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I can see you in the morning when you go to school
—Supertramp - School
As many people who didn't enjoy schooling may tell you, 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 will often feature school uniforms, a good 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 any student who dares question authority will be punished harshly. In historical times, schooling was far harsher and more rigid. More modern models tend to encourage creativity and problem solving over forcing rote memorization.
No Real Life Examples, Please; fictional accounts only.
- 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..."
- 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.
- The movie of The Wall shows school as being very much like this. "We don't need your thought control" indeed. The truth is that British education of the time was pretty much like that, as authors CS Lewis and Roald Dahl also attested, and Lewis WAS a respected university professor!
- The Massachusetts Academy, run by erstwhile Hellfire Club White Queen Emma Frost, in contrast to Xavier's school in X-Men comics.
- Tom Browns Schooldays 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 praise about the poet Słowacki, finally concluding that everyone love 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, don’t 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: Jonas Slowacki was a great poet, a great poet, we love Jonas 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.
- 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.
- Hogwarts becomes this twice in the Harry Potter series. It's not particularly successful in book five 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 by pulling pranks on Umbridge. Things go right again by the end of that book, but in book seven Harry, Ron, and Hermione come to Hogwarts to find out that Hogwarts has turned into an Assimilation Academy even worse than the one Umbridge tried to set up. 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.
- 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?"
- The private academy in the episode of The Outer Limits "The Straight and Narrow" actually uses Mind Control on the all young men in it.
- Supertramp had "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.
- Harry Chapin's "Flowers Are Red"
- 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 marching in the parade by the end of the term," making this Truth in Television, to an extent.
- Malvina Reynold's "Little Boxes".
- A common theme on 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 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 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?
- 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, with "Independent Thought alarms" and such.
- In the episode where Lisa goes vegetarian, Principal Skinner has an Independent Thought Alarm, and blames the colored chalk for its being used twice in the same day.
- In another episode, Skinner institutes uniforms after Bart wears a snarky T-shirt, causing the children to become lifeless drones who even blink in unison.
- An episode parodying The Fountainhead had Maggie 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!
- 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 to great lengths in an episode of Phineas and Ferb, 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 throaway comment "that's the 12th student to be sent to the loony bin this week!"