Created By: BlackbirdMizu on November 26, 2011 Last Edited By: McKathlin on November 28, 2011

Schools Are Incompetent

When schools are prominently portrayed as being painfully incompetent in one or more ways.

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Trope
Needs More Examples (Mabe) Needs New Title

Maybe the quality of the education is poor. Maybe the teachers don't care. Maybe the school lunches are low quality, or budget spending is frivalous, or the school is lacking in necessary supplies like up-to-date textbooks. Regardless, this trope comes into play whenever a school is portrayed as being painfully incompetent in one or more ways. This trope is not, to any extent, exclusive to Inner City School, and only refers to works where the school's incompetence in some area is directly acknowledged.

This trope has become more common in American media, in response to increasing complaints about the quality of American schools. Most often it's Played for Laughs, though will sometimes be used for drama. When this is brought up in-universe, it's often attributed to lack of funding for the school, though occasionally because the school board just doesn't care. Sadly can be Truth in Television sometimes, as budget cuts often lead to districts cutting funding even to necessary areas.

Live Action TV
  • It's strongly implied that Mc Kinley High School in Glee has a very poor sex education program, especially judging by the characters' "knowledge" (or lack thereof) regarding sex.
    • The school is also apparently bad about funding, though much of it can be attributed to Jerkass cheerleading coach Sue manipulating and crushing other people and clubs to get as much funding for her team as possible. Apparently her pompom budget costs thousands of dollars a month alone.

Western Animation
  • Frequently used in The Simpsons, Played for Laughs, of course.
    • The school lunches are pretty bad, with BATTERIES counting as a vegetable.
    • Principal Skinner once mentions having cut every program that required supplies.
    • The school is often shown having out-of-date textbooks (one even titled "Life In These 38 States") and having a French teacher who doesn't even speak French.
    • This was a plot point in one episode, when Marge visits the school and sees the poor conditions of the classes. One classroom was hilariously overcrowded, and in another classroom, the teacher allows The Ditz to teach the class once she gets her tenure.
  • One episode of King of the Hill has this as a plot point. The students were performing poorly on the standardized tests, and if they didn't do well by the end of the year, the school would be shut down. Instead of trying to improve the education, the principal decides to have the kids with the low scores put in a special needs class so they wouldn't have to take the test. It doesn't go well, and by the end he has no choice but to have more time spent teaching the low-scoring kids. Hilariously, the final scene of the episode reveals that the scores that year were actually LOWER, but the school still got funding and didn't get shut down.
  • Occasionally Played for Laughs in Family Guy. At one point, Lois mentions that the school textbooks are so out-of-date that they refer to the Civil Rights Movement as "trouble ahead". Becomes a plot point when Lois runs for a school board position in hopes to improve the system.

Real Life
  • In the United States, this has increasingly become Truth in Television, as harder economic times have led more school districts to perform budget cuts even in necessary areas.
Community Feedback Replies: 12
  • November 27, 2011
    BlackbirdMizu
    Needs more examples. Also, if someone can think of a catchier title, that would be nice to hear too.
  • November 27, 2011
    condottiera
    In A Series Of Unfortunate Events The Austere Academy, the Prufrock Preparatory School is beyond terrible. The orphans have to live in a shack, the baby has to become the principal's secretary, and the teachers make them memorize pointless stories and measure things all day. Also, "The Austere Academy" could potentially be a good trope namer.
  • November 27, 2011
    OmarKarindu
    Live Action TV
    • Greendale Community College. The school flag is a thinly-disguised butthole with the logo E Pluribus Anus that slipped past the Dean's notice, it's possible to major in Theoretical Phys Ed, and one instructor got away with teaching without any credentials for years.
    • Tragically, the public schools of inner-city Baltimore as seen on The Wire. Apparently Truth In Television.
    • In Arrested Development, Lindsay and Tobias once sent daughter Maeby to a school that didn't even give grades. Both Michael and his father describe it as little more than a "New-Age Feel-Goodery."
  • November 27, 2011
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    • Invader Zim: So incompetent the school's name on the building is spelled SKOOL.
    • Danny Phantom: Their test prep is left unattended so Tucker has something like 24 straight hours of it. To say nothing of how many ghosts get into the school and how the faculty does not seem to have a plan for handling this despite the regularity of ghost attacks. Spectra as a student counselor. The list goes on and on.
    • Fairly Oddparents: Their principal can be bribed or distracted by donuts and tuna sandwiches. Crocker gives out F grades because he enjoys doing it. One of their substitute teachers was a fairy hunter. Their truant officer behaves more like a bounty hunter.

    Don't forget to compare with the types of teachers one finds in such a school Sadistic Teacher, Cool Teacher (the one thing that makes school worth going to).
  • November 27, 2011
    PaulA
    ^^^ "The Austere Academy" would be a terrible trope namer. "Austere" does not mean "incompetent".
  • November 27, 2011
    Oreochan
    Ineffectual School or Education Deficit School? I'm not really sure wheather either of those would fit though.
  • November 27, 2011
    JAF1970
  • November 27, 2011
    randomsurfer
    In Auntie Mame Mame sends Patrick to an alternative school where the students are nude and - in the one lesson we know of - learn via practice the fish way of reproduction: girls lay eggs and boys fertilize them. Mr. Babcock pulls him out of there and sends him off to a dreary boarding school.
  • November 28, 2011
    TBeholder
    It looks mostly like Sucky School groomed and declawed with Hanlons Razor.
  • November 28, 2011
    AgPrv
    The school attended by Johnny Maxwell and his gang in Terry Pratchett's Johnny Maxwell trilogy. Amazingly for a fictional depiction of a British school, there are absolutely no sadistic, uncaring or child-hating teachers. this school cares and does its best and is genuinely concerned for the welfare of its pupils. It's just a pity it is so utterly, completely, inept at this as to be functionally useless.
  • November 28, 2011
    SeptimusHeap
    Does it really need a Real Life section? Even if the explanation's objectively true in this case, it seems a bit Flame Bait-y to me - or at least inviting Natter and edit warring.
  • November 28, 2011
    LarryD
    This has been a perennial complaint for a long time in the US, though by no means universal (the US is a big country), going back at least to 1955 (Why Johnny can't read). This is one of the three most cited reasons for homeschooling.
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