Head coach Joe Paterno was said to preside over a "clean" program. That is to say, there weren't any recruiting violations, and most of the football players graduated. I am willing to believe that such conditions prevailed and that Paterno may well have been an honest man who made a bad decision, or who wasn't paying enough attention to what his assistants were doing.
But, really, what Paterno and his crew were doing--at least from an educational standpoint--is exactly the sort of thing educators have been doing in this country for more than a century. Some writers on education, like John Holt, have described the sorts of schools and colleges we have as factories. In other words, they are facilities that turn out a product (in this case, graduates). Each sample of that product is just like the others, and they are made to the specifications of whoever is paying for them. In doing these things, the factory sucks the life out of, if not exploits, those who work in and for it.
And such were the conditions of Penn State and its football program. Their goals were to turn out graduates and NFL players--not educated people, not well-rounded human beings, not young men and women who are mature, confident and self-reliant. In this sense, Penn State is really no different from any number of other universities or schools in this country. When they talk about turning out "citizens," "workers" or "leaders," you know that the goal is not to teach people how to think, communicate or empathize. That is to say, the goal is never to educate people; the gestures of education might be performed, but there will not be actual education.
Of course, in such an atmosphere--which is no different from what one finds in most educational institutions--the goal of the school is not to serve the student. Instead, the student is there to serve the school. The student does this by being a number, a statistic, a label. He or she is another tick on the enrollment sheet; if he or she is in one program or another, that can mean additional funding--whether in tuition, grants or money allocated by Federal, state and local governments--for that school. And, if said student is a football player (or, in some other schools, a basketball player), he brings additional money to the school in everything from ticket sales to product endorsements.
Finally, the school wants those student/athletes to graduate--preferably "on time"--for media and public relations, not for the betterment of the student. Plus, once those students graduate, they are no longer sources of revenue--unless, of course, they give, as alumni to the school.
To me, it's not surprising that, within such a system, someone would exploit the young people for his own personal gain or pleasure. That is what former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is said to have done when he was working under Paterno. I am hardly surprised that in a system in which student/athletes are commodities, and graduates are products, such a man would be drawn to the job he had. After all, although paedophilia involves adults having sex with children, it is not primarily a sexual relationship. Rather, it is the entanglement of vulnerable young people in the power of an authority (if not authoritative) figure. And, really, it's difficult to see how Penn State, or just about any other university or education system, could not have people like him working for them.