Follow TV Tropes


Artistic License Education

Go To

School is intended for children to be educated to prepare them for adulthood. While on school grounds, both students and staff must adhere to certain policies and guidelines. Most Writers Are Adults, but not all writers are teachers, which means that they won't know everything about what should be allowed in school and what shouldn't. Even if they did, they probably would ignore them just for the sake of the story.


Sometimes, this can be the result of Eagleland Osmosis and/or Creator Provincialism, if the work is set in a country other than the one the creator went to school in and the creator was unable or unwilling to research how that country's school system works. Sometimes, of course, Reality Is Unrealistic; while having a work where American students wear uniforms and refer to the head of the school as a "headmaster" instead of "principal" may seem like this trope, there are many private schools in the U.S. where this is standard practice.

Specific instances of this trope include:

  • Schools having outlandish rules or practices that wouldn't be in a real life school or not having a certain rule that they should have in place.
  • Schools following a system that does not match the setting/culture of the work. This is especially common with American-made works that take place in a non-American setting.
  • Schools having No OSHA Compliance, and issues getting to class, the lunchroom, or the bathroom safely.
  • Advertisement:
  • Students being allowed to bring in pets (ones that are not certified service animals, at least) into school. This is usually a huge risk since there are people that could be allergic, not to mention the fact that animals tend to make a mess.
  • Physical education, in particular, resembling a military training program more than a school which probably has to consider disabilities.
  • Punishments ranging from too excessive, to too light, or not happening at all.
  • Detentions being insanely long. In real life, weekday detentions usually only last up to two hours after school.
  • The school is a School of No Studying, where the kids don't have to do any work despite the fact that it's required.
  • Teaching using E = MC Hammer-like equations.
  • Teachers mistreating students and the school staff will either do nothing or allow it to happen. Can also happen vise-versa.
  • Advertisement:
  • Staff-encouraged bullying.
  • Teachers being allowed to teach despite having a criminal record, or the school actually having a criminal employment policy... to jobs where even if it were okay to be employing criminals, people of that crime shouldn't be employed to that position (a convicted pedophile running day care, for example).
  • A school being a Two-Teacher School, even though there's WAY too many students.
  • School anachronisms. Corporal Punishment would be the most obvious, but others include learning to read with a slate or having centuries-old curriculum. The inverse is also the case, having ancient Greeks with a classroom teaching Women's Studies, for instance.
  • Schools having classes that don't even exist in the real world (Plant Psychology, for example).
  • Teachers teaching subjects that are either too difficult or too easy for a grade level.
  • Parallels drawn between the classroom and a Soviet-style organization where Big Brother Is Watching, a military organization, feudal Japan, or some other setting.
  • Teachers that are tenured being depicted as unpunishable. In real life, tenured teachers typically have to lose tenure before getting fired (though sometimes this happens in rapid succession), otherwise, teachers that break minor rules just expect to get a stern talking to and sent back to the classroom. And in order for someone under tenure to get fired, they would have to hit a kid or say/do something controversial, which is unfortunately Truth in Television, as tenured sadist teachers are extremely difficult to get rid of.
  • Elementary schools having lockers, even though most don’t in America.
  • A student being taught by a parent or another relative, when schools in Real Life usually separate them to avoid favoritism issues.

Note that Values Dissonance does not apply. If something that happens in a school is acceptable in one place or time period but not another and the setting of the work takes place in the former, then it doesn't count.

