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"They're too cool for school. And also, too fictional."
Andrew Hussie, via his defunct Formspring

You've got a great idea. It's this kid, so your target audience can identify with the main character, traveling around the world, finding Plot Coupons and saving the world. Just one problem: How many days of school has the hero missed? Not everybody can fit adventures into a summer vacation like Ben 10 and Phineas and Ferb; you want the adventure to last through times that school is usually in session. But this can be solved by simply never, ever mentioning it! Fan Wank will take care of the excuses for you!

This is justified if the character is in their late teens, as in many places, finishing high school is not compulsory.

A common trope in adventuring anime, and practically any video game or show that takes place in a world of adventurers (may be justified in the latter if there are no public schools).

The childhood equivalent of One-Hour Work Week.

Sub-trope of The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything. (think of it as The Students Who Don't Go To School)

Examples of Shouldn't We Be in School Right Now? include:


Aversions and Hand Waves:

Anime and Manga

  • Yu-Gi-Oh! (in the manga, at least): The two major Yu-Gi-Oh: Duelist arcs take place during school breaks specifically so Yugi can attend, and other arcs take place in only a short time, or after/during school.
  • Trainers leave for one year, in the The Electric Tale of Pikachu manga series.
    • A rare and little known novelization released early in the anime's life hand-waves this. Supposedly, children in the Pokémon world finish schooling at the age of ten and then leave to become full-time trainers, or something like that.
  • Averted in the Tenchi Muyo! OVA where much of Tenchi's school is destroyed in the first episode and in the second his house is accidentally relocated next to his grandfather's shrine deep in the mountains. He ends up taking his classes by correspondence after that.
  • In Bleach, some arcs are timed specifically to take place during school breaks, and Hollow attacks often have Ichigo cutting class and being told that he will get in trouble. When it is expected that he will be unable to attend class thanks to soul reaper ability matters, he usually sends Kon in his place. Eventually, he just gives up and stops coming to school entirely. The rest of his True Companions follow suit, for various reasons, but fortunately for them, no matter how long the arc goes it tends to take about a week in-universe so they theoretically could still pass.
  • In Sailor Moon, the monsters conveniently attack within walking distance (or a short ride via public transportation) from where the main characters live, and unless their plan has something to do with an extracurricular activity, never while the Sailor Senshi are supposed to be at school.
  • In Nekketsu Saikyo Gosaurer, the Transforming Mecha are made of the sections of the protagonists' schools, so technically they are in school as they adventure in their mechs.
  • In Inuyasha Kagome has her family make up a series of unlikely illnesses for her to be suffering from, so that she can spend her time in feudal Japan. Few people seem to question this state of affairs.
    • In a What an Idiot! example at one point in the manga, one of Kagome's schoolmates sees her come out of the Bone Eater's Well just as her grandfather was covering up for her. Still he goes up to her casually and asks her if she's feeling better from her disease.
  • In Mai-HiME, while most of the HiMEs go to the Academy if they're not employed there, Natsuki is on the rolls but rarely attends class. Nobody makes an issue of it, since it's a School for Scheming and Natsuki's involved in chasing down her past, but in the end, when Natsuki wants to go Walking the Earth on a Journey To Find Herself, she is told quite firmly that she needs to make up all the schooling she's missed. Also, near the end, about half the students (including Student Council President Shizuru) stop attending at all, because the school's half-destroyed, the Masquerade has completely collapsed and there's essentially a war going on; around that point, the school closes and those not involved in the conflict go home.

