Thursday, November 10, 2011

This Here's a Teachable Moment

Today, my life was enlarged/rewarded/made happy by two of my writing students presenting lovely pieces in class, and the growing skills of their classmates in giving feedback.

Today, my heart was broken by the growing "scandal" at PSU and the reactions of the media and others to it.

First of all, "scandal" doesn't cover it: that's a word you can use when a mayor/senator/president/presidential candidate gets caught with his baby mama/mistress/underage girlfriend on camera. Or the college president/football player/pro athlete gets caught gambling. This is the sexual abuse--rape--of children over a 15-year period (at least) that was either covered up or "managed" or "handled" or ignored by people connected with the athletic program or administration of PSU...

Second, don't blame the PSU students for celebrating the culture of football or the culture of winning at all costs. Look around, folks, and see what you're teaching your kids. For example: the entitlement of the NBA union negotiations (and I use that word with tongue in cheek). The language, the jockeying for control, and the sinful amount of money being fought over--all of which would be better used in America's food banks that buying bling for already super-rich basketball players or basketball owners or (worst!) basketball agents--just points out how much our culture celebrates athletes and their bad over-privileged bad behaviors. That's what our kids see and emulate... with our approval far too often.

So are you surprised when disappointed PSU students overturn a media van or demand Paterno's return?

And, by the way, Paterno didn't abuse anyone, he reported what he was told about... he didn't follow up on the report, it seems, which is ethically and morally wrong, yes, but not the same as what is alleged about Sandusky. He merely allowed it to be handled, or to go on, and to keep Sandusky in place, I guess. And yes, Paterno has been a great coach for a long time. And yes, he could have used his huge power to make changes in 2002 when he knew something (!) but he didn't. He reported a man he had known and promoted and worked side by side with -- and that was it.

I am not excusing him.

C'mon, folks, this is the same country where every 9 seconds a woman is abused by her boyfriend or husband... and nobody sees. Or 2.7 kids are the victims of bullying annually (2010 stats) -- and nobody stops it. Or where a married congressman tweets his private parts to multiple women he's never met... and then lies about it... and then has to be forced out of office because he himself has no shame about it. Or where an African woman who was attacked by a rich, white man can't go to trial because the DA decides she's not "credible enough," even though it seems clear the man is a serial abuser, if not rapist--not that she wasn't abused or violated, mind you, simply that he cannot present her as a believable witness against a rich, powerful, white man because 12 jury members wouldn't buy it.

If you don't like the world I've described... do something.

And, so... PSU: this is what we in the academic biz call a "teachable moment."

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