A Super-Trope to Artistic License – University Admissions, which is specific to colleges and how applicants are accepted into post-secondary schooling, Absurdly Powerful School Jurisdiction, where school officials attempt to punish a student for their actions outside of school grounds, and College Is "High School, Part 2", where colleges and universities are structured like high schools.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In My Hero Academia, we have Shota "Eraserhead" Aizawa's infamous (especially In-Universe) act of expelling an entire class of U.A. in the very first day because he didn't thought they would cut it as Heroes (because they didn't took the Quirk Apprehension Test that students take on that day as seriously as Aizawa wanted). While this demonstrates that he is a serious Sink-or-Swim Mentor (we find out approximately a couple of hundred chapters later that Aizawa only expelled them for a few minutes and re-enrolled them once the message was finally understood, and one of the students of that class [now in her second year in U.A.] even shows up to thank Aizawa for it) the fact still stands that Aizawa performed this action with no red tape getting in the way and even by the current day of the story the people in charge of administering U.A. still have not put anything in place to prevent him from doing it again.
    • It's later established that Aizawa is a special case, and that the authority to temporarily expel students at the beginning of the year was a specific condition he required upon being hired at UA, with the specific reasoning being the need for them to experience a metaphorical "death" in order to impress upon them how serious the profession they aspire to is. Even then, it's seen by the rest of the staff as something absurd at the absolute best (in the "seriously, Aizawa, again?" sense) and it is also pointed out that, temporary and justified because of "logical ruse" or not, the expulsions still go into the students' permanent records.

    Comic Books 
  • In Archie Comics, Dumb Jock Crazy Jealous Guy Moose constantly gets away with assaulting other students in and out of school with no consequence.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Cassie's history teacher never gets questioned or reprimanded for targeting Cassie for detentions every time he suspects she's not paying complete attention in his class, which she does because she already knows everything he's teaching and can answer his questions when he snaps at her in class to try to catch her off guard. He then decides her answers aren't respectful enough and sentences her to after school detention.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, the schoolwork done in Calvin's first grade class ranges from addition to knowing the state capitals, the latter of which is usually not taught to first graders.
  • Played for Laughs in Peanuts, where Charlie Brown, who's implied to be in second or third grade, gets assigned to read War and Peace and is forced to do complex math equations, to emphasize his Butt-Monkey nature.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • An Extremely Goofy Movie: Sylvia mentions that the university library uses the Dewey Decimal classification system. In reality, most large educational institutions' libraries use the Library of Congress classification system: a somewhat newer system created by the US Library of Congress that uses a combination of letters and numbers to classify materials.
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, Twilight's crown is mistaken for the Fall Formal crown, so in order to reclaim it, Twilight decides to run for Fall Formal Princess to earn it legitimately. The mere fact that she has to sign up with the principal in order to participate should derail the scheme, because that should involve some sort of process of looking into her academic standing, which would reveal she wasn't enrolled as a student.
  • In The Powerpuff Girls Movie, the titular heroes end up destroying Pokey Oaks Kindergarten (as well as the rest of Townsville) on their first day after using their powers during a game of tag. The next day, they and the other students have to come in despite the school being in shambles. In real life, children would NOT be allowed to come into a school building that is half destroyed. Classes would either be cancelled or held somewhere else until the original building is fixed.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, Max's astronomy teacher tells the class about how everything is going to die one day and lists the possible ways that humanity could be wiped out. Yes, he tells all of this to a bunch of 9-year-old kids, and what's worse is that he does so cheerfully as if he doesn't see anything wrong with it.

