After a disastrous field trip, Edna and the teachers agree to a strike as they have had it with Skinner cutting the school's budget to the point that he's selling the kids' futures short. While Bart revels in the strike by making mischief, Lisa is suffering from not being in a classroom setting, Milhouse gets tutored, and the PTA decides to hire neighborhood people as scab teachers.
This episode contains examples of:
- Agree to Disagree: Defied. When Flanders points out that Skinner and Krabappel have their respective good points on their discussion and says this, they refuse to agree even on that before storming off.
- Always Someone Better: Principal Valiant from Shelbyville Elementary School, who has state-of-the-art school buses and even gives a tip to the cashier from Fort Springfield.Skinner: (bitterly) He thinks he's so hot ever since he swept the Princi Awards. Those things are rigged...
- All Crimes Are Equal: Doing anything and everything gets you paddled by Jasper.
- The Alleged Car: The Springfield Elementary school bus is in extremely poor repair, with a rusted out hole in the floor that keeps getting bigger and brakes so worn that students need to use their jackets as drag chutes to help slow the vehicle down.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Marge. Her being a teacher makes Bart a bully magnet.
- Bait-and-Switch: While in bed, Marge announces her concerns about Bart and Lisa's behaviour, while Homer is distracted by Lisa's perpetual motion machine. Soon after, Homer calls Lisa in... to yell at her about the machine.Homer: In this house... WE OBEY THE LAWS OF THERMODYNAMICS!
- This scene, after Bart causes Moe to leave in tears:Skinner: Well children, I don't know what you did to all those other substitutes, but it's going to stop now. Leopold?
Leopold: All right, listen up, you little FREAKS! Fun stops here. You're gonna SHUT your stinkin' traps and behave, dammit! This is one substitute you're not gonna SCREW with!
(Loud Gulp from the students)
Leopold: ...Marge Simpson! (Marge walks in and Leopold leaves)
- Almost immediately after, Milhouse reminds Bart of the booby trap he had set for the new substitute, prompting Bart to rush up to the chair at the teacher's desk to knock off a tack (under the guise of pulling out the chair for Marge). When he sits back down:Milhouse: I meant the other booby trap!Bart: (gasps; gets up to knock Marge away from a swinging log)
- Almost immediately after, Milhouse reminds Bart of the booby trap he had set for the new substitute, prompting Bart to rush up to the chair at the teacher's desk to knock off a tack (under the guise of pulling out the chair for Marge). When he sits back down:
- This scene, after Bart causes Moe to leave in tears:
- Black Comedy: The episode begins with a group of actors trying to kill a bunch of school kids for... trying to watch a re-enactment for free (with them actually appearing to kill poor Uter). Not to mention the re-enactment being soldiers murdering other soldiers trying to surrender being portrayed as brave and heroic.
- Blame Game: Edna blames Skinner for forcing teachers to half-ass their job because of not giving them resources, while Skinner keeps blaming it all on not enough budget and nobody willing to give more money (he ends up being right, though). Bart triggers a riot in a bank by hollering that it's out of money and people coming to blows when the cashier points out that someone's money went to pay someone else and that someone's money went to pay someone else (a la It's a Wonderful Life).
- Blatant Lies: Principle Skinner and Edna fight over the mic. On finally getting it, all Skinner can declare is "all is well in the school, my authority as principal is total" before Edna seizes it back from him.
- Both Sides Have a Point: When a PTA meeting is held regarding the teachers strike, Mrs. Krabappel argues that Skinner's budget cuts are harming the education the parents' children are receiving, and that they need the resources to do their job. The parents are inclined to agree with her until Skinner explains that the school's on a very tight budget as it is, and that for the administration to meet the teacher's demands, they'd have to raise the parents' taxes. That gets the parents complaining about taxes being high enough as it is, and the debate between Skinner's and Krabappel's positions ends up going back and forth.
- The episode ends by Skinner and Krabappel deciding to Take a Third Option and rent out the school's cloakrooms to the prison system to raise extra money, although the writers don't provide an answer to the taxes vs. education quality debate.
