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Sucky School

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"And my high school: it felt more to me
Like a jail cell, a penitentiary
Good Charlotte, "The Anthem"

The opposite of Elaborate University High, a school that isn't very good at teaching because of budget issues. Expect the textbooks and the technology to be massively out of date and have Cold War era information at best. It may or may not be an Assimilation Academy. The school is often full of ridiculously mean teachers, bullies of all races, colors, creeds, and social backgrounds, and run by an even worse principal. If they actually try to be integrated, expect them to apply Political Correctness Gone Mad. The trope is often used to satirize or dramatize how horrible the public school system is (especially if this trope is used in an American work, as parents and adults worrying over the quality of children's education is a major issue).

The Inner City School is often the victim of this trope. The Boarding School of Horrors is even worse, especially because you have to live there. Contrast the Cool School, where even if it's not all sunshine and rainbows, it's well worth it. See the Phony Degree trope when the Sucky School is a college that's little more than a diploma mill. See also Daycare Nightmare, for even younger characters.



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    Anime and Manga 

  • Assassination Classroom distills this into a single class: it turns out the worst students are all stuffed into the same class with an alien teacher so the rest of the school has someone to look down on. When they start improving the school takes measures to keep them down.
  • Akehisa High in Kyou Kara Ore wa!!, due to the high number of delinquents among their students... As in all of them. They are not the worst school, Hokunei is... Or rather was, as its students burned it down.
  • Go Nagai provided a couple interesting examples:
  • Cromartie High School takes this Up to Eleven. No teachers in sight and a reputation that if you can write your name you can enroll. Not to mention a robot, a former plane hijacker, and a gorilla as students.

    Comic Books 
  • The school from the Bash Street Kids in The Beano. One of the cartoon adaptations had the school shut down because of this (it was back by the end of the episode.) No one learns, outdated books, falling apart building which has no central heating and (wasn't outdated then) teacher still wearing a mortar board.
    • Most of the pupils don't wear a uniform, either (the only one who does is a snobby elitist), and all attempts to get them to do so are farcical.

    Fan Works 
  • The crossover Senpai: A Story of Good Friends has, true to the source material, Furinkan , Tomobiki and Butsumetsu high schools (the latter having a junior high section that is identified as the school Ranma went at before going to China, where students routinely fought for the best meal), well known for their unruly and underperforming students. Turns out someone's doing it on purpose: Asuka Saginomiya runs a switching grades ring, with the grades of the best students from the supposedly lesser schools being switched around for those of people who can pay for the honor of entering the supposedly elite Kolkhoz High. With some of the people screwed up this way being Nabiki and Kasumi. Needless to say, when Kodachi (who has moved to Furinkan after her brother was hospitalized) and her student council (including, among others, Ranma and Nabiki) find out, they're not happy.
  • In A Sky Of A Million Stars: Aldera Junior High, Izuku and Katsuki's middle school. While Izuku's suicide attempt is the most prolific screw-up they've had thus far, the place was already seen in a bad light due to various cover-ups and scandals. Izuku himself has no clue how the place is still standing, let alone operational.

