Class Warfare Blog

July 22, 2012

An Open Letter to Paterno Apologists

Filed under: Education,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 7:55 pm
Tags: , , ,

I have heard recently a number of impassioned appeals from citizens regarding the Penn State University sexual predation cover-up that the role Coach Joe Paterno played needs to be balanced by all of the “contributions he made to the community” and “how many young men he had a positive effect on.”

Joe Paterno was a teacher, a teacher of football. As such and according to federal law, he was a “mandated reporter,” which means he was trained and required, by law, to report any cases of child abuse he saw or even suspected. He not only failed to do this, but he covered up heinous activities to preserve reputations: his program’s, his university’s, and his. And I cannot believe that a man who has lead an upright, moral life would first draw a line on the other side of child sexual rape as a first offense. I have to believe that there was a ladder of failings that left this final one as a bridge not too far. He also lied repeatedly in his cover-up.

With regard to having a positive effect on a large number of young people who came through his program, well, that was his job. That is what teachers do. Whether he was good at it or not is hardly the question.

As regards his generosity with his money, I too was a college teacher, though I did not give gifts of money that could compare with Coach Paterno’s. I suspect that this is basically a reflection of the fact that Coach Paterno earned more money in one year as a football coach than I did in 35 years as a college chemistry professor, even though I saw more students and, possibly, had a positive effect on a great many more young men and women. I also didn’t have a staff of dozens of people assisting me in my endeavors.

What Coach Paterno did was unspeakable but we must speak to it. The only possibly effective recourse is to eliminate his name from history, much as one Egyptian Pharaoh did to another. His memory should be expunged along with his name, records, everything. The only remnant of his reputation should be should be a commemorative plaque explaining that an “employee of the university” failed in his most basic duty and the repercussions of which were his statue was taken down, etc., etc.

Make no apologies when none are possible.

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