"We can miss out schoolThe common attitude of many a Book Dumb character is that "cool" people don't go to school. Even if forced, they must make absolutely no effort to do well in class, because that would indicate they care about "useless" things like how to add numbers and spell correctly. The basic idea that characters who fit this trope have is that there's some place called "the street" that teaches you everything you'll ever really need to know in life. If you're on this website, the closest you've ever gotten is the fabled Sesame Street. There's also a group of people who oppose formalized public education as a Government Conspiracy to keep the populace dumb and conformist. Others simply see institutional education as ineffective. Or both. However, this type of person rarely shows up in media; this trope is usually used to make a character look like a comedic idiot. Whatever the reason, it's very often a Family-Unfriendly Aesop, especially when characters are shown to be successful at life despite having dropped out of even the most basic form of education. Sub-Trope of Cool People Rebel Against Authority
(Won't that be cool?)
Why go to learn the words of fools?"
(Won't that be cool?)
Why go to learn the words of fools?"
— The Small Faces, "Itchycoo Park"
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- The standard attitude of the characters in The Beano.
- Creeps in around the edges of the books in the X-Men line. While the original X-Men were sometimes shown studying actual school subjects, in recent years, despite the characters often living in a school, they're almost never shown studying anything other than using their powers, fighting, and, in recent years, "superhuman ethics." The implication being that superhumans don't need to know silly things like history, math, reading, or science. Virtually all of the major characters are adults, so the fact that they're not students is rather less surprising.
- The Law of Conservation of Detail may also apply— readers presumably know what regular school classes are like and would be more interested in what sort of specialized learning superhumans might want.
- This was long the attitude held by the Runaways, especially after various adults tried to force them to enter foster care and go to school. More recently, they reluctantly agreed to enroll Molly Hayes and Klara Prast in a home-schooling program offered by Avengers Academy, in exchange for a promise of non-interference.
- Ferris Bueller's Day Off consists entirely of a character with this philosophy putting it into action by treating every authority he runs into with caustic dismissal.
- The song "The Nicest Kids in Town" from Hairspray is practically the hymn for this ethos. In universe, at least. Especially the lyrics "They'll never get to college, but they'll sure look cool".
- The third Big Momma's House movie featured the cop's stepson thinking like that.
- The bestselling book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which claims has the secrets of how to become rich, has a bit of this trope in its main message: It mentions how several billionaires were school dropouts, and that education serves only to become a salaried worker trapped in a never-ending spending race (or "rat race" as the author calls it). Although probably it was not how the author intended it, this ended up being the main message understood by its readers.
- The version of Jenny Everywhere in The Genesis of Jenny Everywhere is still a teenager who hates school and would much rather be still in bed dreaming about the adventures she'll ultimately end up having, but her Education Mama mother won't let her. (Compounded by the fact most of the other girls, notably Alpha Bitch Charlotte Mitchell, hate her guts, and vice versa). Her one friend Leelee doubly subverts this trope- turning up whenever she feels like it, but bunking off most of the time (being an Alternate Universe, there is no law against this, with the implication it's up to the parent or guardian).
- Scout, of To Kill a Mockingbird thinks school is utterly useless, and spends a while trying to convince her father to let her stay home, since he never went to a day of formal school as a kid and managed to become a lawyer anyway. In all fairness to her, her town's school system is pretty ridiculous — her first-grade teacher is annoyed that she already knows how to read and write, and tells her she needs to stop doing both until she reaches the appropriate grade level. Needless to say, she's not pleased, and tries a number of things to get out of going to school, including briefly becoming Lady Swears-a-Lot in the hope that her father won't make her go anymore once he finds out she learned it from other kids. (It doesn't work; if anything, he seems to find it slightly amusing.)
Live Action TV
- Tara from True Blood.
"College is just a place for white people to go to to get other white people to read to them. I figure I'll just buy the books and read to myself."
- One episode of Married... with Children had Kelly gaining an internship at a TV station. Al invoked the trope the moment he learned Kelly was offered a three-year-long contract that paid 250 thousand dollars per year to be the station's new "weather bunny" and required her to drop out of school.
- In true Bundy fashion, Kelly got fired after her first TV appearance - because she was so stupid she couldn't read the Tele Prompter.
- Rom is very ambivalent about sending his son Nog to a Federation-taught school in the first season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Apparently it is more customary to thrust young Ferengi into the cutthroat world of competitive business with little to no formal education and let them sink or swim. It's unclear how they got into space under this system, considering that Nog is unable to read as of Season 1 when he looks to be about the equivalent of a human child of twelve to fourteen.
- It's stated in-universe that the Ferengi bought, swindled, or stole most of their technology from other societies.
- On Shark Tank, when a kid comes on with a pitch, certain of the Sharks, particularly Kevin, will ask if the kid is ready to quit school to devote their full time to their business. And they're perfectly serious, too.
- On Adam Ruins Everything, a young man is with his mother touring colleges, but he doesn't really take it seriously. He thinks he'll be able to just drop out of school and become a successful billionaire entrepreneur like Bill Gates. Adam explains that Bill Gates already had an advantage: he was going to school in an era where college degrees weren't an absolute requirement like they are now, he came from a wealthy family that could afford to send him to a prestigious prep school...which had access to a then-state-of-the-art computer that public schools (and most residential homes) generally did not, classes in programming at that prestigious school, he never officially dropped out of school, and even if he had, he'd still be able to go back to school on his wealthy parents' dime if his business plans hadn't worked out. Adam then goes on to explain that only 1% of jobs these days are given to people who don't have at least a bachelor's degree. This convinces the kid that college is a necessity if he wants to get anywhere in life.
