“Dear,” the old lady said, “I love you, but you’re going to hell.”
My student didn’t get it. Why would this old lady tell her she was going to hell? My student thought of herself as a good person. She taught volunteer literacy classes in a local middle school. She tried to be good to people she came across. What was wrong with this old biddy?
I heard this story from one of my first students when I took my current job. My student knew I studied conservatism and religious fundamentalism. She was wondering if I could explain the old lady to her.
Turns out the old lady, some sort of relative of my student, had heard that my student was living with her long-time boyfriend. The old lady wanted to help my student. She worried that my student might not be aware of the eternal perils of her carnal actions.
Of course, my student took this as an aggressive, hostile thing to say. But the old lady didn’t mean it that way. She really hoped to connect with my student, to help her recognize the errors of her ways.
When I started this blog a few years back, I was hoping to use it as a way to help explain American conservative thinking—especially religious thinking—to non-conservatives. I’m no conservative myself. But I think too often folks like me assume the worst about conservatives. We take the old lady’s statement as a threat. We hear the “hell” part, not the “I love you” part.
As it’s matured, the blog has turned into an examination of the difficult questions about the relationship between school and society. What is school for? What has it been for? How have different people defined “proper” education?