One of the NCAA’s punishments of Penn State was the vacating of all its football team’s wins from 1998 through 2011. It was in 1998 that Penn State coach Joe Paterno and university officials became aware of the accusation that assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had showered with a young boy.
As a result, Penn State’s 112 wins are no longer wins, and Joe Paterno is no longer the coach with the most wins in college-football history. Instead of 409 victories, his record shows 298.
Before explaining why this decision is morally wrong, I should note that I consider what Jerry Sandusky did to be an indescribable evil. I recognize that Joe Paterno and the university officials enabled this evil to continue. And I do not take issue with the other NCAA punishments of Penn State.
But it is worrisome that there has been virtually no outcry against the terrible wrong committed by the NCAA’s rewriting of history.
Unless Joe Paterno and Penn State won those 112 games illegally or immorally, they are wins. No amount of wrongdoing by anyone at Penn State allows anyone to change history. This is another example of how the road to hell is paved with good intentions — in this case, punishing Penn State and teaching everyone how terrible covering up child abuse is.
In our generation, we have seen truth not merely reduced as a value; it has been more or less removed from the list of virtues. History is increasingly what politically correct people want it to be.
In California, the country’s largest purchaser of school texts, elementary- and high-school students, by law, must learn about the contributions to California and America of women, African Americans, Mexican Americans, entrepreneurs, Asian Americans, European Americans, American Indians, and labor. This year the California legislature passed another law — the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful Education Act — which mandates teaching the contributions of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people.
That American history is dominated by the contributions of white Anglo-Saxon Protestant males is irrelevant to all those who see history as a feel-good exercise, not the relating of what actually occurred. As the 325,000-member California Teachers Association, which has contributed so mightily to the decline of education in California, stated in support of the LGBT bill: “We believe that school curriculum materials should adequately portray the diversity of our society.”
In other words, according to California’s teachers, the purpose of education is not to teach truth, it is to “adequately portray the diversity of our society.”
In defending the new California law, Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association, said, “There is no room for discrimination of any kind in our classrooms, our communities or our state.”
But, by definition, history does discriminate. A history of classical music will discriminate in favor of Austrians and Germans. A history of jazz will discriminate in favor of blacks. And a history of the founding of America will discriminate in favor of WASP males. Otherwise they are not histories.
Whatever evil Joe Paterno and Penn State officials failed to stop, the 112 wins are wins.
Where will the NCAA draw its line? What other wrongs that have nothing to do with victories on the playing field will the NCAA address by nullifying the hard-fought wins of innocent student athletes?
The lesson the NCAA is teaching young people — that history and truth don’t matter if enough powerful people don’t want them to matter — can be as injurious to society as the cover-up was to the victims of Sandusky.
And not only to society. To individuals as well.
Thanks to the NCAA’s history rewrite, all those completely innocent Penn State football players who played their hearts out to win those 112 games played for naught. False NCAA history will record that they never won a game.
And what about the impact on former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, who is now listed as the winningest coach in American college-football history? Until the NCAA’s revision of history, he had the rather impressive title of second winningest coach in American college-football history. Now, he will be dogged by a permanent, though unwritten, asterisk next to his name.
If, as the NCAA report charges, Penn State’s silence spoke volumes about Penn State’s culture, what does America’s silence in the face of the NCAA’s falsification of history say about ours?
— Dennis Prager, a nationally syndicated columnist and radio talk-show host, is author of Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. He may be contacted through his website, dennisprager.com.