Thursday, November 17, 2011

Arne Duncan issues a public statement about the Gulen movement's charter schools! Not.

I fully expect that my comment left at Town Hall: 140 Characters at a Time, a Twitter town hall with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, will not be published, and will be quite surprised if it is. In either case, I've decided to make it into a blog post here.

Sharon says:

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

I would like Secretary Duncan to issue a public statement explaining his views on the 131 charter schools being operated by the Gulen movement. Each year, since 1999, members of this extremely controversial, cult-like religious group out of Turkey have opened several new charter schools. The enrollment of these schools currently exceeds 35,000 students.

Why does the U.S. Department of Education continuously permit these schools to conceal their religious affiliation from parents, school board members, and authorizing agencies?

Despite overwhelming silence from our public officials about this phenomenon (occasionally punctuated by denials uttered by the operators of the schools), it is indisputable that these American taxpayer-supported schools are the U.S. portion of schools started around the world by this religious group with questionable ulterior motives. Satisfaction will not be found by interviewing the school operators because they have vowed to abide by Gulenist principles of obedience and secrecy, and are not at liberty to discuss such matters with outsiders in a frank and open way.

A mountain of evidence has been uncovered by concerned members of the public:

Such evidence will be continuously compiled and broadcast to Americans via online vehicles while we wait for our leaders to insist on public transparency in this regard.

As Ilhan Tanir, a former member of hizmet, now Hurriyet Daily News journalist, wrote in 2009 (boldface added)*:
"Let's not kid ourselves: [any representative] from the movement, in essence, cannot respond to some of the tough questions that come from outsiders."
"...the movement sees itself many times as self-righteous and blessed in every occasion, and surrounded with miracles...Most of the time, the state of self-righteousness in the movement is so apparent that one can witness it in any discussion one engages with its members. Apart from the details, it is almost impossible to convince or make sense to the members on many issues, especially those that relate to the movement. Though this shouldn’t come as a surprise, because as we all know that as long as one believes that one is following the quasi-sacred decrees, the work one does must be also sacred and cannot be understood by outsiders. And amid this detachment, the movement justifies any conduct to achieve its ends at any cost. For instance, if passing school entry test questions to the movement’s pupils is a justifiable way to ride into any kind of school that is important to attend even it can be done for years, even if it means usurping the rights of other pupils. But again, others are just others."

* Hizmet is the term Gulen movement members use to refer to themselves.


To acquire a basic understanding of the Gulen movement is time-demanding and mentally challenging. One reason for this is because the phenomenon is unfamiliar, unprecedented, and complex -- not to mention the language barriers which prevent Americans from accessing a great deal of available written information. In addition, the movement intentionally employs secrecy and other strategies to keep things murky and below the radar of the general public (= outsiders).

Suggested reading materials for newcomers seeking to increase their Gulen movement-awareness:
  1. 11/1999: “Islamic Scientific Creationism: A New Challenge in Turkey.” National Center for Science Education report,
  2. 5/2006: “Keeping Secrets.” by Fethullah Gulen (from Gulen’s Pearls of Wisdom),
  3. 6/2006: “What is the Reason for the Persistence of Darwinism in the General Culture of the Masses Though Many of Darwin’s Hypotheses Have Been Challenged and Even Disproved?” by Fethullah Gulen (one of Gulen's teachings against the Theory of Evolution),
  4. 2008: “The Rise of Political Islam in Turkey.” RAND Corporation (pg. 53 lists the movement's four 'legs' of organized activities: education, media, interfaith dialog [and Turkish cultural] activities, and business organizations),
  5. 3/2008: “Turkey's survival of the fittest; the Islamic anti-Darwinism movement in Turkey is being helped by an unlikely source.” International Relations and Security Network (Zurich),
  6. 12/2008: “The Fethullah Gulen Movement.” Global Politician, (excerpt: “Fethullahci are often loath to declare themselves openly as such.”)
  7. 2/2009: “Gulen Movement: Turkey’s Third Power.” Jane's Islamic Affairs Analyst,
  8. 4/2009: “Turkish schools coming under increasing scrutiny in Central Asia.” Radio Free Europe/Radio,
  9. 5/2009: “Behind Turkey’s Witch Hunt.” Newsweek,
  10. 6/2009: “The Gulen Movement.” Center for Strategic & International Studies event (audio and transcripts),
  11. 7/2009: “What do the Gulenists want to accomplish?” (Part 1) Hurriyet Daily News (this publication is a major English-language Turkish newspaper not operated by the Gulen movement; Today's Zaman, another major Turkish newspaper, is operated by the Gulen movement),
  12. 7/2009: “How do the Gulenists change the rules?” (Part 2), Hurriyet Daily News,
  13. 10/2009: “Rising Islamist movements challenge secularism in Turkey.” video report by Worldfocus (produced by WNET New York, distributed by American Public Television),
  14. 8/2010: “Islam, Secularism and the Battle for Turkey's Future.” STRATFOR Global Intelligence,
  15. 8/2010: “Objectives of charter schools with Turkish connections questioned.” USA Today,
  16. 8/2010: “Turkey: Politics of Identity and Power.” Congressional Research Service report,
  17. 10/2010: “Turkey: Gulen Movement Taking PR Beating in Arrest Row.” Eurasianet,
  18. 11/2010: “The 'Global Imam' through American eyes." Milliyet (a major Turkish newspaper), English translation @
  19. 11/2010: “How Turkey is Changing.” Hurriyet Daily News,
  20. 12/2010: “Transnational Religious Nationalism in the New Turkey: The Case of Fethullah Gulen.” Baker Institute event at Rice University (webcast),
  21. 3/2011 “7 More Journalists Detained in Turkey.” New York Times,
  22. 3/2011: "U.S. charter-school network with Turkish link draws federal attention." Philadelphia Inquirer,
  23. 4/2011: "The fading masquerade: Ergenekon and the politics of justice in Turkey." The Turkey Analyst (Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Center joint program at Johns Hopkins University),
  24. 4/2011: “WikiLeaks files detail U.S. unease over Turks and charter schools.” Philadelphia Inquirer,
  25. 5/2011: “What is Islam’s Gulen movement?” BBC,
  26. 6/2011: "Charter Schools Tied to Turkey Grow in Texas." New York Times,
  27. 6/2011: "Texas Legislature To Launch Investigation of Charter Schools." CBS Dallas-Fort Worth,
  28. 6/2011: “Some lawmakers have second thoughts about Turkey trips.” Austin merican-Statesman (TX),
  29. 7/2011: "Records show glaring faults at school with ties to Turkish charter school network." The Times-Picayune (LA),
  30. 9/2011: "Turkey's Elephant in the Room: Religious Freedom." New York Times (does not mention Gulen, but describes policies being conducted by Turkey's current Gulen movement-backed government),
  31. 10/2011: "The Trouble with Turkey." National Review (does not mention Gulen, but offers an overview of the concerning political shifts occurring under the current Gulen movement-backed government),

