The American Association of University Professors on Thursday released a statement “In Defense of Knowledge and Higher Education,” saying that “slogans and superstition are no match for the growing complexity and interconnectedness of today’s world.” The statement cites Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's past comment that faculty members tell students "what to do, what to say and, more ominously, what to think,” as well as more general concerns about “alternative facts” and ongoing attacks on expertise and science. The AAUP defines knowledge as "those understandings of the world upon which we rely because they are produced by the best methods at our disposal,” not that which is "produced merely by immediate sense impressions" or opinions.
“Colleges and universities are disciplinary, not political, institutions,” the statement continues. “They exist to serve the common good in the production and distribution of expert knowledge, as well as in the pedagogical inculcation of a mature independence of mind. Research and teaching are sites of critical thinking.” The new document, which was endorsed by groups including the Association of American Colleges and Universities and PEN America, ends with a challenge -- and a warning: “It is up to those who value knowledge to take a stand in the face of those who would assault it, to convey to a broad public the dangers that await us -- as individuals and as a society -- should that pledge be abandoned.”