Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Penn State's Other Parenting Problems

A Casablanca moment leaves Americans “shocked, shocked” about gambling in the casino, even as Joe Paterno, in his last interview, claims to have been “shocked and saddened” by revelations of child abuse and cover-ups at Penn State.

At the same time, a scathing report details the university’s “slavish devotion” to its own needs that overrode “everything, including the law, basic human decency and the bedrock obligation we all have to protect defenseless children from harm.”

We can turn the page now on the Sandusky mess, cathartically comforted by the sight of all those guilty others to be flogged on the media square and forgotten. But a few questions about our own complicity may be in order.

Nowhere in the recriminations is any serious debate about why and how college sports under NCAA rules have turned institutions of higher learning into profit centers where student athletes, with no compensation or insurance, slave for the glory and financial gain of celebrity coaches and TV networks.

Saturday afternoon watchers will go back to enjoying games with little thought about those who labor now for future fame and wealth but with no protection against career-ending injuries.

If the pillars of higher learning collude in such exploitation, why are we surprised by the failure of such elites to fullfil “in loco parentis” duties to protect other students as well as helpless children from big-name predators?

In an age of hypocrisy, where social trust in institutions from the White House to the Supreme Court has eroded, why should colleges and universities be immune? And why should we who can watch games a day later where players are properly paid and protected?

As the Olympics loom, it may be past time to rethink amateur purity. 

Update: To complete the circle of hypocrisy comes news of a sweet deal Paterno was negotiating at his death.

He would get $3 million if he agreed 2011 would be his last season. The university would forgive previous interest-free loans of $350,000 as part of the retirement package, and he would have the use of the university’s private plane and a luxury box at Beaver Stadium for himself and his family over the next 25 years.

No word of anything for the player-students who would labor on in the games below.

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