A Flawed Culture: My Take on This Penn State Scandal
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
"Great men are almost always bad men."
- John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton
I'll preface this by stating that I didn't go to Penn State, grow up rooting for Penn State, nor consider myself a Penn State fan. But this isn't really about Penn State. It's not really even about Jerry Sandusky, or Joe Paterno, or Graham Spanier, or Tim Curley or Gary Schultz.
Not one of those men alone brought down Penn State. Not even Jerry Sandusky's atrocities brought down Penn State. What brought Penn State down was the same thing that brought down the Roman Empire, the British Empire and the like -- it was a flawed culture.
From top to bottom, the mindset of every single person at State College is PSU first, and every single other thing in existence second. It was a plague that infected PSU faculty, staff, alumni, fans, even people living in State College with no ties to the school.
The college, a state-funded academic institution, became a sovereign nation. The football program became sacred. Beaver Stadium became the only church worth paying any attention to, and Joe Paterno became a deity.
Yet, no one found a flaw in all that. No one found a flaw in worshiping false idols. People still, after everything has come out, rush to defend PSU, its leaders, and its football program. It is a fatally flawed culture at Penn State and one that was allowed to flourish for far too long.
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But, it's not really about Penn State. PSU served as a backdrop to this tragedy. This could have happened at the University of Michigan, or at USC, or at West Virginia, or any other college or university were a game, played by kids, becomes greater than it should ever be. It could happen anywhere where money and prestige outweigh decency and morality.
Hell, if this happened in corporate America we'd see the same response. If one of Ford's executives was charged with a similar crime as Sandusky, they'd try to sweep it under the rug. Apple, Pepsi, any of our nation's top companies would likely do the same.
So if you're jumping and shouting in defense of Penn State, screaming about all the good that's been done there and all the good people who've come out of there -- you're only feeding into this tragic culture that's been created.
Look, I have no problem with proud alums. I'm sure there are a ton of good folks in and around the Penn State family. But by defending an institution that allowed something like this to happen and may have tried to cover it up, you're only perpetuating the argument I'm trying to make. Also, you probably are an alum and probably have never been a member of PSU's "power pyramid".
What's happened with Penn State has set fire to a culture that exists in probably countless other environments. With any luck the flames and smoke will attract even more attention. My hope, however, is that this fire will fuel some kind of change in this country.