Paper:Â SubmittedÂ byÂ Dr.Â BarbaraÂ S.Â Boyd,Â Religious Studies Program,Â UniversityÂ ofÂ Oklahoma,Â Fall,Â 2006.Â A Comparison: TheÂ Wisdom ofÂ FethullahÂ GulenÂ andÂ theÂ TruthÂ ofÂ ParkerÂ PalmerÂ âEnlightenedÂ EducationÂ asÂ theÂ KeyÂ toÂ GlobalÂ Transformationâ
MostÂ of the organizationsÂ and institutionsÂ thatÂ propose toÂ work forÂ peace and economicÂ stability have come toÂ the commonÂ conclusion that education isÂ the solutionÂ toÂ strife and poverty.Â NoÂ longerÂ isÂ political prowess orÂ religiousÂ devotionÂ perceived as entirely successful orÂ evenÂ necessarily helpful toÂ resolvingÂ the very realÂ humanÂ dilemmasÂ thatÂ beleaguerÂ the planetÂ today.Â While social actionÂ isÂ notÂ withoutÂ meritÂ and political negotiationsÂ remainÂ imperative toÂ ceasefireÂ possibilities,Â longrange hope and help liesÂ inÂ the importance of educating our youthÂ toÂ aÂ future whereÂ solutionsÂ doÂ notÂ reside inÂ the practice of violence.Â ItÂ could be appropriately stated thatÂ the bestÂ environmentÂ forÂ transformationÂ residesÂ inÂ the realmÂ of education.Â
TwoÂ particular educatorsÂ provide provocative contemporary modelsÂ withÂ the potentialÂ toÂ inspire transformation forÂ our very uncertainÂ future.Â FethullahÂ Gulen,Â TurkishÂ thinkerÂ and spiritualÂ teacher,Â isÂ theÂ source of oneÂ of the worldâsÂ more creative educational movementsÂ occurring today.Â ParkerÂ Palmer,Â American educatorÂ andÂ spiritualÂ provocateur,Â offersÂ one of the moreÂ inspiringÂ modelsÂ of education inÂ America.Â These twoÂ intellectualÂ and spiritualÂ leadersÂ bring aÂ vigorousÂ challenge and surprising hope toÂ the discourse onÂ whatÂ mustÂ be done toÂ create aÂ world where humanÂ life isÂ more thanÂ anÂ exercise inÂ survival.Â ThisÂ paperÂ will compareÂ the modelsÂ of GulenÂ and Palmer,Â illustrating where theyÂ make contactÂ andÂ where they differ.Â TheÂ paperÂ will conclude withÂ aÂ discussion of the wellspring they share inÂ common,Â providing aÂ touchstoneÂ forÂ future experimentsÂ inÂ education alongÂ withÂ aÂ transparentÂ vision of transformation forÂ the humanÂ family.Â ThisÂ paperÂ offersÂ aÂ critique of bothÂ educational modelsÂ since any endeavor toÂ provide aÂ perfectÂ model for humanÂ enlightenment will inevitably be limited.
GulenâsÂ EducationalÂ ModelÂ
TheÂ GulenÂ model of educationÂ isÂ spreadingÂ somewhatÂ like aÂ wildfireÂ around the world,Â withÂ schoolsÂ opening withÂ astonishing frequency inÂ Turkey,Â Africa,Â SouthÂ America,Â Albania, PhilippiansÂ islands, Central Asia and elsewhere.Â These schoolsÂ are founded onÂ whatÂ GulenÂ considersÂ âuniversalÂ principlesâÂ whichÂ heÂ believesÂ are atÂ the heart of Islam,Â althoughÂ IslamÂ isÂ notÂ directly taught inÂ the schools. Children of any race orÂ creed orÂ religionÂ may be the recipientsÂ of the education inÂ these schoolsÂ while âthe teachersÂ areÂ piousÂ MuslimsÂ withÂ aÂ firmly IslamicÂ nationalÂ identity servingÂ asÂ theÂ basisÂ forÂ theirÂ tolerance.âÂ (Agai,Â p.Â 65) (While currently there are teachersÂ inÂ these schools whoÂ are notÂ Muslim,Â the dominate persuasionÂ of the teachersÂ isÂ Islamic.)Â
AsÂ oneÂ whoÂ hasÂ visited severalÂ of the GulenÂ schoolsÂ inÂ Turkey,Â itÂ isÂ clearÂ toÂ me thatÂ aÂ highÂ ethicalÂ standardÂ forÂ the teachersÂ andÂ theÂ classroomÂ setting isÂ of paramountÂ importance.Â AÂ superiorÂ education isÂ the intended goal.Â The educationÂ inÂ the GulenÂ schoolsÂ isÂ modernÂ (scientific).Â This extraordinarily excellent, and ethically focused educationÂ is couched inÂ aÂ milieuÂ of whatÂ isÂ called by GulenÂ âuniversal valuesâ,Â suchÂ thatÂ studentsÂ departÂ fromÂ the systemÂ as ratherÂ extraordinary humanÂ beings, committed toÂ suchÂ valuesÂ as hard work,Â honesty,Â humility,Â tolerance,Â compassion andÂ service toÂ the globalÂ community.Â
TheÂ success of the GulenÂ schoolsÂ dependsÂ uponÂ the manÂ whose vision forÂ planetary harmony guidesÂ thisÂ academicÂ enterprise.Â FethullahÂ Gulen,Â whoÂ could easily be labeled aÂ âsocially consciousÂ Sufi,âÂ holdsÂ thatÂ education isÂ firstÂ aÂ mode of âselfreformâÂ thatÂ leadsÂ secondly toÂ reforming orÂ transformingÂ oneâsÂ social and culturalÂ contexts. WhatÂ makesÂ theÂ GulenÂ model unique andÂ therefore givesÂ itÂ the potency toÂ actually fomentÂ socialÂ andÂ globalÂ change isÂ the commitmentÂ toÂ anÂ âinteriorÂ formationâ.Â InÂ anÂ articleÂ writtenÂ aboutÂ the GulenÂ schools, ThomasÂ Michel interpretsÂ GulenÂ asÂ believing thatÂ âanÂ educatorÂ isÂ oneÂ whoÂ has the ability toÂ assistÂ inÂ theÂ emergence of the studentsâ personalities,Â whoÂ fostersÂ thoughtÂ and reflection,Â whoÂ buildsÂ characterÂ and enablesÂ students toÂ [interiorize]Â qualitiesÂ of selfdiscipline, tolerance and aÂ sense of mission.Â (Michel,Â p.Â 75)Â Thus, if thisÂ were translated intoÂ GulenâsÂ thinkingÂ on education,Â itÂ could be saidÂ thatÂ the GulenÂ model isÂ oneÂ of interiorÂ (orÂ spiritual) organizationÂ forÂ the purpose of exteriorÂ (orÂ ethical)Â manifestation inÂ the modernÂ setting.Â ItÂ isÂ the task of the teacherÂ toÂ nurtureÂ theÂ studentÂ inÂ suchÂ aÂ way asÂ toÂ encourage said studentÂ toÂ graduate fromÂ anÂ internal mode of learningÂ toÂ anÂ externalÂ mode of servingÂ inÂ the world.Â NotÂ only doesÂ thisÂ explanation fitÂ soundly withÂ Sufi ideals,Â asÂ aÂ mystical formÂ of Islam, itÂ alsoÂ representsÂ the lifelong work thatÂ GulenÂ himself has done toÂ challenge aÂ traditionalÂ interpretation andÂ perhapsÂ inchoate image of IslamÂ toÂ the demandsÂ of livingÂ inÂ aÂ modernÂ and nowÂ postmodernÂ world.Â
