Psychic kicks off plan to “teach” telepathy and psychokinesis in 500 public schools

The Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics recently hired a psychic to deliver his first in a program series for high school students designed to help them “reflect on their beliefs, values, and purpose”.

Bronx School Hires Psychic to Build Kids’ Self-Esteem – Claremont – New York.

Mentalist and mind reader Gerard Senehi recently partnered with the Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics to offer classes meant to help students develop life skills like self-confidence and answer tough questions about themselves, such as “Do you have the courage to pursue what you really care about?” and “How much do you have a sense of direction and purpose in life?”

The program, called The QUESTion Project, kicked off with a Dec. 19 performance at the school where Senehi dazzled students with tricks like bending wine glasses, spinning spoons in other people’s hands and making accurate predictions about the future.

Edward Tom, the school’s founding principal, was also impressed by how well Senehi managed to keep the students’ attention.  “The whole purpose wasn’t to give kids a magic show,” he said. “It was to let them know the power of belief, that there are so many things that are possible… “

South Bronx high school students participate in psychic’s Dec 19 performance

South Bronx high school students participate in psychic’s Dec 19 performance

On Senehi’s personal website, he calls himself a “psychic entertainer” and “mentalist” who has appeared on the Today Show and Ellen.  His school program, Open Futures Institute, boasts some heavy-duty corporate and philanthropic backers.

Out-Uri-ing Geller: Gerard Senehi must be for real -- he can bend TWO spoons!

Out-Uri-ing Geller: Gerard Senehi must be for real — he can bend TWO spoons!

Unlike stage mentalists and magicians like Derren Brown and Penn & Teller, who honestly deny having paranormal power, Senehi puts himself squarely in the Uri Geller camp by claiming he is a  “master of telekinesis, thought reading and telepathy,” who is “willing to experiment in all areas of the paranormal.”  In a section called “Paranormal Phenomena — Is It Real?” he is only slightly coy in his affirmative answer:

“One would say ‘no.’  So how are we to explain it as there is no doubt that it is happening?  …His work cannot be explained even as the most brilliant skill in ‘sleight of hand.’”

Personally, I’m a big fan of school programs developing ethics, character, emotional intelligence, civic purpose… whatever you want to call it.  But such programs must be reality-based, and include critical thinking.  Where’s the harm here?  As a self-promoter seeking celebrity by claiming nonexistent powers and stoking unrealistic hopes, Senehi discourages critical thinking and practical problem-solving:

“[H]e’s been approached by thousands of people convinced that he has some special power, requesting personal help, healing of ailments, advice on their family and future. Even some of New York’s most successful investment bankers have asked him for advice on the stock market. On three occasions, world leaders have directly asked him if his skill could be used to gain military or political advantage.”

As magician and skeptic Jamy Ian Swiss points out in a New York magazine profile of Senehi, “If you tell the audience you’re doing anything other than tricks, …you’re not doing entertainment. You’re doing religion.”

Senehi says his goal is to deliver this program to 500 schools by 2020.  With numerous corporate marketers on his board of directors, and advisors like Dr. Dean Ornish and Deutche Bank, he very well may.

  19 comments for “Psychic kicks off plan to “teach” telepathy and psychokinesis in 500 public schools

  1. One Eyed Jack
    January 12, 2015 at 9:57 PM

    This would be a wonderful program if it was run from a Penn and Teller / Brown angle. I would wholeheartedly support a program like P&T “Bullshit” in public schools. Great insights can be had from learning the quirks abused by mentalists to create their illusions.

    However, anyone claiming to be a genuine psychic is nothing more than a con artist.

  2. Alex Murdoch
    January 12, 2015 at 10:37 PM

    His press photo is actually of him bending spoons? We need Randi back on the talk show circuit exposing these charlatans.

  3. January 13, 2015 at 7:55 AM

    Randi is 86 years old (the dear soul). New voices need to pick up his banner and carry it forward.

  4. January 13, 2015 at 8:51 AM

    “As magician and skeptic Jamy Ian Swiss points out in a New York magazine profile of Senehi, “If you tell the audience you’re doing anything other than tricks, …you’re not doing entertainment. You’re doing religion.””

    Jamie’s point isn’t a mere joke. It’s quite serious. This IS religion; it’s New Age spirituality, a religion that promotes the development of mythic paranormal ability in order to become closer to the divine. When you strip away the secular-sounding self-help-guru rhetoric, this is what lies at the heart of the Open Futures Institute. It’s a religious organization with no more constitutional business being in public schools than any other religion, and it should be challenged, IMHO.

