Thursday, May 29, 2014

Here, Have A School

In case you missed it, here's a pretty comprehensive backgrounder on what's going on in Turkey. Here in Chicago, and in places around the nation, we've opened up publicly funded charter schools that are tied directly to the people running the Gulen Movement from Pennsylvania.

Again, let me repeat: tied directly.

We're not talking about hypothetical vague influences that might or might not exist.

It's a phenomenon for which there is no analogy in the United States. There simply is no other transnational social/political/religious movement operating inside the US while simultaneously struggling for authoritarian dominance of a foreign land, while also running a fast-growing network of publicly funded charter schools. It's sui generis.

In the fall, I will start proposing measures that can help us come to terms with the phenomenon, but a lot of policy-makers are going to have to take a good, long look in the mirror first.

We can all enjoy a nice, guided tour of an ancient land, but that doesn't relieve us from the duty of understanding. And what is the history?

To begin with, Turkey's institutional deterioration is not a recent matter. It started long before Erdogan’s manifestly heavy-handed and polarizing responses to the Gezi protests of the summer of 2013 and to the corruption probe in winter 2013. The harsh crackdown on the media over the last year is but the latest phase in an ongoing process of repression of independent press. And Erdogan and the Gülenists have long manipulated the judiciary, using it to harass and jail opponents on charges ranging from the flimsy to the fabricated.
So Erdogan relied on the Gülen movement, which was all too willing to cooperate, having pursued a long-term strategy of placing its sympathizers in the state apparatus. The Gülenist police and judiciary, which in the later part of last decade, ran the notorious anti-military (Ergenekon and Balyoz) and anti-Kurdish (KCK) court cases, had a free hand until Erdogan decided to part ways with the movement. Anyone who took a close look at these political trials, even early on, would have been under no illusion that they had any relation to the rule of law. Between 2007 and 2011, Turkey’s global ranking in judicial independence fell from 56 to 83 of around 140 countries, and would fall an additional two places by 2014.
So you have to factor these things in. Don't you? Am I wrong about that? Or should we just open the doors to every partisan in every struggle in every foreign land and say, "Here, have a school. Give us a junket; it's all we ask." 

Getting rid of the inept, ill-advised, badly-used-by-Concept State Charter School Commission is a good first step, but it's not enough. We need a lot more transparency across the charter sector, and possibly some new basic rules. It will be good for everyone. This looking-away that everyone's doing, I understand it, but it can't go on forever. 

H/t Sharon Higgins

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