WithÂ mostÂ intellectuals,Â eachÂ one has aÂ lexiconÂ thatÂ infiltratesÂ theirÂ thoughts,Â writings and verbalÂ expressions. GulenÂ isÂ no different thanÂ any otherÂ inÂ thisÂ pattern.Â His writingsÂ and speechesÂ are laced withÂ the use of key wordsÂ thatÂ revealÂ whatÂ drivesÂ hisÂ thought,Â andÂ therefore whatÂ shapesÂ and formsÂ the schoolsÂ inspired by hisÂ teachings. GulenâsÂ passionate language usesÂ wordsÂ like:Â compassion,Â tolerance,Â faith,Â peaceâand the ubiquitousÂ word âloveâ thatÂ isÂ generously sprinkled throughÂ all of hisÂ teachings.Â FromÂ these critical termsÂ one could derive the ideaÂ thatÂ GulenÂ isÂ concerned withÂ howÂ the interiorÂ life revealsÂ itself inÂ the teacherÂ and the student.Â One isÂ toÂ be quintessentially compassionate and tolerantÂ of others.Â Compassion and tolerance originate essentially fromÂ withinÂ oneâsÂ faith.Â TheÂ manifestation of thisÂ faithÂ inÂ the world isÂ peace,Â which, of course,Â derivesÂ fromÂ compassionÂ and tolerance.Â These fourÂ words formÂ the cornerstone of GulenâsÂ educationalÂ worldview.Â (HisÂ viewsÂ onÂ love will followÂ laterÂ inÂ thisÂ paper.)
Central toÂ GulenâsÂ viewÂ of education isÂ the ideaÂ thatÂ aÂ teacherÂ isÂ toÂ be moreÂ thanÂ aÂ lecturerÂ orÂ imparterÂ of information.Â Rather,Â the teacherÂ isÂ anÂ educator,Â one whoÂ revealsÂ throughÂ hisÂ or herÂ ownÂ selfpresence whoÂ the student isÂ toÂ become.Â While the lessonÂ isÂ critical,Â the âpresenceâ of the oneÂ offeringÂ the lessonÂ isÂ much moreÂ vitalÂ toÂ the outcome.Â GulenâsÂ work states,
âTeachersÂ should knowÂ howÂ toÂ find aÂ way toÂ the studentâsÂ heartÂ and be able toÂ leave indelibleÂ imprintsÂ uponÂ hisÂ orÂ herÂ mind.Â They should testÂ the informationÂ toÂ be passed onÂ toÂ studentsÂ by refining theirÂ ownÂ mindsÂ and the prisms of theirÂ hearts.Â A good lessonÂ isÂ one that doesÂ moreÂ than provide pupilsÂ withÂ usefulÂ informationÂ orÂ skills;Â itÂ should elevate themÂ into the presenceÂ of the unknown.âÂ (Gulen,Â p.Â 209)Â
TheÂ language of thisÂ statementÂ isÂ classicalÂ Gulen,Â butÂ quite unusualÂ toÂ the ordinary world of theÂ classroom,Â atÂ leastÂ inÂ firstÂ world countries. The notionÂ thatÂ aÂ teacherÂ isÂ toÂ instructÂ throughÂ the developmentÂ of hisÂ ownÂ journey inward,Â makingÂ use of the heartÂ asÂ well as the mind,Â isÂ almostÂ anathemaÂ toÂ modernÂ education whereÂ theÂ goal isÂ toÂ urge studentsÂ toward careerÂ andÂ economicÂ advancement,Â regardless of innerÂ turmoil orÂ convictions.Â TheÂ belief thatÂ education isÂ aÂ matterÂ of the heartÂ alongÂ withÂ intense instructionÂ inÂ the sciencesÂ isÂ anÂ anomalousÂ conceptÂ toÂ theÂ educationalÂ world withÂ whichÂ mostÂ of us, atÂ leastÂ inÂ America, areÂ familiar.Â Yet,Â thisÂ seemsÂ toÂ be theÂ âsecretâ,Â if there isÂ one,Â toÂ theÂ GulenÂ schools. PerhapsÂ itÂ boilsÂ downÂ toÂ one statementÂ inÂ particular attributed toÂ Gulen: âInÂ essence,Â aÂ school isÂ aÂ kindÂ of place of worship;Â the âholy leadersâ are the teachers.âÂ (Gulen,Â p.Â 208)Â
CriticismÂ of the GulenÂ movementÂ rangesÂ fromÂ chargingÂ himÂ withÂ workingÂ toÂ make IslamÂ theÂ door throughÂ whichÂ education mustÂ passÂ toÂ be authentic, toÂ the particularÂ accusation thatÂ he wishesÂ toÂ overthrowÂ theÂ secular TurkishÂ governmentÂ and establishÂ aÂ state religion.Â ProponentsÂ of GulenÂ ardently deny these chargesÂ levied againstÂ theirÂ spiritualÂ guru,Â butÂ suspicionÂ remainsÂ high,Â especially inÂ the intelligentsiaÂ of the secular population.*Â Proof of intentionsÂ andÂ motivesÂ will come only throughÂ theÂ passage of time andÂ the infusionÂ of young scholars, businessÂ menÂ and professionalÂ womenÂ into the world of dialogue necessary toÂ mark the GulenÂ movementÂ as authentic.Â Since the GulenÂ movementÂ isÂ notÂ by nature centralized,Â the productÂ of the GulenÂ schoolsâthe studentsÂ themselveswill necessarily be the leavenÂ inÂ the broader,Â globalÂ process of transformationÂ soughtÂ by thisÂ movement.Â ItÂ isÂ still tooÂ soonÂ toÂ tell.Â
