Don't forget your books, you know you've got to learn the golden rule
Teacher tells you stop your play and get on with your work
and be like Johnny — too good, don't you know he never shirks
He's coming along."
Formal schooling crushes gentle spirits, destroys creativity and enforces conformity above all. This is often reflected in fictional accounts of schooling. Tall Poppy Syndrome is often used here.
Assimilation Academy generally requires school uniforms, acting shorthand for students' lost individuality. Expect it to be run by a controlling Dean Bitterman along with a Sadist Teacher or two. It will be ruled by an iron fist and forbids any student to question authority.
Please no Real Life examples here. Alternative Solution
- An ad for the 1992 Isuzu Rodeo had an art class coloring, chanting "Stay within the lines. The lines are our friends. Stay within the lines..."
- Massachusetts Academy, run by erstwhile Hellfire Club White Queen Emma Frost, in contrast with Xavier's School For Gifted Youngsters in X-Men comics.
- In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin, notorious for being a brat who resists anything formal, sees his school as this, when in reality it is no different than a regular elementary school (the first-graders-learning-algebra gags are all in Calvin's head). Made very explicit in one strip where Calvin brings a snowflake for show and tell.
- The theme of School of Rock.
- The background setting of Dead Poets Society.
- The opening scene of Serenity has a scene like this. The other children are all falling into line with what the teacher is saying; little River is thinking outside the box and getting in trouble for it.
- Training for Stasi recruits in The Lives of Others
- Rushmore Prep School from Rushmore is this to the degree that the faculty and administration are oblivious to Max's precociousness due to his academic failure.
- The school section in Snowpiercer brainwashes the young children within to worship Wilford and to never get out of the train, or else they'd freeze and die.
- Actually exaggerated in the Give Yourself Goosebumps book Zombie School, in which the title school goes out of its way to brainwash its students into total mindless obedience, through everything from subliminal messages to strapping the little suckers to a mindwipe chair and pulling the big red lever. Incidentally, if you ever read the book, you may want to have some change in your pocket. Just in case.
- Tom Browns School Days is an early example.
- Mark Twain is known to have said (maybe in Life on the Mississippi) "I have never let schooling interfere with my education."
- A Series of Unfortunate Events has the school in the fifth book, The Austere Academy
- Played for Laughs in the Captain Underpants books. The school literally has a poster that says "individuality is painful".
- The first part of Ferdydurke is set in such a school. During the Polish lesson, the teacher recites nothing but a string of bland praises of the poet Słowacki, finally concluding that everyone loves Słowacki and his works since he was a great poet. When one of the students complains that he doesn't actually like Słowacki at all, the teacher panics.
"He was a great poet, dont forget that he was a great poet. Why do we feel love, admiration, delight? Because he was a great poet, a great poet. You ignorant dunderheads, get this firmly fixed in your heads and repeat after me: Juliusz Slowacki was a great poet, a great poet, we love Juliusz Slowacki and his poems delight us because he was a great poet — and because his verses are of an immortal beauty which arouses our deepest admiration."
- C. S. Lewis felt that all schools were this way (considering his personal experience, that's hardly unreasonable), and it's reflected in his writing. In The Chronicles of Narnia, school is only referred to obliquely and used to punctuate how dreary the normal world is. Every school is pretty much portrayed as where childhood goes to die...in the rain.
- Hogwarts gets hit with this twice in the Harry Potter series:
- It's not particularly successful in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix under Umbridge's regime, but that's certainly the Ministry of Magic's intent. Several students get tortured for either claiming Voldemort has returned (which he had) or for pulling pranks on Umbridge. Things go right again by the end of that book, when the ministry is forced to face the truth of Voldemort's return.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Hogwarts is taken over by the new Voldemort-controlled Ministry. When the main characters get there, they find it's even worse than during Umbridge's regime. Students there are actually taught the Dark Arts, encouraged (or coerced) into torturing younger students (and tortured if they refuse), and are fed anti-Muggle propaganda. Played up in the movie where students are even made to march in step.
- The first book in The Demon Headmaster series. It helps that the title character has actual mind-control powers that work on almost the entire student body — only a handful are immune.
- The second Alex Rider book, Point Blanc, sees Alex going undercover at a last-resort reform school for the wild sons of influential people. He's disturbed by how well it works: the other boys share mannerisms like some kind of Hive Mind, and his only friend there goes from planning his escape to a model pupil in the span of a night. Turns out they really are clones of each other — adolescent clones of the villain given Magic Plastic Surgery.
- The fake "orphanage", St. Aggie, in Guardians of Ga'Hoole is one for the kidnapped owlets.
- M'Choakumchild's school in Hard Times is essentially this, as it squeezes the caring out of children by attempting to make them all machines of fact-spewing.
- Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell. The protagonists are raised in an orphanage where the students are indoctrinated to become patriotic Cannon Fodder for the US military.
- Season 10 of Degrassi: The school dance goes horribly wrong, what with the school bully bringing a knife into the building and threatening another student with it, and with the student government co-presidents being caught stripping in the drama room. Principal Simpson responds by imposing a school uniform and suspending almost all extracurriculars until further notice. Alli and Clare don't like this very much, and whine that Degrassi is transforming into some kind of fascist boot camp. At one point, Clare shrieks "Are we even going to be allowed to THINK at this new Degrassi?"
- In The Outer Limits (1995) episode "The Straight and Narrow", the private academy actually uses Mind Control on the all young men in it.
- In the Nowhere Man episode "The Alpha Spike" the private academy for the children of the rich and powerful only admits children who are susceptible to a specific kind of subliminal brainwashing.