- Comically Missing the Point: Homer thinking Canada is a southern country after Marge tells the family that the kids had trouble finding Canada on the map.
- When Moe volunteers to teach Bart's class, Bart rigs the class attendance sheet with pun names like "Maya Buttreeks." Moe thinks the children are laughing at his big ears and runs out crying.
- Lisa has an Emergency Strike Kit ready to go, complete with audio recording of a teacher scolding students.
- Milhouse's parents, in the brief time it takes the strike to be announced and Milhouse to rush home, manage to hire a tutor.
- Creepy Child: Bart takes to flying a kite at night, and has very noticeable bags under his eyes as he does. This is addressed by Marge:Marge: There's something about flying a kite at night that's so unwholesome.Bart (looking up at Marge from outside): Hello, mother dear...
- Cutting Corners: Ms. Krabappel resents Skinner's refusal to fix things all supposedly because their budget can't allow it.
- Disproportionate Retribution:
- Try to learn for free at Diz-Nee historical park, and the soldiers will not hesitate to give some "sugar" to children!Actor: Hey, they're trying to learn for free!
- Doing anything and everything gets you paddled by Jasper.
- Try to learn for free at Diz-Nee historical park, and the soldiers will not hesitate to give some "sugar" to children!
- Disaster Dominoes: Subverted. The tour guide explains that their cannon could go off if hit with the slightest touch, and is pointed to a lookout tower which is occupied by a friendly staff member. After the cannon is violently crashed into, she explains that it wasn't loaded for safety reasons ("It's just common sense").
- Dissonant Serenity: At the end, violent criminals have been placed in the school, with one making a grab at the students. Mrs. Krabappel cheerfully tells them to just ignore the convicted murderer.
- Marge took almost being killed by a swinging log (one that her own son set up) rather too well.
- Diving Save: when Marge becomes 4th grade teacher, Bart does this to save her from a booby trap. Namely A SWINGING LOG.Marge: Kids have been doing that one since my day.
- Driven to Madness:
- Lisa, from not being in school. She demands to be graded for instance.
- Bart, in a slightly different sense. Not being in school makes him wreck havock elsewhere and starts flying kite at night to add to the Creepy Child vibe.
- Education Mama:
- Marge, when she realizes that Bart's and Lisa's personalities have been affected by the strike.
- Milhouse's parents, who hire a tutor for their son after hearing about the strike. Poor Milhouse does not even have one day off.
- Gossip Evolution: Bart's plan to extend the strike involves starting a rumor at the back of a crowd of teachers that "Skinner said the teachers will crack any minute." By the time the rumor reaches the front of the group it's become "Skinner said the teachers will crack any minute, purple monkey dishwasher." Needless to say Edna takes special exception to the "purple monkey dishwaser" comment.
- Hair-Trigger Explosive: Subverted, a tour guide in Fort Springfield is giving a lecture on a "fully restored and in ready to fire condition" Civil War cannon aimed directly at the base of a manned lookout tower. She mentions that these cannons are "very sensitive and that the "slightest jolt" can set them off as the Springfield Elementary bus starts swerving towards the cannon. The bus hits it and...one of the cannon's wheels falls off.Tour Guide: Of course for safety reasons, we don't keep the cannon loaded. That's just common sense.
- The school's previous bus, shown without tires, and its front wheels sitting on blocks, explodes after one leaf falls off the tree the bus is sitting under, and lands on the bus's roof.
- Hidden Depths: Homer, of all people, complains about Lisa's so-called perpetual motion machine... because it "just keeps getting faster and faster".Homer: In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!
- Incredibly Lame Fun: Milhouse gets a recess during his tutoring, but with the assignment of reading two chapters of a book about the Teapot Dome Scandal. He cheers anyway.
- Inspirational Insult: Invoked. Mrs. Krabappel and Principal Skinner have a heated discussion in the cafeteria during lunch about the teacher union's demands.Mrs. Krabappel: Seymour, by doing this you're denying these children's future.(everyone stops and stares at Seymour)Seymour: Prove me wrong, children. Prove me wrong!
