Harmonic Learning: The Congruent Education Models of Fethullah Gülen and James Moffett


The purpose of this paper is to introduce to the Gülen community a kindred spirit, whose work and career complement the innovative achievements in non-denominational education of Fethullah Gülen. The late James Moffett influenced teaching in the English-speaking world by inspiring educators to teach what they knew to be successful but whose efforts were impinged upon by a calcified curriculum that limited development of the whole individual. Moffett’s pedagogy is effective with teachers and students of any language for improving student writing and reading. I compare the seminal ideas of Gülen and Moffett in their efforts to engage students with the domain of knowledge inclusive and beyond the cognitive. The hypothesis underlying the paper is that Moffett’s work in improving reading and writing is congruent with and complementary to Gülen’s mission to foster, enhance, and develop students’ tolerance, attitudes of inclusivity and mutual good will. Moffett shared with Gülen a grave concern that both sectarian education and non-denominational education were failing to provide students an opportunity to develop as fulfilled human beings. The paper enumerates particular methods, devised by Moffett, for teaching reading and writing that improve student learning in every discipline. Though he often taught at leading universities, Moffett never represented any particular school or governmental institution but inspired educators at elementary, secondary, and tertiary levels through his speeches, workshops, and extensive publications. His ideas are congruent with those of Fethuallah Gülen, who also sought an education that developed the whole individual. Ironically, Moffett’s ideas were seminal for the US Federally funded National Writing Project, and, additionally, for California’s Statewide testing program, which he judged fraudulent and refused to accept any financial benefits. Rather, like Gülen’s, the influence of Moffett was driven by educators (not administrators), who experienced in their classrooms the heuristic effectiveness of Moffett’s methods of teaching reading and writing.

Over a century ago H. G. Wells asserted that the planet is in a race between education and oblivion. Yet in Education and Political Development, published in 1965, James S. Coleman and his contributors found that schooling around the world that prepared students essentially in science and law for jobs in bureaucracies would likely add, rather than mitigate, global problems, the main educational goal being to prepare future citizens for a materialistic reality. As predicted, the educational policies of these states during the Cold War led to swelling governmental bureaucracies, funded by foreign loans, which were obtained by playing off the US and the USSR, while discouraging free enterprise that promised jobs to the unemployed. One grave outcome of the negative influence of education was that such schooling transformed populations of illiterate, unemployed, and starving masses into populations of literate, unemployed, and starving masses, a literate population of individuals seething with resentment and devoid of adequately developed spirituality to offset their desire for material acquisition.

During the last half-century, mobility and technology have exacerbated world problems, as environmental, social, and political changes have integrated people economically and socially, a process resulting in individuals struggling with conflicting identities. Kofi Anann, the past General Secretary of the United Nations, recently said, “Many people, particularly in the developing world have come to fear the global village as cultural onslaught and economic drain on their way of life.” World terrorism is but one manifestation.

As eloquently stated in one of the aims of this colloquy, all right-minded people need to respond creatively, to re-double their efforts, to sustain the hope for peaceful co-existence in a world of accelerating change. Fethullah Gülen cogently identified a solution: “Now that we live in a global village, education is the best way to serve humanity and to establish dialogue with other civilizations” (Gülen 2004: 19). Mr. Gülen’s idea of education differs from the ubiquitous factory model of the last century, which has failed to avert much of today’s violence, perpetrated by either individuals or states. He further says,

…each person is a creature made up of feelings that cannot be satisfied by the mind; it is through the spirit that we acquire our essential human identity. Each individual is a combination of all of these factors. When a person around whom all systems and efforts revolve is considered and evaluated, as a creature with all these aspects and when all needs are fulfilled then this person is able to attain true happiness. At this point, true human progress and evolution in relation to our essential being is possible only through education (Gülen 2004: 194).

The nondenominational schools around the world inspired by Mr. Gülen augur hope that informed education can secure Wells’ victory over chaos.

The curricula of nearly all secular states lack, at this point, the goal of broadening the mind while enriching the spirit, the latter which includes attributes of love, dialogue, forgiveness, and tolerance. As Mr. Gülen states, “Humans are creatures composed not only of a body and a mind, or feelings and a spirit; rather, we are harmonious compositions of all these elements” (Gülen 2004a: 194). The late James Moffett concurred: “Thought that is not spiritual is intellectually inferior because it is too partial” (Moffett 1994:43). The two philsophers coincided by implying that education that addresses one without the other is fractional and unfinished.

