Penn State tragedy can teach us to do more

Staff Editorial

Joe Paterno was fired for not doing more in response to information he received about the sex abuse scandal at Penn State. (Photo credit:

After the Penn State sex abuse revelations came out last week, people all over the country weighed in, most of them choosing to criticize the Penn State officials whose negligence let former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s abuse of children go on.

Sports Illustrated columnist Jack McCallum approached the subject differently. In a column last week he condemned the reason the abuse was allowed to perpetuate – the inaction of State officials – but also condemned his own inaction.

McCallum wrote about how in 1999 he wrote a mostly positive feature on Sandusky and Second Mile, the charitable organization Sandusky was running at the time for at-risk kids – the same at-risk kids he was actually preying on.

McCallum said the story now “haunts” him. Now, he thinks he should have interviewed more people, should have realized Sandusky wasn’t an angel by the detached way he spoke about the charity, should have done more.

McCallum’s approach to the Penn State failure is one we should take too.

It’s easy for us to look at the scandal from afar and criticize the people who let it go on. They need to be criticized, in fact, so that this type of tragedy never happens again.

But we should also look at ourselves.

We have all failed to act at one time or another. We’ve seen someone being bullied or heard our friends use unnecessary vulgar language and, instead of standing up for what we know is right, stood frozen or even joined in. While our inactions probably have not let tragedies like the one at Penn State perpetuate, they probably have negatively impacted other people’s lives and put us on a slippery moral slope in our personal lives.

We can’t change what happened at Penn State, and, really, we probably won’t change what happens there in the future.

But we can do more for the people around us if we focus on changing ourselves and doing more in our lives.