May 13, 2013

Jeff Bliss: Educational Martyr or Grandstanding Punk

Last week was pretty sweet for viral videos and auto-tuned quotes. Charles Ramsey generated enough content on his own to capitalize on a potential McDonald's spokesperson deal and he had not one, but two songs made from his explanation of what happened to him while eating a Big Mac. However, I think the rant by Jeff Bliss, sophomore at Duncanville HS here in TX, is just as interesting but for different reasons. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, check out the video below and the story on The Huffington Post. I'll wait... Yeah, so that went down. Bliss' rant begs the question: Is he an educational martyr, chaffing under the restraints and apparent laziness of his teacher who is so disengaged from her job that she refuses to interact with them? Or, is he a grandstanding punk who knows he will be filmed and put online with potential for viral stardom?

It's tricky. As an educator who has dealt with a fair share of lazy teachers, I understand his frustration. Handouts and packets should be supplemental material used to enhance a lesson plan. They shouldn't be the lesson plan. In this regard, Bliss is correct to call out his teacher. She is not teaching. As a student who dropped out of school but has returned, Bliss is in a position where he needs his classroom time to count and be as productive as possible. As a teacher, she has to facilitate that.

However, towards the end of the video it is obvious he is making a scene. It is difficult to tell when he realizes he's being filmed but there is a moment when his theatrics increase and his initial message becomes less important. Were his only concerns the lack of teaching taking place in the classroom he would have left after "This is my country's future and my education." As good a line as any as a finisher. But he doesn't stop there, he goes on because he has the attention of the class and the camera.

So, dear reader, what do you think? is Bliss taking a stand for what should be done or is he subverting the teacher's control of the class and learning environment just to shine a spotlight on himself? Let me know in the comments.


  1. Fascinating. I think if I had a classroom full of kids like that I would probably still be teaching. I think he is both: I think he knows what he wants, but he probably went about it wrong. That said, how do we make a change in this broken system without making some really loud noise?

  2. I do respect J. Bliss for taking a rights-based approach to getting kicked out of class. It's also really refreshing to see evidence of something I think about a lot as an educator: students really do value and respect great teachers, and you can't bullshit students! Just based on the video though, it's hard to tell whether or not his teacher deserved being called out like that in front of the class (and the whole world, at this point). But to be honest, I think that when I have my own classroom, I'd rather a student told me I wasn't connecting with him than just letting me coast through the year thinking I was. I'd hope they'd be more respectful than Bliss was, but maybe that's too much to ask?