As we’ve endeavoured to prove on Toptenz and our sister sites, learning is all kinds of awesome and we should all try to do it as much as possible. With that said, you’d think that learning in a place full of dragons or under the tutelage of an aging Japanese man would be at least 5 times cooler than learning in our boring world. But as we’re about to show, some fictional institutes of learning actually suck when you take a closer look at how they operate.
10. Hogwarts (Harry Potter series)
Now you’re probably expecting us to take the easy route out with this entry and comment on the fact that Hogwarts is a bigger magnet for tragedy and child endangerment than a pre-school located in Silent Hill. It’s a good angle because throughout the course of the 7 Harry Potter books, children studying at Hogwarts are threatened by everything from giant snakes to Wizard Hitler and that isn’t even mentioning the fact that every student is required by the official school rules to walk around with what is effectively a magic handgun.
To use that as an example of why Hogwarts is a terrible place of learning, though, would be unfair since most of what we just mentioned takes place during the 7 years that the books cover, and most of it revolves entirely around one student. When it isn’t being attacked by werewolves and bouts of magic-herpes, Hogwarts is regarded as one of the best magical schools in existence. And you know what? It still sucks.
Why? Well for starters students aren’t taught anything that could conceivably help them in real life. Math, English, science and even physical education take a back seat to teaching kids that every problem in life can be solved with a combination of magic and house elves. It all initially sounds splendid until you realize that these kids would be screwed without their wands, not literally mind you because they’re not taught sex-ed either.
And this is way worse for the so-called Muggle-born kids who don’t come from strictly magical families. As the books note, kids from these families aren’t told that they’re wizards or witches until they’re 10, after which their real-world education effectively stops. How the hell are those kids supposed to live in the Muggle world when they haven’t even got the most basic qualifications? It’s almost like the wizarding school system is set up specifically to gear children to only being qualified to do jobs in the Wizarding world, instead of giving them the tools to do what they want to do with their life – you know, the whole point of every other school in existence.
9. Mr. Miyagi’s house (The Karate Kid)
In the famed 1984 “documentary” on the legendary figure known only as Mr. Miyagi, students of the awesomely named Cobra Kai dojo serve as the antagonists to Daniel LaRusso, a whiney teenager who is picked on for hitting on the ex-girlfriend of the most dangerous guy in his school.
While Cobra Kai teaches its students a vicious, more streamlined version of karate focussed primarily on punching people in the face, Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel-San the philosophy behind the martial art along with a technique seemingly designed just to kick people in the face. In the documentary Cobra Kai’s version of karate is clearly intended to be wrong mainly because the guy teaching them is 5 shades of insane. But Mr. Miyagi’s teaching isn’t exactly any better.
As you may recall, the only reason Mr. Miyagi agrees to train Daniel-San is so that he can win the All-Valley Karate tournament and stop Cobra Kai from kicking his ass every other day. In other words, he trains him so that he can win a fight. Sure he throws in some spiel about “spirit” and all that junk, but for the most part, he teaches his student everything he needs to beat somebody up with everything else being secondary, in other words THE EXACT SAME THING HE WAS CRITICAL OF COBRA KAI FOR.
Think about it for a second: Daniel-San manages to hold his own against students who’ve been studying karate literally almost their entire life. The only way that scenario could conceivably happen is if he was given a crash course in punching, not philosophy. What makes this more hilarious is that Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel-San that confronting your problems is sometimes the only solution, when in the second movie it’s revealed he fled Japan so that he wouldn’t have to fight someone.
Mr. Miyagi is still our hero though.
8. Bayside High School (Saved by the Bell)
Bayside High School, or Bayside High as it’s commonly referred to, is the main setting of the quintessentially 90’s TV show, Saved By The Bell, a school where the only thing louder than the teachers is the clothing worn by the main characters.
For all intents and purposes Bayside High is shown to be a pretty decent and progressive school with the exception of one thing, Mr. Belding. Mr. Belding is the school’s principal and he serves primarily as comic relief and a foil for many of Zack “I can stop time and nobody seems to care” Morris’ schemes. This doesn’t make him a bad teacher. No fun at parties sure, but not a bad teacher.
What does make Belding a bad teacher is the fact that he, on multiple occasions, hugely oversteps his boundaries with his students in a number of ways. For example, it’s noted on the character’s Wikipedia page that he is “open about his past failures with women prior to his marriage” which is kind of weird when you realize he’s discussing this stuff with 15 and 16 year old kids. There’s also that time he asks Screech, one of his former students, to oil him up with sun-tan lotion, which we’re pretty sure is a felony in like 36 states right now.
