News Release

Penn State: “The Larger Scandal”


HENRY GIROUX, henry.giroux at
Giroux’s books include Youth in a Suspect Society: Democracy or Disposability? and The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex. He said today: “The Freeh Report makes clear that there was a concerted attempt to cover up the acts of a serial predator while wilfully disregarding the welfare of the children abused by Jerry Sandusky. Given the reporting of the last year, much of this is not news, though the report makes clear the nature and depth of the cover-up, while providing some important new details. While the Freeh report reveals that the cover-up at the top of the Penn State administration ‘was an active agreement to conceal,’ it raises further questions about how the justice system works in this country when it comes to prosecuting the rich and powerful who engage in a bottomless pit of corruption and moral irresponsibility. At his press conference, Freeh, when asked if criminal charges should be brought against a number of people, including former President Spanier replied that ‘it’s up to others to decide whether that’s criminal.’

“Let’s be clear, what is on trial here is not simply those who colluded to protect the reputation of a storied football program and the reputation of Penn State University, but a society governed by market-driven values, a survival of the fittest ethic, and an unregulated drive for profit-making regardless of the human and social costs. This is an ethic that now views many children and young people as disposable, refusing to acknowledge its responsibility to future generations while creating conditions in which the pain and suffering of young people simply disappears. As a number of recent banking scandals reveal, big money and the institutions it creates now engage in massive criminal behaviour and corruption, but the individuals who head these corporations extending from JPMorgan Bank to Barclay’s are rarely prosecuted. The message is clear. Crime pays for the rich and powerful.

“We can only understand what happened to the young victims at Penn State if we also acknowledge what recently was revealed about the criminal actions against children displayed by GlaxoSmithKline. In this instance, Glaxo illegally marketed Paxil to children, gave kickbacks to doctors, and made false claims about the drug even though one major clinical trial found ‘that teens who took the drug for depression were more likely to attempt suicide than those receiving placebo pills.’ Rather than representing a society’s dreams and hope for the future, young people have become a nightmare in the age of casino capitalism and big money. Couple this kind of institutional abuse we see at Penn State, GlaxoSmithKline, and Barclay’s with a society in which 53 percent of college graduates are jobless, social provisions for young people are being slashed, corporations get tax deductions while state governments eliminate vital public services, and students assume a massive debt because it is easier for the federal government to fund wars and invest in prisons than in public and higher education. Connect these dots and Penn State becomes only one shameful and corrupt marker in a much larger scandal that reveals a shameless and immoral war on youth. Until we understand the larger culture of political, institutional, and economic corruption, Penn State will become a side show that will simply distract from the real issue of what constitutes child abuse in America.” Giroux holds the Global TV Network chair in English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Canada.