Monday, May 14, 2012

My response to 60 Minutes’ piece on the Gulen Movement

Those of us who have been aware of the Gulen movement’s stealth involvement in an enormous network of publicly-funded charter schools are pleased that CBS News finally gave the situation wide national coverage. However, the 60 Minutes segment broadcast yesterday left out a number of important things. 

[NOTE: They (and you!) should be following @CASILIPS on Twitter. Read CASILIPS' comments on the 60 Minutes piece HERE]

What 60 Minutes omitted

60 Minutes should have independently verified the Harmony administrator's claim that the chain has a waiting list of ~30,000 students. Unless such numbers can be independently verified, the waiting list figures offered by charter schools are hearsay and should be viewed as a marketing strategy.

60 Minutes should have mentioned that Gulenists are Creationists. Especially since the schools boast about providing superior science education, one is left to wonder if and how the schools provide instruction of evolution. 

60 Minutes did not perform due diligence when reporting about Harmony’s test scores. The data analyses by Ed Fuller about Harmony’s high student attrition and CASILIPS about Harmony’s unimpressive comparative SAT scores (which were both available online during the show’s production) should have should have triggered the necessary skepticism! 

60 Minutes did not go into the Turkish cultural instruction, a main feature of ALL Gulen movement schools and a feature which is NOT presented to authorizers in the charter school applications. For instance, why are students at the Syracuse Academy of Science Charter School taught to perform a Sufi religious ritual? Look quick (!) before the Gulenists delete this video. Scrubbing websites after revelatory material has been exposed is quite often done.

In addition, 60 Minutes should have reported some of the recent stories about other Gulen charter schools.

For instance, the charter renewal for Truebright Science Academy in Philadelphia – the school closest to Fethullah Gulen’s (former kids' summer camp) compound in the Poconos, the Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Centerwas recently rejected on several grounds, including low academic performance, lack of certified staff, and high turnover of administrators.

And Fulton Science Academy Middle School in Georgia also recently had its charter renewal rejected, along with its appeal to the state, despite having been recognized as a Blue Ribbon Award-winning school. A number of serious concerns had been noted having to do with shadowy governance, conflicts of interest, multiple failures of compliance, and six-million dollars of missing bond money. As the director of the state’s Charter Schools Division wrote: “In fact, the deeper we dug through all the materials FSA submitted... the more questions we had and the more we realized the depth and breadth of the reasons FCS [Fulton County Schools] could have denied FSAMS.”

Then there were the stories about the two Gulen charter schools in Louisiana. Last summer, one school had its charter revoked (Abramson Science and Technology School) for numerous complaints including the attempted bribe of a public official, failure to report sexual incidents, teachers completing student science projects, withholding resources from special ed students, and more. Complaints were also made about the other school (Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School) having a high number of uncertified teachers, poor handling of special education, and even the existence of a “prayer room” at the school. Both of these schools (along with Gulen charter schools in Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, plus the School of Science and Technology schools in TX -- all states in which the Gulen movement calls its South-Central region) are operated in partnership with the Cosmos Foundation, operator of the Texas Harmony schools featured on 60 Minutes.

Fethullah Gulen’s lame excuse for self-exile

Sorry but I (a former critical care R.N.) do not buy Fethullah Gulen’s excuse for needing to be in the U.S. year after year for medical treatment. His supposed diabetes, heart and kidney problems are not rare conditions. Rather they are extremely common ailments which could be treated by plenty of doctors in Turkey who are currently managing thousands of patients with similar diagnoses. Istanbul, for instance, has a Gulen movement-associated center which provides the most advanced medical treatment for Mr. Gulen’s type of ailments. 

Besides, Saylorsburg, the location of Gulen’s compound in the Poconos (the mountain forest of northeastern Pennsylvania) is not exactly known for its close proximity to a world renowned medical center for patients who have, as Mr. Gulen is portrayed, exceptional needs.

Spokesman Alp Aslandogan

Alp Aslandogan (full name Yuksel Alp Aslandogan) seems to have been made the movement’s spokesperson for U.S. audiences. Aslandogan must be fairly high up in the Gulen movement’s hierarchical brotherhood and is not just any “businessman” as 60 Minutes stated.

In 1999, Aslandogan, Harun H. Solak , Zekeriya Baskal, Ahmet H. Aydilek and Melen M. Dogan submitted an application to Milwaukee Public Schools for the Wisconsin Career Academy. This charter school was approved and has been operating since 2000, but this year the Milwaukee School Board voted to end its agreement with WCA. The school is in the process of changing into a private school (Wisconsin College Preparatory Academy) so it can tap U.S. tax dollars via the Milwaukee Parental Choice voucher program.  

