The Teachable Moment From the Penn State Tragedy

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All I can say about this week’s Penn State child sex scandal is that it’s really saddening. 

So many victims and casualties this week.  A mighty institution and it’s revered leader are disgraced in internet time.  The above picture, of a smart mob, capturing raw JoPa, is just surreal.  Everywhere I go this week, people talk about it, with strong opinions in all directions.  To some, it’s a devisive issue, to others just plain sad.  My PSU alumni friends are thunder struck.

It’s a teachable moment, that’s for sure.  With the phone firing of Joe Paterno, all of us are put on alert: Alert the authorties when you are informed of child abuse by a credible source.  Do NOT fall into organizational process mode, putting your career or group ahead of the children.  Your boss is not the authority, in charge of protecting society against predators.  The police are.  No matter how important you may be, if you don’t tell the authorities about crimes like this, we’ll reclassify you as an accomplice to the crime and ostracize you like a common creep.  Really. 

There will likely be a movie made about all the backroom conversations that took place: JoPa’s conversation with Jerry (after 30 years of being his mentor, you KNOW he had one with him), the admin telling JoPa to stand down, and in rare form, he does.  The likely conversations by community affairs, PR handlers and most of all The Admissions Empire – all debating who was more important: PSU or the victims.  That’s how group think works, though.  We objectify the victims and personalize our risks if ‘we do the right thing by law.’ 

I read this quote by Edmund Burke today, and it really speaks to why this is a lesson to be taught to a generation:  “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” 

So, let’s point our energy toward the lesson, not the gruesome details.  Let’s share unity around an idea: #HerosDoSomething.  We can’t turn back the hands of time, but we can leverage tragedy to shape our future into a safer, better place.