- Wayward Pines Academy's orientation for new students includes filling them in on the town's secret and warning them that adults can't handle it and their parents might kill themselves (and them, the kids) if they found out.
- Supertramp has "School" (quoted here) and "The Logical Song" (quoted atop Jade-Colored Glasses).
- "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)" (from Pink Floyd's The Wall) illustrates this as yet another reason for the character Pink to shut himself away from the world. It's only one of many, however. Roger Waters has stated that Pink's feelings in "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" and "Another Brick Part 2" are semi-autobiographical from his days in the British grammar school system. The assimilation part is really driven home in the movie, when you see all the children wearing faceless masks, as if their individual identities have been stripped away and replaced with a twisted conformity. And it's driven home further by the scene where they're all being fed into a meat grinder.
- Harry Chapin's "Flowers Are Red" is about a little boy who, during his first day of school has a teacher who, after seeing him drawing flowers with many colors, tells him that "Flowers are red, young man, and green leaves are green. There's no need to see flowers any other way than the way they always have been seen," before punishing him by putting him in the corner until he agrees with her. Time passes and he meets another teacher who tells him, "Painting should be fun, and there are so many colors in the flower, so let's use every one." However, when the teacher sees him painting flowers in neat rows of green and red and asks why, he repeats, word for word, what his old teacher said to him. As with most Harry Chapin songs, there's a story behind this one. he said he was inspired after seeing his secretary's son's report card, which had a teacher comment saying "Your son marches to the beat of a different drummer, but don't worry we'll have him joining the parade by the end of the term," making this Truth in Television, to an extent.
- Malvina Reynold's "Little Boxes".
- "Academy Fight Song", originally by Mission of Burma, is about one of these, or it seems to be, anyways (the narrator may be an Unreliable Narrator). The song's narrator at first seems to be rebelling against the whole system, but then admits later on that the concept of fitting in "has a strange allure" and starts to question whether or not there's even a point to rebelling against it.
- The school the boys attend in the musical Spring Awakening is portrayed this way. Melchior feels he and his classmates are viewed by their teachers as "merely so much raw material for an obedient and productive society, a unified, military-like body where all that is weak must be hammered away."
- The academy in Detention. The game is set during Taiwan's "White Terror" period during the 1960's, where anti-communist fervor ran high, especially in the schools. Propaganda is seen throughout the school spouting the militant ideology and students are rewarded for ratting their fellow students out.
- The titular School of Strange School certainly qualifies. Most especially when all its pupils are literal factory-made clones of each other.
- The schools in the Fire Nation in Avatar: The Last Airbender are highly structured and don't permit much by way of self-expression. Aang gets in trouble numerous times, especially for questioning Fire Nation propaganda he's being fed.
- There was this exchange in the first Kim Possible movie (A Sitch in Time):
Ron Stoppable: 'Scuse me, scary orb thing? Where are you taking us?
Robot: The attitude adjustment center.
Kim Possible: Isn't that the high school?
Robot: Prepare to be drained of all individuality and spirit.
Ron: Yep, high school.
- Codename: Kids Next Door also subscribes to the theory that school kills creativity and is part of the Adult Conspiracy.
- The Simpsons really loves this trope; Springfield Elementary is frequently depicted like this!
- In "Lisa the Vegetarian", Principal Skinner has an Independent Thought Alarm, and blames the colored chalk for its being used twice in the same day. When it becomes clear Lisa is raising complaints relating to her newfound vegetarianism, Skinner decides to create an open dialogue... by showing a propaganda film made by the Meat Council.
- In the B-plot of "Team Homer", Skinner institutes uniforms after Bart wears a snarky T-shirt, causing the children to become lifeless drones who even blink in unison. And then the rain comes...
- Before that, Superintendent Chalmers remarks that the uniforms have created the perfect teaching environment, and that they will adequately prepare the students for work in "tomorrow's factories and processing industries".
- The four shorts episode "Four Great Women and a Manicure" ends with a parody of The Fountainhead: Maggie's in a preschool that discourages her from building highly elaborate buildings with building blocks on the grounds that it makes the other babies feel inferior.
- Subverted in another episode:
Superintendent Chalmers: SKINNER! I hear that you've been encouraging a student's creativity!
Principal Skinner: Sir, I can explain!
Chalmers: I'm thrilled! Or I would be if not for your knee-jerk assumption that I was angry with you.
- In Puff the Magic Dragon and the Incredible Mr. Nobody, one of the reasons that Terry started blaming his creative output on his imaginary friend was due to his teacher disparaging his picture of a spaghetti landscape and telling him to paint "real trees, and real houses."
- Exaggerated in "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted", where the main characters get sent away to a ruthless military academy that crushes all creativity. Of course, it was All Just a Dream.
- Invader Zim portrays school like this, including a machine that kills you if your test scores are unacceptable, a daemonic teacher and the throwaway comment "That's the 12th student to be sent to the loony bin this week!"
- St. Olga's Reform School For Wayward Princesses in Star vs. the Forces of Evil is eventually revealed to be this when it's finally shown. They even use brainwashing. When Star and Marco infiltrate the school to save Pony Head from said brainwashing, Marco encourages the princesses to overthrow Miss Heinous. Later on, it's revealed that the original headmistress, St. Olga herself, is a robot who is mostly responsible for Miss Heinous being raised in the school and made to hide her cheek symbols and monster tail, as well as being brainwashed so many times that she kept doing it to herself after becoming the new headmistress.