- Jerkass Ball: Seymour Skinner has always done (and will always do) idiotic decisions that hurt children for the sake of Cutting Corners and do changes that (only he) believes are beneficial to his school, but he's at his worst in this episode. He considers the fact a kid (Uter) has been left behind and implied to be lynched on a school trip inconsequential because he's got the parental agreement forms to cover his assnote .
- Jerkass Realization: Bart regrets allowing the strike to continue when his own mother, Marge becomes his teacher.
- Kick Them While They Are Down: The battle being reenacted at Fort Springfield is one from the American Civil War. In 1864, the Ninth Bearded Infantry were just standing around when the troops they were fighting crested the hill they were standing at the bottom of. The enemy troops were surrendering unconditionally, many of them waving white flags. All of them were injured, some sporting bandages, others leaning on crutches; one soldier was on a stretcher. A soldier spoke for the group, saying that they were sick and "need leeches, and hacksaws to cut off [their] gangrenous limbs". How did the Ninth Bearded Infantry take to this surrender? By charging up the hill, and brutally finishing their enemies off! And what's worse, they're celebrated for this! And the children who were watching the reenactment cheered!Soldier: Come on, boys! Those white flags are no match for our muskets!Narrator: And the Springfielders heroically slaughtered their enemies as they prayed for mercy.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Bart is at first having the time of his life after manipulating the teachers into striking and then prolonging the strike to stay out of school (so he can cause even more chaos). And then he drives away his class's substitutes until Marge is forced to take over as teacher, which leads to untold humiliation for Bart as he is forced to become a Teacher's Pet and a target for bullies.
- Manipulative Bastard: Bart manages to make the bad situation between Skinner and the teachers worse.
- Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher: Inverted with Professor Frink—he gets assigned as a substitute Kindergarten teacher, and he ends up trying to explains physics to his new students.
- Mood-Swinger: The easily-swayed crowd.Krabappel: Our demands are simple. A small cost-of-living increase and better equipment and supplies for your children!
(crowd murmurs in approval)
Skinner: Yeah, in a dream world. We have a very tight budget. To do what she's asking, we'd have to raise taxes.
(crowd murmurs in disapproval)
Krabappel: It's your children's future!
(crowd murmurs in approval)
Skinner: It'll cost ya.
(crowd murmurs in disapproval)
Krabappel: Come onnnnn.
(crowd murmurs in approval)
(Skinner rubs his finger and thumb together)
(crowd murmurs in disapproval)
- Never Trust a Title: The episode is called "The PTA Disbands," yet it focuses on a teacher's strike. Lampshaded when a person horrifyingly yells "The PTA has disbanded!", and jumps out the nearby window, before Flanders explains that the PTA has not disbanded, prompting that man to jump back through the window, dusting himself off.note
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Milhouse's tutor was based on Tony Randall.
- No Conservation of Energy: As repeatedly mentioned above, Lisa eventually snaps and builds a perpetual motion machine in a failed attempt to cope, which prompts this quote:Homer: "In this house we obey the Laws of Thermodynamics!"
- Noodle Incident: Before Moe, the other substitute teachers humiliated by Bart included Chief Wiggum, Barney, Lionel Hutz, and Gabe Kaplan.
- Noodle Implement: Exactly what Bart is doing flying his kite at night, and the motives behind it, are left to the imagination.
- Private Profit Prison: The episode ends with Springfield Elementary becoming one of these in order to provide money to raise the budget. Which meant psychotic killers and violent robbers sharing the classroom space with innocent kids (and Bart). And the teachers don't care one bit, thinking that this will teach the unruly students about consequences... of course, unknown to them, Bart plans to help Snake escape because he will be paid if he does.
- Punny Name: Principal Valiant, a play on Prince Valiant.
