Monday, January 27, 2014

About That BBC Gulen Interview...

I hope you've had a chance to review today's BBC piece on Fethullah Gulen, whose followers are running some 150 taxpayer funded American charter schools, including the Concept schools here in Chicago.  Make of it all what you will; I'd like to make it clear that I have very little interest in the internal political/national identity-related drama of Turkey. I wish them peace.

I just think it's weird that a group so inextricably connected to that drama is running American schools on the DL, if you will. It's the DL part that's weird--- very few people can bring themselves to talk about this issue. It's not weird per se that a secretive foreign social movement has latched onto the charter school movement because as I've said before it's the exact industry I would go into if I wanted to escape oversight.

But it needs to be part of the public consciousness. I for one would like to be able to vote on which foreign dramas our kids' per-pupil money is targeting, and to be able to pick which partisan the funding is aligned with.

 Let's take a look at some photos from the BBC article. I'd like to point out one gentleman who appears again and again in photos from the article. He's basically Gulen's right-hand man, and his name is Yuksel Alp Aslandogan, but you may remember him as the man who was in charge of the Gulen charter school proposals in Des Plaines and Oak Park back in 2000, both of which failed.
"We're withdrawing the application for the purpose of revamping it and we'll resubmit it," Yuksel Alp Aslandogan, president of the not-for-profit charter school group, said.  
I'm not sure if they re-submitted anything.

In this video he's seen handling the media in Saylorsburg (at 1:02) when some secular Turks were protesting outside the compound. Secular people--- they're so annoying. Below, you see Mr. Aslandogan in today's BBC piece, in three photos where I can identify him. It's not like he's hiding or anything.

I'm pointing this out because the Concept people, and all of the other Gulen charter people,  are going to continue to deny any affiliation with the Movement and the imam and with each other because "strategic ambiguity" has been a successful strategy for them. It's all been explained to death, and yet the strategy continues to go basically unchallenged. The schools "have nothing to do" with the imam or the Movement; it's just that some of the people involved may or may not have been "inspired" by Mr. Gulen at one time and there's no coordination, no hierarchy. They hardly even know each other!

Yeah. The guy running HQ back at the Compound used to drive around the suburbs here trying to set up charter schools until he got promoted.

Mr. Aslandogan, from the above photos and from the failed charter bids in 2000, was also one of the petitioners for the spectacularly failed Wisconsin Career Academy, which was basically a hot mess of ineptitude. Couldn't make it as a charter or a private voucher school. Incidentally, when that school reinvented itself as a voucher-eligible private school and changed its name to Wisconsin College Prep, it brought in the ever popular Ali Yilmaz, formerly of Concept's CMSA on Clark Street. The voucher-eligible private Wisconsin College Prep lasted a year, and Yilmaz has moved on to a management job at Concept. Evidently it's one of those firms where you can fail up. Yilmaz is the star of a couple hilarious videos from the anti-labor drama three years ago at CMSA, including this fabulously succinct lesson on the whole charter philosopy: love it or find somewhere else to send your kid.

 "It is a school of choice. We have over 1000 on our waiting list and whoever wants to come to CMSA they can come."

The anti-labor stiff-arming has sort of gone down the memory hole. Remember when the progressive alderman of the 49th Ward drew a line in the sand over it? Me neither. Remember when he buried the elected, representative school board ballot initiative? I do. I was there.

I wasn't on his Gulen-sponsored trip to Turkey, though.

But surely I'm not the only person to find the whole ten-layers-of-identity-mystery thing that defines these schools to be a little bit new to the history of the stewardship of American public education. These guys are all connected to each other in very short, easy-to-draw, connect-the-dot diagrams. These little who-worked-with-who posts? I could do them every night of the week. But why is it such a mystery and how did that get to be just the way things are in the charter sector?

So, to summarize.... the charter guy behind Des Plaines and Oak Park in 2000, who is connected in multiple ways to Concept people, is now the imam's right hand man in Saylorsburg. But Concept has NO connection to Gulen or to the Movement. They've only just barely heard of the Movement or this fellow Gulon or however you say it.

Got it?

Again, why is this important? Because we're talking about a unique, hard-to-categorize super-secretive transnational movement with a political agenda in foreign lands. Its members run schools everywhere, including public schools in the US, although that fact has flown under the radar.  To one extent or another, the schools are a source of revenue, employment, and networking for the Movement, and to that same extent the schools can be said to support the Movement's goals. There are people, millions of them,  who oppose the Movement, and it would not be crazy for them to be angry at the US and indeed, at these schools. Think about that for a moment. Overseas, the schools are known to be centers of recruitment for the Movement. Here in the States, you could make an argument that the architecture for a similar type of behavior is in place. Review the tape.

Also overseas, when the Turkish Government indicated it would be shutting down the Movement's schools, it triggered a seismic event in which the future of a nation is suddenly, well, up for grabs. I neither know nor care who's the least or most corrupt of all the Turkish protagonists, I just want some sunlight on the charters here in the States.

Yes, it's legal, what they're doing, as far as I can tell, unless there are visa abuses going on, or testing irregularities. The question is this: does it make sense for all of this to be going on without public scrutiny? Why is there only one reporter in Chicago even willing to take this on?

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