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August 30, 2011

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Obama‘s Race to Top Policy Helps Turkish Gülen Missionary Charters Schools Race to Conquer America 

Kurdishaspect.com - By Dr. Aland Mizell

The American education system has become a hot issue. Commenting that “It’s time to make education America’s national mission,” President Obama defended the cornerstone of his administration, his education policy called the “Race to the Top.” A part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, it is a 4.35 billion dollar competitive grant program that gives incentives for states to adopt pay for performance systems and removes the cap on charters schools.[i] After the President’s speech on education reform, some civil right organizations released joint statements criticizing the Race to the Top policy. President Obama’s main theme on education included the notion that education is a civil rights issue, but if it is a right, then why should students race for it? What happens to the youth from impoverished backgrounds? What happens to marginalized groups who cannot succeed? Who is a loser and how does one become a winner? What is the role of charters schools? According to recent whistleblowers, some charters schools have contributed to the problems in education and become the subject of much debate. Therefore, it is important to separate out those charged, the Turkish Muslims’ missionary charter schools called the Gülen movement, from the normal American-run charters schools. 

Controversy surrounds the Gulen’s Islamic schools. Some people are extremely opposed to the Turkish charter schools, even though a few of these schools are serving underprivileged and economically poor communities. Officials of these Turkish-led schools deny any kind of formal relation with Fethullah Gülen, a powerful and wealthy Turkish imam seeking residency in the U.S. Yet, he requests a US green card claiming he is an international educator. A few outspoken supporters argue that they are the best schools around the world, but detractors purport that they are getting support from foreign intelligence. Some say they are working for Mossad, Israel’s state-run intelligence operations, while others claim that they are working for the U.S.’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Some will pronounce that they are working for greater Middle Eastern projects, yet others reply that they are serving the Vatican. Some see them as the savior of the world, but others contend that they have a hidden agenda to deconstruct current governments in order to bring on their new one. Some will exclaim, “No, they are advocating global peace and preventing a clash of civilizations.” Others point out that they took over Turkey by infiltrating Gülen’s students into the top rungs of the Turkish government. Some believe that they are just Turkish people, and therefore have a right to be at the highest level in government agencies, the police, the intelligence, and the military. Some posit that God chooses them and that is why they have been successful as well as because Gülen is the Mehdi or messiah. Members of the organization view themselves as the 21st Century Sahabe, meaning followers of Mohammed. Yet, adversaries say they are a cult because the leaders intimidate Gülen’s followers by instilling fear in them to force them to stay in the community. Some hold that they are very democratic and honest; on the other hand, their foes say they are thirsty for power and yet others Asks where is the water of the Mill? Some indicate that charters schools promote integration, yet analysts show that they do not promote integration of disparate elements because members of the community are under social and psychological pressure to conform to strict edicts. Some imply that there is no central leadership and no one person is in charge; the others point out that there are life rules, determined and administered by the supreme leader whom each member must follow absolutely. The imam of the region, a middle man, is the one who decides where the follower works, when he will marry, and whom he should marry. Those decisions come from statutes from Gülen himself. Some will infer that they are very democratic and that there is freedom of thought; the others will reveal life’s complete regulation including the reading of particular books, observating of Islamic rules, voting for a particular party, buying a particular brand, listening to the superiors even if they are wrong (Itaat etmek meaning to obey, submit, or comply); all rules are imposed so that the organization can have control over the members. 

The Turkish charter schools engender many questions. How do they get support? What are the structures of the movement? Who is in charge? Is it centralized? If so, is it centralized like a Catholic hierarchy but getting fatwa from Gülen? What makes them different from any other public school in the community? Some will say this system represents the rise of the Neo-Ottoman Empire that wants to conquer the world. But Gülenists will argue that they are advocating global peace, that they do not have any agenda, and that they do not teach any religion. The main question is do they really proclaim global peace or are they trying to bring the back Ottoman Empire system that practiced conquering? Do they want to have global power? Why are they more successful than any other movement in Turkey? How could researchers conclude that teaching a common language of love, peace and harmony is equal to the processes of Turkification, assimilation, and indoctrination of the Gülenist version of Islam? 

Neither Gülen nor his followers are really working for the CIA or for any other significant powers; neither is he the Mehdi who can predict the future nor is he chosen by God, but Gülenists are great opportunists and know how to infiltrate important governmental agencies to get information, and based on the information that they get, they make their moves and decisions. Also, some do not believe Gülenists are the best at what they do, but actually they are well indoctrinated and well trained not to tell the truth but to deny the truth. They are also not the most tolerant and democratic organization, but rather one of the most dictatorial, militaristic, highly reiterative and decidedly centralized organizations with the goal to provide an alternative to today’s systems of government; in other words, to bring back the Ottoman Empire. The question is what type of system did the Ottomans have? Was it one of absolute power and did it exemplify the principle that absolute power is corrupt? 

