Education Ethics Dunces: The Duncanville (Tx) School District And All Supporters And Enablers Of Jeff Bliss, Who Is Part Of The Problem With U.S. Education, Not The Solution

There are days when I despair of the nation and its society, when all the evidence points to a culture that has lost its way and is wandering deeper and deeper into the fog and mire. Today is such a day, and the Jeff Bliss saga is the perfect horrible exclamation point on my silent scream, which may go vocal any minute now.

To read the praise being heaped on Bliss, an 18-year-old Duncanville (Texas) High School sophomore, one would think he was a precocious education philosopher who spontaneously emitted the solution to the nation’s public school woes. In fact, what he did was strenuously object when he felt his teacher didn’t give the class long enough for an assignment, kept complaining when she ordered him to be quiet, and was quite properly ordered out of the classroom. This caused him to launch into a diatribe about her teaching methods, which was captured on a fellow student’s cell phone and put on YouTube. And here it is:

Astoundingly, the Duncanville school district has taken no disciplinary action against Bliss, though it has placed the teacher on administrative leave. His praises are being sung on line, and in the school, he is being praised by teachers and commentators. He has been asked to appear on the Today Show. “He makes a number of valid statements about how classrooms across America need to change, and we view this as an opportunity to have more conversations about transforming our schools to better meet the needs of our students,” the astoundingly incompetent district informed us.

Madness. Madness! Bliss is an 18 year old sophomore who showed utter disrespect and defiance of his instructor. Whether she is a good teacher or not, whether she was unfair in her assignments, whether she is a blight on her profession or not, Jeff Bliss was absolutely insubordinate, rude, defiant, disrespectful and outside any defensible standard of student conduct by staging his rant. He knows little or nothing about teaching, education, the workplace or life: he hasn’t graduated from high school, or held a steady job. He doesn’t even understand the basic difference between authority and those who must submit to it, between teacher and student, adult and child, supervisor and subordinate. He is arrogant and unjustifiably convinced of his own wisdom, though he has accomplished nothing to justify such certitude.  If he pulled such a stunt in the military, he’d end up in prison; it he tried it in the work place, he’d be fired; if he pulled it in college, he’d be expelled. For the school not to discipline a student who behaves this way in class…worse, to praise him, which is what the school district has done so far, completely undermines not only his teacher but every teacher in the district, the state and the nation. It also undermines him, rewarding him for conduct that will be ruinous later in life. The message: tell off your teacher and be a media star! Schools will discipline students for wearing the picture of a rifle on a T-shirt, but embarrassing and defying a teacher is all aces with them, apparently.

Teachers are not allowed to insist on decorum and respect from their students. School administrators don’t have the professionalism to support their teachers, the sense to punish intentionally disruptive students, or the courage to tell a mob of wrong-headed people that an over-age sophomore does not know what he’s talking about, does not have the standing to tell any teacher how to do her job, and is obligated to shut up, listen and do as he’s told.

And the Today Show—of course!— should not throw its  cultural weight, undeserved as it is, behind classroom insurrections by making a media figure out of this entitled, presumptuous teacher’s nightmare, so other similarly entitled students will be motivated to figure out ways to cash in by pulling their own class room stunts.

That this post bids fair to represent a minority view shows why the U.S. education system is falling apart in chunks. It’s not just that those in the field are lost regarding educating our children. Virtually everyone is. Not only are the monkeys running the zoo, the zookeepers are listening to them.

Yet I’m sure it can get worse.


Pointer: Dr. Shelley Lane

Sources: Dallas News, ABC (Dallas)

33 thoughts on “Education Ethics Dunces: The Duncanville (Tx) School District And All Supporters And Enablers Of Jeff Bliss, Who Is Part Of The Problem With U.S. Education, Not The Solution

  1. It’s an increasingly thankless position which puts all participants in a pressure cooker. I liken it to being asked to cook a nutritious meal of peas and pork chops for someone. You can’t compete with mcD’s. Fifty years ago, they might have eaten the food but now they’re jaded. Matter of fact, you are given poorer quality raw ingredients and have to remove the bones as they are increasingly likely to throw them at each other, and create a situation for lawsuits. Meanwhile, many claim they can’t chew the food. Teacher now grinds it up for them. Now the mush that is served is derided as tasteless gruel delivered without spirit.

