I would like to tell you that I have been on a round-the-world trip to places with no Wi-Fi which is why I have not published a blog recently, but I would be lying… and I respect my readers too much to tell such tall tales. The truth… there has been a tsunami in my brain these past few weeks. There has been a tidal wave of information that has forever changed the landscape of my brain. We live in an unsettled world. This tsunami has made my world even more unsettled.
The recent state of the world seems to be turning “what we thought we knew for sure” on end, changing and morphing into something else, too often something dark, ugly and distasteful. Sometimes these “awakenings” cause us to shrug our shoulders, shake our head and move forward with a new set of knowledge and expectations. Sometimes these awakenings cause deep internal turmoil. When what we thought was an unshakable truth which had been an integral, stable part of our belief system is challenged that tsunami washes over every cell of our body leaving our inner landscape forever changed by the experience.
I am Penn State Proud! I have two degrees and two professional certificates from Pennsylvania State University. I first arrived in University Park (aka Happy Valley) 43 years ago. While I am not one of those “over the top” alums with a Penn State powder room complete with the Nittany Lion’s image on the rug and toilet seat cover, I have always been proud to have graduated from such a prestigious university and to wear my Penn State sweatshirt. It has been a university I consider to have an excellent reputation in all respects. It is an educational institution that sent me into my professional life well prepared and with high expectations and professional standards. I would have described Joe Paterno as a man who was a dedicated coach and teacher (and I still believe that) and a man with a great commitment to morality, his own and that of his players.
The Sandusky situation has planted something toxic in my brain that I cannot accept or understand. I cannot pass judgement on anyone surrounding the horrific acts. I don’t know exactly what happened, exactly what was known by whom or when. It is a tragedy with many victims. My brain is not able to grasp the situation or even begin to sort out the pieces of this story.
Having worked in public education for 30 years, one particular parent conference has forever been burned into my memory. A mother came to meet with me to discuss her 7 year old son (who was actually not one of my students). She had just found out, two hours prior to our conversation, that her son had been sexually molested during a summer recreation program. Mom had gone to the police to report the incident, including the name of the abuser. She came directly to my office to ask for advice on how to tell her husband. Her emotions were raw. It was like sitting across from an open wound that was weeping. Fortunately, this young man and his family immediately went into therapy. Although the situation will never truly go away, at least there has been some healing.
I share this story because of the impact the conversation had on me. I was not in a position where I needed to report the incident. That had already been done. I share the story because I cannot comprehend being provided with this type of information and not following through to be sure the victim(s) were receiving help, and that the abuser was removed from any possibility of working with children and prosecuted. Shame on anyone and everyone who had knowledge of Sandusky’s abusive acts and did not scream at the top of their lungs until the victims received acknowledgement and justice.
Am I still Penn State Proud? Yes I am. The integrity of the university education I received has taught me to do better than what appears to have happened in this situation. I am sure I am not alone in that. Over the years Penn State has, and is continuing to, graduate students of the highest integrity. Roar, Lions Roar at those who have gone astray!