In many nations the idea of educating the whole person threatens to dissolve the division of religion and state, a division that has hence resulted in ignoring the need to address spirituality. Many years ago while working for the state of California, I participated in an evaluation of a Catholic high school. In one class I witnessed how the nun commenced first period class by asking her students to participate in audible prayer. Volunteering, one student with head bowed caused the class to chortle when she asked God to stop her brother from drinking up all the orange juice every day before she reached the breakfast table. Another sobered all with a prayer to give succor and strength to her mother facing breast cancer surgery.

Throughout my career I have remembered how remarkable this spiritual exercise was in bonding students into a caring community, one that allowed any alert teacher to become aware of what students were bringing to class. Having taught for five years in inner city public schools, I realized how useful this spiritual exercise could be when angry, ghetto pupils entered a class to discuss a character in a 19th Century British novel. A shared prayer could enable a teacher to bridge with personal accounts the universal issues in Dickens’ Great Expectations. But this Catholic lesson plan is impossible in California’s secular schools.

Today those who subscribe to the rhetoric of the Clash of Civilization as the source of terrorism and discontent blame religions. Yet, according to Richard W. Bulliet in The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization, nearly all the fanatical terrorists, like the engineer bin Ladin and the doctor al-Zawahiri, or for that matter the half dozen medical workers in England and Scotland who failed in their recent attempts to bomb innocent citizens, received their education in secular, state-funded universities, not in religious schools or medressehs (Bulliet 2004:159). Instead, those in the media blaming Islam as the source of criminal behavior should make accountable secular education that has developed the mind at the expense of spirit.

By raising moral and spiritual awareness through dialogue, the Gülen movement is in the forefront by emphasizing a common ground among Muslim and non-Muslims. Such a common ground fosters through dialogue inclusion and centripetal integration rather than exclusion and centrifugal fragmentation that leads to alienation and violence. Dialoguing with the Other increases the identify of both, or as the Moffett said, “As we know, so we identify. If we know as we identify, then the more broadly we identify, the more we know.” (Moffett 1992: 32). On writing or speaking of dialogue, Moffett further elaborated: “I gradually disengage myself from my sole point of view and learn to speak about myself, first, as if I were another person (objectification), then about others as if they were myself (identification), and finally about others without reference to myself (transpersonalization). Put another way, I evolve from passion to compassion to dispassion” (Moffett & McElheny 1995: 593). The pedagogical implication of dialogue assure a kind of distancing that results in an interim cessation of egoistic aspects of one’s identity in order to afford openness to negotiation and reconciliation.

Moffett’s ideas and pedagogy could benefit the work of the nondenominational schools inspired by Mr. Gülen, as the two philosophies of education are interestingly congruent. Further, students in these schools could use electronic dialogue to expand the knowledge of each other by sharing cultural expressions.

Author of theory, research, and pedagogy, Moffett heralded a holistic education for elementary, secondary and tertiary institutions. His work influenced curriculum in many English-speaking nations through the auspices of the classroom-teacher initiated, educational reform movement known in the United States as the National Writing Project, a project that extended in-service teacher training throughout every state in the US and abroad in such nations as Germany, Indonesia, and Sweden. In 1984 while a senior Fulbright lecturer in Syria at the University of Aleppo, I used Moffett’s pedagogy in a four-day writing workshop in Athens for sixty teachers in schools from Morocco to Bangladesh.

One of Moffett’s unique insights, central to the Writing Project, was that writing through dialogue was another means for learning. Previously, the purpose of having students write was for them to report on what they learned. Writing, like dialoguing, witnessing, attuning, and collaborating, often results in new learning, as I will later explain. As important as Moffett’s ideas were to teaching writing and reading in secular schools, he advanced the need for public schools to include spirituality to better foster and develop reason, a central message in his two publications Harmonic Learning: Keynoting School Reform and The Universal Schoolhouse: Spiritual Awakening Through Education.

