How the Gulen Movement has manipulated
the US Press
Page created Jan 29, 2012; last updated Sep 23, 2012
by C.A.S.I.L.I.P.S. - Citizens Against Special Interest Lobbying in Public Schools CASILIPS on Twitter, Slideshare
The Gulen Movement knows it has nothing to lose by feeding journalists misinformation. Some journalists will simply reprint it; if others catch the errors, they can always say it was a "slip-up" or "misunderstanding." Once the misinformation appears in print, few newspapers will bother to issue a correction, and the public will take it as fact.
The Gulen Movement also knows that the American press is besotted with stories about "high-performing" schools, hard-working immigrants, how US education is "falling behind" every other country, and anything to do with improving math and science education. Most local papers are happy to print such story lines with hardly any background investigation.
Here are a few examples.
Case 1. Newsweek magazine lists Harmony Science Academy North Austin on its 2011 "Top 10 Miracle Schools" list based on false data.
Newsweek listed Harmony Science Academy North Austin (a Gulen charter school located in Pflugerville TX and run by the Cosmos Foundation) on its 2011 "miracle" school list. Newsweek explains how schools were chosen for this list: "Our analysis excluded schools that had fewer than 10 graduates, as well as those that were newly founded and did not have a graduating senior class in 2010." The rankings are based on data as reported by school officials.
The Texas Education Agency's report card for Harmony Science Academy North Austin shows it did not have a graduating senior class in 2010. The inclusion of this school on the list is an error.
This error has not stopped Harmony Public Schools from aggressively and repeatedly advertising this supposed honor. Newsweek has not issued a correction.
More details can be read at the Miracle Schools webpage.
Case 2. Baltimore Sun writes advertisement for Chesapeake Science Academy; article contains major errors
On Aug 20, 2010, the Baltimore Sun ran an article entitled "Guerilla Ed" about Chesapeake Science Point, a Gulen charter school in Maryland.
By stating "When your school receives less than half the funding per pupil that traditional public schools do..." the article makes a false insinuation about charter school funding in Maryland.
The article also states: "Since then, a school that spent its first four years in rented space in a business park has settled into a dedicated building, thanks to $250,000 in funding from County Executive John R. Leopold, more than $1 million in support from new landlord Douglas Legum and another $1 million in private funds raised by school officials."
The final claim is false. Chesapeake Science Point never received an additional $1 million in private funds.
The Baltimore Sun has not issued corrections to these errors.
Apart from these factual errors, the article reads like a lengthy advertisement for Chesapeake Science Point.
Case 3. Kenilworth school principal claims dropping out of high school is "unheard of" in Turkey; magazine reprints without fact-checking
225 Magazine in Baton Rouge published an article entitled "Turning the Bus Around" on Jan 1, 2010 about Cuneyt Dokmen, principal of the Gulen charter school Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School. The school is incorrectly called a "magnet school;" by law, as a charter school it must have an open admissions policy.
Excerpt from the article: "In his native Turkey, says Cuneyt Dokmen, the idea of dropping out of school is unheard of. So when he first encountered the phenomenon while teaching science in Oklahoma in 2000 he was nonplussed."
In fact, failure to complete high school (or "secondary school") is a far greater problem in Turkey than it is in the US. A report by the World Bank on education in Turkey states that "Low secondary school enrollment and attainment for Turkey—half the Lisbon target—present a serious constraint on access to higher education. Enrollment and completion of secondary education, which have increased in the past ten years, are still low by international standards. In 2005, 40 percent of 20 to 24 year olds had a secondary degree, one half of the rate for the EU15 and well below the Lisbon target of 85 percent (see Figure 6). The rates are lower for girls and for certain regions." Note that the US Department of Education reports that in 2009, 8.1% of 16- through 24-year-olds in the US not enrolled in school lacked a high school diploma.
225 Magazine could have easily fact-checked Dokmen's claim, yet instead chose to simply print it without question as part of an article that depicts Dokmen in a very flattering manner.
Case 4. Newspaper fails to disclose that "parent" writing reasons for passion about Fulton Science Academy is also employed by school
The Alpharetta Patch, a local newspaper in the Atlanta suburb where Fulton Science Academy (a Gulen charter school) is located, published a letter from what they termed a "parent" of the school in Dec 2011.