- The Cosby Show: Theo's friend Cockroach has this attitude, and it sometimes rubs off onto Theo. In one episode, he says he doesn't need to study because he's got a cushy job waiting for him running the family junkyard. Cliff asks him how is he going to weigh the scrap if he can't count. Cockroach says he has a foreman to do that. Cliff then asks how he is going to do the books if he can't count, and Cockroach replies he has an accountant to do that. Cliff then declares that he is going to go broke. Cockroach asks why, and Cliff says that if his foreman can count, and his accountant can count, but he can't, then he is going to go broke.
- Approximately 50% of the lyrics of "(She's) Sexy + 17" by the Stray Cats.
- "Billy S" by Skye Sweetnam.
- "Troublemaker" by Weezer.
- Mocked by "Weird Al" Yankovic in a stanza from "Jackson Park Express":
Think of the beautiful children we could have some dayWe could school them at home, raise them up the right wayAnd protect them from the evils of the world
- Defied by the protagonist in Red Vox's "Back to School". The protagonist is very close to finishing school, the senioritis is setting in, and he keeps seeing his friends enjoying themselves, apparently skipping or having dropped out entirely. Even after they snub him for staying in school, he toughs it out, knowing he's come too close to finishing the job.
- In Disgaea 3, the Maritsu Evil Academy rewards students who act this way. But then, it is an evil academy...
- The teachers have very practical reasons for this: namely, with no students, they effectively get paid to sit on their ass all day. At one point, you have to beat the teacher into actually showing up for a class you take.
- In the Pac-Man second season opener "Hey, Hey, Hey … It's P.J.", Pac-Man's teenage nephew had this attitude toward high school.
- The Simpsons
[Skinner reads newspaper which says on the front page: "Prez Sez: School is for Losers!"]Skinner: Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!*
- From "Bart's Comet":
- Loan-A-Lisa note , has Lisa meeting a bunch of famous, successful people who are all college drop-outs.
- The Fairly OddParents! Back to School episode "The Old Man and the C−" revealed that Timmy's Dad didn't finish elementary school because someone told him he was too cool for school. He then became Timmy's classmate and it seemed nothing would prevent him from graduating this time until the same person appeared again. Of course that person in question happened to be Melvin, naturally after Timmy's Dad Graduates, he and his son get back at him.
- Rick from Rick and Morty definitely holds to this view, stating that rote memorization of often oversimplified half-truths is pointless. His view may, however, be skewed somewhat by the fact that he's a natural-born genius and one of the smartest people on Earth. Or, indeed, anywhere in the universe.
- To summarize this trope, Yes, it can be Truth in Television. Key word—can. As with many things in life, reality is far more complex and the applicability of this trope depends on a wide array of personal and environmental factors. While it may be easy to point to the number of people who've become rather successful despite dropping out, what often doesn't get brought up are the vast majority of those who didn't. And, even among those who did, there's still the issue of them needing to work their butts off to get to where they were - something they might not have needed to do as intensely if they stayed in school.
- This becomes more likely to be Truth in Television for exceptionally gifted students. Most school systems are very, very reluctant to let gifted students skip a grade level. Their belief that students need time around other kids for proper development has at least some merit, but for gifted students who can be five or six grades above their peers, school feels like having a pilot's license and still having to ride a tricycle.
- Frank Zappa was fanatically opposed to the American educational system, claiming that it was deliberately made to turn people into zombie conformists. So he pulled his kids out of school when they turned 15, and refused to pay for any college education.
- However, Zappa's opinion isn't as much as this trope as you might think- he had no issues with book-learning, and was a genius autodidact. He was just of the opinion that the American School System was...not very good. Any school system is absolutely terrible... if you don't learn well the way they teach. People learn different ways (examples, theory, hands-on, group work, etc.), and the American education system typically encourages variation, at least in part for people to learn how they themselves best learn. But the variation itself can create confusion and too little of the right kind of teaching for a person can leave them behind.
- Zappa's opinion is shared by a lot of parents who home-school their children. While some do so because of medical, social, or religious reasons, there are just as many who can't afford private school and don't like the over-crowded, under-funded American public school system. Add to that Zero-tolerance policies where straight-A students can be expelled for carrying such "dangerous items" such as nail-clippers and mouthwash, and it's easy to see where they come from.
- There's a documentary about a year in the life of a high school in Baltimore. Attendance was one of the school's biggest issues. They interviewed several students and their whole attitude was this trope, with one student (who was 18 and in the NINTH grade for the THIRD time) saying the following:
"All that learnin' and s**t is for geeks and white folks. We run the halls here. I ain't learning a motherf**king here at school. F**k school."
- Remember that the sort of people who say this are often involved in the drug trade, take swings at cops and the like and end up dying young. Though whether they are too blame or the schools are setting them up to fail is not a topic for this page.
- A somewhat better-thought-out article expressed a similar sentiment, although it was specifically about teen angst; the merits of the education system were cited as a main cause, but weren't the actual point. To sum up, education isn't the problem, but the way in which modern education approaches the notion of being well-rounded reduces school to a glorified daycare where children are "taught" to do menial makework with little apparent (and, frequently, actual) relevance to any but the most parochial of future careers, and teen angst is a result of youngsters being aware of this; it then contrasts this with the past, when apprenticeships were more common and had young people doing work more obviously related to a future career, pointing out that teen angst didn't usually happen back then, so if nothing else, it at least proves that it's not because of "hormones" like everyone thinks it is.
- I think the essay is Paul Graham's "Why Nerds Are Unpopular". It makes a lot of very good points even if you don't necessarily agree with the conclusions.