Fostering the Fruits of a Liberal Education

Written by Jessica Kidwell

It was a beautiful evening on campus; many students were outside on the quad, soaking up the last rays of warm fall sunshine. While it may have been more enjoyable to be outside with friends, many students chose instead to fill every armchair and leather couch in the Heritage Room awaiting the Alexander Hamilton Society (AHS) debate event titled “The U.S. Approach to Ukraine.”

Events like these, and the AHS as a whole, play an important role in cultivating the liberal arts by furthering education and discussion of foreign policy, geopolitics, and economics. A crucial part of Hillsdale’s culture is that we “support one another in our exploration of what the truth is, which is something unique and valued at Hillsdale,” said AHS board member Katrin Surkan, ’24. The AHS challenges us to think of the things we balance as students and how we influence the world now and in the future.

The debate between Hillsdale College Politics Department Chairman Dr. John Grant and Daniel Fata, Center for Strategic and International Studies National Security Advisor, brought engaging political discourse, followed by many student questions. Fata and Grant discussed with the students their differing opinions on America’s role in Ukraine, Fata being pro-Ukrainian intervention and Grant against it. Students asked Fata and Grant their predictions of the conflict and what could be the most ideal outcomes.

Surkan said that going to the Grant vs. Fata debate to hear opposing views and staying up to date with current events was just one of many reasons why she joined AHS as soon as she stepped on campus as a transfer student. Katrin was impressed with how responsive and well-informed AHS members were about contemporary politics. “I was in awe and wanted to learn, and that’s why I stuck around.”  

Dr. Grant said he gains something new from debating that differs from teaching in the classroom. “I anticipated some of the arguments, but it’s almost always something new. Preparing for a debate is different than preparing for class, so it helps you think differently.” His debate with Fata modeled a civil exchange; they clearly differed but respected each other. 

“Education has to be good and useful for life, and these events can help make ideas real for people in a way, so they aren’t just abstractions,” Dr. Grant said. Attending events about world affairs matters to students of all majors who seek to be informed citizens.

“We may not have represented the only two alternatives that are out there on such an important topic,” Dr. Grant stated. “Most people don’t like to talk about contemporary politics, but to see an explicit conversation about an event happening in the world is a good way for students to apply their knowledge and develop the fruits of a liberal education.”

Jessie Kidwell, ’24, hails from St. Louis, MO, and studies politics. Outside of the classroom, she loves to workout, watch the St. Louis Cardinals, and be with her Pi Phi sisters!

Published in November 2022