From Mindless Parroting to Deep, Independent Thinking
Written by Aaron Andrews
By my freshman year of high school, I had decided that I would attend Hillsdale College. When people asked me why Hillsdale and not any other school, I answered “’Cause I want to learn how to think, not what to think!” At 15, I had no idea what I was saying. I was merely regurgitating what my parents had fed me. But that didn’t matter because I was speaking the truth! I just didn’t know it yet.
When the time came to search for colleges, I didn’t apply or even consider any other colleges. It was a mechanical, mindless decision. And it’s the best decision that I have ever made. Hillsdale has given me an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of masters, to formulate my own conclusions, and to learn how to think. Now, looking back, I realize that I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I belong here.
The greatest thing that Hillsdale has given me to date is my appreciation of the written word. I arrived at Hillsdale, zealously anticipating the discussions of the larger-than-life ideas that I knew I would find in the classrooms. I was excited about the ideas themselves; I just wanted to know what they were! Studying history, philosophy, and economics, I got a pretty good earful of the “what”: I learned about the origin of Western thought and how it is rooted in Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian traditions. I learned about the evolution of philosophy from Plato to Hume and how we humans understand what it means “to know.” I learned the principles of free market economy. I grew an appreciation for the ideas, the content, that I had found in these studies.
However, this semester I am taking English, Latin, and French, and I’m realizing that there’s a whole new aspect of academia to which I had never before given any thought: the “how.” Reading along side my professors great works of art like The Aenead (in Latin!), Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and The Odyssey, I am growing an appreciation for language itself. Form, the way in which these great ideas are communicated, has captured my attention. I have found that there’s nothing quite as soul-quenching as the beauty of a well-turned phrase. Reading through these texts and understanding how and why they communicate has been the most edifying experience in my academic career. I’m slowly discovering that I am just as much of a “how” person as I am a “what” person.
And that’s the real reason I’m here: to explore the unknown and to find out who I truly am.
Aaron Andrews is a freshman at Hillsdale College. He grew up homeschooled in rural northeastern Washington, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. He has recently discovered people and the internet, and he is thriving here at Hillsdale.