Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Landmark Education's "Use" of Volunteers


Landmark is keen on using "volunteers". I put this in quotes because Landmark has been found in violation of minimum wage laws over the way it dragoons its participants into working for it.

In 2006 the US Department of Labor in Dallas, Texas, found minimum wage violations. The department reported:

The assistants hour are delegated by an employee of the firm, the work is directed and managed by the site manager, the duties performed are vital to the employer’s business. The assistants are not given credit for the hours worked which vary from 10 per week to 60 and up. The assistants are keeping records of attendees, stats on classroom attendance, assisting the instructor with the classes, and also an integral part of the seminars. The employer could not conduct the seminars at the level it has been doing without the enormous amount of assistants (20-40) per seminar. The assistants perform primary functions of the employer such as finance conversations with potential attendees, purchasing, and facility management.

A heavy emphasis is put on volunteering at the initial Landmark Forum attended by newcomers. Attendees are influenced to assist (volunteer) at the classes and told they can gain more knowledge without paying any money to attend seminars that they volunteer at [Exemption 5 to Freedom of Information Act: Internal forms and memoranda]

By volunteering at these seminars and in the business office the assistants are convinced that they are acquiring skills and knowledge required to improve their social and mental skills that they can use in their full-time employment and personal lives. The assistants displace regular employees that would have to be hired. The employer could not operate with the 2-3 full-time employees per site.
By its own admission Landmark Education generates $89 million a year in revenues and has a small number of actual paid employees. Plus it has to pay license fees to Werner Erhard (Jack Rosenberg, brother of Harry, the CEO) for the so-called "technology".

France has also complained about the use of unpaid volunteers for onerous duties.

I would be curious to know what Landmark's revenue stream is like in the recession. It is either very down or has risen dramatically as people look for escape routes.

Anyone know?

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Cafe Gratitude in Berkeley Compels Managers to Attend Landmark Forum

(Thanks to Mother Jones)

Mother Jones has a good piece on Cafe Gratitude in Berkeley. The cafe has links with Landmark Education and insists its managers attend Landmark courses. Those that don't are fired. The full story is in the East Bay Express.

Laura McClure also writes an article, "The Landmark Forum: 42 Hours, $500, 65 Breakdowns" about doing the Forum. It has one or two insightful moments but isn't as good as some of the others referred to in earlier posts. However, the comments section is worth reading. (Running up to a 100 comments.) Notable is a comment by a psychiatrist who was called in to work with people who'd been through the Forum. His conclusion: a cult.

Some day Landmark will have to be stopped and show for what it really is, nothing but a scam.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

What Does Landmark Do To The Brain?

Here is a talk from TED by Diane Benscoter, a former Moonie, on how cults rewire the brain. I include Landmark Education in this definition.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Does Landmark Teach You To Tell the Truth?

Of course it does! Isn't that the principle? To live your life with integrity and authenticity. You wish and don't hold your breath.

My former partner who succumbed to the lure of Landmark as a way through a mid-life crisis took an advanced course on "communication". One of her tasks was to speak to me about something she had withheld from me. I recall a long and tortuous phone call as she attempted to reveal to me her "omissions", "avoidances", or to be plain, how she had been living a lie.

Her mentor in the course had insisted she carry through her task. At the time I believed her. Why not? Well, because in the end even she couldn't bring herself to tell me the truth.

The truth implicated other friends and actually it was through one of them that I learned the truth when she herself learned it. She passed it on to me. Now I know. The strange effect of this knowledge is to help me come to terms with my situation, not my former partner's.

Landmark didn't help her. But what it did was rather more insidious. It gave her a pretext, a cover, a smokescreen that she could use to pretend to be playing the game and thereby hope to sucker others into believing it. As I did for a while.

Any system or course can be abused as my former partner did with Landmark. That's why it is important to have ways of verifying and testing one's procedures. Landmark resolutely sets itself against any of this.

If it did it would not be scraping the barrel for its suckers to get their money.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The Skeptic's Dictionary



The Skeptic's Dictionary has quite a good post on Landmark. It's trying to be fair and balanced.

While it discusses the advantages and disadvantages of the Forum and other courses, and the money they cost, it leaves one area very grey.

The effects of Landmark are often described by acolytes as immediate and profound. That's probably so for those susceptible to this kind of persuasion. What we hardly ever hear about is the long term effects.

Does Landmark's Forum have any long term effects--either positive or negative? Are the only ways to get longer term effects by taking more and more expensive courses?

Of course Landmark itself has never researched this nor will it. The evidence would probably be too ambiguous. Punters aren't going to pay money unless they have certainty.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Is Landmark All About Interpretation?

Landmark Education is frightened of criticism, as is Scientology (to which it's related). It will do all in its power to stifle criticism including law suits. Why is Landmark so scared? Why does Landmark refuse to open itself to scientific inquiry and therefore legitimate itself?

I use the term scientific inquiry carefully. Landmark has some attempts at research on its website. Don't be fooled as these are not impartial, disinterested research projects undertaken on Landmark. They are paid for boosters of Landmark's methods by academics who wished to make a quick buck. Not too different from those who research the products of pharmaceutical companies and always seem to come with results that support Big Pharma's case.

