Why schools are bad in movies and in real life

Have you ever noticed that most of the schools we see in movies and TV, read about in novels or even hear about in songs are horrible, rotten places where you to be sprinkled with pig’s blood at graduation, hit the playground, or humiliated by colleagues and teachers?

We take it for granted that attending K-12 education is like living in Orwell’s school in 1984 or serving a prison sentence.

But there are exceptions — in fiction and real life. Generally speaking, wwhen you arrive choose where you go to school, you’re guaranteed a better experience because you’ve chosen a place you actually want to be—and they’ll treat you well because they know you can leave if you want. This is reflected in parent satisfaction rates, which are consistently higher for public choice and private schools than for assigned public schools.

Currently only about a quarter of K-12 students attend something other than their local, assigned public schools—alternatives that range from charters and magnets to private schools and homeschooling. If more children and their parents had more choices, schools would better respond to the special interests and needs of students and help them become the best version of themselves. There is no one-size-fits-all in education, just as there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to clothing or footwear.

Here are three fictional schools that aren’t great because they’re one-size-fits-all, but because they meet the unique needs of their students.

Xavier’s School for Gifted Children

Entry to this academy of superpowered mutants in the X-Men series is by invitation only, but it comes with a full ride—and the promise of learning how to control and master each student’s special powers. Professor X and his teaching staff hold everything to strict, high standards, but they also make sure no one slips through the cracks, the kind of attention that’s lacking in schools that take students — and the tuition they represent — for granted.

Sky high

Movie from 2005 Sky high featured another superhero high school, one full of comedic takes on traditional school drama, but also featuring PE classes that actually seemed worth attending. Students are quickly placed into either the “hero track” if they show superpowers or the “assistant” track if they lack them, but unlike too many real-life schools, kids can change course if they show new abilities.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

And there is Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the school in the center Harry Potter series. Modeled on hidden British boarding schools and centuries-old universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, Hogwarts is full of bullies, arbitrary rules, customs and demanding teachers. But in the end, what makes this institution unique is the philosophy of its headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, who pushes his greatest student to master not only all magical skills, but also a basic philosophical maxim about human action.

Those places are wonderful because they don’t take their students for granted. Instead, they take their protégés seriously and push them toward excellence and achievement while treating them as unique individuals.

Schools don’t have to be dreary, dark hellholes – in the movies or in real life. If more of us choose where we go, we will be smarter, happier and maybe even better adjusted. And our films will eventually reflect that.

Produced by Nick Gillespie and Justin Zuckerman; Sound editing by Ian Keyser; Additional graphics by Danielle Thompson and Isaac Reese

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