Let me share an episode from Moffett’s career that exemplifies his dedication to dialogue and spirituality. In 1974 the Board of Education for Kanawha County, West Virginia, approved adoption for students in elementary and secondary schools a number of series of textbooks including Moffett’s Interaction series, published by Houghton-Mifflin. But some conservative members in the county objected to literary selections from the series that they judged to be excessively negative, blasphemous, and Un-American. This clash of values resulted in violence. Publishers asked authors to go to West Virginia to address the Board in defense of the books. Authors attending the board meeting, made up of a selected audience that excluded representatives from the religious community, were all surprised when Moffett scolded the board for excluding those who had objections. He felt that what is needed in modern times is dialogue and coexistence of diverse opinions, not segregation and exclusion, particularly parents whose children were to be assigned to read material they deemed offensive to the families’ values and identities. Moffett was not criticizing the Houghton-Mifflin materials but rather was faulting the Kanawha Country Board failure to organize an authentic dialogue. Against his economic interests, he pleaded for a plurality of consciousnesses in decision-making. Although it had come under attack, Moffett’s work was frankly the best material available for teachers to teach writing and reading.

As a measure of its timelessness and worth, Robert Romano, a graduate student in my seminar on the Development of Writing Abilities in the late 1990s, created a series of CDs, utilizing Moffett’s 1968 curriculum. In 2000, the nation-wide Association for Curriculum and Development awarded Romano’s CD series The Best of the Best Educational Software for that year. The CD series was also one of five finalists for the annual Cody Award for the best software in any field for that same year. At present, the CDs are distributed by Riverdeep International.

Central to the educational recommendations of both Moffett and Mr. Gülen is teacher in-service education, identified as one of the factors behind the remarkable achievements of the nondenominational schools (Aslandogan and Çetin 2006:49). These schools would do well to implement another teacher in-service using Moffett’s pedagogy in teaching writing and reading, a pedagogy that could complement the outstanding curricula in mathematics and science. From my reading in print and website about Gülen-inspired schools, I am impressed with the achievements of the Putnam Science Academy in New Haven, Connecticut, and the Amity School in Brooklyn, New York, the latter enrolling pupils from pre-school through high school. In Brooklyn this year twenty-eight students from Amity won medals in New York City’s competition for the Science Olympiad. But I do not see evidence of success in teaching writing and reading nor about how students learn to use the language arts for dialogue among the student populations.

In the US the phrase “the English language arts” is ambiguous; I suspect that the phrase for other languages, such as the Turkish language arts, is equally ambiguous. When describing language arts for either private or public schools, one usually hears clichés like “the basics,” “the fundamentals,” “skills,” etc. But these abstractions lack agreed upon specifics. You can count on the heads in any audience nodding affirmatively when hearing of the need to teach the ”basics”, but what does ”basics” mean? Moffett wrestled with these ambiguities until at the 1968 Anglo American conference on English education at Dartmouth University he stunned those present with the clarity of his explanation. Rather than the triad of language, composition and literature, which dominates US elementary and secondary curricula, Moffett’s concept of language arts is based upon authentic language use in social contexts. He criticized as being out of balance the non-parallel, three-legged stool of language, composition and literature. Literature and language are subjects dealing with empirical data; they are about substantial things like the novel Don Quixote, nouns and parts of speech, or punctuation in sentences. But composition in contrast is an activity, not a substantial body of empirical data. In effect, Moffett answered the question “What is English language arts?” by pointing out that the language is a symbolic system about “X” for “Y”; X being any subject of discourse delivered to Y, an audience (Moffett 1968: 3-10).

Unlike literature or language as content, composition is a process of negotiating meanings while the speaker and the listener are dialoging. The novel Mehmet, My Hawk is a product. Student writers do not write Mehmet, My Hawk; rather they discourse about Mehmet, My Hawk. Moffett’s English curriculum is not grounded in the study of literature, though the literature of a culture or nation often is the X, the subject under discussion with another. In dialogue students use language to communicate with living audiences (“Y”) about subjects (“X”), ranging from the Piri Reis 16th Century map of the New World to the poetry of Rumi. The subject of writing for another implies social contexts.

