234 - The Elan School, the Cult of Synanon, and the Troubling Troubled Teen Industry
Founded in 1974 by a man named Joe Ricci, the Elan School was supposed to be someplace where you could send your troubled teen so they could be rehabilitated and put back on the right track. But in reality, it was a cruel and chaotic nightmare where students were constantly being pressured to confess to things they’d done “wrong,” called “guilts,” which often were things as silly and not-wrong as having a crush on someone or smiling too much. At Elan, student was pitted against student in insane psychological mind-games and also pitted against each other physically. And most all of this was perfectly legal. It was considered healthy rehab! And the Elan School wouldn’t close until 2011. Today we use the Elan School as an excuse to explore the rise of the troubled teen industry in the US and how it all sprung out of a cult called Synanon. We also explore how the notion of childhood and parenting has been constantly changing for centuries in an attempt to rationalize why anyone would send their kid to the living Hell of a place like Synanon.
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