  • Carrie: Most schools have qualifications that a candidate for prom queen must meet, such as being a model student, actively involved in school activities, and well-liked by the student body. There is no way that Carrie would have qualified, so the book says that the school only votes for the male candidates, and their dates are just along for the ride (it's mentioned that the girls think this is sexist).
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Umbridge puts Harry in detention for entire evenings, with no regard for the homework he has to do for other subjects. But Umbridge has been trying to sabotage Harry since the book started, and academic probation or even expulsion would only help her.
  • In Matilda, Trunchbull's reign of terror over the students of Trunchem Hall. Sure, it is Roald Dahl (who actually wrote about how he had to endure a Boarding School of Horrors in his autobiography) and Adults Are Useless so on, but no matter how much Trunchbull goes so over-the-top with her cruelty that it is Refuge in Audacity incarnate, somebody would have thought it weird to hear their kid talking about how there is a freaking Iron Maiden in their school or how Trunchbull used a kid as a human cannonball toss, especially because the film adaptation doesn't takes place in England (again, Boarding School of Horrors being Truth in Television over there) but in the modern-day United States.
  • The minor British Boarding School of Horrors at the heart of the molesworth stories is based on reality (the author was a teacher), but wildly exaggerated for the sake of comic parody. The sadism and insanity of the staff and senior boys is an obvious case in point.
  • Woodwalkers: Even though this series is set in the US, it still uses the German grade system with "One" as the best grade and "Six" as the worst grade.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the second season of Dance Academy, the whole issue with Saskia Duncan showing contempt towards Tara because she's jealous of her dancing skills culminates with her injuring Tara's back when she forces her into a dangerous stretch. When Ben (who witnessed this) tells Miss Raine what happened, she doesn't fire her, but makes her apologize, which Saskia refuses to do. She ends up not completely getting away with it when her students harass her over the incident into quitting, but Miss Raine really should of fired Saskia, since in Sydney, Australia, hurting a student is not allowed.
  • Glee runs on this. A teacher who not only bullies students but encourages them to do it to others, a student with a 0.0 GPA being permitted to do athletic competitions, a club that seems to meet at all hours of the day, a Spanish teacher who never actually qualified on the subject (and has to go to night school to learn the subject he's supposed to be teaching), a female student being punished by the glee club coach for refusing to wear a clamshell bikini during a performance (it's important to note that she is 15 years old and has an eating disorder that the coach already knew about when he set the assignment), a student in a wheelchair being allowed to play football by invoking Ain't No Rule, a teacher becoming so close to his students that one of them is the best man at his wedding, not to mention the whole deal with the student who brought a gun to school... Well, there's a reason the Headscratchers section had to be divided up into seven separate pages.
  • House of Anubis:
    • The show takes place in the UK, but was broadcast for a largely American audience on Nickelodeon. So, the portrayal of schooling is very much American-based and not UK-based, right down to The Movie taking place at the students' high school graduation... something that doesn't even exist in the UK, as they don't consider graduating from High School an achievement the same way Americans do. This was most likely done so the American audience could understand what was happening, despite it being unrealistic for the setting.
    • The headmaster, Mr. Sweet, is also the school's science teacher. In the show, this just means that he's either in his office doing headmaster work, or teaching the students in the science lab, with little emphasis being made about his dual role. In real life, this would be way too much work, as he'd have to do administrative work in addition to grading papers, giving tests, and actually teaching the class.
  • MacGyver (2016): Almost all universities require their professors to have a doctorate in their field. As an MIT dropout, Mac would not be able to become a professor in only 18 months.
  • Ripping Yarns: "Tomkinson's Schooldays", being a surreal parody, is about a British Boarding School which is of course much weirder than ever existed in reality. Well, somewhat weirder.

    Video Games 
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel overlaps this with Mildly Military, due to the main setting being a military academy. For instance, it's mentioned that only forty percent of graduates from Thors' Military Academy end up joining the military, even though the purpose of a military academy is to produce junior officers. The behavior of the students also warrants discipline several times, yet the most anyone will get is a scolding for their actions. For instance, during one of the training exercises in the third game, Ash sneaks into the Hector one of the teachers was using during the exercise, and attacks Rean unprovoked, forcing Rean to fight back. Despite attacking a teacher, Ash only gets scolded for his actions.

    Visual Novels 
  • Being A DIK: Throughout the game, you, the DIKs, and the HOTs get away with so much more than any real life fraternity or sorority would be able to get away with, no matter how secretive they are. Also, even though B&R is a smaller school, there seems to be a distinct lack of different professors employed at the university.

    Web Animation 
  • In Ollie & Scoops, Ollie is able to take her pet cat, Scoops, to school and no one says anything about it, even her teacher and the principal.

  • The Paris-based English-language school which features in Sandra on the Rocks is just vaguely weird in countless ways (the American-style atmosphere, the uncontrolled sexual activities of many of the pupils, the uniforms...), putting it more in line with American comedy comics and Japanese manga than anything you'd probably find in that place in reality.