To paraphrase Mr. Gülen, dialogue is a means of discussion of certain issues by the coming together of two or more people, a process that forms a transcultural bond. As just one method to achieve such a bond, I am proposing, to heighten cross-cultural fluency, a series of online, dialogic exercises between students from two schools in diverse social contexts. Cross-cultural fluency is defined as more than the symbolic system of language; it entails non-linguistic codes of geography, of history, and of business; codes of art, music, and food; codes of time and space, interpreted differently in various parts of the world; codes of play, entertainment and different educational practices; and class codes within every society – – all signifying cultural expressions.

The following two aspects of Moffett’s work will enable teachers to engage students in electronic dialoguing that actualizes levels of thinking under Theory: Orders of Knowledge and a Practicum: Electronic Dialoguing.

First, Moffett Identified his orders of knowledge as four levels of discourse, sustained over a range of utterances from a simple phrase to a book length monologue.

  • What is Happening,
  • What Happened,
  • What Happens, and
  • What (should/should not) Happen.

In my elementary Turkish, I conjugated the following forms of the verb ”olmak”:

Oluyor = What is Happening
Oldu = What Happened
Olmak = What Happens
Olmali/olmalidegil = What (should/should not) Happen

In the English language, modals or verb tense mark shifts in Moffett’s four orders of thinking: the present progressive as indicated by “ing,” (as in “leading” in the sentence, “With seven minutes of play, Fenerbahce is leading Samsun.” This is the discourse of the traffic reporter on radio in a helicopter at mid commute. The past tense is indicated by “ed,” (as in, “Yesterday, Samsun defeated Fenerbahce by one score.” The gnostic present tense – – the tense of generalization – – is indicated by “s” at the end of the verb (as in the second verb of the sentence, “Harvey discovered that blood circulates”). And the assertive utterance of theorizing or exhorting is signaled by a modal preceding the verb – – the language of law and theology (as in, “Thou shall honor thy father and mother” or “Thou shall not kill”).

Those of you in the audience or reading this essay who speak languages other than English or Turkish might formulate the four levels of knowledge in your own language to see how universal Moffett’s schemata is. It works perfectly in Spanish and Japanese. In the 2006 fall semester, I taught what I am sharing with you to fifteen Spanish-speaking university professors from Quito, Ecuador. One of my former students from Humboldt, Charlie Robertson, is today teaching in Japanese these very ideas to his students in Kochi, Japan.

In every language, utterances beyond sentence length are only predominantly either What is Happening, What Happened, What Happens, or What (modal) Happen. In such lengthy discourse the writer shuttles temporarily from the chosen or predominant order to another level – – at once illustrating by using the past, or by tallying up to report, or by inferring from one incident what happens with plural incidences, or by interjecting a caveat with a modal (as in English “ought,” “must,” “shall,” “should,” “will,” “would,” “can,” “could,” and their respective negative forms).

One might detect that these orders appear to be nothing more than the traditional modes of description, narration, exposition, and argumentation. Moffett did not simply reinvent a wheel by reformulating these established modes of discourse. The four modes only address the X in Moffett’s formula, that is, what the subject of writing is about. For Moffett the element Y is crucial to his definition of language arts and to dialogue, as he complemented each of the orders of knowledge with audiences, recipients for what is uttered. And here, again, is where Moffett concurs with Mr. Gülen, for dialogic context must be at the heart of lessons (Moffett 1968:72-83).

Let’s look at Moffett’s orders from a literary angle. In dialogue, a speaker of Turkish describing “oluyor” or “What is Happening?” is always recording unfinished actions; the outcome of the Samsun-Fenerbahce game is yet to be. Like audible symbols on sheet music or the words of Shakespeare on pages of some play, a performer or actor needs to put life into this simulated reality. At any moment during a performance of The Sultans of Dance, the observer is in doubt about how the Prometheus figure will be revealed in the performance’s last moments. In literature, this is the genre of drama.

In the case of “Oldu” or “What Happened?”, sustained discourse of any length is about action completed. A speaker is reporting an account, not recording an experience existentially. In literature, past action is typically the tense of the genre of the novel or of the short story like an öykü by Saray Sahiner.

In the case of “Olmak” or What Happens, sustained discourse of any length is the order of scientific generalizations or hypotheses. “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” When developing this thesis, the author may exemplify by digressing to What Happened to illustrate an incident that subordinates the generalization. In literature, present active is the predominant tense of the genre of the essay.