  • In The Faculty, there is a scene early on that takes place at a faculty meeting, where they are deciding how to divide the school's budget. Much to the teachers' chagrin, money that could be used for buying new textbooks or putting on a School Play other than Our Town (which they did last year) is instead directed towards the football team, because, as Principal Drake explains, they live in a football town. She doesn't think the football team deserves all the attention and funding, but it's what the parents want. As well, there are several points that hint the school is in some definite need of refurbishing, such as door frames in need of paint coatings.
    • Also, take a look at the map of Europe in the history classroom. Despite the film being set in 1998, the map still shows a united Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, implying that it's at least ten years old — and judging by the condition it's in, probably older.
  • Shermer High is implied to be this in The Breakfast Club.
  • Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie carries over this status for Jerome Horwitz Elementary from the books (see below).
  • In Teachers, students get stabbed, teachers fight, there's teacher-student sex, and a student sues the school after he graduated despite being illiterate.
  • High School High parodies this while also combining it with the Inner City School. The teachers are either corrupt or undermined, hardly any of the students in the senior class graduate, the vice principal runs the school (particularly her fellow staff) with an iron hand and the principal himself was abducted twice (including in broad daylight.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Netflix adaptation of 13 Reasons Why, the school's students and staff, while affluent, range anywhere between callously uncaring and deliberately cruel. The school counselor is playing on his phone while Hannah is trying to tell him that Bryce, the popular jock, raped her at a party. During the ensuing legal deposition, one student says that the staff only care about boosting and propping up the egos of the popular kids. The staff also give almost no shits that a student is dead, and are more concerned about if/when they will be facing a lawsuit.
  • In Glee: Principal Figgins is constantly telling Mr Schue that he can't help out with monetary issues within the Glee Club, and he [the principal] is always talking about the school's very tight budget; however, the reason that the school has no money to spend on costumes and the like is that the Cheerios have their own private photocopier and get their drycleaning done in Europe.
  • Outnumbered makes a Running Gag of implying the school Pete teaches at is one.
  • Mr. D: Xavier Academy looks like an Elaborate University High, but they have the title character as a teacher. And the others aren't that much better.
  • Greendale Community College of Community is half this and half just bizarre. There aren't really mean teachers, however. Instead, the faculty seems to be composed of incompetent Cloud Cuckoolanders of every description. There are also money issues:
    Dean Pelton: We're broke, Ben! We now get 80% of our electricity from the apartment building across the street!
    • In later seasons it comes out that the school is primarily funded by private donations from alumni of the air conditioning repair annex, who go on to blue-collar but relatively well-paying careers in HVAC maintenance.
  • Family Ties had Grant College, which Mallory and Skippy attend. Again, no mean teachers but the college is known and shown to be remarkably substandard: their radio commercials mention it's "conveniently located near several major highways" and they have a class on opening umbrellas.
  • Waterloo Road was the worst sort of failing sink secondary modern before an idealistic and capable head (Angela Burton) took over. Even then it was a long road, faced with hostile parents, couldn't-care-less kids, and a hostile LEA.
  • Strange Hill High: The headmaster is constantly cutting corners to save money, the teachers are either sadists or idiots, the Scary Librarian does not like children touching the books, the caretaker has been at the school for centuries. Oh, and the entire school is a nexus for weird events.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Not only does Sunnydale High fulfill pretty much every bad high school trope in existence, but it's also on top of a Hellmouth that gets a substantial number of the students and staff killed on a regular basis.

  • Jerome Horwitz Elementary in Captain Underpants provides the page image. The school library is shown as being almost completely free of books, with a librarian who discourages reading. The school also has signs posted encouraging mindless conformity. The teachers are also pretty much entirely either idiots or sadists. Not to mention the principal, who is a complete Jerkass to the point of blackmailing students- which is why those same students hypnotize him into becoming Captain Underpants (when he's in that mode, his personality takes a complete 180).
  • Danish author Hans Scherfig's classic novel The Stolen Spring revolves around a group of pupils at the mercy of Sadist teachers and outdated learning at a prestigious school in Copenhagen (a thinly veiled Expy of Scherfig's own alma mater, Metropolitanskolen).
    "Disciplina sollerti fingitur ingenium" is written over the gate. It means something like: "Beatings are good for spiritual development."
  • Features prominently in many of the books of Daniel Pinkwater. Schools are typically populated by Drill Sergeant Nasty type gym teachers, academic teachers who are too crazy for their students to learn from them, and students who are cruel bullies.
    • The aptly-named George Armstrong Custer High, from the Snarkout Boys books is a classic example, full of crazy if not outright malicious teachers and apathetic students.
    • In Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars, Bat Masterson Junior High is a dull and terrible place to be. All the kids are snobby and look down on anyone who isn't neat and well-dressed, but they're all stupid and sub-literate. The teachers all teach from the textbook and move so slowly that Leonard completely stops participating, causing the teachers to think he's feeble-minded even though he is quite intelligent. The gym teacher is an abusive Drill Sergeant Nasty type who is somehow popular with all the kids except for Leonard.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin and Hobbes discuss yet "another typical school day".
  • Doonesbury's Walden College is another postsecondary example. It has a worse graduation rate than some for-profit colleges, and once marketed itself as "America's safety school".
    • In the latest new daily strips so far (before a hiatus), Walden has become for-profit.

