Sunday, November 15, 2009

Large Group Awareness Training denies it is a Large Group Awareness Training?

There have been some interesting articles lately over at the online site for The Arizona Daily Star, about Large Group Awareness Training. In addition, there are some very good articles at the paper itself. They are:

November 3, 2009 – “Large Group Awareness Training”: A touchy label after the Sedona sweat-lodge deaths

November 5, 2009 – Psychology prof calls “plagiarism” on author of 2005 study on personal-transformation seminars

November 8, 2009 – ‘Transformation’ sessions claim high cost

November 8, 2009 – It’s buyer beware for personal-transformation seminars

November 10, 2009 – Is Landmark Forum an LGAT or not? And does it really matter?

At this last one from November 10, there is an interesting statement given from Landmark Education.

Let’s look at 2 issues from the Landmark Education statement. One, is the strange attempt by the Landmark Education representative to distance the company from the term “Large Group Awareness Training”, and the other is the ties of high-ranking executives that control Landmark Education to Werner Erhard and his prior company “est”.

Deborah Beroset, Director of Public Relations, Landmark Education, said: “As I said during our conversation a bit ago, Landmark really has no place in a story about LGATs. To characterize Landmark Education as a LGAT would not only be inaccurate, it would also damage the reputation of the company, its programs, and the approximately 1.2 million customers who have participated in Landmark Education’s programs and derived value from them.”

This statement seems quite odd – especially when this statement from Beroset is compared against writings of a highly-ranked executive within Landmark Education. Take a look at the paper “The Promise of Philosophy and the Landmark Forum”, Contemporary Philosophy, Vol. XXIII, No. 1 & 2, Jan/Feb & Mar/Apr 2001 Barbados Group Working Paper No. 01-01. Full cite is here, and the paper itself is here. One of the authors of this paper is a man named Steven Zaffron. Zaffron first became an executive for Werner Erhard and was an “est trainer” in Erhard’s company “Erhard Seminars Training” (Outrageous Betrayal by Steven Pressman, St. Martin’s Press: 1993, page 217). Currently, Zaffron serves the Landmark Education corporation as CEO of “Vanto Group”, formerly known as “Landmark Education Business Development”, and in addition, Zaffron has the highest-ranking “trainer” title in Landmark Education called “Landmark Forum Leader”.

In this paper co-authored by Zaffron, the phrase “Large Group Awareness Training” is used multiple times in reference to Landmark Education. Example on page 52: “Dennison’s dissertation,7 which categorizes the Landmark Forum as a “large group awareness training” is a qualitative study based on interviews with Forum graduates. He also reports predominantly positive outcomes and in addition, briefly summarizes philosophical components of the Forum. The extensive research literature on “large group awareness training” published in the 1970s and 80s (summarized in Finkelstein, Wenegrat, and Yalom8) is framed in psychological more than philosophical terms, albeit there is some reference to the training as existential psychotherapy.” Two different academic treatises are cited as references in the paper co-authored by Zaffron (see page 59, endnotes 7 and 8, Dennison 1994 and Finkelstein 1982) – and both have the phrase “Large Group Awareness Training” in their titles.

So, on the one hand you have Deborah Beroset, Director of Public Relations, Landmark Education, saying “To characterize Landmark Education as a LGAT would not only be inaccurate, it would also damage the reputation of the company…” and yet on the other hand – there is Steven Zaffron, former executive of Werner Erhard’s est, current CEO of Vanto Group (formerly Landmark Education Business Development), and current “Landmark Forum Leader”, readily using the term and referencing multiple academic papers that also use the term “Large Group Awareness Training”.

Next, let’s look at another statement from Deborah Beroset, Director of Public Relations, Landmark Education, where she says: “I noticed your ProfNet query mentioned “est” as well as Landmark Education. Landmark Education is a different company (we were established in 1991), and The Landmark Forum is not the est program (the two programs differ in their focus, material, methodology, and delivery). The person who created est sold the founders of Landmark Education his intellectual property…”

It is interesting to see this attempt to separate Landmark Education from what Beroset refers to as “The person who created est…”. Well, the person who created est was Werner Erhard. As already stated above, high-ranking Landmark Education executive Steven Zaffron, was previously an executive within Erhard’s est training, and an “est trainer” before he was a “Landmark Forum Leader”. Werner Erhard’s brother, Harry Rosenberg, is CEO of Landmark Education. Werner Erhard’s sister, Joan Rosenberg, is listed as a Director of Landmark Education. And last but not least, attorney Art Schreiber is Chairman of the Board of Landmark Education (also see list of directors) and and is also General Counsel of Landmark Education. Prior to his work at Landmark Education, Art Schreiber was General Counsel for “Werner Erhard and Associates” (“$5 Million Lawsuit Filed Against EST”, San Jose Mercury News, December 5, 1985, page 8A.) In addition, Art Schreiber also served as an attorney representing Werner Erhard (“$15 Million Suit Against Werner Erhard Is Dropped”, by Susan Sward, San Francisco Chronicle, October 26, 1985, page 2).

So Werner Erhard’s brother is CEO of Landmark Education, his sister is a Director of Landmark Education, and his attorney is Chairman of the Board of Landmark Education.

On a side note, has published a legal letter sent to the website from a Terry M. Giles, yet another attorney for Werner Erhard. Giles owns “Tekniko Licensing Corporation”. The company “Tekniko Licensing Corporation” is also a subsidiary of Landmark Education.