There’s also that one time when Zack comes to him saying that he’s being bullied and Belding’s response to Zack saying that someone wants to kill him is to say “Just one? You’re losing your touch.” That’s right before laughing his ass off and walking away. If that’s the attitude Belding takes when a student confides in him that his life is being threatened, we’d hate to see how he’d deal with the day-to-day running of the school.
7. Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters (X-Men universe)
Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, better known by its Wu-Tang Clan name of “The X-Mansion,” is where many of the young mutants in the X-men universe learn to control their powers away from the prying, judging eyes of the public.
While we could pick on the fact that the students are arguably in more danger at the X-Mansion due to the fact they’re taught by people who can level buildings with their eyes and stab people with their fists, our gripe is with Professor Xavier’s focus on “equality.”
Now don’t get us wrong, equality is a great thing and the world needs more of it, but in the fictional context of the X-Men universe it just doesn’t work. Mutants aren’t created equally regardless of how much Patrick Stewart says they are. In the X-men universe you have what are known as “Omega Level mutants.” These are mutants with powers that are literally capable of destroying entire cities. These mutants are clearly more powerful and dangerous than their peers and should be treated as such because it’s irresponsible not to. They need more help learning to control their powers because if they lose control millions of people might die!
For example, Bobby Drake (Iceman) is known to be an Omega level mutant and in the movies he has to study in the same classes as that kid who can change the TV channel with his eyes. That’d be like finding out that your baby can already grasp quantum mechanics and still forcing them to play blocks with the kids who are still figuring out what not to shove in their mouths. Only your baby can fire lightning from his eyes.
6. Balamb Garden (Final Fantasy 8)
Shifting away from the realm of movies and television, let’s take a moment to talk about a school from one of the best video games of the PS1 generation (according to the author), Final Fantasy 8.
The whole purpose of Balamb Garden is to teach its students how to efficiently use magic and big-ass swords to kill things so that they can eventually become mercenaries, truly an honourable goal for a school whose student body is made up primarily of orphans.
One of the key things Balamb Garden teaches is the use of something known Guardian Forces, powerful entities that can be used to greatly enhance one’s physical abilities by “junctioning” them to yourself. Before you ask, yes this game is Japanese.
In-game text notes that Balamb Garden is the only mercenary school to allow the use of Guardian Forces, why? Well because their prolonged use can lead to catastrophic memory loss, which is kind of a bad thing when they can also make you strong enough to suplex dragons. In other words, Balamb Garden is taking in orphans, turning them into killing machines and then giving them nigh-limitless power which robs them of their ability to remember things. Man, if it wasn’t for that last part, they’d be like the perfect school.
5. Unnamed Middle School (Malcolm in the Middle)
During the first half of its 7 season run, the eponymous Malcolm Wilkerson attends an unnamed middle school where much of the show’s action takes place. In the very first episode it’s revealed that Malcolm has an IQ of 165 and he’s put into a special class where he’s watched over by a teacher called, Caroline Miller.
Despite the fact that Miss Miller seems genuinely concerned with Malcolm’s well-being, frequently being shown going above and beyond what you’d expect from a teacher, she seems oblivious to the fact that Malcolm displays many symptoms of a child who is being abused.
To be clear, we aren’t saying Malcolm is abused because we can see what goes on his home and we’d never say anything bad about Bryan Cranston. But let’s look at this from Miss Miller’s point of view for a second. As far as Miller is concerned, Malcolm is a kid who comes to school frequently covered in bruises (from his numerous fights with his brothers), is constantly getting in trouble, beats up a seven year old in the fourth episode, wears ill-fitting clothes and is absolutely terrified of his mother. If this series was set entirely from Miss Miller’s view it’d end with her being fired for not at least calling someone about the kid under her care who comes to school every day with a black eye and a fat lip.
4. Sunnyside Daycare (Toy Story 3)
Sunnyside Daycare is the school Woody and Co. are sent to in the third Toy Story movie. While most of the action of the film focuses on the antics of the sentient, immortal toys we’re supposed to root for, for some reason, the daycare itself seems to be pretty decent. We mean, these kids get to play with an actual Buzz Lightyear doll, how bad could it possibly be?
Yeah, about that. Just watch the only scene in which we see the kids at this daycare actually play with their toys again and really pay attention to what these kids do. We see one kid shoving pieces of Mr. Potato head into his mouth and nose and another shoving Jessie’s head into a pot of paint, all without any apparent supervision from an adult.