    Video Games 
  • The Nether Institute Evil Academy, the setting of Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice; Never the mind that it's in the Netherworld and run and attended by demons, but they have a very inverted sense of morality; students who skip class and break rules are Honor Students, whereas unashamed goody-two-shoes' are Delinquents. Not only that, but the teachers actually hate teaching, and will fight to keep students from their classes. An NPC even admits that because of this policy, no one has ever graduated (except for Raspberyl and her posse), and students just keep paying tuition forever.
    • Its Updated Re-release, Absence of Detention, gives us Death Institute Majin Academy. Even though it is an elite school meant to raise Majins, the only actual Majins in the school are the Student Body President Stella Grossular and the Chief Director who is her father, and who has been dead for a long time. In fact, the school has hardly any students and has been in the brink of being shut down. Stella's entire motivation has been to ruin the Evil Academy's reputation so that Majin Academy can get a boost in popularity.
  • Bullworth Academy in Bully is filled with corruption, bullying, violence and vandalism, and none of the authority figures seem to care, or even acknowledge it, denouncing it as school spirit.
  • Hope's Peak Academy of Danganronpa would probably function perfectly fine as a haven for the best and brightest of society to have their natural talents nurtured, if it wasn't for the incredibly Skewed Priorities of its staff. Danganronpa 3 reveals the Ultimate students don't even have to attend class and are simply expected to practice their talents, which include luck. Also, an immoral experiment to create the "Ultimate Hope" by implanting all Ultimate talents into one person while causing Death of Personality was so expensive that they opened the very exclusive school up to the public with an expensive reserve course which sees none of the benefits of the rest of the school. They also turned a blind eye to Junko Enoshima's despair-enducing machinations involving the "Ultimate Hope" Izuru Kamukura until it was too late, leading to the end of civilization.
  • Stilwater University in Saints Row 2 isn't the best of colleges. Though the place itself looks decent, gangs patrol the campus and conduct business there, two feuding fraternities perform pledge hazings and pranks that get people hurt (if not killed), the institute has a drug problem, a (presumably illegal) brothel is being operated out of an internet cafe, Ultor uses it as a recruiting ground, there's a nuclear power plant located southwest of the U, it has a sports team that its cheerleaders boast about cheating and apparently isn't very good, and only seven subjects are taught.
  • Akademi High School in Yandere Simulator isn't the best place to learn. The principal is in cahoots with the local Mega-Corp, a Mafia Princess orchestrates emotionally draining bullying, one of the club leaders has his own personal clone army hidden in the basement, and there is a love-obsessed maniac running amok. Have fun!

  • In El Goonish Shive, Moperville North High School is run by principal Verrückt in a somewhat crazy way — such as blowing the security budget on propaganda, so there are no sprinklers or fire alarm autodialers, but lots of motivational murals. And then it starts enforcing a dress code, because one minor fight broke out over a student's shirt, which had resolved itself amicably without teacher intervention before the faculty even found out about it.
  • Kat from Sequential Art was in one, Catch 22 included.

    Web Original 
  • PieGuyRulz had to spend some time at "University X" (which is a real-life college that he refrained from mentioning its real name), featured in his College Confessions series. He went on a 40-minute rant about his bad roommates, along with terrible instructors and cheating students who bragged about stealing toilet paper.
  • Detroit Central High School in SOTF-TV is of the budget issues variant. Played in complete contrast to the other school of SOTF-TV, Silver Dragon Academy (a prestigious private school).
  • CollegeHumor: There's a fake commercial for the Quendelton State University, where you can get A Degree in Useless in literally thousands of disciplines, renovation projects will take decades to finish, the football team is worthless, the social culture of the school could best be described as High School Part Two, tuition costs a fortune (yet the students don't get much out of their education and don't really care), and the nearby community is a complete ghost town. (Oh, and their graduate program isn't much better.)
    "If we were a good university, we wouldn't need a commercial!"

