Aaron Andrews

How Hillsdale’s Core Classes Helped Me Choose English

Written by Aaron Andrews

I grew up homeschooled by an English major. My education was shaped by my mother’s passion for all things literary. Even when my siblings and I were very young, she had us mapping out our picture books in plot charts drawn on child-sized expo boards. The living room became the classroom, and the call for story time became the ring of the school bell. As a high schooler, it seemed like I wrote a paper every week and always had some classic piece of English literature on my desk. Through this, my mother imbued a deep appreciation for English in my siblings and me.

Fast forward to freshman year at Hillsdale when I realized that the core classes were set up in such a way that I did not have to take an English class my first semester. For the first time in my life I had a chance to raise my head from a rather narrow pursuit of English and look around at other fields of study.  

For a moment, I thought perhaps I would do something different. Hillsdale’s core curriculum helped me explore a world of knowledge of which I knew very little, and I took courses in history, politics, science, and art. By the end of my first semester, I was seriously considering becoming a philosophy major, of all things.

The plain truth, however, is that there was a hole in my chest that semester—an English-shaped one that I attempted to fill with Plato, Descartes, Hume, and Lewis. So philosophy occupied the void in my life left by the lack of English, and my mind blazed bright in the world of philosophical thought.

But I still became an English major. When I began taking English classes again my second semester, I loved them. I realized that most literature is philosophy in story form, and so my newfound love of philosophy actually strengthened my love and appreciation for English.

“So nothing changed,” you might say. “You took an entire semester to figure out what you already knew, so the core was a pointless detour! Wasn’t that a waste of time?”

I answer a resounding NO.

Hillsdale’s core classes gave me the chance to choose for myself what to me had only ever been a given. Before Hillsdale, my education was my mother’s education. She gave me what she knew, and I had no option but to take it—and I’m not complaining, Mom! I’m very thankful for my high-school education. But the core gave me a chance to explore other fields of study so that I could circle back around to English and make the decision for myself.

In addition, it was a humbling experience to back away from a subject that I knew and poke my head around the ones I didn’t. In this way, the core gave me the chance to learn how much I did not know (spoiler alert: it’s a lot). I learned that every field of study has a unique perspective on the world and that each one of these merits a lifetime’s worth of attention.

The core gave me a deep respect for all fields of study and gave me the chance to make my education my own. In the end, though, my mom was right: English is the best.

Aaron Andrews, ’18, is an English major from rural northeastern Washington, the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Taking 18 credits per semester, he frequently bites off more than he can chew. He likes pop, gum, and movies.