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