- Reality Ensues: A tour guide in Fort Springfield is giving a lecture on a "fully restored and in ready to fire condition" Civil War cannon aimed directly at the base of a manned lookout tower. She mentions that these cannons are "very sensitive and that the slightest jolt can set them off" as the Springfield Elementary bus starts swerving towards the cannon. The bus hits it and... one of the cannon's wheels falls off.Tour Guide: Of course, for safety reasons, we don't keep the cannon loaded. That's just common sense.
- Sanity Slippage: Lisa steadily becomes unstable since she's unable to go to school. She begs Marge to grade her, runs out of the house screaming her head off when she can only list two synonyms for "Relax," and Marge mentions she found Lisa dissecting her raincoat.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Within seconds of the strike being declared, Miss Hoover abandons the school in her car, tossing away the class assignments on the way out.Hoover: Go home, children!
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Milhouse, after an extensive amount of tutoring.
- Jasper's "That's a paddlin'..." spiel spoofs the "Night in the box" monologue from Cool Hand Luke.
- The bank scene includes a reference to It's a Wonderful Life. It goes wrong.
- The historical theme park is based on Disney's proposed "Disney's America" in Virginia. They eventually abandoned the project.
- Smart Ball: Homer is suddenly knowledgeable about the laws of physics for the sake of a joke. His line after Lisa builds a perpetual motion device (that actually keeps going faster and faster)?Homer: In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!
- Soap Within a Show: During the teachers' strike, Jimbo watches a soap with his mom:(sobbing) I just can't believe Stark would stoop to that right in the middle of Montana and Dakota's wedding.
- Smart People Play Chess: Subverted. Bart is seen in the park playing several games of chess at once; he loses all of them.
- "Stop Having Fun" Guys: In-Universe, Professor Frink does not allow the kids to play with a toy because "You won't enjoy it on as many levels as I do."
- Strike Episode: A disastrous field tip and Principal Skinner cutting the school's budget to the point that he's selling the kids' futures short leads Edna Krabappel and the other teachers to agree to a teacher's strike. While Bart revels in the strike by making mischief, Lisa suffers from not being in a classroom setting, Milhouse gets a tutor, and the PTA decides to hire neighborhood people as scab teachers.
- Sucky School: Springfield Elementary has gotten so bad that even the most disinterested teachers can't ignore it.
- Take That!: Lisa: "I probably won't even get into Vassar." Called out as an unwarranted slam by Homer: "I've had just about enough of your Vassar bashing, young lady!"
- Teasing the Substitute Teacher: In Bart's case, it's almost more like "terrorizing", but no other teacher manages to last on Bart's class for more than a day tops before Marge arrives.
- Tempting Fate: Skinner expresses a hope that renting out the cloakrooms to Springfield Penitentary as cells might scare straight some of the more troublesome students (i.e., Bart). Seconds later, Bart is helping Snake plan a jailbreak.
- Took a Level in Dumbass: Bart, during the strike. There's a whole runner of him being unable to even say "what."
- Took A Level In Jerk Ass: Jasper does this in Lisa's class by threatening her and the students with "a paddlin'".
- Violence Discretion Shot: The last we see of Uter, he's fallen behind and a group of soldier have surrounded him with clubs raised. Then it cuts away.
- Vocal Dissonance: Bart gets hold of a construction supervisor's bullhorn and starts giving out destructive orders. The supervisor grabs the horn away and complains that people should have been able to tell the difference between his voice and that of a 10-year-old boy — the joke being that the supervisor sounds exactly like Bart (including using the Catchphrase "¡Ay caramba!").
- We Need a Distraction: A variant. While Bart is being pummeled, Kearney distracts Marge with a jig.
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- When Üter is attacked, the bus just leaves him and he isnt talked about. He inexplicably returns unharmed the following season in "22 Short Films About Springfield", although in a season 11 episode, Bart says that he hasn't seen him "Since our last field trip." Then again, the show does have Negative Continuity.
- What about Jasper after Abe was forced to abandon him?
- Would Hurt a Child: The staff at the Diz-Nee historical park are willing to club children. As the commentary track points out, Uter is most likely killed (don't worry, he was revived with the Dragon Balls) by the actors.