And in the case of “olmali or olmali degil ” “What (should/should not) Happen?”, sustained discourse of any length is persuasion, argumentation or exhortation, the phrasing of debate or advanced critical theory or moral imperatives. In belles letters or sacred texts, imperatives are the markers of rhetorical summation, divine injunction or discursive, moral proposition.

Another major contribution to language theory that Moffett posited is that in these orders of knowledge or levels of thinking, at least in English, there is no structural difference between non fiction, the discourse about fact, and fiction, the simulation of factual discourse.

Moffett required that the audience of discourse be authentic.

Sociality is probably the best learning device of all time-and the one least used in public schools. A single authoritarian adult per isolated classroom gives it little chance to work. Commercial materials have been substitutes for human relations. Twenty to forty people is a lot in one room, but in the interest of control and standardization this tremendous human resource is wasted. Students have been forbidden to interact… (Moffett1994: 49).

By embedding writing and speaking as dialogue in social contexts, Moffett contributed a stunning heuristic to the theory of discourse in any language. An educator who views traditionally the four modes of discourse without regard to audience deals with four unrelated categories or boxes. Audience is a needed component in every writing prompt, but audience in dialogues imply that participants are on equal though perhaps different footing; one is not measuring or assessing the other. When a teacher is the only audience, the assignment fails to be what Mr. Gülen refers to as bonded partners in dialogue. But, an assignment, with teachers and remote students as audiences, can be an academic bond to foster much more lasting and important learning.

Let me illustrate the difference. I have written this paper for you, an international audience that presumably knows little or nothing about James Moffett or how his ideas relate to the work of Fethullah Gülen nor how Moffett’s pedagogy might benefit the curriculum in the nondenominational schools. Clearly, at this stage I know more about my topic than you do about what I am discussing. Some months ago while writing a draft, I enumerated what I believed you need to know of Moffett’s ideas. Should I have written this essay to fellow English educators at a convention, much of what I’ve written would have been unnecessary, for that audience, like a choir, is already in tune with my subject. But now imagine how writing for an author differs when the audience is an authority on the subject, a professor let’s say. Imagine how a graduate student might write about this same essay, not for you as audience, but to me in a class in the graduate program at Humboldt State University. That student would favor generalities, assuming that to elaborate would insult my intelligence, since much of what he knows came from me. In such school exercises, the student is condemned to write on a subject about which his teacher knows more than the student does. Now, I must ask you, when in life, after leaving school, do you ever write to an audience who knows more about your subject than you do? Never! Nearly all writing in school is writing in which students address the teacher; nearly all writing in the real world is typified by the writer informing an audience on matters about which the audience knows little to nothing. When teachers craft writing prompts that enable students to inform the uninformed, these teachers develop in their charges a whole host of skills and strategies previously unaddressed when taught as independent units of study of grammar, usage, diction, spelling, and composition.

Now that I have outlined Moffett’s four orders of knowledge, I would like to propose a pedagogy of cross-cultural fluency with which your students in Astana, Kazakhstan, can dialogue with students in Tokat, Turkey; or your students in Samarqand, Uzbekistan, can dialogue with students in Urumqi, China; or your students in Ankara can dialogue with students in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan; or your students in Tashkent can dialogue with students in Rotterdam.

 Remember Mr. Gülen’s wise observation:

Different beliefs, races, customs and traditions will continue to cohabit in this [global] village. Each individual is like a unique realm unto themselves; therefore the desire for all humanity to be similar to one another is nothing more than wishing for the impossible. For this reason, the peace of this (global) village lies in respecting all these differences, considering these differences to be part of our nature and in ensuring that people appreciate these differences (Gülen 2004:249-250).

With such guidance, students fluent in English in Istanbul, in Baku, in Zamboanga in the Philippines, can dialogue with students in the US to engage in Moffett’s four orders of knowledge. Sensitive teachers could easily fashion appropriate linkages, void of political nuances, to afford students rich opportunities to develop their language skills while fostering multiculturalism in the increasingly global world. These opportunities are made possible through electronic media in the context of secular modernity. Incidentally, with the assistance of the author Fatema Mernissi, the co-recipient of Europe’s 2004 Erasmus Award, I have been working with just such an exchange involving students at Six Rivers High School in California and with students in Rabat, Morocco.

