The Kids are Alright
September feels like the Monday of the school year. I know a lot of people have negative feelings towards Mondays but I’ve come to appreciate the fresh start, the return to a routine, the quiet productivity of the days when school begins again.
My husband teaches fifth grade, so he was recently back to inservices and met one of the new teachers in his building. He complimented her PSU shirt and she was very excited to ask if he was also an alum. Sadly, he admitted he was not but that he had always loved Penn State and considered himself married into the family. He told me the story and I laughed and forgot all about it.
But then all of sudden I realized what had happened. There was a conversation, an excitement about Penn State and being part of the Penn State family, and then everybody went about their day. It was so NORMAL. Nothing else was discussed-- no scandal, no court cases, no media. There was no asterisk at all! Just pure happiness about connecting with a fellow Penn Stater. This young woman presumably applied to, attended, and graduated from Penn State post 2011.
Here I am thinking, I think we’ve finally turned a corner and every conversation about Penn State is not going to have a scandal cloud hanging over it. I think the kids are alright.
And in the midst of writing this whole thing about my husband, the new teacher, the Penn State excitement, and the normality of it, the Penn State Administration quietly announced that it was going to honor Joe Paterno and all hell broke loose. Again. Because once again, they have failed to explain that, despite what you’ve been led to believe, Paterno did exactly what he was supposed to do and that there is no evidence he was part of any sort of coverup. And more importantly, he built this university and will forever be part of its past, present, and future. That’s how it is with important, significant people. They are woven into the fabric of our lives. They are part of us always, our past, our present, and our future because they have shaped our very beings.
Then came the terribly disappointing Collegian editorial. And also the boneheads looking for their fifteen seconds saying they’re going to transfer if Penn State honors Paterno. I just can’t even. Are the kids not alright?
Kevin Horne wrote a beautiful piece for Onward State that explains why honoring Paterno still matters. My favorite part being that this, here and now, is the final test of the Grand Experiment. Have we kept our heads when all about us are losing theirs? Someway, somehow we have. Someway, somehow the Penn State spirit is proving indestructible. Somehow “all hell” seems to last a day or two, a week, and it’s okay again. I don’t like a lot of it but there’s hope here. We take a licking and we keep on ticking. We get sacked and we get up off that field and try again.
I actually feel lucky to be part of it. Like Mauti said, this is the greatest opportunity a Penn Stater can ever be given. The chance to demonstrate our indomitable will over and over again.
It doesn’t matter anymore if they honor Paterno because we honor him every day by continuing to make something of our lives beyond our Penn State experience. We live out the Grand Experiment that we are honored to be tangentially a part of.
I don’t know what this season holds. My dad thought I looked a little bored watching the game and maybe I was. And maybe that was kind of nice. It wasn’t an edge of your seat kind of game and it wasn’t the best playing I’ve ever seen. What it is, is potential. It doesn’t matter what the season holds. It matters that we show up every week with everything we’ve got. Sometimes it’s enough and sometimes it isn’t.
The struggle is real. And the hope is real, too. These kids are alright.