WhatÂ doesÂ seemÂ toÂ be the case,Â despite the lack of evidence forÂ success atÂ thisÂ stage of the process, isÂ thatÂ those whoÂ have beenÂ exposed toÂ these astonishing schoolsÂ doÂ seemÂ toÂ offerÂ aÂ ratherÂ similarÂ report:Â these schoolsÂ produce unusualÂ students.Â IÂ rememberÂ quite clearly visitingÂ aÂ GulenÂ school inÂ Istanbul whereÂ theÂ childrenmiddle school ageâgathered around me toÂ ply me withÂ questions,Â inÂ English noÂ less. TheyÂ were lively,Â noisy, bright, friendly students,Â anxiousÂ toÂ showÂ me theirÂ classrooms, demonstrate theirÂ skillsÂ inÂ my language and share withÂ me theÂ awardsÂ their school had won.Â IÂ felt noÂ sense of
*While this isÂ anecdotalÂ evidence,Â IÂ had a ratherÂ extensive conversationÂ with TurkishÂ Nobel Prize Winner,Â OrhanÂ Pamuk,Â aboutÂ the GulenÂ movement and he indicated aÂ ratherÂ severeÂ negative reactionÂ toÂ the movement.Â IÂ have likewise spokenÂ withÂ severalÂ personsÂ fromÂ Turkey whoÂ reside hereÂ inÂ the United StatesÂ and whoÂ findÂ themselvesÂ opposed to GulenÂ and hisÂ movement.Â
furtiveness amongÂ themÂ orÂ theirÂ teachers;Â ratherÂ aÂ healthy inquisitivenessÂ toward the visitor inÂ theirÂ midst. FemalesÂ equaled malesÂ inÂ numbers,Â bothÂ inÂ staff and students. ClassroomsÂ wereÂ adorned withÂ the latestÂ equipment and the schoolsÂ wereÂ impeccably clean.Â TheÂ overall atmosphereÂ was oneÂ of enthusiasm,Â academicÂ rigorÂ and moral excellence.Â
WhenÂ I metÂ withÂ a principalÂ of one of the schoolsÂ later inÂ the week atÂ aÂ dinnerÂ withÂ sponsors*Â of the schools, IÂ asked himÂ pointÂ blank, âWhy areÂ the studentsÂ and teachersÂ inÂ these schoolsÂ suchÂ amazingÂ people?Â Do youÂ teachÂ ethics inÂ the classroom?â HisÂ response was,Â atÂ first,Â a slow deep smile.Â Then he responded quietly,Â âWe doÂ notÂ teach ethics; our teachersÂ areÂ whatÂ they teachâhumble,Â tolerant,Â compassionate,Â intelligent.âÂ InÂ thisÂ simpleÂ answerÂ wasÂ born thisÂ paper: the GulenÂ schoolsÂ selectÂ teachersÂ whoÂ themselvesÂ are pious, devoted,Â spiritual,Â intelligent,Â humble humanÂ beingsÂ whoÂ impartÂ their selfwisdomÂ toÂ theirÂ studentsÂ throughÂ the way they are,Â ratherÂ thanÂ whatÂ theyÂ say.Â AsÂ the studentsÂ areÂ nurtured inÂ thisÂ environmentÂ of compassion andÂ tolerance,Â they become aware,Â globalÂ citizens, capable of impacting theirÂ environmentÂ andÂ theirÂ future.Â AÂ statementÂ fromÂ GulenÂ describesÂ itÂ best,Â âTheÂ permanence of aÂ nation dependsÂ uponÂ the educationÂ of itsÂ people,Â uponÂ their livesÂ beingÂ guided toÂ spiritualÂ perfection.Â If nationsÂ have notÂ beenÂ able toÂ bring upÂ wellrounded generationsÂ toÂ whomÂ they canÂ entrustÂ the future,Â thenÂ theirÂ future will be dark.âÂ (Gulen,Â 56)
One insightÂ intoÂ the GulenÂ schoolsÂ thatÂ would,Â inÂ America,Â be considered a
*SponsorsÂ areÂ those persons who affirmÂ the buildingÂ of schoolsÂ and whoÂ support the GulenÂ movementÂ withÂ theirÂ financialÂ resourcesÂ and professionalÂ efforts.Â
critique,Â while inÂ Turkey mightÂ be considered dangerousÂ isÂ theÂ communalÂ nature of the schoolsÂ and the movement.Â While the GulenÂ movementÂ itself isÂ notÂ rigidly centralized,Â because itÂ isÂ grounded inÂ IslamÂ and the TurkishÂ OttomanÂ tradition,Â itÂ is, by itsÂ very nature, communal.Â Some mightÂ evenÂ argueÂ thatÂ the GulenÂ movementÂ is collectivist.Â InÂ otherÂ words, the studentsÂ areÂ urged to think communally orÂ collectively because they are encouraged throughÂ IslamicÂ principlesÂ toward cooperative service toÂ humankind.Â GulenâsÂ SufismÂ is, by default,Â oriented toÂ humanitarianÂ service withÂ all of oneâsÂ life resources.Â
TheÂ movementÂ hasÂ embedded withinÂ itsÂ very structureÂ the ideaÂ thatÂ once youÂ have beenÂ served as aÂ student,Â youÂ move intoÂ the world toÂ serve others.Â Thus, theÂ movementÂ createsÂ aÂ formÂ of âcommunitarianismâÂ by itsÂ intrinsicÂ IslamicÂ commitmentsÂ and globalÂ orientation.Â GulenÂ says,Â âNowÂ thatÂ we live inÂ aÂ global village,Â educationÂ isÂ the bestÂ way toÂ serve humanity and toÂ establishÂ aÂ dialogue withÂ otherÂ civilizations.âÂ (Gulen,Â p.198).Â InÂ otherÂ words, GulenÂ himself understands thatÂ the outcome of education isÂ to serve others,Â notÂ justÂ toÂ serve selfinterests. ItÂ follows,Â therefore,Â thatÂ the premise onÂ whichÂ the teachersÂ areÂ hired and the studentsÂ areÂ taughtÂ isÂ thatÂ aÂ spiritualÂ orientation isÂ the firstÂ orderÂ of business. InÂ orderÂ toÂ serve others,Â oneÂ mustÂ have aÂ spiritualÂ orientation thatÂ offersÂ aÂ link toÂ humanity.Â IslamicÂ spirituality underÂ girds the GulenÂ model of educationÂ thatÂ isÂ made explicitÂ throughÂ the teaching of the sciencesÂ and a concrete ethicalÂ educationÂ toÂ serve civicÂ life and manifestÂ peace inÂ the world.Â The GulenÂ schoolsÂ educate inÂ orderÂ to create aÂ betterÂ world forÂ everyone;Â notÂ justÂ forÂ the benefitÂ of the studentÂ alone.Â ThisÂ goal isÂ intentional andÂ visible.
