criticisms of the current system are shut down and dissenters are shut out of the process. Is the school’s ongoing evolution simply being fostered within an echo chamber? Do we see fear-based control mechanisms reminiscent of the operating structures of a cult? With the development of the for-profit MUSE Global and the inclusion of PCM as one of the five pillars of the Global schools they are franchising out, we will need to keep our eyes and ears open to determine if the MUSE project is solely about “Inspiring and Preparing Young People to Live Consciously with Themselves, One Another, and the Planet,” or if there is another agenda afoot. Due to the pressure of mass censorship, we now have our own censorship-free, and ad-free on demand streaming network! It is the world's first and only conscious media network streaming mind-expanding interviews, news broadcasts, and conscious shows. Click here to start a FREE 7-Day Trial and watch 100's of hours of conscious media videos, that you won't see anyw.
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