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Philosophers and the AAUP

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The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) recently published a statement, “In Defense of Knowledge and Higher Education,” prompted by remarks from US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos that disparaged professors for indoctrinating and intimidating students. David Hockney, “Mt. Fuji and Flowers” (detail) The statement stands up for academic teaching and research: Is it intimidation to teach eighteen-year-olds to solve differential equations? Is it intimidation to teach them the principles of quantum mechanics? Is it intimidation to teach them the somatic effects of nicotine? Is it intimidation to teach them about the history of slavery and Jim Crow, or the history of the Holocaust? Is it intimidation to teach them how to read closely the texts of Toni Morrison or Gabriel García-Márquez? Is it elitism to predict the path of a hurricane? Is it elitism to track the epidemic of opioid addiction? Or to study the impact of tariffs on the economy? We do not think so. This is research and education, not intimidation or elitism… Some would urge us to inhabit a universe of “alternative facts.” But, as John Adams long ago observed, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” If we ignore facts, we will forever be running aground on their unseen shoals. It is especially worrisome, then, to witness what has become an organized attack on knowledge. I think we can all appreciate the spirit of this defense, and more generally the work that the AAUP has done to support academics and academic freedom. The statement includes a subsection entitled “What do we mean by knowledge?”  It begins with the following: There are, of course, endless philosophical debates about the meaning of “knowledge.” For our purposes, however, we need define it only as those understandings of the world upon which we rely because they are produced by. . .

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News source: Daily Nous

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