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: Springfield Elementary is regularly noted to be on a shoestring budget, mostly due to Principal Skinner (a Vietnam vet who still has flashbacks of the war and lives with his controlling mother) slashing the budget to the point that the kids drink "malk" and the meat is "Grade F." The teachers also run the mill between apathetic, incompetent or otherwise very controlling, and the few good teachers tend to either be temporary substitutes or get driven out one way or another. The occasional substitute teacher that is a tyrannical asshole also tends to arrive.
  • South Park Elementary. Very few teachers (one of them being the bewilderingly incapable Mr. Garrison, even) and all.
  • The "Skool" from Invader Zim is regularly acknowledged as both militant and under budget. Illustrative of this are the "hall passes", from the "Dark Harvest" episode, the first being a collar that explodes upon leaving school premises and the "auxiliary hall pass" being a radiator the student is expected to lug around.
  • Chris' school on Family Guy uses the textbooks part of the trope as seen in the episode "No Chris Left Behind".
    • Speaking of textbooks, in the episode where Lois and Peter run for a spot in the school council, among her campaign promises is to replace history textbooks that refer to the Civil Rights Movement as "trouble ahead."
  • Tom Landry Middle School in King of the Hill shows budget and policy issues that reflect the real-life public school system whenever it's brought up by Principal Moss. Examples include a shop class converted into a study room when the school couldn't afford a substitute teacher or equipment, Bunsen burners that aren't hooked up to a gas line, and newly published Texas history textbooks that tell nothing significant about the history of Texas.
  • Lawndale High School in Daria, where the paranoid principal, Ms. Li, regularly siphons off funding intended for education into elaborate, expensive and unnecessary security and surveillance systems. She then attempts to make up the shortfall with dodgy get-rich-quick schemes and bogus sponsorship deals. All new pupils are psychologically screened, the teaching staff tends towards being either sugary idealists or burnt-out basket cases with deep-seated personal issues, and extremely bright pupils are mistrusted as they tend to ask awkward questions. Daria Morgendorffer fits as well as a fish on a bicycle, and everyone, including her, knows it.
  • CatDog had to go back to one in the episode "Back to School". However, this justifies the fact that Cat is treated as The Un-Favourite by every teacher and student in that school.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: While the facilities in Elmore Junior High are actually pretty good for a middle school (since the backgrounds come from on a real-life high school), the staff members are the ones who are incompetent/unprofessional/poorly qualified:
    • Principal Brown somehow has had his job as principal for 20 years, despite having a fake diploma and dating one of his workers (Miss Simian), often in school and during class hours.
    • Miss Simian hates her job as teacher (mostly because she's been assaulted and ostracized for teaching subject matter considered subversive or controversial, such as how to make fire and how to use the wheel, as mentioned in "The Pest"), has very little regard for her students' safety/well-being, and is most likely still a teacher because she's dating Principal Brown.
    • Mr. Small, the guidance counselor, is more of an emotional wreck than anyone who comes to see him, dispenses useless advice (even though "The Advice" shows that, unlike most of the teachers at Elmore Junior High, he actually cares about his job and wants to be a good teacher), and is possibly a stoner.
    • The school nurse has to put up with Teri the paper bear's hypochondria, Miss Simian treating her like dirt, Gumball and Darwin trotting out tired excuses to get out of gym class, spends most of her time huddled under her desk, trying to re-evaluate her career choices, once prescribed herself heavy sedatives and time off school to get away from Teri, and is not being paid well (cf. "The Parasite", where she tells Gumball she wishes she had a six-figure salary, a cabriolet, and a pension plan).
    • The gym teacher/coach is bulky, out of shape, lets her Barbaric Bully of a daughter (Jamie) push people around during class, is most likely lying about her past as an Olympic athlete, and doesn't seem to care when a student gets hurt or can't do anything she assigns them.
    • The only somewhat competent worker at the school is Rocky, the janitor/bus driver/lost and found clerk/cafeteria worker, though even he can be oblivious and careless on the job, mostly due to listening to music on his Walkman and "The Points" revealed that he spends most of his time in the broom closet eating pizza and spray cheese while listening to rock music. He's also a terrible cook.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Master Yu's Earthbending school is an unsubtle parody of North American "McDojos", more interested in flattering its students by handing out meaningless belts and persuading them (or their parents) to hand over extra cash than actually producing proficient benders.
  • China, IL: The University of China, Il is called "the worst school in America". The whole student body failed their exams at the end of the semester. The theme song is pretty much a warning about how bad the school is...before adding that the only good thing about the school is the teachers.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television: American public schools were originally created primarily to educate factory workers, not ''men of letters''. After public education became mostly available, schools were still somewhat bad as the teachers were more focused on "lickin' instead o' larnin", "lickin'" meaning paddling.
  • This article, written by a recent Oregon high school graduate, illustrates just how sucky American schools can be.
  • This was enforced in the American South before schools were integrated. While the "separate but equal" doctrine meant that, in theory, schools for white and black students had to be treated the same way, in practice this was never enforced, and the black schools had the worst of everything — usually the old, worn-out stuff that the white schools were throwing out and replacing. It was this abuse that led to the desegregation of the public school system.
  • Due to corruption and shoddy funding (along with a general preferential treatment towards private, usually Catholic-run schools), a large chunk of public schools in the Philippines sadly fit this trope. More often than not, one will either find typo-filled textbooks, flip-flopping standards, incomplete classrooms, unfinished buildings or worse all of the above. The irony becomes even more pronounced when one considers the fact that this descended from the original American system...
  • Several under-performing schools close every year in New York City.
  • For-profit colleges have a reputation for focusing on enrollment and getting students' money and not making any particular effort to encourage successful outcomes.
  • Many schools that operate on the Wrong Side of the Tracks or in a Dying Town can be this, or become this over time. Part of the problem, at least in the United States, is that public schools are largely funded by property taxes...and so districts with higher property values tend to be able to fund better schools than areas that don't have those high property values, or where there are far more renters than homeowners.
  • Yuna Kagesaki, author/artist of the manga Karin mentions in a supplementary chapter of an early volume of the series that she attended one of the bottom 5 high schools of Japan. Among the things she remembers from her stint: there were students that were taught things they already learned in middle school, they were dismissive of their teachers, and fights were common, with one memorable incident of a student being expelled after getting into a fight with a teacher.


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