For this week’s journal entry, I’d like you all to first listen to the radio story from WBEZ’s This American Life here–about the first five minutes or so, until they start “Act 1.”
I think we can all agree that the child rape and subsequent cover-up that happened at Penn State was an unjustifiable atrocity. The student reaction to the news (not all students, we have to assume) was disappointing as well: angry fans tipping over news vans in reaction to Joe Paterno’s firing, angry outcry over the penalty imposed on the football program, that kind of thing.
It’s easy to hate on Penn State, and entirely justifiable. But I think it’s important to note the similarities between a school like Penn State and a school like ours: both are large state colleges with tons of school spirit. Student life at both schools revolves in large part around football season and the drinking scene off-campus (see the This American Life episode “#1 Party School” for an examination of the debauchery at Penn State recorded two years before news of the Sandusky scandal broke). Until the scandal broke (and, for some people, even after), Joe Paterno was every bit as beloved as Bobby Bowden.
So I think it’s only fair to ask ourselves: what if Penn State had happened here?
You can react to this prompt in a number of ways. You could reflect on the importance of football in our higher education system, or write about the value of transparency and accountability in any organization, athletic or not. You could talk about the nature of fandom, and how it might lead us all to do stupid or unreasonable things sometimes. How does a school make amends for such a heinous crime being perpetrated on its grounds? How can we keep our administrations accountable so that cover-ups like Penn State don’t occur?
I know we’re coming off a huge victory this week, and I certainly don’t want to put a damper on anyone’s school spirit. But this is the point of English class more than anything else: thinking critically about the ideas and institutions around you.
As always, 200 or more words, due by midnight Sunday, November 10.