Donald Drakeman modestly describes himself as “a businessman with a doctorate in religion.” In fact, he is on the faculty at Cambridge and has written an important book on originalism and the Establishment Clause. In a recent essay, he discusses the continuing importance of the humanities, even in a period of economic decline. Conceding that hard times will inevitably drive college students to more “practical” majors, Drakeman insists that we not neglect the important, real-world impact of the humanities:
Humanities scholars often cite the intrinsic value of studying the humanitiesthat it is good in and of itself, and requires no defense on the basis of pragmatism. That may well be true, but the humanities also have immense practical relevance to how we, as a society, make some of our most critical political and economic decisions, from the nature of our constitutional rights to the shape of our health-care system.
For example, the opinions in the Supreme Courts recent decision on the right to bear arms read like a history of firearms in the 18th century, and we owe the idea of a wall of separation between church and state as much to the historian George Bancroft as to Thomas Jefferson. The Affordable Care Act has deeper roots in philosophical notions of distributive justice than in the latest advances in medical science.
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