    Web Original 
  • In the Cobra Kai episode "Counterbalance", Miguel beats up Kyler and his posse in the cafeteria and is dragged to the office where the counselor attempts to call his mother. However, Miguel's grandma, who doesn't speak English, answers the phone instead. In the end, Miguel is implied to get away with the fight without his mother finding out and without a hint of some sort of punishment. In real life, he would most likely be kept in the office until the school could get a hold of his mother, and he would certainly be getting suspended for fighting in school.
  • Comes up frequently and is often Played for Laughs in SuperMarioLogan.
    • In "Bowser Junior's Homework", Junior has to study for an exam at school the next day. Some of the subjects he has to study include calculus and Chinese, even though he's in Kindergarten. Chef Pee Pee Lampshades this, stating that he shouldn't even have to do that kind of stuff.
    • Everything about Jackie Chu. He gives his students difficult work, such as in the "Bowser Junior's Summer School" series where he gives Junior homework on calculus, he frequently insults his students and calls them dumb (which, considering that he has people like Junior and Jeffy in his class, he's got a point), he acts inappropriate sometimes and frequently uses Asian stereotypes, and he once taught his 2nd grade class where babies came from. All the kids think he's cool, though.
    • In the "Bowser Junior's 1st Grade" series, a teacher at Junior's school named Mr. Winkle is revealed to be a pedophile and is arrested. At a parent-teacher conference, it's revealed that Principal Steinbeck and Officer Goodman had done a background check on Winkle, which he failed, but they hired him anyway because he called them both hot. They only realized at that point, in front of a bunch of parents that are pissed off at them for letting a pedophile into the school, that they've been tricked.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball, Gumball's teacher Miss Simian dates the principal of the school, Principal Brown. Relationships between school staff, let alone between a teacher and the principal, are not strictly against the rules or illegal per se, but they are usually frowned upon because of the risk of personal display of affection, especially in front of children.
    • In many episodes, Gumball receives detentions that are longer than two hours, such as in "The End" when he and Darwin got detention for six hours. The episode takes place within a time-span of an entire day, which means that they served the detention in one sitting.
  • American Dragon: Jake Long: Professor Rotwood somehow manages to get away with teaching a class about magical creatures in an ordinary high school. Whilst some fans speculate the class is officially about mythology (which some high schools have been known to offer) and Rotwood's obsessions cause him to shift focus, it still stretches belief he would be able to get away with this for years. Pushing things further, despite being arrested several times throughout the series (including on one occasion for kidnapping his own students) he's always back teaching in the next episode and is even promoted to principal in the second season. There's also the fact he calls himself "Professor" Rotwood despite being a high school teacher, not a college lecturer.
  • The last season of As Told by Ginger had an episode where Ginger got Saturday detention. What for, exactly? Sleeping in class. While falling asleep in class would warrant a punishment, such as being told off by the teacher or getting a small detention after school on a weekday, no school would give a student that kind of punishment for something so minor. Saturday detentions are reserved for more serious misbehavior.
  • Double Subverted in the Clarence episode "Suspended", where Clarence and Sumo get suspended from school. Mr. Reese actually does try to call their parents to come get them, but he doesn't get an answer. Instead of keeping them until he can get a hold of their parents, he just sends them on their merry way. Of course, if he hadn't done that, then the two boys wouldn't have been there to save the school from an overheated boiler.
  • Fanboy and Chum Chum is oozing with examples of unrealistic school. Stand out episode examples include:
    • "Excuse Me": Fanboy, Chum Chum and Kyle get away with missing class constantly due to all kinds of unrealistic fake excuse notes. Mr Mufflin falls for all of them until it is discovered outright that they are lying. He even accepts an excuse note to excuse FanKyleChum (actually a real student) from class forever. Even given Rule of Funny, no teacher would accept any of these.
    • "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha": Fanboy and Chum Chum accidentally end up in a kindergarten where they are forced to stay all day because the teacher doesn't believe that they're not kindergarten students. While there, they discover that their former classmate Marsha was sent here after Fanboy got snot all over her standardized test. No teacher would use something like this as a reason to fail a student to the point of sending them back five grades. Additionally, Marsha would just be made to retake the test at a later date, especially since it wasn't her fault the test got ruined.
