It’s Not About the Statue: What Penn State Should Tear Down
At the Wall Street Journal:
In the days since the release of the Freeh Report—Penn State’s own investigation of its child sex abuse scandal, helmed by a former FBI director, Louis J. Freeh, which found that top university officials, among them the late football coach Joe Paterno, “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade”—there’s been a rush to redress a horrible offense with a symbolic act, removing a seven-foot statue of Paterno outside the school’s football stadium.
Tear it down. Or don’t tear it down. This weekend, ESPN’s Don Van Natta, Jr. reported that university trustees planned to keep the Paterno statue up outside Beaver Stadium, at least for now. Maybe it comes down later. Maybe not.
Either way, the satisfaction will be cosmetic.
Better to bicker over bronze than look into the soul of a scandal—what created a climate on campus in which principles were suspended, leaders declined to lead, and more victims suffered. So much easier to focus tightly on a sculpture than to zoom out and consider the full canvas.
Because the full canvas is wider than a coach or a handful of officials or even Penn State. It’s an athletic culture gone sick, as college sports has grown into a multibillion-dollar business, distorting standards that bind together healthy societies, and pushing imperfect people atop pedestals.
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