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Reflecting on Penn State

Science fiction writer John Scalzi’s thoughtful take on the abuse, and subsequent cover up, at Penn State [via Boing Boing]:

Here’s what I think about that, right now. I’m a science fiction writer, and one of the great stories of science fiction is “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” which was written by Ursula K. Le Guin. The story posits a fantastic utopian city, where everything is beautiful, with one catch: In order for all this comfort and beauty to exist, one child must be kept in filth and misery. Every citizen of Omelas, when they come of age, is told about that one blameless child being put through hell. And they have a choice: Accept that is the price for their perfect lives in Omelas, or walk away from that paradise, into uncertainty and possibly chaos.

At Pennsylvania State University, a grown man found a blameless child being put through hell. Other grown men learned of it. Each of them had to make their choice, and decide, fundamentally, whether the continuation of their utopia — or at very least the illusion of their utopia — was worth the pain and suffering of that one child. Through their actions, and their inactions, we know the choice they made.

If you’re up for more takes on the whole situation, two of the more interesting things I read come from The Nation, who try to help paint the picture of how Penn State found itself so reliant on football that it could look past what’s probably the worst crime anyone can think of, and ESPN, or more accurately Poynter Institute blogging on ESPN.com, who takes the cable channel to task for it’s misguided coverage. Here’s an excerpt:

By Tuesday, we expected ESPN to find its footing, but that didn’t happen. When Penn State canceled a scheduled news conference that morning, that left “SportsCenter” with a reporter outside the stadium with nothing to report. Then in the 11 a.m. hour “SportsCenter” brought in Matt Millen, who played for Paterno and now works as an ESPN analyst, for an interview with anchor Chris McKendry.

Neither seemed prepared. McKendry’s questions were indirect and non-specific. And Millen himself was understandably still working through the implications of charges. He started by defending Paterno’s job and cautioning folks to withhold judgment of the legendary coach. Pressed by McKendry, Millen meandered, eventually choking up and acknowledging that if the charges are true, this is a massive moral failure.

November 13, 2011 // This post is about: , , ,