The newspaper failed to disclose that this "parent" is also officially working for the school. The website of Fulton County Schools (accessed Jan 2011) lists her as "Student Records Coordinator" for Fulton Science Academy for the 2011-12 school year.
A letter in support of a school takes on a very different significance when it comes from a school employee rather than someone who is only a "parent."
Case 5. Turkish school founder and principal "became impassioned" about improving US math and science education; within 1 year he was back in Turkey, his charter school stint not even listed on his CV
A Nov 26, 2009 article in the Sacramento News & Review is a case study in Gulenist manipulation. The article features Yavuz Bayam, the founder and principal at Pacific Technology School (PTS), a Gulen charter school in California. He is said to have come up with the idea of starting a charter school while still a doctoral student at UC Davis. It is not mentioned that Bayam was simultaneously a doctoral student at Sakarya University in Turkey. Further, if Bayam's CV is to be believed, during the entire period when he was principal of PTS, he remained a 'visiting researcher" at UC Davis. The article depicts Bayam as deeply concerned about the United States' standing in the world, and quotes him as saying "I may have just been a Ph.D. student with no money, but I had to do something.” He is portrayed as a dedicated principal who thinks of his school as his "family." Anyone reading this would get the impression that Bayam intended to make the U.S. his new, permanent home, and that K-12 education was going to be his calling. Yet only 1 year after the newspaper article, Mr. Bayam was back in Turkey, at a faculty position at Gediz University, where he remains as of March 2012. As for his stint at the PTS charter school, he did not even have it listed on his CV at the Gediz website (accessed in early 2012).
The article states that Yavuz Bayam "hails from India." It is unclear what this refers to, as Bayam's name is unequivocally Turkish, his CV shows him as being affiliated with Sakarya University from 1998-2009, and prior to his visit at UC Davis from 2006-2010 he visited Arizona State University from 2005-2006. There is nothing on his CV to suggest any tie to India.
The wording of the article suggests Bayam just happened by luck to stumble upon the Magnolia Education and Research Foundation as he was searching for ways to start his school. In fact Bayam had a deep involvement with Magnolia. Documents dated Jan and April 2008 show Yavuz Bayam as a member of the Board of Directors of the Dialog Foundation as it petitioned to start new branches of the Magnolia Science Academy. Board meeting minutes of the Dialog Foundation dated Jan 10, 2008 show Bayam as a fully active board member voting on policies. Yet when the time came to petition for the Pacific Technology School, Bayam spoke before the board of education only as a "visiting scholar at UC Davis," not as a Magnolia board member.
A further example of Bayam's flexible identity can be found in the blog entries of a professor at the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. There, Bayam, who acted as a tour guide on a Gulenist Turkey trip (despite "hailing from India") in May 2009, is described as "finishing up his PhD in the sciences.....He’d already been hired to be the principal of a charter school in Sacramento dedicated to science and technology, but was defending his dissertation immediately after our tour." There is no way to reconcile Bayam being "hired" as principal with the Sacramento News & Review's story where he plays the role of passionate school founder. Did he hire himself?
Case 6: "Turkish Americans"?
In a Sep 2011 Huffington Post column, Michael Shank of George Mason University wrote "Now, targeted discrimination aimed at the Turkish American community is centering on a Turkish educational effort." Later in the column, Shank made it clear that he was referring to "the schools started by Turkish-American Fethullah Gulen." Gulen is a permanent US resident but not a citizen. Nevertheless, it might make sense to call him a Turkish-American if he were committed to staying in the US. However, in recent writings Gulen has lamented his inability to return to Turkey (he does not explain why he cannot return, as there are no legal obstacles). Even more questionable is the labeling of Gulen's followers who are working in US charter schools as "Turkish Americans." Many of them are here on H-1B visas, and return to Turkey after several years. A long list of Gulenists who were founders or otherwise involved in charter schools and who later left the US can be found on this page.
The Huffington Post failed to disclose a key piece of information in connection with this column: George Mason University received a multi-million-dollar grant from Turkish businessman Ali Vural Ak to found a center for Global Islamic Studies. The inaugural address was given by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who was a close ally of Gulen's for many years.
