I made you an acrostic to convince you to come to my college.
We have a number of them. Homeschoolers are different. They haven’t been brainwashed with the same dye as the rest, and since they haven’t been stuck in a classroom for most of their lives, they’ve had the opportunity to do things.
If you find yourself attracted to fine cerebral hemispheres, you will have a lot of friends at a college where everybody has at least one 35 carat gold nugget of nerd buried in their souls. Whether it is a proclivity for discussing Senate procedure down to the finest loophole (hem, Katrina), a 2 a.m. capacity for a theological discussion of mysticism and rationalism (hem, Kirby), or a soft spot for Hayek, the Communist Manifesto, or Solzhenitsyn, the Hillsdale student has some idea he wants to make his own. Chances are, somebody will sympathize with that weird love you always hid in the woodshed. And even if not, people will think you all the cooler. (Why? Well, interests make you interesting.)
L: Lap of Luxury
Complaining brings people together. That’s the only purpose it serves at Hillsdale. Our amenities are more than decent. McIntyre has spacious bedrooms, two full kitchens, laundry machines, and fireplaces in the living rooms. Housekeeping cleans at least once a week. Though its recipes occasionally miss the mark (barbecue pizza with pineapple and hamburger?), the cafeteria has a consistently fresh salad bar, soups, Americanized international food, and soft-serve icing. I tell people sometimes (when they’re looking for a pat answer) that I made my decision to attend Hillsdale based on the cafeteria’s tea selection. The life of the mind is all very well, but we’re no dualists here. Soul subsists inside a body.
L: Loving Church
Hillsdale College is a great place to study theology, but there are some things you can’t get from classes. It is possible to understand with the mind but not with the heart. The Free Methodist Church adheres to James’ definition of religion: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)
This dorm gets a lot of flak, but most of my guy friends live there, and those who are in it seem to like it. If anything is to be said in its favor, Simpson has an indisputably strong dorm culture. Simpson guys spend a good chunk of their time making weapons out of foam and duct tape in order to beat each other up. An anthropologist would find fertile ground there for a dissertation on primitive tribal customs. Imagine Lord of the Flies, except without the pig head and death.
A learning experience and a social experience: Intuition needs explanation. In debate one must provide the judge with clear, step-by-step support for any statement. This is the essence of essay writing and practically any form of communication. Even conversations contain links that can be turned. But, in the end, the purpose of debate is reaching other people. It is all about people. It’s about talking with people about people-made policies for the benefit of people, all the while being judged by people. It’s great for learning to understand un-like-minded humans–and, of course, for finding friends who are great at conflict resolution.
Today, after class I walked to the Arboretum. The wind gusted in my hair and twirled at my clothes, and the clouds danced in the sky. The pine trees painted themselves onto the sun and the air, and I descended those endearingly uneven steps to the amphitheater. I read a crumbling copy of Plato’s Symposium in the grass, and the wind blew in my hair.
Whether it be through your own native tongue, or the harsh vocalizations of Berlin, Hillsdale will grow a new tree in your mind and fill it with chattering jackdaws. What do I mean by this? A teacher plants the seed of a new perspective in your mind. It grows, and flocks of new ideas begin to nest in it. Your mind is no longer static and stagnant but alive and growing.
So far, I’ve begun to learn four languages here: German, Aristotelian logic, Lincoln-Douglas debate, and jazz piano. If my brain’s appearance matches its operation, it’s probably turned neon with forks of lightning between the lobes and new threads slowly weaving the hemispheres together.
Bask in your element of surprise. I can’t explain the campus character exhaustively because its individual members can’t be typed into any one group except “Hillsdale people,” which inherently implies diversity of thought and experience. One thing that I think unifies us here is respect of property. People will not steal. It’s this thing called the Honor Code. There aren’t many rules on campus, but by agreeing to adhere to this code, people promise to govern themselves wisely. (If you want to learn more, YouTube “Larry Arnn”, and I’m sure something will come up.)
There’s a standard of morality here insofar as reasonable people tend to share reasonable moral standards. Other than that, anything goes. Hillsdale is a forum, a marketplace, a skirmish-field of ideas.
And what else is college meant to be?
For more helpful information on Hillsdale college life (we are NOT stodgy, I swear, despite the political marketing), here are a few things I did during my first two weeks here:
- Danced at an off-campus music festival
- Went thrifting at Salvation Army (sweaters and pantsuits await discovery!)
- Visited Rough Draft (local coffeehouse)
- High-fived five drunk frat fellows
- Discovered a fellow Jeff Buckley fan or two
- Played piano at Olds dorm
- Visited the incredibly cool Professor Stephens in his office to talk philosophy
- Attended a jazz concert and a football game
- Visited The Palace Diner (open 24 hours, only takes cash; any student can tell you about it)
- Borrowed some LP’s (there’s quite a vinyl culture here)
That’s only the tip of the iceberg. There is always something going on, something to do, new friends to make. Hillsdale isn’t for everyone, but if you made it through this post, consider attending.