Since the Concept people managed to wrangle a zoning clearance in the 12th Ward today, let's all read up on the movement.
I've been looking at this issue for about a year now, and I've written about it ad nauseum over at my old blog, but here's a short summary of my observations.
1. The Concept schools, including the Chicago Math and Science Academy, are part of the Gulen archipelago.
2. The American teachers at these schools seem to be largely unaware or unconcerned or too in need of a job to talk about the nature of their school's affiliations. The Turkish teachers, of course, aren't very likely to return calls.
3. Some of the families have become aware, but most of the families have utterly no concept.
4. When you start writing about the Gulenists, you get a lot of traffic from partisans in the Turkish internal struggle: the Gulenists, the Kemalists, the Kurdish minority, and the strange nebula of anti-Gulenists that are hard but not impossible to pin down. You start to realize that there's a very ancient struggle unfolding in real-time in modern-day Turkey, and that one of the key players happens to have 135 or so charter schools in the United States, including one in Rogers Park.
If I were walking a group of kids down a sidewalk, and I saw a group of these partisans having a bitter quarrel up ahead, I would cross the street with the kids. I wouldn't hand over the kids to one of the partisans and pretend that I'd dropped them off with Mr. Rogers.*
For me, the whole connection to a player in a foreign drama is enough. It's too weird; it's not appropriate. The fact that there's religion at play is also weird, but for me, secondary. The opacity of the network is also secondary; I take it for granted that these charter chains are going to be havens for shady operators. I'm interested mostly in the basic fact of the matter: we've got a secretive foreign religious/geopolitical activist sect running American public charter schools, and it's absolutely forbidden to talk about it in the press.
I'm kicking around the idea of organizing a conference around this topic. I know many of the people who write about the Gulenists now; I know some of the scholars in the field, and I know people in the human rights community who can talk lucidly about the Gulenist connections to media suppression in Turkey.
If you're in the city, and you to like to talk about getting a conference off the ground, get in touch. If these guys want to help themselves to the public dime, it's time for some sunlight.
*Yes, that's a striking image, I agree. To be clear, the quarrel is happening back in the old country, not here. To me it doesn't matter.