PalmerâsÂ ModelÂ ofÂ EducationÂ
ComparingÂ the GulenÂ model to the model of educationÂ offered by ParkerÂ PalmerÂ is not anÂ easyÂ task.Â While there areÂ quite distinctÂ differences, these twoÂ educatorsÂ may have more inÂ commonÂ thanÂ noticed atÂ firstÂ glance.Â PalmerâsÂ model of education hasÂ risenÂ fromÂ hisÂ yearsÂ as aÂ classroomÂ teacherÂ himself.Â HisÂ failuresÂ and hisÂ successesÂ withÂ studentsÂ have honed hisÂ understanding of the uniqueÂ and particular relationshipsÂ betweenÂ teacherÂ andÂ student,Â knowledge and classroomÂ setting.Â Palmerâs educational theory is shaped profoundly by American orÂ westernÂ culture,Â justÂ asÂ GulenâsÂ model of education is shaped by the easternÂ culture of Turkey and the impactÂ of Islam.Â PalmerâsÂ ideaÂ of educationÂ isÂ heavily influenced by aÂ model of individualÂ growthÂ and aÂ spiritÂ of truthÂ seeking,Â which isÂ theÂ underbelly of the American ethos.Â The contextÂ forÂ eachÂ of these educationalÂ models cannot be separated fromÂ the culturesÂ andÂ socialÂ structuresÂ inÂ whichÂ they arose.Â
JustÂ asÂ the GulenÂ educationalÂ movementÂ isÂ influenced by Sufism,Â soÂ PalmerâsÂ educationalÂ theory isÂ shaped by Christianity.Â AlthoughÂ PalmerÂ clearly separatesÂ explicitÂ ChristianÂ religionÂ fromÂ hisÂ educationalÂ theories, heÂ does notÂ hide the importance of ChristianÂ spirituality inÂ hisÂ work.Â HisÂ book âToÂ KnowÂ AsÂ We Are Knownâ comesÂ close toÂ being aÂ âconfessionâÂ of the role of Christianity withinÂ theÂ educational arena, fromÂ the use of sacred texts,Â toÂ prayer,Â toÂ silence,Â toÂ perceivingÂ educationÂ asÂ aÂ formÂ of spiritualÂ development.Â AtÂ thisÂ level,Â he and GulenÂ areÂ probably notÂ tooÂ farÂ apartÂ inÂ theirÂ convictionÂ thatÂ the spiritualÂ influence of oneâsÂ personal faithÂ isÂ intrinsicÂ toÂ the way inÂ whichÂ theyÂ believe studentsÂ should be taught,Â teachersÂ should be trained andÂ classrooms should be managed.Â
TheÂ difference betweenÂ these twoÂ spiritualÂ gurusÂ isÂ this:Â GulenâsÂ model originatesÂ withÂ whatÂ liesÂ inside the teacherÂ thatÂ canÂ be translated to the interiorÂ spiritualÂ self of the student.