Aslandogan is the president of the Institute of Interfaith Dialog (a classic Gulenist “dialog” organization) as well as a director of Texas Gulf Institute, a Gulenist college now called North American College. Why Aslandogan may have created the alias “Yuksel A. Conger” at one point is not known.

Aslandogan appeared at an event called "The Gulen Movement"  which was sponsored by the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington D.C. in June 2009. He also appeared at an event with Joshua D. Hendrick at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in December 2010 ("Transnational Religious Nationalism in the New Turkey: The Case of Fethullah Gulen.") Audio and video presentations and accompanying text are available online.

Much more needs to be exposed

There is a long list of highly concerning things about the Gulen movement that 60 Minutes didn’t expose, like its “strategy of seduction” of parents and public officials, their free/inexpensive stealth propaganda trips to Turkey, their building of madrassas and mosques in Albania and South Africa, etc.

The bottom line for me is that NOTHING about the Gulen movement or their schools can be trusted. Watch this video if you want to hear me go into it more (filmed on Saturday, May 12, one day before the 60 Minutes broadcast).


CarolineSF said...

It's a small point, but the waiting list claims are a pet peeve. I used to routinely phone charters that were described in the press as having "long waiting lists" to ask if they had a spot for my kid -- almost always, they said "come on in!"

That's the only way I can think of to verify a charter's waiting list claim. (The local Envision Schools chain used to tell prospective parents that they had long waiting lists and that their kids' names would go into a lottery -- but their board meeting minutes used to be posted online, revealing the worried discussions about underenrollment.)

Deb said...

I echo that - in our town right now a charter schools is advertising one spot left for a specific grade. The lottery results show that there are about 15 of those 1 spots (for a class size of 22).....and they collect people's info and tell the district that these people are registered and on the waiting list....

Thank you for bringing more to light about the Gulen schools - I think the 60 minutes piece was better than nothing but it just scratched the surface to be sure! We have Gulen schools here in NJ, with another approved but yet open and another in the initial stages of application.....

Mary Addi said...

I certainly agree that the segment was missing some extremely important documentation and more information about the various illegal activities that are being conducted in these schools with our tax dollars.

There was so much more that was left on the editing room floor that the public really needs to know about.

As always, however, your website provides valuable information.

Anonymous said...

The 60 minutes piece in addition to recently mentioned New York Times and New Yorker articles are simplistic and erroneous-bad reporting incarnate.

As a Cultural Anthropologist and a non-believer who not only researches Islam and Turkish populations in the U.S., I believe these "studies" to be ludicrous...especially the 60 Minutes coverage. The reporters obviously do not know what constitutes a decent sample size, etc.

The segment was, indeed, missing key information. However, it and the posts herein neglect to include information such as the important State Senators and others who spoke out in favor of the FSA issue, for instance.

People must also know that Gulen himself is merely an inspiration for the "movement" and that he is not officially connected to it at all and does not even refer to his works and teachings as "a movement."

Also, Gulen is not a "cleric"-Islam does not have a religious, institutionalized hierarchy, duhhhh!

I believe the key herein is more education and better reporting. Don't just imbibe what is force-fed to you. Look into more sources, do some of your own research.

If this wasn't such a biased and dangerous, ignorant discussion it would almost be laughable.

As an academic, I wouldn't trust anything on this page...come on, people...

Anonymous said...

You're a quack ... you know that, right?

The Perimeter Primate said...

"Quack" says the goose.

Anonymous said...

Are Concept Schools in IL, Ohio, Minn, etc linked to Gullen?

The Perimeter Primate said...

Yes. This web site will fill you in.

Here are some news report about that chain.

Anonymous said...

so as a parent with a child who loves science and math,scores highly on all state testing (top ten percent nation wide) but dislikes current schools and teachers who dont care they just want a quiet classroom and dont put forth any effort to reach out to our children. my childs addendance fell and grades although he still did great on tests without being taught in school no chalenges he is basically learning by his reading and science itrnet and tv I want the best for him... Where do i go im not qualified and he wants to go to a good college...

Anonymous said...

Gulen is a false person. Only reason he is being kept in US is a reference letter to INS from an ex CIA coordinator. FBI is putting all the effort to kick him out of that country. So guess what are his schools for..... Hmm let me think.. advanced math and science for NASA?.. hahaha... Kick em out before too late!