Defending the Freedom to Learn

The AAUP is joining the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the American Association of Colleges and Universities, and the Network for Public Education in launching a Freedom to Learn pledge to call out laws and rhetoric in multiple states aimed at banning books and curriculums, attacking teachers, and shaming LGBTQIA+ students, while pushing voucher and privatization schemes to undermine and gut public education.

The statement, from groups that together represent more than 4 million educators and 1,000 higher education institutions, highlights how far-right attacks on public education and academic freedom, which span K-12 and college, are part of the same extremist push to hurt learning and undermine trust in public schools.

The pledge proposes solutions in the form of federal and state bills to increase funding for all levels of public education, the vigorous defense of individual educators facing discipline or termination, and a renewed fight for more resources in the face of universal voucher schemes and austerity budgets.

The full text is below.

Public education at all levels is under assault. Political operators, partisan media, and ideologically driven think tanks continue to churn out racialized and anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric, sow distrust in the role of education as a public good, and feed attacks on individual educators. Many hostile state legislatures across the country are enacting laws that undermine public schools, community colleges, and universities through curriculum bans; eradication of diversity, equity, and inclusion programs; attacks on science and public health; funding cuts; and voucher and privatization schemes.

We must recognize these attacks for what they are: Public education—pre-K through higher ed—is a fundamental pillar of American democracy, and attempts to control and reshape education are part of a larger effort to weaken the very institutions that prepare students to engage in a robust, vibrant, multicultural, pluralistic democracy. Simply put, the assault on public education is an assault on our freedom.

We are educators from preK-12 and higher education; teachers and administrators; labor and management; parents, grandparents, and caregivers. We are united in our commitment to our students and to education as a public good—a pathway to individual opportunity, civic and democratic health, and economic growth. We pledge to defend the freedom to learn by:

  • Promoting freedom to learn and access to education through working with coalition partners to support bills to increase federal and state funding for all levels of public education and protect the freedom to teach and the freedom to research.
  • Fighting back against legislative bans on the teaching of U.S. history, science and psychology, and other educational gag orders, and by defending individual educators who face harassment, discipline, or termination as a result of these laws.
  • Supporting efforts to provide more resources to our public schools, colleges, and universities and the students who depend on them every day, and resisting efforts to defund our preK-12 and higher education systems.
Publication Date: 
Monday, October 30, 2023