The Penn State Scandal, from a Youth Leader’s Perspective…

11 11 2011

To say that I’m horrified, sickened, and utterly appalled by the Penn State scandal that’s hit the news in the last few days would be an understatement.

Rarely do I feel compelled to personally respond to a woeful tale of news. But as someone who works with young boys and girls on a regular basis, spends time studying their psychology and understands how  fragile they are at this critical time in their lives–and has some idea of the extent of the damage that sick adults have inflicted on these kids will undoubtably cause–I can’t keep quiet.

I don’t have the desire to yet again sully the minds of good people by dredging up the details of horrific tale of heinous crime, cover-up, negligence, and unbelievable arrogance. Nor do I have the experience or degree necessary to analyze this like the legal experts and psychologists out there , who can articulate and explain much better than I can.

So I’ll speak from my gut, as a youth leader.

My heart absolutely goes out to the boys and families who are enduring humiliation, betrayal, and attempting to recover from the abuse of men that the world lifted up as heroes. I pray for their future, their ability to forgive, heal, and recover–but I know they can never forget what has happened to them.

I feel sick when I think about all the ways that the adults in this situation failed to protect innocent children. If this doesn’t demonstrate the old adage that “absolute power corrupts absolutely”, I don’t know what does.

It’s hard for me to fathom what went through the minds of those who realized that such atrocities were taking place with their co-workers, and how they justified not stepping in to call the police and pursue this doggedly until the appropriate people got locked up in jail. To be a program director or the president of a university, and to hear a hint that even smacked of sexual abuse of minors and to do nothing but bury it? And to honestly think that no one would ever find out?

I can’t possibly imagine walking into a locker room, witnessing abuse with my very own eyes, and not being sure about what to do. It’s unbelievable that a grown man could go home and eat dinner, get up in the morning and go about his normal daily habits without even pausing to consider what a fragile ten-year-old boy was going through at the same time. And to call daddy and ask for advice, instead of doing what was right and calling the police?

And to have your grown son call you for advice on this issue, and to not call the police yourself? To sit by and proudly watch your son succeed in his career by covering  up and protecting criminals–who continue to commit horrible acts on innocent young boys?

What’s more, I can’t believe the college students at Penn State who are rallying and rioting for this so-called “legendary” coach. Do these students have no semblance of right and wrong? Or are they so self-focused and arrogant (and likely intoxicated) that they can’t understand what evil has been committed here? (Hey, Penn State–ever take a history course? Young adults rallied and rioted like this for another guy–er, I think he went by the name “Hitler”? Ring a bell as another mistake that people once cheered for?)

Stories like these–and my ill-fated story of being attacked at Disneyland, which you can read here— sure illustrate how depraved our world is.

At the same time, it saddens me to hear things like I heard on the national news yesterday, as one expert talked about parents and students being wary about the adults in their lives. She cautioned against adults who talk to and hang out with youth, who spend time seeking to understand kids, who know what kids are into, who attempt to be a listening ear and caring adult to young people.

It’s not that I disagree–it’s just that she described me (and every other youth leader, pastor, Big Brother or Big Sister, and counselor) out there. And despite all the negative news about leaders and adults who do screw up, there are a lot of us faithfully working with kids–not because of some sick fetish or inner inadequacy or inability to grow up and get a “real job”–but because we know that investing in this upcoming generation is the most important thing we can do for our world.

In this horrific scandal, the “good adults” were the ones to distrust…the ones who twisted the truth and blatantly chose the path of no responsibility…the ones who looked out only for their own selfish gain and paid no attention to the lives of helpless kids. Only time can tell what sort of an effect that these fallen heroes might have on the way this entire generation of kids grows up to trust, behave, and believe.

And really, who can blame them?

Let’s instead pray that this generation rises above this sort of behavior and can set a better example of moral integrity, justice, and honesty to their children.

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