Report - Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences

Report - Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences


Many public and private organizations contribute to the scholarly

and public vitality of the humanities, social sciences, and natural

sciences. All enhance the pursuit of knowledge, improve policy-making,

and demonstrate in real and tangible ways the essential benefit of these

disciplines to the nation. Each organization has a role in advancing

the recommendations of this report, and all should work together to

provide a much-needed, vigorous voice to champion humanistic and

social scientific work for every level of American society.

How do we understand and manage change if we have no notion of the

past How do we understand ourselves if we have no notion of a society,

culture, or world different from the one in which we live A fully

balanced curriculum—including the humanities, social sciences, and

natural sciences—provides opportunities for integrative thinking and

imagination, for creativity and discovery, and for good citizenship. The

humanities and social sciences are not merely elective, nor are they elite

or elitist. They go beyond the immediate and instrumental to help us

understand the past and the future. They are necessary and they require

our support in challenging times as well as in times of prosperity. They

are critical to our pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness, as described by

our nation’s founders. They are The Heart of the Matter.

The Humanities promote that kind of tolerance, that degree of healthy self-doubt, which

Learned Hand used to remind us of by quoting Oliver Cromwell in his statement to the Scots:

Consider that “you may be mistaken.” That, after all, was what Learned Hand called the

spirit of liberty. And it’s the spirit of liberty that the humanities are here to promote.

—David Souter, Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States (1990–2009)

The Heart of the Matter 61

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