Remember, in the first Toy Story movie Andy is about 8 years old and some of the toys he owns are clearly intended for children who are out of diapers. Yet Sunnyside Daycare has no problem handing these toys to 4 year olds. Which shouldn’t really be a surprise considering they also let the kids play with a filthy, decade old teddy bear.
3. Third Street School (Recess)
If you didn’t watch Recess as a kid, you didn’t have a childhood, it’s that simple. As the name suggests, the show takes place mostly during recess and from what you can see in the show, these kids have it made. Along with a kick-ass jungle gym and a tetherball court, the kids have access to a multitude of toys, games and sports equipment. It’s just a shame they can’t use any of it.
The show makes light of the fact that there is a very strict hierarchy on the playground with King Bob being the de facto ruler of the entire school with his word effectively being law. There’s an episode where he literally uses every kid in school as slave labor to build a pyramid out of mud and nobody cares. There’s even a scene where his guards, who are amongst the oldest kids in school, push a younger student into the dirt for not helping and none of the teachers step in to stop it. Hell, in that same episode King Bob enacts a “gum tax” and forces every kid in school to give him some of their gum because he says so, and the kids just go along with it because they’re scared of the concequences. In any other school this would result in Bob being quickly expelled for bullying and intimidation.
Just imagine for a second you were a parent and you found out that your kid had spent all their recess being forced to build a pyramid out of mud by an older kid who’d called himself “King Bob” who then took all their candy and the teachers had no problem with it. You’d have that place shut down in a heartbeat. Jeez, we’re starting to think that guy who wanted to cancel recess in the movie was onto something.
2. Jedi Academy (Star Wars, Duh!)
In the Star Wars universe, there are many so-called Jedi Academies at which hopeful Padawans can hone their skills to become a fully-fledged, lightsaber wielding Jedi badass. You just better hope you get sent to the right Jedi academy though because as far as we can tell, there’s no set course of learning to becoming a Jedi. Once a youngling has passed the trials to allow them to advance to the next stage of training, much of a Padawan’s training comes from their master.
Which is all well and good if your master happens to be someone awesome like Mace Windu or Yoda, but as we’ve mentioned before, not every Jedi is equally skilled or powerful. As noted in the Star Wars wiki, all Padawans were expected to take the same test to become a knight. While there are some discrepancies between what each Padawan could expect to experience, the trials are noted as being incredibly trying. What’s more, they almost always involved combat of some kind, which kind of sucks for the Padawans who might have had to study under one of many notable Jedi dumbasses like, Medd Tendar, the Jedi who accidentally exploded himself by disarming someone.
We refuse to believe that anyone that stupid could teach someone as well as Samuel L. Jackson and yet for some reason, Padawans in the Star Wars universe are forced to pledge themselves to whichever master is willing to take them on. That’d be like arriving at university and being told you can only learn from the notes another student takes. It’s fine if you get partnered with a guy with neat handwriting and OCD, but it’s hugely unfair if you get stuck with the guy who turns up half an hour late hung-over every day just because your name is at the bottom of the register.
1. San Dimas High School (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure)
Although the whole crux of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is that that the eponymous and totally not-bogus duo have to deliver a history report at their high school, it gets almost no screen time. This makes it even more impressive that with the short amount of time the school and its faculty spend on screen we’re still able to work out that it’s an awful place to study.
If you’ve not seen the movie, the basic premise is that Bill and Ted have to give a report on how various historical figures would react to modern day San Dimas, the place the film is set. After gaining access to a time machine, the pair decide to simply gather up some actual real life historical figures and ask them to give the report in their stead.
Now the film makes it painfully clear in the introductions that both Bill and Ted have a grasp on history so poor and ill-informed it would make a Texan textbook look like the Encyclopaedia Britannica. However, at the end of the film they’re given a straight A for their presentation that, we should stress, is delivered by other people. Now you could say that the teachers may have assumed that Bill and Ted told the historical figures what to say, since as far as they’re concerned, they’re just actors, but according to the plot of the film, they only had a day to prepare for the presentation and in class they openly refer to Julius Caesar as “a salad dressing dude.” Yet, just 24 hours later a teacher gives them an A when at no point do they show that they’ve actually learned anything.
We really feel sorry for all those kids who busted their ass to get a passing grade in that class because if Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is anything to go by, San Dimas High School’s policy for passing students is to base their entire grade on a single test you can study for in an afternoon. As much as it pains us to say it, any school where you can pass just for playing a sick guitar solo isn’t an effective or fair place to learn.