The aim of these exercises in cross-cultural fluency is to provide global dialogues. According to Moffett, the elements of dialogue –witnessing, attuning, imitating, helping, collaborating, and interacting – – “occur so spontaneously, just as part of living, that we seldom think of these six basic learning activities as education” (Moffett 1992: 161). From Moffett’s pedagogy of reciprocal discourse, students, teachers, and schools can reassemble the pieces of Mr. Gülen’s metaphor, the common ground of a universal mosaic of communication, by engaging youth of different faith traditions in Internet exercises to improve North-South and East-West relations. The mosaic entails both dimensions of time and space: students, annihilating space, dialogue across the world using the genres of E-mailings, Blogs, and Wikis; and students, fusing the past, broadcast on CDs and DVDs, how cultural achievements have contributed to modernity. What could better refute inherent assumptions about the clash of cultures than such sharings among students of Izmir and Iowa City or Berkeley and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

In each of these electronic spaces, students will dialogue according to an appropriate order of knowledge. Blogs, E-mail, Wikis, and Pod casts on CDs, or DVDs, require students to record non-consciously What is Happening, or to report non-consciously about What Happened, or to generalize non-consciously on What Happens, or to theorize non-consciously about What (Should, Should Not) Happen.

  • A Blog is a website lexia for chronologically documenting “Breaking News.” It is a private, password protected, Internet screen for only two populations by which students dialogue electronically in a forum. Students in different classrooms around the world record simultaneously what is happening within the realm of some assigned subject, like a football game or reading a poem. It might be a joint Blog on which school students from dramatically different parts of the world can document evidence of how global warming is affecting their respective locales. Those dialoguing on a Blog can post in near simultaneity what is happening. Pedagogically, such writing fosters chronological skills of recording and reporting. Recording is simultaneous elaborating; reporting is chronological outcomes of such elaborations. Each requires precision of diction and shifts in verb tense, from present progressive to past, and back, as student writers record simultaneously or report completed action. Students describing a terrible snowstorm will use the progressive tense, a tense that in other modes of writing, like exposition, would not be as necessary. When the students in one school report What Happened after a storm, they favor the past tense, since the chronology of completed action is not happening but has happened. Students learn the subtleties of how to include detail without unnecessary verbiage, for their audiences, in addition to their teachers, will correct them. The educational goals of this exercise include developing vocabulary, diction, and tempo in phrasing, goals attended to with chronological skills of recording and of reporting.
  • In pen pal dialogue, students intuitively use different orders of knowledge than are used in Blogs, with less frequent inclusion of recording What is Happening but more reporting of What Happened and sometimes creating hypotheses of What Happens. Because time lapses between the reception and the response, the writers mix what has partaken over a week’s period and speculates as generalities or hypotheses about upcoming events or moralizes about what should have or should not happen. Unlike postal correspondence, electronic discourse allows for near immediate response. Instant feedback gratifies and motivates students, especially when hearing from real world audiences.
  • A Wiki is like a Blog but with expository themes agreed upon by the participating schools. In the tradition of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, Wikis are about What Happens or What (should/should not) Happen. Individual students produce and edit what they have researched of some assigned theme. The purpose of the theme as well as the representation is to have students produce meaningful and correct information in clear language of what they survey, tally, and categorize. They collaboratively generalize and theorize about common themes like the festivals in their cultures, such as Thanksgiving in the American tradition or the Eid in Islamic cultures, or about the local events like the Kinetic Sculpture Race at the Humboldt Bay or the Jump Dance on the Hoopa Native American Reservation. Students from Izmir might describe the annual Turkish wrestling competitions every June. Through Wikis, students learn to develop the following educational goals: to develop expository and argumentative skills, to research, to demonstrate resourcefulness, to acquire many conventions of documentation, to share values in building civility and citizenship, and to understand the benefits of democracy in different social contexts.
  • Pod casting, produced either as audio or video programs, actualizes What Happens/What Happened/What (Should/Shouldn’t) Happen. This pedagogy insures comprehending how image, text, and sound mix rhetorically to heighten message and representation, and it develops exposition, narratization, and living drama, as we all witness today on television. Learning can be made permanent in CDs or DVDs that become documents preserving the students’ education over years.