TheÂ teacherÂ isÂ aÂ model forÂ the self,Â soÂ toÂ speak.Â Thus,Â the teacherÂ isÂ the focalÂ pointÂ of the GulenÂ model.Â ThisÂ method producesÂ betterÂ humans, soÂ saysÂ Gulen,Â and helpsÂ toÂ create aÂ moreÂ humane world.Â InÂ aÂ differentÂ fashion,Â PalmerâsÂ model focusesÂ onÂ whatÂ liesÂ inÂ the educationalÂ environment,Â orÂ external setting,Â thatÂ createsÂ anÂ urge inÂ the studentÂ toÂ goÂ forth and serve humanity.Â PalmerÂ statesÂ thatÂ theÂ sacred textsÂ of the past,Â inÂ particularÂ the ChristianÂ sacred texts,Â are critical toÂ understandingÂ whatÂ traditionÂ has toÂ offerÂ inÂ the classroom.Â PalmerâsÂ model alsoÂ includesÂ the importance of treatingÂ school textsÂ asÂ thoughÂ theyÂ areÂ âsacred textsâÂ because these booksÂ imprintÂ studentsÂ withÂ imagesÂ of the self and world.Â
Likewise,Â PalmerâsÂ model forÂ educationÂ includesÂ the influence andÂ importance of prayerÂ as aÂ way toÂ helpÂ studentsÂ âsee throughÂ and beyondÂ the appearance of things,Â toÂ penetrate the surface and touchÂ thatÂ whichÂ liesÂ beneath.â (Palmer,Â p.Â 19) ThisÂ educatorÂ doesÂ notÂ see prayerÂ as belongingÂ only toÂ theÂ spiritualÂ orÂ religious institution,Â but also as aÂ practicalÂ resource available withinÂ secularÂ education.Â He isÂ notÂ advocatingÂ formalÂ prayerÂ rituals,Â fromÂ Christianity,Â or any otherÂ religiousÂ tradition.Â ThisÂ would be absurd inÂ the AmericanÂ setting of separation of church and state.Â ButÂ he doesÂ believe thatÂ the classroomÂ isÂ aÂ place where aÂ prayerful attitude carefully constructed by the teacherÂ canÂ help studentsÂ notÂ only toÂ learn,Â butÂ toÂ thrive.Â InÂ PalmerâsÂ words,
âToÂ goÂ beyond appearances,Â educationÂ reliesÂ onÂ factÂ and reason,Â onÂ the capacity of scienceÂ toÂ dissectÂ the worldÂ intoÂ itsÂ componentÂ parts.Â PrayerÂ andÂ analysis doÂ notÂ end up at the sameÂ point;Â whereÂ analysis aimsÂ atÂ breaking the worldÂ intoÂ itsÂ elements,Â prayerÂ aimsÂ atÂ seeing beyond the elementsÂ intoÂ theirÂ underlying relatedness.Â ButÂ bothÂ prayerÂ andÂ analysis seek toÂ make the worldÂ transparent.âÂ (Palmer,Â 19)Â
InÂ otherÂ words,Â PalmerÂ believesÂ thatÂ aÂ sound educationÂ includesÂ all the spiritualÂ toolsÂ available toÂ theÂ teacherÂ fromÂ hisÂ orÂ herÂ faith,Â inÂ hisÂ case ChristianÂ tools,Â alongÂ withÂ the contributionsÂ of science orÂ analysis.Â The heartÂ and mind mustÂ bothÂ be engaged inÂ theÂ disciplineÂ of education.Â AÂ prayerful attitude createsÂ the contextÂ forÂ learning;Â analysisÂ isÂ the purpose forÂ the educational encounter.Â
TheÂ distinction betweenÂ PalmerÂ andÂ GulenÂ atÂ thisÂ pointÂ isÂ thatÂ the GulenÂ schoolsÂ are careful notÂ toÂ propose muchÂ less employ eitherÂ overtÂ orÂ covertÂ religiousÂ practicesÂ inÂ the classroom.Â Palmer,Â onÂ the otherÂ hand,Â makesÂ noÂ apologyÂ forÂ utilizingÂ spiritualÂ toolsÂ inÂ the classroomÂ setting inÂ orderÂ toÂ be aÂ betterÂ teacher.Â He, like ChrisÂ Anderson,Â author of âTeaching as Believing,âÂ understandsÂ thatÂ the foundationÂ of the university systemÂ inÂ the westÂ was religious,Â and inÂ particular,Â Christian.Â Thus, hisÂ methodÂ forÂ interactionÂ with the studentÂ beginsÂ withÂ the appropriation of external influencesÂ thatÂ directly confrontÂ the student,Â callingÂ forÂ change inÂ theÂ studentâsÂ selfperception.Â Palmerâs methodologyÂ alsoÂ demandsÂ thatÂ the teacherÂ reconfigure herÂ ownÂ selfperceptionÂ of whatÂ itÂ meansÂ toÂ be aÂ teacher: one whoÂ isÂ guide,Â mentorÂ andÂ friend.Â ThisÂ model boldly challengesÂ theÂ objectivistÂ formÂ of educationÂ thatÂ setsÂ up the teacherÂ toÂ be the authority figure andÂ life coach.
Like Gulen,Â ParkerÂ PalmerÂ has aÂ lexiconÂ thatÂ isÂ quite visibleÂ inÂ hisÂ writings.Â WordsÂ like truth,Â obedience,Â openness, and hospitality permeate hisÂ works. And alsoÂ like Gulen,Â the word âloveâÂ isÂ soÂ fundamentalÂ toÂ hisÂ writingsÂ thatÂ itÂ isÂ nearly impossible toÂ create anÂ index onÂ the word.Â ForÂ PalmerÂ the word âtruthâ isÂ oneÂ of the weightbearing wordsÂ inÂ hisÂ theory.Â Since hisÂ background forÂ the conceptÂ of hisÂ searchÂ forÂ âtruthâÂ is Christian,Â one should notÂ be surprised atÂ thisÂ choice of elementalÂ words. Christianity has long beenÂ plagued by itsÂ incessantÂ urgency toÂ locate the ultimate and finalÂ truth.Â ForÂ Palmer,Â however,Â the searchÂ forÂ truthÂ doesÂ notÂ dwell inÂ whatÂ the teacherÂ inherently knows,Â whatÂ the studentÂ mightÂ learnÂ orÂ evenÂ whatÂ mysteries mightÂ reside withinÂ theÂ âsacred textsâÂ thatÂ areÂ available forÂ study.Â Rather,Â forÂ PalmerÂ atÂ the center of the âcommunity of truth,â as he namesÂ the classroom,Â is the subjectÂ matterÂ toÂ be studied.Â ThisÂ subjectÂ matter,Â however,Â isÂ notÂ an objectified topicÂ toÂ be dissected andÂ memorized.Â Instead,Â thisÂ community of truthÂ gathersâmuchÂ like aÂ spiritualÂ community mightÂ around thatÂ whichÂ holdsÂ the group togetherâthe OthernessÂ withinÂ the classroom:Â the âOtherâÂ thatÂ causesÂ bothÂ studentÂ andÂ teacherÂ toÂ be learners,Â namely,Â the Unknown.Â ForÂ studentsÂ toÂ understand the importance of thisÂ âotherâ doesÂ rely onÂ the effectiveness of the teacher.Â âTheÂ studentsÂ mustÂ knowÂ why the teacherÂ valuesÂ the subject,Â howÂ the subjectÂ hasÂ transformed the teacherâsÂ life.âÂ (Palmer,Â p.Â 104) TheÂ teacherÂ inÂ thisÂ model,Â however,Â isÂ notÂ theÂ focus of the exercise of education,Â butÂ likewise aÂ participantÂ withÂ theÂ studentsÂ inÂ the discovery of truth.Â