  2. I refuse to believe that any person of authority in the school praised that guy. I am going to go on living as if nothing of the sort ever happened.


  3. My suspicion is that the teacher possibly–nay, probably–deserved criticism for her pedagogical failures. But not in that place, not at that time, and not in that manner. Moreover, the whole episode smacks of a set-up to me. Bliss’s performance, complete with choreographed gestures, reeks of bad slam poetry, even to the extent that such a term is not already redundant. And a classmate conveniently was prepared to film it all. I read the whole business as a premeditated, cynical but (“therefore”?) successful manipulation of social media to achieve at least a fleeting notoriety. Andy Warhol’s clock is ticking…

    Still, the problem isn’t a showboating adolescent. It’s the adults. Kids–the ones in that high school, the ones at my university–will be kids. There will always be a sizable percentage of them for whom “look at me” is an intoxicant. I really don’t blame Jeff Bliss for being a petulant brat. He’s 18. It’s his job. I actually can see a scenario whereby the school could legitimately decide that no punishment would be appropriate; it’s quite possible that the teacher’s actions prior to the beginning of the tape do deserve censure. But I absolutely agree that Bliss is no hero, and those in the school district or the corporate media who treat him as some sort of enlightened social critic are the real symptoms of a system out of control.

  4. While Jeff’s actions were wrong, his message was not.

    I’ve been down this road with my own kids. Lazy teachers who are permitted by lazy admins to pull the same worksheets out of their aging file cabinets, year after year, and are provided paychecks and benefits to do so. And if a parent complains, at least in NJ, the teacher runs to the union for protection.

    From what I’ve read, it’s possible that 18 year old sophomore Jeff is trying to start a movement to reform education. He may not be old enough or experienced enough to know how to do it the “right” way, but he certainly got the exposure he may have been seeking.

    Now he should be thrown out of school, along with the principal who has allowed the teacher to abuse her position in the classroom.

    Barbara Kimmel, Executive Director
    Trust Across America

    • Yes! I agree. Two wrongs do not make a right – punish them both. But to say that we shouldn’t listen to students about the state of their educations is like saying children should be seen not heard. Why doesn’t TEN YEARS of sitting in classrooms qualify a kid as someone who can speak about their experience? To say Jeff was not qualified to say what he said is ignoring the most important stakeholders in education. Kids know what works and what does’t to motivate them or their fellow students.

    • Irrelevant, Barbara. A student has no standing to deliver that message, that way, in the setting, to that authority figure. I don’t care what his message is. There is a hierarchy in schools/governments/companies/armies. families etc for very good reasons.

      • Jack- As the daughter of a school principal, I get the hierarchy argument. But in practice, when a teacher doesn’t act like a teacher, or a coach is abusive to his/her athletes, or a nation’s president repeatedly lies to his constituents, the “hierarchical waters” get a bit muddied.

        • “A student has no standing to deliver that message, that way, in the setting, to that authority figure. I don’t care what his message is. There is a hierarchy in schools/governments/companies/armies. families etc for very good reasons.”

          I suppose he could have called for a meeting with the teacher, his parents (if they give a damn), the principal and some fellow students who agree with him and then explain his opinion of the teacher’s irresponsible and ineffective style. I’ve never heard of that happening. I’ve never heard of an Ombudsman or Inspector general or Student Advocate on hand at schools to handle student grievances. Maybe their should be!

          So when DOES a child have a standing to say anything to an authority figure? What setting would be an appropriate one?

          I do agree that decorum/hierarchy is important in the settings you mention: 18 year old soldiers must not question authority when told to take that hill or storm that building and children should be obedient to their parents. However, when the sergeant tells the soldier we are going to urinate on the inmates, the soldier has a right and responsibility to question that authority. The soldier can respectfully decline the order and then go up the chain of command to complain of the abuse of power. He can also go to the Inspector General to file a complaint. He also does this at GREAT risk of being labeled a whistle blower and becoming the victim of taunts and bullying in the unit.

