Penn State Scandal Updates

Joe Paterno's nickname inside the Penn State program was "The Rat." Former Penn State grad assistant Matt Paknis explains. Photo by Vicenteb_d

I think we’ve really lost in this country—and maybe in many countries—a certain value of leadership. The idea that power can be wielded for the common good is kind of up for grabs these days, because there are so many competing commercial interests on governance as we know it.

– Investigative reporter Jason Berry on the Penn State scandal

Many of you probably want this story to go away. I understand. It’s painful. But I think our country likes to be comfortably numb. Booze. Drugs. Video games. Sports. “Reality” TV.

There’s nothing wrong with having some escapism in your life. But expressing the initial horror over the Penn State story and then slipping back to a medicated or electronic semi-coma isn’t the answer. It doesn’t help us become more educated on the subject of preventing sexual abuse in our communities.

It also doesn’t teach us how to spot the evils that exist within a power structure that happen at every level of a university, business, or government institution. Moreover, we need to learn why the initial reactions to defend this power structure are not unusual and why we shouldn’t have been as surprised as we were.

Here are some links worth reading that I think will help us continue to become more cognizant of the big-picture issues as this story continues to unfold:

Matt Paknis’ blog entry – The former Penn State grad assistant talks about his experiences working with the football team and his impressions of the power structure as well as the behaviors he witnessed from Jerry Sandusky. Paknis did not witness sexual acts, but he did see Sandusky show questionable judgment with physical boundaries between the defensive coordinator and children in public. He also doesn’t mince words about what he thinks Joe Paterno knew. This is a must read. Here’s a podcast with him on Mike Francesca’s CBS show if you just don’t feel like reading.

What the Catholic Church Can Teach Us About the Penn State Scandal – The Atlantic features a Q&A between culture writer (and terrific sportswriter) Patrick Hruby with investigative reporter Jason Berry who has “written extensively about child molestation charges against the church.” Berry says there are striking parallels, but a lot more credit should be given to Penn State for its swift reaction.

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