HUFFINGTON POST
11/18/2011 09:44 am ET

Penn State Scandal: Teen Bloggers Sound Off

HuffPost Pro/Con is a regular column featuring teen bloggers sounding off on hot-button issues of their choice. The below debate is between two HuffPost High School bloggers.

Question: Should former Penn State Head Football Coach, Joe Paterno, be defended? (To read more about the Penn State scandal, click here.)

PRO

Jake Fischer, 17-year-old senior at Cherry Hill High School East in New Jersey

Turmoil. Sadness. Anger. Confusion. Many emotions and opinions permeated across the Penn State campus throughout the entire past weekend. Every media network nationwide covered the scandal. Hundreds of student supporters mobbed the lawn and street in front of Joe Paterno's house. University staff members were fired and former Penn State Assistant Football Coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested and charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse of multiple young boys. All of which has led to one truly unfortunate event: the tarnishing of Joe Paterno's legacy.

Before last week, Joe Paterno was known as the legendary 84-year-old Penn State Head Football Coach who consistently led a contending football team that was produced by an honorable Penn State Football program. This program was known to annually graduate more players than any other public school, help young boys mature into grown men and preach fair play and sportsmanship. Paterno was known for his inspirational teachings and his famous father-son-like relationships with his players. He was known for contributing so much to the University outside of football and for dedicating his life to help benefit all of Penn State's students.

Even with this enormous scandal and horrific allegations, why should any of that change?

The impact Paterno had on the entire school and its students cannot be compared to that of any other college coach in any other sport. The man was simply a legend (and still is) and has defined the term "great coach" in every single aspect. Even though he failed to further pursue the child-molestation issue after informing his superior, the University's President, and probably should have alerted the authorities, Paterno isn't guilty of any federal crime. His actions were, yes, immoral. But illegal? Not even close.

"The sad thing is, Paterno didn't violate the law" -- by failing to notify to the authorities -- Rep. Kevin Boyle (D., Phila) told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Paterno was immediately placed in a bad position by Sandusky and graduate-assistant-at-the-time, Mike McQueary. And don't even get me started on McQueary not being fired and being allowed to coach the team's game this past Saturday against Nebraska. If you were Paterno back in 2002, I'll bet every penny in my bank account that you would have done the same exact thing by just telling the president of the University.

The truth is that there is so much more to Joe Paterno's coaching career beyond this past week. Obviously the scandal is serious and punishments deserve to be distributed to all members who might even be guilty by association. But, we can't overlook the amazing contributions Paterno made to the University. Paterno helped raise $13 million for their new library ($4 million out of his own pocket) that will remain on Penn State's campus for many years and undoubtedly enhance each current and future Penn State student's education. Paterno also was a consistent mentor, big brother and father figure to all of his players.

When Adam Taliaferro, former Penn State cornerback, was paralyzed by a hit during a 2000 game, Paterno could have easily wished him and his family the best of luck with Taliaferro's recovery and returned immediately back to football operations. Instead, Paterno was seemingly glued to Taliaferro's hospital bedside and helped motivate and encourage his player to rehabilitate and work towards recovering from his almost life-threatening injury.

"When I was injured and in the hospital, every Thursday, Coach would fly down from State College to Philadelphia," Taliaferro said. "No one really knew he did it. We didn't really even talk about football. For him to do that during the season says a lot about him. That's when I really realized he was more than a coach."

Taliaferro is now walking and was recently elected to public office in Gloucester, NJ. Along with Taliaferro, Paterno helped guide literally hundreds of graduated players towards earning a steady salary and achieving their career aspirations after football.

Even after a weekend full of scorn and negativity, Paterno's legacy should be allowed to outshine the dark shadow this scandal has cast over his entire career. Joe Paterno deserves the chance for fans and people in general to understand that the positive contributions he made to Penn State University far outweigh this one infamous blemish on his otherwise immaculate resume. So, I'm urging you to forgive the living legend and understand the amazing impact he has had on the thousands of Penn State students that were on campus during his coaching tenure. If you choose to despise him and all that is Penn State Football, just know this: he will still always be known for winning two National Championships, still be the all-time FBS coaching leader in wins, and still hopefully have his statue grace the outside of Beaver Stadium. Joe Paterno is, and always will be, a revered legend. It's time for the whole world to re-acknowledge that.

CON

Naomi Menezes, 16-year-old high school junior in Southern California

For the past week, Pennsylvania State University has been in a state of chaos. The students of Penn State have taken to the street, protesting the firing of beloved football coach, Joe Paterno. Paterno was fired for coving up a sexual abuse scandal involving one of his assistant coaches, Jerry Sandusky. He was told by a coach, Mike McQueary, that Sadunsky was abusing a child in a Penn State locker room. Sandusky is currently charged with 40 counts of abusing eight boys. And Penn State's student body took to the street rioting.

But what are they rioting about? I would expect this kind of explosive rage to be directed towards, say, a sexual abuse scandal involving underage boys. Instead, the students are revolting about Paterno being fired. Penn State, please consider what you are rioting, before you do so.

Frankly, I am horrified by the reaction Penn State has had to this scandal. I would expect more candlelight vigils than trashed streets. It's concerning that the students are more worried that their beloved head coach has been fired than that eight children have been sexually abused. Penn State should be embarrassed that they are supporting Paterno in this way.

This brings me to my main point -- what are they are teaching us, the next generation of college students. I am sure most people value the well-being of children more than their favorite team's season record. But these students are teaching us that it's OK to know about the sexual abuse of children, and not report a rapist.

Maybe this is too extreme. Perhaps the students got wrapped up in the mob mentality, the thrill of their first "protest," not realizing what exactly they were promoting, what they were telling us they were supporting.

The students, media, everyone has been focusing more on the loss of "Joepa" than the fact that someone has abused eight underage boys. Not everyone realizes how their lives will be forever changed, because Paterno and McQueary did not speak up.

They have been trying to rectify their misstep, like wearing blue to symbolize their support for the victims at a recent game and holding candlelight vigils for them as well. Unfortunately, the damage has already been done.

Instead of following the example of Penn State's students, think about the repercussions of your actions before you do something. Speak up when you see something that you know is wrong.

Penn State has some work to do, and show us that they are greater than their football team.

HuffPost
BEFORE YOU GO

Check out Jon Stewart's comedic take on the scandal here:

CONVERSATIONS