Roy Exum: The Boy Who Dared To Speak

Saturday, May 18, 2013 - by Roy Exum

Jeff Bliss, an 18-year-old who is in the 10th grade because he dropped out of school last year, got kicked out of a Texas classroom a couple of weeks ago. But as he was exiting the room, he launched into the most wonderful rant that has ever been on the art of teaching children. He should know – his mom is a teacher.

With his long hair waving almost as much as his arms, the teenager made a dramatic point about kids who want to learn in front of a teacher who told the boy, “just leave” in a bored monotone of a voice that beautifully illustrated what Jeff was saying.

“If you would just get up and teach them instead of handing them a freaking packet, yo. These kids in here don’t learn like that,” he told social studies teacher Julie Phung. “They need to learn face to face. You’re just getting mad because I’m pointing out the obvious.”

Almost four million people have seen the video on Facebook and most disagree with Mrs. Phong, who can be heard telling Jeff he’s wasting her time. “No, I’m not wasting your time,” he roared back. “I’m telling you what you need to do. You want kids to come into your classroom, you want them to get excited for this? You got to come in here, you got to make them excited. You want a kid to change and start doing better, you got to touch a kid’s heart.

“You can’t expect the kid to change when all you do is just tell him. You got to take this job serious. This is the future of this nation. And when you said in here like you did the last time and make a statement about, ‘Oh, this is my paycheck,” and indeed it is. But this is my country’s education and my future.”

Bliss attends school in Duncanville, Texas --- just outside of Dallas – and the video has spurred critics of our education system who claim we “dumb down” our children despite the protests of the established system. One comment read, “Schools now are more often industrial babysitters and not learning institutions!”

Another wrote, “Now parents may understand what is happening with their kids.  This young man has voiced what most of the kids in his class have probably been thinking, but been afraid to say out loud, because they fear the possible repercussions from the teachers, administration, or their parents. Plus, they probably figure that nobody would believe them. They need to shut up and listen, they don't know anything, the teachers know best, yada, yada, yada.

“We need to get rid of the ‘teachers’ who don't teach, and are only there for the paycheck, and the ‘administrators’ who don't administrate, and get people in who actually want to TEACH these kids how to read, write, do math, learn history, etc. instead of worrying about being politically correct, and zero tolerance, and the other idiotic things that we keep hearing about coming from the news these days.”

Another reader pounced on standardized testing. “The crap they are teaching in schools these days are because of George Bush's No Child Left Behind program. The schools now teach to a (darn) test and only to that test. There is no time or place for anything else. There is no more creativity, or imagination, or good common sense.

“The kids get sick and tired of the same old crap year after year. This kid, Jeff Bliss, just had the guts to stand up for himself and his fellow students. The students are coming out of schools with no real knowledge of the world, and they really could care less. They all have a (bad) attitude about anything except video games and goofing off and laying around.

“I used to drive a school bus and when I had to speak to a student about bad behavior, their eyes would glaze over and they didn't hear a thing I said. I would tell them they were getting suspended from the bus and they just shrugged, like: "No problem." The educational system isn't turning out educated people, they are turning out useless robots. All the students need to stand up and demand a better education and to (heck) with CSAP tests.

One woman commented, “Schools think that by buying technology they can improve education. Every year they spend millions on new software for grading and attendance and spend millions more on the latest techniques for handling students. Like the ‘There, there why are you so upset today that you threw a chair? Just go and talk to a counselor.’  School administrators are too lazy to walk through the hallway and when passing a room that is way out of control, refuse to act.”

Then there was this: “The classes where I learned the most were the classes where the teachers actually interacted and kept things interesting. The classes where they just assign you a page out of a book and sit at their desk quietly every single day for a whole year I hated more than anything, didn't learn anything because they never taught us anything. If you are a teacher you need to have the passion for it, these kids are the future, and when you short change them you are short changing the world.”

That is Jeff’s view entirely. And because of his desire to be taught, the school district did not punish him for his tirade but officials are using it to create a better dialogue between teachers and students. All because he dared to speak out in his frustration for a human being to sit down and really teach him. Because he dropped out of school last year – and got a real view of the world around him – he is desperate to learn, eager and willing.

But he and thousands of others yearn to be taught by a human being, not a packet of materials.

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