Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Dispatch From The Parallel State

So, this is about to happen in Chicago, tomorrow.  It's a conference at the Sheraton, organized by Concept Schools, which are the local charter chain connected at the deepest levels to the Gulen Movement. It kicks off with a cruise on Wednesday night, followed by a day of meetings on Thursday and a keynote on Friday. Here's the program.

This is what the Gulen Movement is really quite good at; they do after all, run schools all over the world, and those schools serve a variety of purposes in different regions. The number one purpose is to increase the influence of the Movement.  They know how to network better than anyone. The conference program is a bit random, but the same can be said of conferences everywhere. Have you ever been to ISTE?  There are people you probably know presenting at this conference: people who have probably never heard of the Gulen Movement, and people who clearly have.

The difference between this conference and any of the multitude of other STEM conferences is that that this one is connected to building the momentum of the Gulen Movement. Which is all fine; my only two issues throughout these posts is that our publicly funded charter schools should not be connected to a transnational social/religious/political movement, and that the political behavior of the Movement in America looks quite like the baby steps of the Movement's eventual political behavior in Turkey.

It is doubtful that many of the presenters know much about wiretaps, about Ahmet Sik, or others like him. It is unlikely they've studied the recent history of the Istanbul police.  They probably haven't even heard about the recent talk of extradition.

Gery Chico will be there, of course. I've already written him to ask if he's traveled to Turkey with Niagara; his wife, Sunny, has been the recipient of a Niagara award--- those often are connected to the junkets. Chico is a public official with influence over charter school decisions; it should be on the public record. Dušan Čaplovič, the Minister of Education for the Slovak Republic, will be giving a talk. He was apparently in Turkey shortly before the meltdown between Erdogan and Gulen; it seems likely to me that his appearance in Chicago will cause some friction between the Turkish and Slovakian governments, given that Erdogan is threatening to "boil" some of the people at the conference.  It's not my field, although I suspect it will be soon.

The Twitter stream of the conference host account is a bit odd. One of the Concept guys is touting an award that Concept recently received from something called the International Association of STEM Leaders.

It's all very impressive, until you research the organization and its founder, who appears to have had many, many jobs, and who has evidently founded at least one "national institute"  and one "international association,"  including this one, from her home. It's a weird resume. Take a look.  She seems like a nice, passionate person; here she is on Youtube.

I still can't figure out what she actually does, but she does seem passionate. I've noticed that in social media, there are a lot of people who talk about STEM who are neither scientists, technologists, engineers, nor mathematicians, nor practicing teachers in any of these fields. A common theme is that the actual educators in these fields don't know each other or have pre-existing networks, and must therefore be shown how to connect via social media.  It's bizarre. 

(One other thing: is it just me, or are the people with Ed.D's more likely than anyone with a higher degree to refer to themselves as "Dr." without delineating the type of degree?)

Anyway, congratulations to Concept for this wonderful, groundbreaking award. Notice the retweets. 

That's the kind of fakakta, ersatz sort of universe in which these schools exist and promote themselves. I'm predicting that someone from the Illinois General Assembly will soon be tasked with sponsoring a proclamation of praise for Concept's illustrious award (from a lady in her living room). Just wait. They'll get a letter from Governor Quinn. Or the Water Commission. 

Two other odd tweets, and then I'll close for the night. This one:

Not sure what they're getting at with that one, but the Venezuelan Consul in Chicago recently gave up a Friday to judge the talent show out in Rosemont on behalf of a lot of Concept people. I'm going to bring this tweet up in my meeting at the Consulate just to watch the body language. By the way, I'm with the protesters. Incidentally, when there were protesters in Gezi, the crowd at the Gulenist Turkish Olympiad cheered, cheered on the prime minister as he hectored those very protesters.

And this.

This one is funny to me because I'm just putting the finishing touches on a post about North American University, currently a tiny little private thing in Houston, set up by the Movement, and licensed by Texas to provide two different teacher certification programs. It will grow.  They're building their international student support staff with big plans in mind. Texas has more Gulen-linked schools than any other state, and evidently there is a home-grown teacher shortage there. I wonder where these international students will come from.  

More on North American University Later. It's really quite an interesting story. 

Meanwhile, best of wishes to the presenters at the conference tomorrow, Thursday, and Friday. Like I have always said, I support freedom of association, and I support Concept's right to do the work of sponsoring a conference. I just wish participants had time to get past the strategic ambiguity to see what's actually what. 

New to the topic? Please see some of my previous posts.

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