          And when a child is emotionally abused into silence by well-meaning parents instead of being ALLOWED to speak their minds – then those parents run the risk of being culpable in that child’s lifelong struggle with the psychological distress resulting from stuffing their feelings. What you get are overly obliging and compliant children who are prime targets for being victims of abuse of authority. So authority figures have a responsibility to live up to their end of the bargain – and when people feel they have no voice in the face of abuse or total incompetence then they sometimes choose whatever unpolished and perhaps unconventional means are at their disposal to have their voice heard – however immature, irresponsible and inappropriate it was, he did get his voice heard.

          I personally have been that soldier who defied my leadership when what he asked of me was out of bounds – and I did this at a huge risk. When in the Army I had to tell a groping higher ranking officer who had authority over me (and hence could make or break my reputation and future promotions on an Officer Evaluation Report) to get his sickening mouth and hands off of me and if he dared to use my rejection of his unrequited sexual advance against me I’d see him all the way to court. Sometimes speaking up (forcibly and loudly) at the very moment takes courage. If I followed hierarchy I should have run immediately to his boss and reported the incident and let the boss handle it. We all know how often that plays out in the workplace. This abusive officer was well respected in the unit. Who would have believed me? Who would have believed me if he said I was the one flirting and making advances? Are you suggesting I should have handled this differently – you know, there was a hierarchy and all and this man deserved my respect.

          I don’t have the answer but I do think it is high time students have some say. This may not have been sexual abuse, but it is abuse of her authority and responsibility and a waste of tax payers dollars for her to sit behind her desk and dole out packet after packet to teach history. If Jeff had handled this differently I doubt anyone would be really taking a hard look at her or her teaching style. Students and even their parents fear going up against teachers and school administrations for fear of reprisals – the teacher will give the student harsher scrutiny in grading and the counselor who writes your child’s letter of recommendation to college (which you will never see) holds incredible power over the child’s future.

          • Wish I could correct my typos – there not their. And I agree with Barbara about the unions protection of teachers. The one who hit “play” on the audio cassette recording of the text and called that teaching made a fine salary and had “tenure” and short of overt child abuse, these teachers were impossible to go up against.

          • This is all attempting to avoid the inarguable.

            He has no business, as a high school sophomore, doing this. By what standard do we allow such disruptions in the future? If a student does it to a good teacher, THEN he gets punished? How about a borderline teacher? Who decides? And what the hell does he know?

            Your experience as a soldier is not comparable—to begin with, you were older, and an adult. Second, it was an assault. Protesting sexual abuse is absolutely justified. Jeff was protesting teaching styles. Right or wrong, not his call.

            Students have many ways to speak out, but disrupting class and challenging a teacher is not one of them. Why does one student get the authority to disrupt class for everyone else?

            • Oh I agree he should be punished for the first infraction. I guess I am just less bothered he ranted on his way out – I have witnessed many students pushed to the brink of acting outside decorum by a lazy, should-be-retired but still present only physically teacher. These were kids from a student body that had no problems with their behavior in their other classrooms. When they staged a walk out and went directly to the principal to discuss their teacher’s incomprehensible lack of respect for them, the principal did her job (evaluating, observing, remediation, etc) but it took 6 months before he was removed from the classroom. And he was not forced out of the profession he loathed – he was sent to another school per union guidelines. It was clear to everyone that the teacher’s right to a pay check was greater than student’s rights to be educated. I agree that the classroom disruption was the wrong forum. My point (that I didn’t make well) is that sometimes when you protest in order to effect change you have to do it unconventionally – without regard to proper hierarchy. When the one with authority over you is the problem – it can be stifling.

  5. Yo. Sounds like a rap to me, Yo. An eighteen year-old HS sophmore? Shouldn’t he be a freshman in college? I much preferred the Ben Stein Am. Hist. class in “Ferris Beuhler’s Day Off.”

