In an open letter on his blog, Tim Furman writes to American teachers working for Gülenist Concept Schools in Illinois, most of whom genuinely do not know about the true extent of the schools’ operations. The full letter is below:
If you are a teacher at a Concept School here in Illinois (CMSA, Horizon Science-Belmont, Horizon Science-McKinley Park, Horizon Science-Southwest), the the following statements are incontrovertibly true for a person in your situation:
The people running your school, and the CMO managing your school, are deeply connected to the upper echelons of the Gulen Movement. Your school exists as a revenue stream for the Gulen Movement, which appears to be permanently resettling here in the States during this post-failed coup period in Turkey. The Gulenists have been here in small numbers since before Fethullah Gulen himself arrived, and their numbers have grown rapidly since then.
Your school is an economic engine for them; the school receives a great deal of tax money, and all of this money is available for the Movement. Unlike a normal public school, it is basically impossible to determine who receives the money a charter school spends, particularly the portion that goes directly to the CMO. The schools generate business for Gulen-linked contractors, and the whole thing snowballs into a walled-off economy that brings in more and more of the Gulenists from Turkey. This, of course, is all in addition to the real estate deals and financing deals that make charter investors wealthy.
It’s all for the Movement, minus whatever paltry salary they are paying you to be the American face of it all.
The Turkish men managing your school all know this to be true, and the Turkish men working in your schools on H-1B visas know it to be true. The American teachers are not part of the equation, other than as cover.
It is almost certain that the Turkish men working in your schools are kicking back part of their salary as a tithe to the Gulen Movement; the extent to which they are true believers, or simply people taking advantage of a job opportunity in the States, probably varies. But they all understand very clearly what is going on.
The people running your school will probably tell you that the Gulen Movement is a selfless, peaceful social movement and that they have no connection to it, although some of them may possibly at one time or another, have been vaguely inspired by Gulen. None of these assertions are true. The Gulen Movement is a complex, often malevolent political-religious force, deeply involved in human rights abuses and political repression in Turkey. They have an aggressive and massively successful public relations campaign here in the States, and they have fooled or confused a great many lawmakers and policymakers. The people running your school are the true believers.
The things going in Turkey today are the mirror image of what has gone on in Turkey in the past— when the Gulenists were the ones locking everyone up. If the people being arrested for treason in Turkey today receive a fair trial, that will be more than the victims of the Gulenists received when the shoe was on the other foot.
Your charter school is in almost all respects just like any other charter school, except for all of the above. They need you to do the basic chores of teaching, coaching, and supervising kids, and they don’t expect you to be aware of or even concerned about what is really going on. Your school is not a fake school; it’s a regular charter school run by people who run schools and test-prep centers around the world—- but it’s all in the service of a secretive religious/political movement with a worldwide agenda. So in that fairly important respect it’s very different from other charter schools.
No knowledgeable person is suggesting that your school exists to proselytize children into Gulenism; that’s not the model here in the States. Yes, there are aspects of your school that fit into well established Gulenist ideological patterns (the Turkish Olympiad, for example; and the foreign travel for some students), but by and large this phenomenon is not remotely about converting anyone. It is about increasing the wealth, influence, and reach of the Gulen Movement, which is the objective of the Gulen Movement throughout its range.
(That being said, you should probably think about the difference between proselytizing and selective recruitment, because I guarantee you the latter is going on on a limited basis.)
I don’t know what to advise you to do about the situation you find yourself in, but rest assured, you’re serving as a worker-bee in a very determined, very curious colony. The people you are working for are not being honest with you—- they don’t view this dishonesty as a fault; rather, they value the keeping of secrets as a virtue. It isn’t beyond your capability to research these things; the scholarship, the journalism, the testimony is all readily available to any curious person. I know what I’d do, but I’m not in your shoes.
From time to time, I research some of the teachers who appear on the faculty rosters of your school and of the other schools in the Concept chain. The only pattern I’ve ever detected is that you all tend to have a very, very small digital footprint, almost across the board. I sometimes wonder if that’s one of the things they look for when your resume crosses their desks—- a basic quietness, a smaller likelihood of a willingness to look at things in a hard way, a public way.
Is that you?
Anyway, I wish you well this school year; I see you’re already in session. I hope this all works out for you, really. But I know what I would do if I were you.
NB: I have been saying this for five years now: I have no problem with people in secretive cults; I have no problem with secretive cults running political operations in foreign lands; I have no problem with secretive cults running private schools for people interested in the cult. I don’t even have a problem with secretive cults selectively recruiting susceptible adults.
I mean, I’m not in love with it, but our democracy is supposed to be able to deal with these things.
The problem I have with it all is that none of this belongs in the public education sector. It’s a dangerous, inappropriate mix, and it needs to end.