Obama’s Race to the Top policy is problematic in that it probably is not going to work the way President Obama thinks it will. Specifically, in my view, the money will not filter down to the American teachers but rather will be allocated to the Gülenists’ missionary teachers who are already taking advantage of the U.S. system, and if the money does not sift down, then how will it be distributed? If it is distributed individually, according to the student's performance, ethical issues will arise. There are already cases filed against the Gülen missionaries’ charter schools in several states charging them with mismanagement and lack of accountability. Also, this US educational policy’s financing gives more capital to the Gülenists to bring more of Gülen’s missionaries at the expense of the American taxpayer in order to disseminate his ideology. How well educated are these teachers who come to America? How much experience as teachers do they have? Obama’s Race to the Top policy means for Gülenist missionaries a race to conquer the American education system. 

What are the main goals of the Race to the Top policy? It encourages states to improve their efforts in the following areas: States and school districts should build robust data systems for measuring students’ growth and success. While this seems a good educational tool, this is expedient for the Muslim missionaries to recruit and have access to the smart students, so they can indoctrinate them, a tactic used in Turkey and Central Asia. Second, the goals are that districts should pay teachers more when they are particularly effective or teach in priority subject areas or in low performing schools. Gülenists already know how to play the game, and they will build the system that fits the funding. Another trick that the Gülenists use to fool people is that they hold mathematic Olympics or physics Olympics to have good public relations and marketing, saying that they are the winner. If someone does the research, the inquirer will find that in almost all countries at least in one college they will have a winner of one subject. The question is how could that happen? In Turkey, some have claimed that the organization stole the answers for the Turkish National Police exam to gain access for its members;[ii] would it be possible for the same to be true in other countries? The success of the Gülenists is dependent on information they receive and the information they give. The main difference is that the American education system encourages students to question masters or teachers, whereas the Gülenists education system discourages asking new questions, but instead it encourages them to follow the leaders without inquiry and to replicate what people in the past did. Critical thinking, an important outcome in US education, is not an option in Gulenists’ charter school curriculum. 

This attitude is not limited to education systems but is also prevalent in other social aspects of society. Isn’t questioning oneself and others the first important aspect of intellectual growth? The growth of large entities, even nations, depends on how much they are ready for and engage in self-criticism. This aspect does not exist in Gülen’s community. If a member questions authority, the leaders get upset but always eagerly blame others for their own shortcomings. Total power is corrupt. Thomas Jefferson said, “A government afraid of its citizens is a Democracy. Citizens afraid of government is tyranny.” Isn’t that the case with Turkey? In Turkey, the majority of the right is dominated by the Gülenists in the government and in important positions, so that whoever criticizes Gülen ends up in jail. One of the hallmarks of the West is freedom of speech and freedom of expression, permitting critiques of claims about religious truths, but Islamic law does not allow such debate or criticism. The question many scholars as well as political leaders ask is whether Gülenists’ education system is compatible with American and Western educational systems? Does it hold the same ethical values or does it teach the children that they can learn the truth, but they don’t have to tell the truth anywhere or everywhere, or does it teach the kids that they can lie if it necessary? 

The American university is a laboratory for ideas such as dialectic exchange and deliberative democracy, in which students and teachers participate in free exchange of ideas without any fear of being punished or excommunicated from the community. If America is the champion of education around the world, it is because open dialogue is fundamental to the system of education in the United States. What exactly do close-minded Gülenists’ missionary charter schools hope to accomplish by establishing more than 130 charters schools in America in a short period of time?[iii] How did Gülenists missionary schools, now over 300 in number, accomplish their goals inside Turkey? Even though there are the more than 1000 schools worldwide, why are they not in Saudi Arabia and Iran, for example, since these countries symbolize intolerance? Did the charter schools in the US leave room for free exchange of ideas for students or academics to discuss and teach what they think is right, not what Gülen thinks is right? The American culture and education system has been enriched by the values and belief systems of virtually every part of the world. Individual freedom, and whether we call it individualism or individual freedom, is the cornerstone of American society, because the concept of an individual’s having control of his or her own future is guaranteed in the Constitution. Under the Gülenists missionary schools systems individualism is not important, but collective thinking is important, and individual freedom is limited because individuals must follow the organization’s rules implemented by the central decision-maker--Gülen himself. Unfortunately questioning and testing the truth in the Gülenists community is non-existent and never happens; under this tutelage they quote Gülen more often than the Quran. Students will hear, “Hoja Effendi says this about these topics,” or Hoja Effendi says this about that topic.” Even though Newton was a great scientist, Einstein had freedom to question his ideas, but under the Gülenists education system, none has freedom to challenge Gülen’s views because his view is seen as absolute truth, and whoever challenge it gets “burned.” The mentors promote Gülen more than Prophet Muhammad, for example. 

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