    It’s pseudoscience, so certainly has no business in a public school’s science center. So it should also be challenged on that ground.

    There are a number of purely secular, reason-based character-building programs in development for schools, that manage to encourage critical thinking, not discourage it. These should be supported instead. It’s a disturbing precedent.

  5. Bill T.
    January 13, 2015 at 11:22 AM

    There’s something wrong with the statement “The Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics recently hired a psychic “. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something wrong there.

    Has the Center been hijacked by promoters of non-sceince? Is anyone familiar with this group?

  6. saijanai
    January 13, 2015 at 1:03 PM

    @Bo Gardiner

    So what is your take on teaching Transcendental Meditation in public schools?

    And by extension, what about Yogic Flying? It would be a stretch to get that taught in any public school in the USA, but the EEG patterns associated practicing Yogic Flying and related practices are enhancements of teh EEG patterns found during TM, so if you can rationalize the teaching of TM, you can rationalize the teaching of Yogic Flying, and in fact, rehabilitation programs in South America DO use Yogic Flying as well as TM. National governments are started to get involved in researching the physiological effects and long-term outcome from doing such practices.

  7. Tony
    January 13, 2015 at 1:11 PM

    I clicked on the link for Senehi’s personal website several times over the past couple of hours, and each time Chrome informs me that “This webpage is not available.” Hmmm.

  8. Tony
    January 13, 2015 at 1:15 PM

    Do you happen to know what TM’s policy is regarding vague assertions and unsubstantiated claims?

  9. Tony
    January 13, 2015 at 1:30 PM

    Update: Odd that your link doesn’t arrive at his page but going to does.

    But my knowledge of html is pre-Java Script.

  10. January 13, 2015 at 1:51 PM

    That IS odd. The “https” link worked yesterday, now it doesn’t. As you show, the “s” has to be removed to make it “http” for the link to work now.

  11. January 13, 2015 at 2:21 PM

    @saijanaim, TM has primarily a spiritual objective of “higher levels of consciousness,” so should not be taught in public schools because a) it’s essentially a religion, and b) it makes claims unsupported by science. Brainwave variations are not proof of “higher levels of consciousness.”

    There are secular, evidence-based relaxation and focus exercises that share some elements with meditation that would be fine in schools, I would think.

    Yogic Flying is very much a part of TM mythology. Mythologies can be taught in comparative world religion classes, but not as fact.

  12. January 13, 2015 at 3:30 PM

    Has anyone actually got beyond Stage One (Yogic Hopping)…at least in a controlled, observable situation?

  13. Bill T.
    January 13, 2015 at 3:36 PM

    So they changed it to a non-secure connection. Hmmmmm.

  14. Mike C.
    January 13, 2015 at 3:44 PM

    That’s just unbelievable that a school of science and mathematics would hire nothing more than a trickster!

  15. let'sgetsomething straight
    January 13, 2015 at 8:54 PM

    Another metal-bending psychic in the news. Just what I’ve been wishing for! (Does that mean I’m psychic?) Over the past 40-odd years I have collected a number of mangled pieces of flatware. I have knives, forks and spoons that people–not always kids–tried to do things with like dig a hole in rock-hard dirt, tighten or loosen screws, chisel wood, pick the lock on the bathroom door, pry open a stuck (locked, actually) window, to name a few examples.
    I don’t have any scientific studies to reference, but, at age 68, my own observations and those of others have convinced me that, whatever power or forces might be used, it is generally way, WAAAY easier to screw something up than to fix it. I will never be able to restore my flatware with conventional weapons. I, therefore, challenge any psychic to try it his way.

  16. Haldurson
    January 13, 2015 at 9:37 PM

    I personally have no problem with meditation being taught in schools, so long as it loses all of the mythical/magical trappings. Meditation has been shown as an effective relaxation technique, so on that basis, I have no objection. I also have no objection to an objective lesson on what TM teaches, in the same way that I have no objection to comparative religion classes, so long as those teachings are not stated as actual facts. I think that it can be quite instructive to teach what other people believe in, if taught from an evidence-based/skeptical perspective. The problem is not the subject matter — the problem is when magical thinking is presented as fact.

  17. January 14, 2015 at 7:29 PM

    The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey ruled that TM constituted a religious practice in 1977. I don’t know if the case went any higher.

  18. January 17, 2015 at 7:28 AM

    Great info. Many thanks for the link.

  19. Jeff
    January 18, 2015 at 2:03 PM

    The lesson for the students was that you can make a lot of money in this racket.

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