According toÂ Palmer,Â whenÂ the classroomÂ becomesÂ the place where the focusÂ isÂ neitherÂ onÂ the studentÂ orÂ the teacher,Â butÂ ratherÂ uponÂ thatÂ whichÂ bindsÂ themÂ togetherthe mutualÂ searchÂ forÂ truthâanÂ authenticÂ education isÂ underway.Â This, forÂ Palmer,Â isÂ aÂ spiritualÂ tool thatÂ truly reformsÂ learningÂ and humanity.Â The firstÂ place the studentÂ experiencesÂ the value of shared learning and mutualÂ respectÂ isÂ inÂ the classroom.Â ThisÂ translatesÂ toÂ the world,Â PalmerÂ believes, inÂ service toÂ others. âTruth isÂ betweenÂ us, inÂ relationship,Â toÂ be foundÂ inÂ the dialogueÂ of the knowersÂ and the knownsÂ whoÂ areÂ understood asÂ independentÂ butÂ accountable selves.â (Palmer,Â p. 55)Â While thisÂ method has the same validity inÂ itsÂ ownÂ contextÂ as doesÂ Gulenâs model inÂ Turkey,Â PalmerâsÂ model isÂ quite different.Â The educational âsecretâ isÂ found inÂ the spiritualÂ resourcesÂ whichÂ initiate the classroom learningÂ environmentÂ and nurture the individual self.Â ClassroomÂ relationshipsÂ become the contextÂ forÂ creating anÂ air of hospitality,Â which, inÂ turn,Â manifestsÂ aÂ humaneÂ framework forÂ education.Â StudentsÂ andÂ teachersÂ are onÂ the adventure of growthÂ together,Â notÂ hierarchically,Â and the resultÂ isÂ transformation withinÂ the individual whichÂ isÂ atÂ theÂ heartÂ of westernÂ culture.Â
PalmerâsÂ educational model leadsÂ toÂ the same outcome asÂ Gulenâs: aÂ globalÂ awarenessÂ of the need toÂ serve humanity and think of others. PalmerÂ states,Â âEducationÂ isÂ moreÂ thanÂ teachingÂ the factsÂ andÂ learning the lessonsÂ inÂ orderÂ toÂ manipulate life towardÂ ourÂ preferred ends. ItÂ meansÂ being drawnÂ intoÂ personal responsivenessÂ and accountability toÂ eachÂ otherÂ and the world of whichÂ we are aÂ part.â(Palmer,Â p.Â 15) Like Gulen,Â he doesÂ notÂ believe thatÂ educationÂ isÂ meantÂ toÂ benefitÂ only the students. Rather,Â PalmerâsÂ viewÂ isÂ thatÂ anÂ education conceived inÂ aÂ community of relationship,Â and truthÂ will lead itsÂ recipientsÂ towardÂ aÂ worldviewÂ thatÂ seeksÂ connectionÂ and transformation. InÂ the following provocative statement,Â heÂ putsÂ forthÂ some of hisÂ mostÂ profound thoughtsÂ aboutÂ hisÂ understandingÂ of education:Â
AtÂ thisÂ crucialÂ momentÂ we have anÂ opportunity toÂ revisionÂ educationÂ asÂ aÂ communalÂ enterpriseâ¦inÂ suchÂ anÂ education,Â intellectÂ and spiritÂ would be one,Â teachersÂ and learnersÂ and subjects would be inÂ vitalÂ community withÂ one another,Â and aÂ worldÂ inÂ need of healing would be wellÂ served.Â (Palmer,Â p.Â xix)
TheÂ Point ofÂ Contact
ItÂ isÂ importantÂ toÂ note thatÂ whatÂ these twoÂ menÂ have mostÂ closely inÂ commonÂ inÂ termsÂ of theirÂ commitmentÂ toÂ education isÂ anÂ idealÂ thatÂ must surely seemÂ anÂ uncomfortable fitÂ inÂ the conventionalÂ learningÂ arena. BothÂ of these scholarsÂ promote the ideaÂ thatÂ love isÂ central toÂ humanÂ life and thusÂ critical toÂ education.Â While love may be anÂ unusual conceptÂ toÂ discussÂ inÂ lightÂ of innovative educationalÂ models,Â itÂ is, nonetheless,Â the foundation uponÂ whichÂ bothÂ GulenÂ andÂ PalmerÂ build theirÂ educational theories. NeitherÂ educatorÂ usesÂ theÂ word as aÂ romanticÂ orÂ sentimentalÂ form of emotion.Â PalmerÂ linksÂ love to knowledge whenÂ he says, âA knowledge thatÂ springsÂ fromÂ love will implicate usÂ in the web of life;Â itÂ will wrap the knowerÂ and theÂ knownÂ inÂ compassion;Â itÂ will call usÂ toÂ involvement,Â mutuality,Â accountability.Â (Palmer,Â
p.Â 9)Â ForÂ Palmer,Â knowing isÂ anÂ actÂ of love.Â ToÂ knowÂ and be knownÂ leadsÂ toÂ compassion,Â which, inÂ turn,Â plantsÂ seedsÂ forÂ community and globalÂ connectedness.Â FromÂ withinÂ hisÂ spiritualÂ traditionÂ of Christianity,Â PalmerÂ understandsÂ the originÂ of knowledge toÂ be love.Â ForÂ Palmer,Â oneÂ mustÂ recognize that hisÂ educationalÂ model thrivesÂ onÂ aÂ heart thatÂ isÂ âknownÂ by the love and truthÂ inÂ whichÂ itÂ was firstÂ formed.âÂ (Palmer, p.Â 108)Â In otherÂ words, hisÂ spiritualÂ understanding of creation and the originsÂ of truthÂ andÂ love setÂ the stage forÂ the educationalÂ experience.Â
InÂ hisÂ book,Â âTowardÂ aÂ Global CivilizationÂ of Love andÂ Toleranceâ GulenÂ isÂ rhapsodicÂ aboutÂ love.Â He says,
Love isÂ anÂ elixir;Â a human livesÂ withÂ love, isÂ made happy by love andÂ makesÂ thoseÂ around himÂ orÂ herÂ happy withÂ love.Â InÂ the vocabulary of humanity,Â love isÂ life;Â we feelÂ andÂ sense eachÂ otherÂ withÂ love. God Almighty hasÂ notÂ created aÂ strongerÂ relationÂ than love,Â thisÂ chainÂ thatÂ bindsÂ humans one toÂ anotherâ¦.We have become soÂ intertwined withÂ love thatÂ ourÂ livesÂ become purely dependentÂ onÂ love;Â and we dedicateÂ ourÂ souls toÂ it.Â WhenÂ we live,Â we live withÂ love,Â and whenÂ we die,Â we dieÂ withÂ love.Â InÂ every breath,Â we feelÂ itÂ withÂ ourÂ whole existence;Â itÂ isÂ ourÂ warmthÂ inÂ the cold,Â and ourÂ oasisÂ inÂ the heat.Â (Gulen,Â p.Â 4)Â
