Tuesday 20 October 2015

TechnoTutor and PowereDucation: Building a Brick Wall

PowerEducation Powered by MindTechnology 
[Note Aug 2017: Desteni is no longer affiliated with the US-based TechnoTutor company. The following article serves as a record of events.]

The TechnoTutor 'Vocabulary Development Technology' business is owned, managed and marketed almost exclusively by members of Desteni. 

Yet Desteni claims that it 'does not own any part of TechnoTutor'.

While Desteni has officially endorsed TechnoTutor none of the TechnoTutor websites or salespersons ever mention that the origins and development of the 'educational software' company are inextricably linked to Desteni, and in turn the 'non-profit' behind it, the Equal Life Foundation.

Back in 2007, the group's founder, Bernard Poolman, introduced his ideas about 'Living Words' or 'redefining words' for 'self-forgiveness' with the help of 'educational software'

Poolman's ideas about vocabulary and 'living words' were later expanded upon in a series of blog posts entitled, Redefining Words, by his co-founder in Desteni, Esteni De Wet. Such ideas are integral to the Desteni I Process and references to 'vocabulary' and 'living words' can be found throughout material produced by Destonians.  

Prior to the launch of Desteni in 2007, De Wet ran an 'educational software' business with Poolman named PowerEducation by MindTechnology

A review in 2004 by a student whose masters project was 'to find means for deploying networks and computers in schools in South Africa' stated that the PowerEducation website was full of 'lots of rubbish about how their packages will improve your life... in fact they reckon that people who are illiterate usually land up killing themselves due to depression and they are making products that will prevent this'.

It stated that the PowerEducation sales pitch contained 'so much emotive speech and "propaganda" that you want to vomit', and that the software was way overpriced.

This year's VICE magazine article, Meet the Struggling South African Cult That Tried to Kill Demon Hitlerquoted an ex-PowerEducation employee who said the software was sold to parents who were 'manipulated' into believing it was worth R12,000 [$1,030] when it was only worth R400 [$35]. 

Poolman's 2005 PowerEducation website stated: 'building effective information processing skills is like building a brick wall'.

Circa 2007-09, Poolman made his 'educational software' available through desteni.co.za under the name, 'Desteni Vocabulary Builder' or 'Purifier'. 

As listed under 'Other Cults' on a Scientology wiki and numerous other sites, the original desteni.co.za website was registered to Esteni at powereducation.co.za.

By 2010, the 'Desteni Vocabulary Builder' was no longer provided via desteni.co.za, but a member of the group, Cameron Cope of Texas, began selling 'educational software' through another company called Desteni Education.

Cope posted several times at the Cult Education Forum in an attempt to deflect criticism that suggested he was using the sale of the software to recruit children and parents into the cult of Desteni.

In one of his posts, he stated that he originally wanted to call the company, 'Techno Tutor', but the name at the time was unavailable.

The sales pitch for Desteni Education was worded in almost exactly the same way as Poolman's PowerEducation and was about 'building a brick wall'. 

In 2010, Ferdi Poolman of South Africa alleged 
that his brother, Bernard, had stolen the 'reading and language' programme from his educational software company, Readers are Leaders. 

After that, Cope began using different company names, including PerfectMind Tutoring, AConduitMarketing and Techno Tutor. In 2013, the same year Bernard Poolman died, TechnoTutor LLC was formed by Cope and other Destonians.

Esteni De Wet is currently a UK director of TechnoTutor

VICE magazine also reported that De Wet's parents were involved in the early days of Desteni, which were said to have been fuelled by the drug, Ecstasy. 

Frans De Wet was listed as a member of PowerEducation's Club 25 in 2005, and Francois De Wet is currently a TechnoTutor South Africa director

Bernard Poolman's daughter owns technotutor.co.za as well as desteni.org. 

In a recent interview with the Student Operated Press, Cope delivered a sales pitch for TechnoTutor in which he repeated Poolman's hokey metaphor about 'building a brick wall'.

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VICE magazine reported this year that Cope was initially open to an interview, but 
after he was asked about the connection between PowerEducation and TechnoTutor, gave no reply.

The TechnoTutor websites do not state its price or the cost of distribution rights.

There is no record of tests or reviews of TechnoTutor by any independent experts, and there has been no peer-reviewed study of it published in any educational technology journal.

An ex-customer of the product described it as 'way overpriced overhyped and subpar', set up a webpage to warn people, posted at the Cult Education Forum, and said he was offered a refund if he removed his posts, but he didn't. 

A Destonian recently asked for donations to help 'solve the education crisis' and wrote about joining the TechnoTutor team at GoFundMe'To be a part of this team and fulfill my vision, I am asked for a significant investment of $60,000'. Yet she failed to provide a budget and raised only $620.

In 2012 TechnoTutor was reportedly sold at €2,490 [$3,123]. At the Cult Education Forum in 2014 it was said that distribution rights were being sold at $24,000. 

There are testimonials for TechnoTutor from people who are almost all known members of Desteni, and one from Dr. Roland Estrabillo, a dentist who said he used TechnoTutor to pass a certification exam. 

He was found guilty in 2011 by The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario of 'disgraceful, dishonourable, and unethical conduct including charging excessive fees and providing unnecessary dental services'. 

Estrabillo, along with Cope and several other Destonian TechnoTutor salespersons, is a member of the Global Information Network, a Multi-Level Marketing scam started by fraudster and convicted criminal, Kevin Trudeau. 

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