    • According to Word of God, Chum Chum is two years younger than Fanboy, but is in the same class due to Fanboy sneaking him in and no one noticing. Seemingly, Adults Are Useless and bureaucracy barely exists in this world.
  • In Miraculous Ladybug, we have Madame Bustier and Principal Damocles.
    • They leave Chloé's reign of terror unchecked for different reasons.
      • Bustier believed that Chloe shouldn't be punished for her actions but that Chloe should learn from a positive student role model (namely Marinette, Chloe's main target) even though, as a teacher, she should be that role model.
      • Damocles fears her father's, the Mayor, reprisal even though as mayor he doesn't have real power over the school. If he does something to the school, he can be ousted for corruption or it might cause a major scandal.
    • Lila has made claims about her "disabilities" but Mme.Bustier never asked for a doctor's note and never seemed to have contacted her mother to confirm.
    • The investigation into Lila's claims that Marinette stole her necklace, cheated on a test, and pushed her down the stairs was shoddy.
      • Marinette is known to be a good student, so these accusations would be wildly out of character for her and the Mme.Bustier should have been suspicious.
      • Marinette makes good grades, so there is no real reason for her to cheat along with the fact that the test answers were taken after the test was over.
      • The evidence could have easily been planted because the lockers didn't have locks.
      • If the student is grievously injured (or claims to be injured despite no visual injury), they should have sent the student to the nurse's office or called an ambulance. They did no such thing when Lila claimed to be pushed down the stairs. It could have been off-screen as Lila was later shown with bandages wrapped haphazardly around her knee but she could've done it herself because she can't really fake an injured knee from a competent nurse. This shows the faculty as neglectful.
  • In the Peanuts animated special Happy New Year, Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown's class is assigned War and Peace over winter break. Not only would an elementary school teacher not assign such a long and complicated book to read, the students would certainly not be expected to read the whole thing in such a short time; at most they would be assigned a few selected chapters to read. When Charlie Brown does a report on the same book in The Peanuts Movie, it's because he chose it to impress the Little Red-Haired Girl (who was assigned his report partner), and not the choice of the teacher.
  • In the first episode of Rick and Morty, Morty's math teacher Mr. Goldenfold hands out a test to his students, which has at least six questions that all use addition. It's supposed to be a high school math class.
  • The Simpsons: Everything regarding Springfield Elementary, which is crappy to a point that is absurd or horrifying Depending on the Writer. The building is literally falling apart, children are fed shredded cushions, teachers not only ignore bullying but encourage it in a fashion worthy of The Social Darwinist and actively seek to destroy children's capacity to be anything but a drone (and not a well-educated one at that), and there is a chapter in the school's charter that says in black and white that they won't care if children are killed under their watch (or at least Bart). The only true absolute limit the faculty has in being abusive is in having teachers physically attack children, and even that depends on the episode.
  • South Park: Most of the staff at South Park Elementary are extremely incompetent at their jobs. The closest thing the school had to a competent, responsible adult was Chef, a womanizing Casanova whose advice often caused misunderstandings, but he was eventually Killed Off for Real. Things only get worse when Principal Victoria is replaced by PC Principal, who yells at his students and is willing to assault them just for using microaggressions.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants, SpongeBob attends Mrs. Puff's Boating School. His teacher, Mrs. Puff, hates him due to him causing destruction during his driver's tests. In spite of him constantly failing, he's still allowed to stay at the driving school where in real life he would be kicked out after failing too many times. The only reason Mrs. Puff doesn't let him go is that she promised that she would never give up on any of her students, but it would probably make her life a lot easier if she did it just this once.
  • The end of the Yogi's Treasure Hunt episode "Goodbye, Mr. Chump" has Dick Dastardly Writing Lines on the chalkboard, even though the episode is set at a university rather than an elementary school.
    Dick Dastardly: I hate being kept after class!
    Muttley: Pipe down and write!


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: