In the scandal that has engulfed Penn State what would have happened if Joe Paterno belonged to a union?
There are so many details that few people knew about. For instance Jerry Sandusky had previously been investigated by the local district attorney who concluded that he lacked evidence to proceed against Sandusky. Did Joe know about that investigation? Did it influence his thinking?
Many are saying that Joe should have called police as by required by law. Joe does not work with youth under the age of 18. The laws that apply to us as teachers may be different than those that apply to him. The fact is that the investigation did reveal Joe Paterno did meet the requirements of the law. He was not fired for doing something wrong; he was fired because he did not do more than what was minimally correct. By that standard we would today fire the entire Department of Education and every legislator who voted for NCLB and/or mandatory reporting laws.
The bottom line is that he reported it to those who were responsible for doing something about it. These people failed Joe, they failed Penn State, and they failed the children.
But is this true? It is coming out now that Penn State knew about this investigation back in March and only acted now after the details were made public. It also turns out that McQueary physically stopped Sandusky when he witnessed him in the shower and that he spoke with police after the incident. Did Penn State act to save itself at the expense of the man who embodied the ideals of what a university should be?
If Joe Paterno was a member of a union these facts would have prevented him being treated as the guilty party when all hate should be directed towards Jerry Sandusky.
Did Joe deserve to be fired? The governor of Pennsylvania thinks so. But he, as the attorney general who began this investigation, also did nothing to prevent Sandusky from being with young children while the scrutiny of Sandusky’s behavior was ongoing.
You can’t fire people for not doing enough of the right thing. It’s a sad statement, kind of like mind your own business. When the wrong thing was done by your supervisor despite the right thing you did, well anybody besides me ever been there? Not a pretty place, but I am thankful I had a union when I was there. The bottom line is that how we as a society view whistleblowing in its wide sense needs to be evaluated. When the whistle is blown, even if incorrectly but with merit, the whistle blower needs protection from supervisors seeking revenge. Think about miners who reported safety issues and their warnings went ignored. Haven’t we seen enough mine disasters in Pennsylvania and West Virginia? Think about Karen Silkwood.
In education today, we cannot help children unless that help is found within the covers of a text book. We as teachers know children who need help in ways other than what a text book can offer. How many of us are silent? How many of us deserve to be fired for not doing enough of the right thing even though we have done nothing wrong? How many of us have gone to the person in charge only to be ignored? I think it happens a lot. In the end, society is as guilty as Joe Paterno and maybe even more so. If it turns out Joe knew Police had spoken with McQueary as the link above demonstrates, how will Penn State ever apologize to this man? How will Penn State ever apologize to these children? Penn State tried to save itself and it failed. I as a Penn State fan am embarrassed by that mentality. Joe Pa it turns out, may have benefitted had he been a union member.