  6. Oh, I can agree that Jeff may have deserved to be thrown out of the classroom for insubordination, but he absolutely had a right to express his disgust for a teacher who hands out history packets and sits behind her desk and calls that an education. The students are the last ones anyone ever asks about the nature of their learning environment. Maybe you can argue an 18 year old should not be a Sophomore, but at least an 18 year old feels a little more adult-like in being able to express their opinion and one who has spent a year out of school trying to find meaningful work without an education knows a little more about what a quality education means. Maybe more kids wouldn’t drop out if they were not feeling like sitting in the classroom was a colossal waste of their time. They have no say when the are forced to sit day after day in classrooms where teachers never once get up form behind their desks, where teachers show endless videos or the worst (yes, my son had this as a regular practice in one class in High School) the teacher presses a button on a recording device while the kids sit silently for the entire class period as the recording reads them the text book while they follow along. I am not dismissing this practice entirely – could be useful for students with cognitive or learning disabilities. It could be a one time example for students of how important the teacher thinks reading the text book is. But as a regular almost daily practice? Give me a break. Students having to deal with this crap day in and day out might just become insubordinate. So you say “Jeff Bliss was absolutely insubordinate, rude, defiant, disrespectful and outside any defensible standard of student conduct by staging his rant.” Sure he was. He’s a teenager and while I do not excuse the place and timing of his rant, he did have a right to speak his mind. I am not surprised an 18 year old was any of the things you described. Yes, he was wrong to whine about not having enough time on an assignment – but his reaction to how he was being taught and the fact that that kind of classroom leadership does more to squash intellectual curiosity and does nothing to inspire students towards excellence is not lost on this mother of two.

    Thank goodness more teachers were not like this for my kids. It taught them life is not fair and there will be bosses and teachers along the way that do not measure up to any ideals. These teachers provided my kids lessons other than the subject matter they were so loath to teach. No, these teachers taught my kids patience, how NOT to lead or manage or what happens in regard to inspiration when people are forced to succumb to boring, meaningless busy work. Because of their few miserable experiences (and no, I did not protect them from frustration or adversity by yanking them out of the school or classroom or off the team that was led by incompetent elders) hopefully they will become more effective parents, teachers, managers or leaders in their chosen walks of life.

    Jeff Bliss was both wrong and right. He was wrong to whine about an assignment time limit, but right to express what so many students feel but do not have a voice to do it. He could have picked a better platform to deliver his message – but would it have been as effective? Why do you not think students have a right to speak about how they feel they are being led or not led in the classroom? 18 year olds go off to fight our country’s wars, Jack. Are you seriously saying the most important stakeholders in education are too immature or naive or inexperienced to have a say about what works for them? I think asking 17 and 18 year olds about what has inspired them to excellence in the classroom and what has not can provide valuable information. It seems like folks here are using courtroom tactics to discredit the witness. Yes, he is an 18 year old Sophomore. So what? Why does that make him less able to speak of the quality of his education? Children have no voice. This young man has one and I for one am glad I got to hear it regardless of his class standing or his family background or his socioeconomic standing. Are we only to listen to the compliant, well behaved graduating on time or early valedictorians? Because when they give their well edited prior to delivery principal approved speeches at graduation everyone listens. I want to hear form the Jeff’s, too.

  7. I need to say that I am incredibly grateful for the exemplary teachers my ids have had. They have an important role in guiding and shaping our children. I could not possibly raise them all by myself. I didn’t fully realize what a positive impact my High School teachers (many nuns) had on me until much later in life. And I have to say it is OK to have a few not so stellar ones along the way too – every profession has them. This is also a life lesson. It teaches what managing styles inspire excellence and what don’t, how not to lead – what work ethic not to aspire to. Hopefully I have taught my children life is not always fair and humans are not perfect, but they can strive to make the best of every situation and dealing with bosses or teachers who fall short is part of life.

  8. In reply to t bird and barb. The system is so broken in some places that resorting to packets, etc. might be one of the few recourses left for the teacher. When I was teaching, just a small portion did their homework, wereat grade level for reading, etc. the bottom line from admin is classroom control. When you find that they are too distracted and disruptive during lectures, paired learning, stations, games, or anything else that allows for more participation, your choices get whittled down quickly. I’m not saying I know much about this teacher one way or the other. Maybe she should be criticized. But to hear some adult sophomore tell her this is the future of our country and she needs to care more, irks me. I see teachers who care, and care. They’d do anything to make the classes meaningful. Much of the time, they are met with passive indifference or even disdain. I say it’s the students who are in the red in terms of caring. Our primary job is to teach. It’s not to like you. It’s not to build up your self esteem. It’s not to motivate you,even. But these days we’re expected to do all this salesmanship just to get to a point where we can do what our job ‘s primary mission: teach.