GulenâsÂ viewÂ of love infiltratesÂ every lessonÂ heÂ teachesÂ hisÂ studentsÂ and hisÂ followers. And having met the man myself,Â IÂ amÂ aware that heÂ isÂ one of those rare humansÂ whose presence isÂ aÂ formÂ of embodied love.Â InÂ aÂ conversation withÂ himÂ overÂ dinner,Â IÂ asked himÂ specifically aboutÂ love,Â explainingÂ theÂ fourÂ modesÂ of love promoted by theÂ teacherÂ Jesus. GulenÂ responded quite positively toÂ my question statingÂ thatÂ love isÂ atÂ theÂ vortex of humanÂ life while the teachingsÂ of love inÂ our differentÂ faiths, hisÂ Islam,Â mine Christian,Â are whatÂ guide our understanding and actions.Â InÂ otherÂ words, love,Â toÂ Gulen,Â isÂ notÂ aÂ psychologicalÂ category,Â butÂ ratherÂ aÂ spiritualÂ path.Â One author whoÂ writesÂ onÂ Sufi altruismÂ illustratesÂ perhapsÂ the source of GulenâsÂ palpable sense of love whenÂ heÂ says, âToÂ worshipÂ GodÂ sincerely withÂ undivided attention,Â one mustÂ give up love of all else.âÂ (Homerin,Â p.Â 80)Â Thus, forÂ all the assessmentsÂ of the Gulen educational model that canÂ be made, bothÂ negative and positive,Â the movementÂ cannotÂ be understoodÂ unless one recognizesÂ the ingredientÂ of love thatÂ serves as the unbreakable bondÂ holding itÂ together.Â
ForÂ bothÂ of these teachers,Â aÂ spiritualÂ depthÂ isÂ theÂ bedrock of the model of education they offerÂ the world.Â ThisÂ isÂ theÂ case because only throughÂ spiritualÂ depthÂ doesÂ love arise.Â NoÂ teacherÂ canÂ be considered anÂ educatorÂ withoutÂ spiritualÂ and globalÂ consciousness.Â Global transformation,Â inÂ the eyesÂ of these educationalÂ leaders,Â dependsÂ uponÂ thisÂ proposition.
InÂ conclusion,Â fromÂ studyingÂ andÂ reading these twoÂ teachersÂ IÂ believe IÂ canÂ offerÂ theÂ following critiques:
GulenâsÂ EducationalÂ ModelÂ
1) While the GulenÂ educationalÂ model isÂ exceptional,Â and has the potentialÂ toÂ profoundly influence bothÂ easternÂ and westernÂ cultures,Â IÂ doÂ notÂ believe thatÂ itÂ will take hold in the westÂ in any significantÂ way until the issue of the individualÂ isÂ resolved. The GulenÂ model focusesÂ onÂ the communal aspectÂ of education,Â derivingÂ itsÂ ethicsÂ andÂ practicesÂ fromÂ Islam.Â The GulenÂ movementÂ isÂ highly communal,Â bothÂ inÂ structureÂ and intent.Â Thus,Â while the GulenÂ model offersÂ aÂ muchÂ needed critique of the methodologyÂ of education inÂ AmericaÂ by simply serving as aÂ superiorÂ communalÂ model,Â itÂ alsoÂ seemsÂ toÂ deny orÂ neglectÂ the importance of the individual. Since the psyche of the westÂ isÂ intrinsically organized around the freedomÂ of the individual,Â thisÂ mustÂ be takenÂ intoÂ account if the goal is toÂ shareÂ thisÂ model of educationÂ with the westÂ inÂ any way thatÂ has socialÂ impact.
2) FromÂ aÂ westernÂ vantage point,Â one could alsoÂ offerÂ as aÂ critique of the GulenÂ model thatÂ there isÂ aÂ surreptitiousÂ intentionÂ toÂ implantÂ IslamicÂ idealsÂ and valuesÂ intoÂ theÂ classroomsÂ of all the schools, regardlessÂ of what country housesÂ them.*Â GulenâsÂ argumentÂ isÂ thatÂ the valuesÂ and ethics of IslamÂ are universal,Â butÂ were he toÂ argue thisÂ pointÂ withÂ aÂ JewÂ or aÂ Christian he mightÂ find thatÂ while these AbrahamicÂ faithsÂ could perhapsÂ agree onÂ the ideaÂ of universal values, there could easily be disagreementÂ overÂ whatÂ these valuesÂ are.Â For example,Â GulenâsÂ emphasisÂ onÂ tolerance as aÂ positive value amongÂ TurkishÂ Muslims,Â has come close toÂ beingÂ aÂ negative termÂ withinÂ westernÂ culture,Â especially inÂ the discussion of pluralisticÂ society.Â FromÂ theÂ pluralisticÂ pointÂ of view,Â toÂ be tolerantÂ isÂ toÂ hold minimalÂ and almostÂ indifferentÂ regardÂ forÂ the other.Â
3) TheÂ GulenÂ model of educationÂ requiresÂ aÂ voluminousÂ and magnanimousÂ machine of donorsÂ andÂ supportersÂ behind theÂ scenesÂ toÂ makesÂ thisÂ educationalÂ enterprise viable.Â Again,Â the meansÂ by whichÂ economicÂ structuresÂ work inÂ the JudeoChristianÂ westÂ isÂ notÂ commensurate withÂ the GulenÂ model of financing the schools.Â This, once again,Â isÂ aÂ communalÂ model,Â while the westÂ harborsÂ aÂ distinctive individualisticÂ way of givingÂ and using money.Â While the JudeoChristianÂ culture isÂ intrinsically generous like the IslamicÂ
*For instance,Â inÂ one school we visited inÂ Turkey,Â during aÂ classÂ musicÂ lesson,Â the studentsÂ were singingÂ aÂ song aboutÂ Muhammad.Â
culture,Â private schoolsÂ are financed eitherÂ by corporationsÂ orÂ religiousÂ organizations, notÂ by religiousÂ individualsÂ enÂ mass. InÂ orderÂ forÂ the GulenÂ schoolsÂ toÂ propagate inÂ America withoutÂ unnecessary suspicion inÂ theÂ climate of theÂ 9/11Â fiascoÂ will require careful attentionÂ toÂ the means by whichÂ fundsÂ are raised and dispersed to build and maintain these schools.
