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School Is For Losers

We can miss out school
(Won't that be cool?)
Why go to learn the words of fools?
The Small Faces, "Itchycoo Park"

The 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.

No, you're not going crazy.

The basic idea behind this trope 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 small but vocal minority who oppose formalized public education as a Government Conspiracy to keep the populace dumb and conformist.

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

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Half the cast of AKIRA fits this trope.
  • YuYu Hakusho. Yusuke is too cool for school, especially in the first couple of episodes.

    Comics 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Film 

    Music 
  • 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 day
    We could school them at home, raise them up the right way
    And protect them from the evils of the world
    Like trigonometry and prime numbers

    Literature 
  • 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.

    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.

    Video Games 
  • 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.

    Web Animation 
  • Harry Potter says this in one of the Potter Puppet Pals skits, where he thinks he's too cool for school. He doesn't normally think this in the actual books, though; while he doesn't always like the class work, he does like Hogwarts in general.

    Web Original 
  • YouTube atheist and science educator Thunderf00t chews and deconstructs this trope in his responses to fellow Youtuber, Pogobat's, rants against traditional education and how college "was interfering with his education".

    Western Animation 
  • 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
    • From "Bart's Comet":
    [Skinner reads newspaper which says on the front page: "Prez Sez: School is for Losers!"]
    Skinner: Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!
    • 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.

    Real Life 
  • 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."
  • 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.

Persecuted IntellectualsAnti-IntellectualismScience Is Bad
Schoolgirl SeriesSchool TropesSchool Saved My Life
Perpetual FrownerImageSource/Western AnimationShower of Awkward

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