    Why does this kid say she’s not teaching? Because he’s been spoon fed answers in a system designed to run smoothly and frustration is kept in check. I agree that reading packets seem dull and perfunctory and make the teacher appear lazy. But none of us know whether those packets are mandated by her department, or whether she’s tried these more active strategies to no avail. Maybe they do so little reading for homework that it’s the one place she can get them to settle down and read. Part of me wishes Jeff could go live in some part of china and see how much he likes school in a different setting.

  9. There is much we don’t know. But, what we do know doesn’t make the kid less of a jerk.
    He’s 18 and a Sophomore in high school.

  10. I concur. When I initially heard the clip, the first thought that went through my mind was “that kid sounds like a jerk.” I’ve met a whole lot of teenagers who consistently blame the adult for everything. I teach middle school, and have had more than one student, when faced with an assignment, say, “Miss, you never taught us this!!” even though we spent a week on the concept. I’m not saying the teacher is a good or a bad teacher–who knows? We saw one snippet into the classroom–hardly enough to judge her teaching style. She certainly seemed like this was not the first time the student has been disruptive and/or disrespectful–her calm and repeated requests for him to leave sounded like she had kicked him (or other students) out before.. We also don’t know whether the student is credible or not. His “rant” was, however, entirely inappropriate. My kids have had some questionable teachers in their educational careers–but I ALWAYS tell them that regardless of their teacher, it is THEIR responsibility to learn and be respectful. I tell them that they will, someday, have a boss that they might dislike and/or not respect–but they MUST behave respectfully, regardless of their feelings.
    This kid was out of line.

  11. My youngest daughter was a little odd. She literally loved every teacher she ever had, and a few of them probably didn’t deserve her admiration. She always sat in the front row and tried to hear clearly every word the teacher said. She dutifully did all the packets, and some of them were probably not that worthy of the diligent attention she gave them. She was always respectful, without exception. Did this method serve her well? She graduated from MIT. Jeff Bliss’s student strategy is apparently the opposite of my daughter’s.
    Teaching is very hard work — and it’s getting a lot harder. Jeff Bliss may someday be good at it . . . who knows? He certainly doesn’t know much about it at this stage of his life. The video went viral; more importantly, his brand of know-it-all arrogance is going viral, and is being encouraged. The teacher Jeff attacked my be mediocre or worse, but it’s certainly not her fault, or any other teacher’s fault, that Jeff Bliss is a sophomore at the age of 18. He almost surely doesn’t know much about being a good student, let alone being a good teacher. But he’s not going to listen to anyone who tries to tell him that.

  12. Honestly this was a pretty poorly constructed piece of prose for you to be critical of anyone or anyone’s perception of their education. That said, do I think that Jeff Bliss had all of the correct sentiment and attitude? No, definitely not. Do I think that it speaks leagues of maturity beyond his years and years of his classmates for him to even be considering his education? Yes. At least he is not a zombie or drone just teetering along listening to authority. At least he is not ignoring authority. He is proactive, if nothing else.

    • And at least he’s not a wombat, doesn’t smell bad, and has two arms. I tend to write about what people do, not give them credit for not doing worse things.

      As for your cheap shot open, you churn out 3000 words a day, seven days a week, or original ethics commentary and we;ll compare quality. In fact, you pointed me to four obvious typos, which I fixed, thanks…but there’s nothing wrong with my construction…just my typing and proofreading. Had the same trouble in high school, but it didn’t stop me from getting into a nice college in Cambridge.

      Do I think that it speaks leagues of maturity beyond his years and years of his classmates for him to even be considering his education? Yes.

      Maturity? He behaved like a spoiled jerk!

      At least he is not a zombie or drone just teetering along listening to authority.

      Huh? Following the directives of a teacher in high school is not being a zombie. It’s called being a student.

      At least he is not ignoring authority.

      What? That was exactly what he was doing!

