Tea Partiers, Muslims and Odessa

An odd mix, yes? Let’s bring you up to speed.

According to its website, Harmony Public Schools operates 25 K-12 college preparatory charter schools, with more than 12,000 students in all, that focus on math, science, engineering and computer technologies. These schools have received substantial praise for student achievement from the Texas Education Agency, recognition by former President George W. Bush and numerous other Republican elected officials, and major funding from mainstream foundations, including the Dell and Gates Foundations.

Nevertheless, a newly formed group called West Texas Patriots is questioning the opening of a new Harmony Science Academy in Odessa this fall. The group’s members claim that the schools have ties to radical Islam, noting links between the foundation that funds the schools and Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish Muslim and intellectual (who actually lives in northeastern Pennsylvania). Gulen appears to be a controversial figure (to some people, anyway), but there doesn’t seem to be sufficient evidence to support the charge that he is an “Islamic extremist.”

And who are the West Texas Patriots? The group appears to be little different from countless “Tea party” groups that have sprouted across the country. From the group’s website:

“Every day we learn of some new scheme or infringement to strip us of our rights as citizens of the United States and we are here to take our Country back from the liars, thieves, deceivers, foreign and domestic enemies. We cannot sit idly by and watch this Country deteriorate any more.”

Patriot member Michelle Fowler says her organization believes there may be a plan by radical Muslims to use Harmony schools to infiltrate the United States and indoctrinate children. The CBS affiliate in Odessa, KOSA, could find no information to verify Ms. Fowler’s charge. The KOSA reporter also asked about a U.S. News & World Report ranking of Harmony schools as among the best high schools in the nation. Fowler was unmoved: “Well, to be honest, I don’t really believe that much in the media.”


In any case, the Islamic/Harmony threat is real to Ms. Fowler and her fellow Patriots. Fowler told another reporter: “(L)ook at the Chinese people. They took over lots of countries without invading.”

The Texas Freedom Network takes no side on this issue — we think most parents and local school officials can make reasoned decisions based on facts and research from respected sources. But we find the Harmony issue rather ironic from at least two perspectives.

First, most conservative leaders in Texas have been strong advocates of charter schools even though many such schools have been academic and fiscal disasters. Now a far-right group is targeting a group of charter schools that actually seems to have a respectable academic track record. Second, we wonder why the West Texas Patriots have yet to protest a far more pressing threat to the education of public school students in Texas — the politicization of curriculum standards by ideologues on the State Board of Education who reject the work of classroom teachers, scholars and other experts.

15 thoughts on “Tea Partiers, Muslims and Odessa

  1. How odd. I was 16 when George W. Bush was elected, and I grew up not half an hour from Odessa. I was days away from turning 18 when 9/11 happened, and still living in West Texas when the USA PATRIOT Act was signed. I don’t recall hearing anything about this group and their “concern” for our civil liberties and Constitutional freedoms until sometime around 2008. I wonder what changed.

  2. Boy… every time I read stuff like this about TX I wonder if we, that is the rest of the U.S., wouldn’t be better served with TX quitting our nation. Your state’s special brand of insanity could be contagious and we sure don’t need it spreading!

  3. How many children of the Islamic faith are attending the charter schools in Harmony? If it is mkore than 250,000, there may be reason to worry.

  4. Gee Michelle (Fowler), your conspiracy hair do is “so yesterday”. I guess someone forgot to tell you that there are already about 8 million MUSLIMS permanently infiltrated into the US, a lot of them in Texas, indoctrinating our children in every shadow and den of iniquity. Better see your hairdresser and see if you can get that fixed. Maybe Harmony doesn’t teach enough *petroleum* science and engineering? Or, is it that Tinky-Winky, who’s not only gay, but MUSLIM, incognito, was the Principal at Harmony?

    Thanks to Lane for stating the obvious from direct local observation and history, and TFN for the two cogent observations about the rock fracturing process ongoing at the far right. The ideological violence on either end of the current political spectrum is destroying the two party system and exsanguinating both major parties, making meaningful public policy progress impossible.

    I hope everyone sober enough to realize the importance of public education has availed themselves of the opportunity to offer oral or written testimony to the Texas Senate Education Committee (Shapiro, Chair) today and in the future on the interim charges regarding education in Texas.

  5. I think TFN and everyone else got it wrong about the West Texas Patriots. It’s not about Islamists infiiltrating the Harmony schools. Arabic people with guns are not the problem. The problem is fabric and the possibility that someone wearing the wrong kind of clothing will infiltrate the Harmony schools. The fear is “muslin” infiltration in a state where denim is the fabric of choice.

    I just wanted to make that statement so there would be no misunderstanding on the issue.

  6. Yes the Chinese took over by making shoes even cheaper than Pakistan. That’s why I can’t afford USA made shoes, but I have to settle for Walmart shoes. They’re great shoes, but I feel guilty wearing them. The Chinese didn’t fire a shot. They just made a deal with Walmart and installed their guy, (Bush) in the White House.
    I’d check the label on your underwear, and make sure they’re not being made in Syria or Iran.
    Also what’s up with all the muslim bedlinen?
    TP, do you know where your tp is coming from? Could be a conspiracy.

