The Penn State saga has been terribly depressing on so many
levels, and the world’s top writers have already sufficiently written columns
condemning the football team’s leadership who at worst raped young boys and at
best did the minimum to report it.
Investigations will occur, reports will be written, and
fines will be levied and paid. Trials will take place and some of the victims
destroyed by one man and those who aided and abetted his crimes may or may not
speak, may or may not find closure in the justice system.
It is likely that this will trigger more reports of sexual
abuse at other institutions where perpetrators weren’t stopped by those who “could
have done more.”
While this calamity will teach lessons to the current
leadership of athletic programs, schools, religious institutions and the
military, what needs to be addressed is how to teach young people to not be
bystanders when they witness wrongdoings.
We have to teach them why it is important, why it is their
duty, to speak out when it is so much easier to stay silent.
What we need is for every able bodied man, woman and child
to stand up against abuse from sexual to bullying. High school and college
students need to know you aren’t formidable because you can catch a football or
make a basket. You aren’t cool because you can down eight beers without puking.
What defines you is that you can take the keys away from a
friend who is about to drink and drive; you can report a friend who is bragging
about what you know are euphemisms for date rape; and you can confront someone
or call the authorities on someone who is bulling.
And of course, if someone’s life is in danger or a child is
going to be injured, you cannot take the easy way out and say it’s someone else’s
Facing History and Ourselves has numerous lesson plans and
teacher trainings on these topics. However, using the Penn State story, or what
happened to Lauren Spierer or resources on bullying, and clarifying the what should be universal
value that it is not OK to be a bystander to injustice under any circumstances,
is a lesson that can be taught by anyone, anywhere.
Will you teach it, or let someone else bother with it?