As I alluded earlier, these exercises necessitate acquiring Moffett’s orders of knowledge naturally and non-consciously. When the teacher elicits from students an explicit explanations of their non-conscious reasoning (what Vygotsky referred to as scientific concepts), the most lasting learning takes place.

Some schools undoubtedly face economic limitations associated with computer availability and online hookups. Not all schools are as electronically fortified as Sabanci University in Tuzla, where I lectured in 2001. The electronic facilities at Sabanci humble those at Humboldt State. In answer to those worried about there being no computers online at local schools, there are internet cafes in nearly every village in the world, cafes which will charge little for usages by groups under teacher supervision. Presently, we are investigating how students in California can link with their counterparts in Rabat.

In addition to students crossing global space to communicate electronically, I also alluded to broadcasting that fuses time into tiles in Mr. Gülen’s universal mosaic, portions of knowledge of what the East has contributed to the modernity of West, South, and North. I have in mind still another aspect of Mr. Gülen’s vision: how the cultural influences of the Ottomans and of Islam in general influenced the present. Student CDs and DVDs can reveal much about which the West is frankly ignorant.

Let me conclude by sharing with a few examples of what I mean. Students working on a history Wiki dealing with their state share with those in North Africa how Morocco in 1781 was the first country among the world’s nations to recognize the US as an independent nation or that many of Humboldt County’s Portuguese citizens are from the Azores Islands, which are historically linked to the republic of Sale in Morocco. And in Morocco, students inform their American counterparts that in the tenth century in nearby Fez, the medresseh/university al Qaraouiyine educated a student named Gilbert d’Aurillac, who, at the turn of the second millennium, was to become Silvester II, Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. When I teach classes at Humboldt, I often point out to my students that much of their daily life derives in large measure from Islam in ways that they are totally unaware. First, their university derives from Islam, for Silvester II studied in a Moroccan university a full century before the first European university opened in Bologna, Italy. Secondly, Founders Hall, the building that dominates the Humboldt campus, which houses many of their very classrooms, is a replica of the Umayyad mosque in Damascus. Next, the Balabanus Quad at the base of the long stairway leading up to Founders is named after the Nestor of the Humboldt faculty, a man born in Turkey. And, finally, the name of their state, California, derives from two words: the Arabic word for successor, ”Caliph,” and from a word shared in Turkish ”firin.” In short, California means ”the Caliph’s oven.”

By wedding Moffett’s educational theory to electronic pedagogy, Gülen-inspired nondenominational schools can increase cross-cultural fluency among Muslim and non-Muslim communities, insuring, thereby, the secular co-existence of these populations. As I have indicated, students in such communities engage across space and time in electronic dialogue that would reassemble the pieces of a universal mosaic into a composite that binds all together in much greater commonality than that envisioned by those short-sighted polemicists that believe in the inevitable clash between East and West.

Tom Gage
Professor Emeritus, Humboldt State University, Tom Gage earned all his degrees at the University of California, Berkeley. As a student in the 1950s, he hitchhiked from California to Damascus; subsequently, he has journeyed to the Eastern Mediterranean two dozen times. A senior Fulbright lecturer at Aleppo, Syria, 1983-1984, Gage has taught widely, including in China, Greece, and Turkey; he has delivered many papers in conferences in the United States, recently at the 2007 Conference on Exploring Models for Peace, University of Texas. He has been resident lecturer on comparative education in China. Gage was a principal in creating Humboldt’s International Studies department, the architect of the English department’s master’s degree in Teaching Writing, and founder of Humboldt’s Redwood Writing Project. Presently working with Fatima Mernisi, co-recipient of the 2004 Erasmus Award, Gage is advancing opportunities for dialogue among secondary students in both Morocco and California. He has been an officer of the National Council of Teachers of English and is a member of the Board of the Consultants for Global Programs, with student exchanges in China, Cyprus, Mexico, and South Africa. Gage has published articles on travel writing, co-authored anthologies of literature in translation, and a book on steel.

by Dr. Ali Ünsal