PalmerâsÂ EducationalÂ ModelÂ
1) PalmerâsÂ educationalÂ model,Â althoughÂ atÂ oddsÂ evenÂ withÂ the AmericanÂ educationalÂ systemÂ dueÂ toÂ itsÂ spiritualÂ ratherÂ thanÂ secularÂ nature,Â could notÂ thrive inÂ Turkey atÂ all.Â TheÂ use of religiousÂ and spiritualÂ practices,Â howeverÂ disguised,Â would be anathemaÂ inÂ the TurkishÂ publicÂ school system.Â HisÂ model would notÂ likely work inÂ the TurkishÂ GulenÂ schoolsÂ either,Â due toÂ theÂ emphasisÂ onÂ theÂ individualÂ overÂ theÂ community.Â (Because there are noÂ âPalmerÂ schoolsâÂ since his ideasÂ are aÂ philosophy of education and notÂ aÂ movement, itÂ isÂ difficultÂ toÂ study precisely what would happenÂ were PalmerÂ toÂ build schoolsÂ based onÂ hisÂ model.Â Thus,Â noÂ measurable comparisonÂ canÂ be made betweenÂ these twoÂ educational modelsÂ thatÂ canÂ give usÂ information aboutÂ the effectiveness of oneÂ setÂ of schoolsÂ versus theÂ other.)
2) PalmerâsÂ model canÂ be critiqued,Â whenÂ compared toÂ Gulenâs,Â forÂ itsÂ specificÂ lack of attentionÂ toÂ globalization.Â While PalmerâsÂ model isÂ focused onÂ community,Â itÂ doesÂ notÂ extrapolate hisÂ model toÂ asÂ extensive aÂ globalÂ venue as the GulenÂ approachÂ isÂ wontÂ toÂ do.Â Therefore,Â while PalmerÂ isÂ clearly committed toÂ the communalÂ nature of education,Â heÂ doesÂ notÂ attend closely the importance of hisÂ model toÂ itsÂ globalÂ impactÂ orÂ potential.Â
3) Likewise,Â PalmerâsÂ model of education canÂ be critiqued forÂ itsÂ heavy emphasisÂ onÂ the use of ChristianÂ spiritualÂ tools.Â He makesÂ somewhat the same mistake asÂ the GulenÂ model,Â by assuming thatÂ ChristianÂ spiritualÂ tools canÂ be made universal.Â ForÂ aÂ BuddhistÂ student,Â PalmerâsÂ use of prayerÂ orÂ sacred texts, howeverÂ disguised,Â mightÂ be perceived as proselytizing.Â Therefore,Â itÂ mightÂ be wise forÂ PalmerÂ toÂ broadenÂ hisÂ understanding of whatÂ spiritualÂ toolsÂ fromÂ the worldâsÂ religionsÂ could effectively be used inÂ aÂ classroomÂ and be considered inclusive.Â
4) Finally,Â the PalmerÂ model of education centersÂ onÂ several usesÂ of the word âtruth.âÂ He has aÂ deep belief thatÂ educationÂ concernsÂ the searchÂ forÂ truthÂ and thusÂ he believesÂ thatÂ educationÂ canÂ provide atÂ leastÂ some access toÂ truth.Â ThisÂ truth,Â whenÂ found,Â isÂ usually personal althoughÂ the personÂ isÂ thenÂ toÂ apply the truthÂ toÂ the communal setting.Â TheÂ dangerÂ inÂ implementing personal truthsÂ derived fromÂ education isÂ obvious.Â Therefore,Â PalmerÂ could benefitÂ fromÂ the more communalÂ nature of learning universalÂ truths fromÂ the Gulen model,Â justÂ as the Gulen model could benefitÂ fromÂ more individual truthmakingÂ possibility of the PalmerÂ model.Â
InÂ the end,Â bothÂ of these thinkersÂ and educators areÂ critical toÂ the dialogueÂ onÂ education forÂ the futureÂ because they doÂ bring toÂ theÂ table,Â howeverÂ limited,Â anÂ attemptÂ toÂ vision educationÂ thatÂ will create and supportÂ transformationÂ of the humanÂ spiritÂ onÂ aÂ globalÂ level.Â ThisÂ isÂ noÂ small task,Â andÂ thusÂ they are toÂ be commended forÂ theirÂ visionary attemptsÂ atÂ improving education and throughÂ it,Â theÂ humanÂ family.
Anderson,Â Chris.Â Teaching asÂ Believing. BaylorÂ University Press,Â Waco,Â Texas, 2004.Â
Gulen,Â M.Â Fethullah.Â TowardÂ aÂ GlobalÂ CivilizationÂ of Love and Tolerance,Â The Light,Â NewÂ Jersey,Â 2004.Â
Gulen,Â M.Â Fethullah,Â âCriteriaÂ orÂ the LightsÂ of the Wayâ,Â Vol.Â 1.Â London: Truestar,Â p.Â
Neusner,Â Jacob and Chilton,Â Bruce,Â eds.Â AltruismÂ inÂ World Religions. GeorgetownÂ University Press,Â Washington,Â D.C., 2005
Palmer,Â Parker.Â ToÂ KnowÂ as We AreÂ Known: EducationÂ as aÂ SpiritualÂ Journey.Â Harper/ SanÂ Francisco,Â 1993.Â
Palmer,Â Parker.Â TheÂ Courage toÂ Teach.Â JosseyBass, SanÂ Francisco,Â 1998.Â Yavuz,Â M.Â HakanÂ and Esposito,Â JohnÂ L.Â TurkishÂ IslamÂ and theÂ Secular State,Â Syracuse University Press,Â Syracuse,Â NY,Â 2003.