On Friday, President Obama said in a radio interview that Americans should do some soul searching with regard to the developments at Penn State. He described what happened as heartbreaking, "especially for the victims." He went on to say, "It's a good time for the entire country to do some soul searching, not just Penn State. People care about sports, it's important to us, but our No.1 priority has to be protecting our kids. And every institution has to examine how they operate, and every individual has to take responsibility for making sure that our kids are protected."
President Obama is right on many fronts, the first being that we have taken sports and the people who run them as a new religion, and as new pope. Jon Stewart made fun of
our obsession with this the other day, and it has garnered more than 300,000 views on his site. Clearly, what happened hit a nerve with not only the president but also with a viewing public. We have turned sports into something that is untouchable. The problem was that there was way too much touch by a sports hero. It is ironic that the focus of this scandal, Jerry Sandusky, wrote a book called "Touched." His subconscious must have been working overtime when he named that book!
What is more amazing is that the book raised money for the charity he founded, the
Second Mile. His alleged abuse is of the children who were part of his Second Mile program. Of the eight children listed in the grand jury indictment, at least three of them claim that inappropriate touching and more occurred at the Sandusky home. Where was Mrs. Sandusky? Was she at home? The executive director was supposedly told years ago about a possible abuse situation. Was his job and the money he raised more important than the mission of the organization? How about the president of the school? What was in place to let the two janitors who saw things know that their jobs would be protected? Where was the education of staff and faculty as to their responsibilities as an educational organization? There are so many questions left to be answered and so many lessons to be learned from this.
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If this were only an isolated case. The Boy Scouts have had cases filed against them,
as has the Catholic Church. When President Obama talked about soul searching, I think he was talking about our reverence for sports and sports figures. But, there is something greater here.
Many schools teach about good touch and bad touch and educate children to report
"bad touch." That is a great start, but we need to do more. We need to teach children about power relationships, about what can happen to other children if they don't say anything. Many children want to protect themselves and often the abuser. There needs to be something more than good touch, bad touch. That might work for younger children, but things get complicated for a child or teen who relies on the adult for stability or direction.
For many years, Talkers Magazine, working with Liz Claiborne Inc., has provided a
way that talk-show hosts from across the country can promote "It's Time to Talk Day."
Originally designed to promote an end to domestic violence, it expanded to discuss abusive dating and other issues of relationship abuse. It has worked wonders, and schools all over the country have used their suggestions to get kids talking.
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It is a start, but if Congress can promote the abstinence model of dating with lots of
money that it did during the Bush years, then why not take on this issue?
It's a lot more than "good touch, bad touch." It's also about abuse of power. It's time to talk about that, too, and to get the public sector involved in what the private sector has taken on. Our kids' lives depend on it.