I could not understand the value of a classical liberal arts education until I experienced it.
By Cassie Moran
Date: June 6, 2021
When I was a senior in high school touring colleges, Hillsdale College stood out to me for its emphasis on the classical liberal arts – but I did not truly grasp its significance. I had been a public school student my whole life, and this term was unfamiliar to me. Hillsdale students told me about the many classes required in the core curriculum, from the sciences to the humanities and history, literature, and more. Still, I thought to myself, Isn’t every college a liberal arts college? Doesn’t every college require general classes outside of your major? I could not understand the value of a classical liberal arts education until I experienced it.
As I struggled my way through physics and history and a core curriculum bigger than my major during my freshman year at Hillsdale, I began to see the difference between Hillsdale’s classical liberal arts and the general requirements of other schools, and I wondered if it was worth it. My classmates and I were reading about Western heritage and philosophy and logic and rhetoric, while friends at other schools were breezing through “clap for credit” music class and remedial reading. In all honesty, it felt pointless and unfair.
Nevertheless, I had chosen this, and the last thing I wanted was to back down from the challenge. Not quite seeing the point of it all yet, I persisted; there must be some good to come from all of the hard work and effort.
Slowly but surely, the pieces started to come together. Something I learned in philosophy would remind me of a topic discussed in my rhetoric class, and Spanish intersected with theatre. Each class informed and enlightened other classes. It was a surprising and beautiful game of connect the dots. Unlike the disjointed portfolio of classes I had attended in the past, this curriculum was cohesive – not because it was forced, but because these connections exist in the natural world. The world unfolded before my eyes.
The classical liberal arts provides a framework to see the world as a whole and experience the joy of learning about it. I won’t pretend that I loved every second of it. I will say I am grateful for every second of it.