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Penn State : Only One Example

November 14, 2011

Larry Aronstein (left) and Rob Prince (right) ...about to break into song

by Larry Aronstein, Guest Blogger

I spent 46 years in public education, mostly as a principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent. I found that the values of the school-community were reflected in what were the accepted practices in both the academic and athletic programs. In almost all of the five different communities I worked in, the communities had very little to point to as sources of pride. Like most of America, they were working class towns with little social or economic capital or mobility.

Resourses were limited and frugality governed every decision. Maintenance was deferred until the physical conditions violated safety standards. The quality of academic programs were given lip service at best by boards of education. Yet, I continued to “dream the impossible dream” and used my repertoire of skills and knowledge and “made something out of nothing.” I take pride in elevating the educational process in every place I ever worked. I figured if those hard working people were good enough to pay me a decent wage, the least I could do was to give them my best service.

Nevertheless, the little pride there was in those communities were most often found in the successes in their sports programs. Routinely, community members would come out on cold winter nights with pot luck dinners for the kids when they got off the bus from a late night away game. Yes, we all love our kids and celebrate their efforts and successes.

Unfortunately, the significance of the performance of the kids was vastly exaggerated and led to their sense of entitlement. Pressure was put of teachers to pass players even though there was no evidence of achievement. Eligibility requirements were disregarded. I’ll never forget the outrage of the community when an over-age player was discovered and the league penalized the team by taking away the team’s two wins– even though everyone knew the kid was over-aged and they were violating the league’s rules.

Most disturbing was that the self-importance of these kids was manifested by their attitude that they ran the school. They sat in their own exclusive section of the cafeteria; walked together down the hallways in their jerseys and would physically knock anyone aside who happened to get in their way. In inner city streets, this is gang behavior. In small towns, this is team pride.

What is of most concern is that our schools are dominated by the presence of the have’s and the have not’s. Winners and losers. In small towns we see it in sports. In affluent suburbs, the distinction bleeds through in the institutionalization of

  • what kids get the best teachers;
  • who gets into the honors or AP classes;
  • who gets the leading roles in the plays;
  • who gets the scholarships and awards; etc. PTA’s, teachers’ unions.

Board’s of Ed., booster clubs are all part of the silent conspiracy. Kids who have influential parents and whose parents have influential friends are the winners. “To the victors go the spoils”.

Public education should be the bastion for leveling the playing field. The folks who Occupy Wall Street symbolize the repugnance for the inequities in our great nation. The inequities are not just economic. The inequities are usually unrecognized and go unaddressed.

Jerry Sandusky, the assistant coach at Penn State, was too important to the success of the source of pride at PSU, their football team, for anyone to dare blow the whistle. He was entitled to abuse children, inoculated from being held accountable to one set of standards.

Aronstein is the former superintendent of schools for Glen Cove Long Island. His experience in public education is, frankly, unmatched, having been a teacher, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent of schools. He also has  an extensive repertoire of songs and some of the funniest bad jokes I’ve ever heard. 

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura Lazowski permalink
    November 14, 2011 5:18 pm

    Thanks for sharing this….
    I’m from a family of teachers. What is education? What is higher education?
    What does it have to do with sports?
    Maybe the Penn State situation can give pause to think?

  2. nancy Fey permalink
    November 18, 2011 5:07 pm

    Neat piece, Larry. I was wondering when we’d hear an intelligent point of view aside from ‘sexually abusing kids isn’t good”. I haven’t followed the story closely but saw pictures of college kids at Penn State demonstrating, I thought against child sexual abuse. Then I realized they were demonstrating in support of Jerry SAndusky. Wow! Things get weirder and worse.

  3. December 2, 2011 8:34 am

    This is an absolutely disgusting case. No room on the planet for these type of people.

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