        • 1. Your comment is smoking gun evidence of a jackass, and you might want to work on that.
          2. “Ignoring authority” by defying authority is, in fact, “confronting authority.” Euphemisms are not welcome here.
          3. “Self-loathing” sounds good, but I think you should use it only when it has some relationship to whatever it is you are trying to say in the future.
          4. Your “argument” was simply unsubstantiated assertions, because you have nothing, really.
          5. After beginning a dialogue criticizing typos, to send in your next beginning with “authorirty” is self-defeating.
          6. And join the “I don’t know what ad hominem means” Club, a special group of people who come here, act like jerks, are told that they are acting like jerks, and try to counter, revealing only ignorance.

          You get one more shot at a non-jerk comment, and if you fail, you’re gone.

            • You’re pathetic. You are basically saying that kids have no voice and should just obey whatever their “superiors” tell them. That is exactly what is wrong with the world. So the kid in question isn’t a shining example of intelligence. So what? He is right about the way many teachers are failing our youth. I’m sure the school board would have allowed some “proper channels” for him to address his grievances. Give me a break! You’re probably just a person who hates those you consider inferior questioning you and are projecting your frustration on this situation. Get over yourself!

              • No, I just dislike incoherent, illogical criticism, like yours. Yes, in school, students should obey what their teachers tell them. Bingo. Same in the army, with officers. And at home, with parents. This is a new concept for you, is it?

  13. Having read this article and watched some interviews with Jeff, it seems that the only argument people have against the whole thing is that he’s 18 and still a Sophomore. Big deal. There are plenty of older people that go to college. Really? Does that mean those people are stupid too? People think he’s a spoiled brat who just needs to submit to authority. My 2 cents of intellect: submission to authority can be dangerous. I find it to be an attribute of intelligence that the kid stood up for his education. If you’ve watched more than just that viral video, Jeff admits his outburst could have been handled more appropriately. That’s honesty to own up to a mistake. You’d also know that when he says “bitching,” he was repeating what the teacher told him. She told him to stop “bitching” and leave the room. Other students confirmed this. The reason he’s back in school is because he wanted to go back and wanted to learn. He actually cared about getting an education, which is a lot more than some people can say. All I see in this thread are people trying to prove themselves over others. As if your opinion on the internet is going to change someone’s mind. Here’s the deal: Jeff’s rant was not staged. I’ve been through this kind of high school. I’m a sophomore myself at a university studying to become an educator. Not that I’m validating myself, I’ve just seen this stuff in person, a lot. I just finished high school. The conflict was most likely rising before he stood up, and other students with phones are usually prompt in recording these things as they happen. It’s drama to them, they eat it up. What he did accomplish was awareness of the fact that some teachers out there aren’t doing more than handing out packets. There are plenty of bad teachers and I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that that’s sad. Instead, we should all be thinking of ways to improve the education system. We should make it so that kids like Jeff KNOW about routes of communication to put a stop to crappy education. Those routes have to work too! My brother once tried going to the principle multiple times over a bullying situation, but nothing was resolved until a fight broke out. It was ignored because my brother must be a “spoiled brat.” He should have “submit” to authority. That’s pathetic. The authority was avoiding the problem. We should be aiming to improve the education system itself instead of calling out whose right or wrong here. I sincerely agree with Jeff and those who say he could have handled it better, so there. I’m on both sides of your little fence! I also think it’s a waste of energy to go on and on about submitting to authority…Adolf Hitler, enough said. It’s intelligent to question and confront those who oppose you, but usually works out better if you do it the right way.

  14. How does anyone really know the teacher’s style of teaching? Everyone is simply believing this insubordinate dropout! There was no support of him from his fellow students in the video. Who’s to say he is presenting an accurate assessment of her teaching skills?

  15. But your point kind of emphasizes his point! Don’t you see, he WANTS to learn! He wants to actually take action and start doing something. It’s the teachers who don’t care and don’t take the time to help him.

    And him speaking out is the least of the problems. I’ve seen plenty of kids blurting out all the time about stupid nonsense (and sure, I’m still in middle school, but this should be the time when kids are quieted when they should be) and he’s actually saying something IMPORTANT. The teacher doesn’t care at all (just saying, “Bye, bye”).

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