Landmark can't have legitimate research because simply it would expose it for the sham it is. Cults rely on faith and foolishness. The genius of Landmark--and it has one otherwise it wouldn't make all that money--is to dehumanize people before they are led into the glory of how Landmark can fulfil them.

Landmark Forum Critic puts the whole thing very pithily:

The Landmark Forum in 3 Easy Steps:

Friday Morning: Eliminate dissent.

Saturday Evening: Sacrifice the most talented woman.

Sunday: Find a scurrilous nobody and crown her queen.

It's like witnessing a murder and not saying anything about it. The result can last a lifetime. An honest audience turned into a group of frauds in just 3 days. Now that's transformation!

The point about Landmark is that it uses the techniques of interpretation, for that is one of the purposes of the Socratic method, to instil its worldview into the gullible. Of course we all engage in interpretation and we realize that some arguments may be stronger than others, but they achieve that status on the basis of logic and reasoning, not dehumanization or "eliminating dissent." That is barbaric authoritarianism.

I compared Landmark's techniques to a Ponzi scheme based on one adherent's experiences. Jessica, the adherent, took umbrage at my interpretation of her experiences. She said that was not what she meant. If that's the case, Jessica needs to write more carefully and articulately than she has. There is no restriction, mental or spiritual, on interpretation unless it takes place within the confines of a prison.

Maybe Jessica will learn that Landmark is a kind of Ponzi scheme and the feelings of dissociation that she has from being away from home in a strange city, unsure about her job, not knowing how to deal with homeless people will not be answered by Landmark. She must know herself. Certainly by the time Landmark is finished, she won't have any money to contribute to the cause of the homeless.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Landmark the Ponzi Scheme

With the exposure of Bernie Madoff and his $50 billion Ponzi scheme, someone ought to do the same with Landmark. It's fundamentally a pyramid scheme always depending on new recruits to boost the income. When journalists have attempted to obtain financial information about Landmark, their attornies start the heavy breathing act.

Rachel Jones of Noseweek in South Africa asked Landmark for a simple set of accounts detailing the costs of a Landmark Forum and its profits. She was concerned about the high costs relative to the actual cost of such a program. Needless to say she wasn't given the information, only threats and evasiveness by its executives.

Besides conning actual cash out of its acolytes, Landmark has one extraordinary trick up its sleeve--volunteering. They run something called the "Landmark Assisting Programme". An Australian woman, Jessica, living in London described her venture with this. Not only is it duplicitous but it is greedy and mendacious too. This is one of the reasons Landmark was thrown out of France and Sweden.

Landmark, a for-profit, company doesn't even want to pay the minimum wage. How cheap can you get? But people like Jessica, professionals in crisis as I've said before, are the prime suckers for this. There could be hope for her yet.

Read on....

dictation

November 23rd, 2008 · No Comments

Attention, Landmarkers. I am running a racket.

Attention, non-Landmarkers. Running a racket is top-secret (not really) Landmark Forum jargon for someone or something is getting on my nerves and I would like to whinge about it in three, two, one:

My Landmark Forum In Action seminar leader called me last week. I was at work, and rather busy, didn’t want to talk to anyone at all, and especially not anyone Landmarky. Talking to Landmarky people means that I have to have things like integrity, energy and responsibility. Three things best left alone on a Monday morning.

“Hi, Jessica? It’s ****. Are you interested in doing the Landmark Assisting Programme?”

“Um. What?”

“We really need assistants for some of the seminars.”

“Oh.”

“We’re desperate.”

“Oh. When do you need someone?”

“This Thursday night. Can you come? It would really help us out.”

“Um. Sure. What time?”

“6:30.”

“See you then.”

“Oh, that’s great! We’ll see you on Thursday. Thanks!”

Actually, I’m not at all interested in the Assisting Programme. The Assisting Programme is for Forum graduates who want to climb the ranks of the Landmark elite, ruthlessly clawing their way up out of the writhing pit of volunteers with their endless stories of rackets, breakdowns, breakthroughs, transformations and all manner of jargony life moments they’ve experienced since the forum. In short, they want jobs.

But I like my seminar leader. She’s sensible and intelligent, and she said she was desperate. So I decided I would go, because I told her I would, and because I have lots of Landmarky integrity these days.

Cut to 6:30 on Thursday night. I am prepared for a hectic night of running around the way I have seen assistants do on television. I march into Landmark Forum headquarters on Eversholt Street near Euston station to find a suspicious number of people milling around, all of them wearing name badges that say ‘Assisting Programme’.

“Hi, I’m here to assist. What can I do?”

“Oh!” A look of bewilderment. “Great! Um… go see that guy in the grey shirt.”

I approach the guy in the grey shirt. “Hi, I’m here to assist. What can I do?”

“Oh!” A look of bewilderment. “Great! Um… go see that guy in the blue shirt.”

I approach the guy in the blue shirt. “Hi, I’m here to assist. What can I do?”

“Oh!” A look of bewilderment. “Great! Um… see that girl over there? The one writing the intention of tonight’s session on the whiteboard?”

I look over. There is a girl writing a couple of sentences on a whiteboard in huge letters. She is taking approximately one minute to write each word. “Yes.”

“Do you think you could read out the intention of tonight’s session to her so she can write it without looking at it?”

A look of bewilderment. This time from me.

“Yes. I think I can do that.”

I’m so glad I could help Landmark in their hour of desperation. Nobody reads aloud like me.