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Public school privatization potentiated by a racial dynamic

"...privatization justified by identity politics."

Ramsin Canon is politics editor for Gapers Block, a Chicago-centric news and commentary web publication. This is from his piece “How & Why a Democratic President Privatized Our School System” (emphasis mine).
Barack Obama is presiding over the beginning of a process that will inexorably result in the privatization of our school system. That doesn’t mean of course that all of our schools will be owned by big corporations; rather it means that within the next five to ten years, our largest school systems will be enmeshed with the private sector, and the regulatory framework that encourages same will be defended vociferously by a new and fierce network of rent seekers. Within a generation, “public schools” will be public only in the sense that they will rely on primarily on government money–similar in that way to the defense industry...

...How this [privatization] has happened is pretty straightforward. An originally far-right idea, that the government had no business running anything, including schools, worked its way into the Democratic Party consensus at precisely the rate that the left-wing, as represented by autonomous labor unions and working-class advocates were pushed out (i.e., the rise of the “left neoliberals”).

More specifically, those industrialists and Randite funders of school privatization efforts–in the form of vouchers originally, and eventually charters–created alliances with big city Democratic Party institutions. Here was an issue where the market-logic obsession could be easily masked by concern for “the children,” which is not necessarily insincere. Mayors like Daley, Bloomberg, Fenty and others loved this new alliance because it played into the big media obsession–Democrats who were weren’t stuck in “special interest” politics, who subscribed to the New Economy/Silicon Valley ethos that venture capitalists and their hired gun technocrats could solve every problem, whereas working class people representing themselves were too dumb/myopic to actually affect change (besides, if they’re so smart, why aren’t they rich!?)

A hop, skip, and a jump. In Chicago, the Democratic Party establishment absorbed this ethos by Mayoral fiat. Chicago’s Democratic Party infrastructure was dissimilar from past “Machine” iterations because it was hard-wired through the person of the Mayor; his mid-90s rapture into the VC/technocrat stratosphere trickled down to those in the party who had ambitions outside of Cook County politics. People like Barack Obama, whose institutional ties to the University of Chicago, where he lectured and which he represented (in a sickeningly self-gerrymandered district) almost required those kinds of allegiances.

Bashing teachers unions has a pedigree among black nationalists that made it ideal for Machine Lite-style politics. For big city Mayors it was great; and for state Senator Barack Obama, it was perfect. He could deepen his ties to major identity-focused organizations like UNO and The Woodlawn Organization that supported charters and attend fundaraisers [sic] and cocktail parties with the Steans’ of the world. Noted career failure Arne Duncan grabbed hold of his coattails, and you have the Chicago model ascending to the national stage: privatization justified by identity politics...

Yes, privatization justified by identity politics.

Ramsin Canon discusses the politics of Chicago's public schools in this June 10, 2010 interview HERE.