  7. Guess what, the cheap labor market is moving from China to Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Africa. Chinese income has risen to the point where it is cheaper to keep the mills moving. In many ways, Chinese cities in the east of China have a considerably better quality of infrastructure than we have here.

    The US is Today, Europe is Yesterday, but the Far East is Tomorrow.

    Our immigration policies are driving foreign born US educated engineers and scientists back home, taking their technical expertise with them. The WASPlus population is aging, and only the infusion of immigrants is holding up the US reproduction rate. This also happens in nations that have been modern for a decade or two. EU is dropping, Russia is dropping, and Japan is geriatric.

    The family abuse rate in Hispanic families settled down here, is far below other ethnic groups, including RedNeck.

    Neo Isolationism/anti-immigrant-ism is like shooting oneself in the foot, by leaning over and firing through the hollow space between the ears.

  8. Thanks Charles, and David for identifying the most salient feature here, that there’s a conspiracy here that is based on the substitution of just one letter, secret code speak, ie muslin vs muslim! This is “so Dubya”! Remember before, when one letter difference had Dubya launch an invasion and occupation, ie Iraq vs Iran! Yes, its all so clear to me now! Can’t believe I missed it. Guess I’ll have to go back to intelligence school! Isn’t Odessa the name of some sort of special place of religious power from *our* Divine? I think we better investigate! It could be that Harmony is really a Soylent Green for our children, to improve the protein supply for the Muslins.

  9. The threat of “neo-isolationism” is always thrown up by the mouthpieces of Wall Street and the “rich who keep getting richer”.
    We need trade policies that preserve the American middle class or there ain’t going to be anybody to buy those doodads (and shoes) made in Asia.
    Anyway, we could cede the market for shoes and build our economy around developing clean, domestic, sustainable energy here, if they would.

  10. “Neo-isolationism” is a word I made up to describe the Texas GOP platform which calls for getting out of the UN and any other international pacts or treaties. Wall Street didn’t and doesn’t use it. Better not.

    Isolationism isn’t much different in it’s effect from the global anti-globalization movement of the Left (re: Battle in Seattle) , or the anti-globalism movement of the Right (SBOE). The rationale differs from Left to Right but wind up at the same place, one to keep American jobs in America, and the Left to preserve the poor in other countries.

    Congress has the specified power in Article i, Section 8, to regulate both international and interstate commerce. As such, the regulation of commerce is a patchwork of local interests sponsored by members of Congress as “pork”

  11. Cheap labor moving out of China to even poorer countries….this phenomenon is connected to the rise of a Chinese middle class doing outrageous things like starting to demand fair wages and humane working hours and conditions.

    That is just SO Marxist.

    History repeats itself…. in different places.

  12. You know, Cosmos Foundation already has 25 schools in Texas, with 12,500 students.

    Where are they getting funding? It looks to me as if they float bonds, probably premised on getting charter school payments from the State of Texas — about $30 million worth in 2008. Anyone know for sure?

  13. Please do not confuse the messenger with the message.

    The fact that the West Texas Patriots may be easy to dismiss does not mean that the concerns about Harmony Science Academy should be dismissed.

    There is overwhelming evidence that these schools are connected to the Gulen Movement.

    Yes, Fethullah Gulen is controversial. He is extremely controversial back in Turkey. I suppose you googled his websites and read his propaganda about how he’s a moderate Muslim, and decided everything’s okay?

    See the PhD thesis of Joshua David Hendrick, University of California Santa Cruz for different, more objective view of Gulen.

    Who says a Muslim has to be “radical” to be a threat or an issue of concern? Just as Christians come in all forms, so do Muslims. Some create problems, without being “terrorists.” Muslims like amassing money, political clout, etc just like the rest of us. The question is – should we be helping a religious/political group of ANY persuasion with our education tax dollars?

    The Gulen Movement is extremely skilled at amassing positive publicity, and using public figures to legitimize itself. What if I told you about all the high-level people who used to have good things to say about Bernie Madoff and who were friends with him – would that convince you there was nothing to worry about there?

    Here’s an example of very bad logical thinking:
    The West Texas Patriots are concerned about Harmony Science Academy. ->
    I do not like the politics of the West Texas Patriots. ->
    Therefore I should not be concerned about Harmony Science Academy.

    Notice the logical fallacy here?

    The most foolish thing we progressives could do is to assume that any time a conservative says anything, it is automatically wrong. That is called blind partisanship. We need to THINK each issue through for ourselves, and look at the EVIDENCE.

  14. June, 2011: What is the current situation about Harmony Schools in Texas? Where do I get the facts? What they are teaching, who is supporting this school – privately and publicly, who is paying for this school or has paid?, who is controlling the school?, is it all underprivileged students still? I need the facts. Are there still groups of people that oppose it? Are these groups formalized? How do I find out what is going on? I have a school-aged grandson and am curious about this school. Thanks so much for your prompt response.