By Bo Gardiner, as seen at Doubtful News:
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:”
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… “
Out-Uri-ing Geller: Gerard Senehi must be for real — he can bend TWO spoons!
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.
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.