Case 7. Indiana Math and Science Academy has a "100% graduation rate" even though only 12 out of 40 ninth graders ended up graduating from the school.
On May 3, 2012, the Indianapolis Recorder ran an enthusiastic story about Indiana Math and Science Academy West, a Gulen charter school in Indianapolis. The story began: "The Class of 2012 from Indiana Math and Science Academy West has a lot to celebrate. In addition to being the inaugural graduating class of their school, they boast a 100 percent graduation rate, and 100 percent college acceptance."
Yet as the following graph shows, of 40 students in 9th grade in the 2008-09 school year, only 12 ended up graduating in 2011-12. How exactly does that translate into a "100% graduation rate"?
Case 8. Chesapeake Science Point is not selective. Chesapeake Science Point is selective. So which is it?
The Baltimore Sun's Aug 20, 2010 article on Chesapeake Science Point, a Gulen charter school in Maryland, stated that: "In some ways, he [Principal Fatih Kandil] says, CSP is a controlled experiment in education. Because students are admitted by lottery, not merit, he believes his student body represents the same sort of cross section of the population that any public school does......'It's never the kids. It's the experience they're offered,' he says."
On Dec 29, 2011, the Baltimore Sun again ran an article on Chesapeake Science Point, quoting governing board president Spear Lancaster as saying: "We're going to specialize in trying to attract students that are academically and goal oriented and to keep it to high standards."
These two statements are in complete contradiction with each other.
Case 9: College prep and 100% college acceptance when there isn't even a 12th grade?
On Oct 27, 2011 the Milwaukee Community Journal published an article about an opening ceremony for Milwaukee Math and Science Academy. The article states that "This past Wednesday the official ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on the school’s front steps, celebrating not only the opening of Wisconsin’s first Concept School, but also the anticipated success of the school in its first year." How a school in October, only a couple of months into the school year, could already be celebrating its "anticipated success" is in itself a good question. The article then continues: "Concept Schools have now grown to manage 27 charter schools in seven different states....All schools implement the same model, which is college prep..... all schools have a 100% college acceptance rate."
Of the 27 schools mentioned, only 7 had a twelfth grade in the 2010-11 school year. To say that "all schools have a 100% college acceptance rate" is therefore completely misleading.
Case 10: Maine newspaper reprints governor's statement about Turkish economy without noticing it is erroneous
The Kennebec Journal ran a piece on April 4, 2012 about a Turkish Cultural Day celebration organized at the Maine State House. The event was organized by the Council of Turkish American Associations and the Turkish Cultural Center of Maine, both members of the Gulenist umbrella organization Turkic American Alliance. The article states that "Lepage [Maine's governor] said Turkey's economy is the sixth largest in the world, making them a strong competitor in today's global economy." The newspaper did not note that this statement is quite erroneous; in actuality Turkey ranks around #17 or #18 (depending on which source is used) among the world's economies. Gulenists are well-known for exaggerating the importance of Turkey's economy; for example the website of NOWTA, a Gulenist organization in Washington, when accessed in early 2012, was found to contain 2 erroneous, exaggerated statements: (1) "Turkish economy sustained strong economic growth for 27 quarters consecutively, making it one of the fastest growing economies in Europe." and (2) "Turkey has a sustainable economic growth and shows 7% annual average real GDP increase for the last 6 years." Data from the OECD easily show that neither of these claims were accurate as of early 2012.
Case 11. Houston newspaper says Harmony School of Excellence has a 12:1 student/teacher ratio. Texas state data says it has 17:1.
On March 22, 2011, a Houston Chronicle piece entitled "Charter schools establish their niche in Houston," closing with some lines about Harmony School of Excellence (Houston). "That's something that really appeals to Anna Irwin, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Harmony School of Excellence, which has a 12:1 student/teacher ratio. 'Teachers take their time to get to know you,' said Irwin...."
Strangely, the Texas AEIS report (school report card) for Harmony School of Excellence for 2009-10, which at the time the article was written was easily accessible to the general public at the Texas Education Agency website, stated "number of students per teacher...17." The 2010-11 report, which came out later in 2011, showed 17.4 students per teacher. The Texas state averages were 14.0 and 14.7, for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years, respectively.
(This page is an ongoing project; further cases will be added in the future.)