Literature

  • Animorphs: The team goes to great lengths to make missions possible or delay them when they coincide with school hours, eventually asking the Chee to impersonate them when necessary.
  • Akiko on the Planet Smoo has a robotic doppelganger take her place over the course of the adventure, since she's gone in real-time.
  • Skulduggery Pleasant has Stephanie/Valkyrie's reflection replace her in school whenever she's learning magic/saving the world.
  • In The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson, it is handwaved by saying that Daniel is so smart he does not need to go to school. He avoids truancy officers by using his powers to create his mom and dad, who say that he's homeschooled.
  • Averted in the Alex Rider series. The second book opens with Alex complaining about all the make up work he has to do for the weeks of school he missed in the first book.
    • And later in the series, after he realizes how much saving the world every few months sucks, he starts saying "Why can't I just be in school?" Naturally, every attempt to back out of his spy life just throws him in even deeper.
  • Many of Les Amis in Les Misérables are students, though they hardly ever seem to mention going to classes. However, this is more because a lot of them seem to skip their classes rather than them not existing.
  • Averted in Waking Echoes - Taylor is so busy doing advanced classes, extracurricular activities, church events, and volunteering that when she starts having Visions of Another Self from her previous life in another dimension, most people assume she has worked herself into a nervous breakdown.
  • The Saturdays, the first book in the Melendy Quartet, has the Melendys form a club to pool their resources during the week so that they can take turns going into the city on an adventure every Saturday. The entire book is thus spent dealing exclusively with what the kids do on Saturdays.

Live-Action TV

  • Subverted in Big Bad Beetleborgs; one episode involved them having to keep ducking out during class.
  • The Secret Life of the American Teenager frequently features the characters in school...they just never actually go to classes.
    • Awkward is the same - they walk around the halls and go to the cafeteria and gym, but they never sit in a class or do any schoolwork.
  • ICarly averts the trope, with most 'home' scenes taking place on the weekend or after school, and school scenes taking place before school or after school. Occasionally they go so far as to wait until the bell rings which clears out the set so the characters can have their own conversations alone. On a couple occasions, they plan out a trip based on having the weekend to do it, like in iTake On Dingo.
  • Boy Meets World lampshades/handwaves this in one episode, despite the show not being a particularly noticable example of this trope:

 Cory: You know we really should have taken more classes during our senior year. We have entirely way too much time on our hands.

Video Games

  • Final Fantasy VIII: You have to graduate before you're allowed to adventure, since the "adventuring" is done as a member of an elite mercenary force.
  • While nobody remembers that Sora exists during the missing year in Kingdom Hearts, Riku's only excuse was being presumed missing or dead, and Kairi and Selphie do attend school.
  • It seems that most child trainers in Pokémon stay near home until their a certain age (usually late teenagers, post-school most likely) and are seen going to school or referring to it. You are usually eleven years old and are allowed to venture off around the region, but it seems that you were either home schooled or you finished.
  • At the end of Earth Bound, Ness's sister Tracy says that she'll help Ness with the homework that he missed while off on his adventure.
    • Also, when calling Ness's mom, she will occasionally remark that one of his teachers stopped by, and that she covered for him.
  • Raidou Kuzunoha wears a school uniform and is said to be a student, but never seen at school. Given Raidou is 17, the time period (~1931), in both games he is working as an apprentice and time seems to have passed in the 2nd game, he likely doesn't need to be.
  • In Bangai-O, Riki's prolonged absence from school (to defeat the Cosmo Gang with his sister Mami's help) eventually results in his health teacher tracking him down. With one of the Cosmo Gang's robots. Not that the former cares, since he's technically training to become a policeman...

Web Comics

  • The below-mentioned example from the Pokémon anime is inverted in Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, where Jared's parents thought of him as a failure because he actually wanted to stay in school rather than become a Pokémon trainer.

Western Animation

  • Phineas and Ferb goes even further, since the only reason for their actions is that it's summer, except of course for the Winter Break Christmas Special.
  • South Park: Along with deconstructing what it would be like for three eight-year-old boys to watch one of their closest friends die, "Kenny Dies" actually addresses all the school days Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman presumably (considering how much time they spend in places like Canada, California, Iraq, Peru, Imaginationland and Afghanistan) miss, revealing that they oftentimes cut class to go on their adventures and that this is something they do get punished for.
  • The Weekenders, because all the action takes place on...well...the weekend.

Examples played straight:

Anime and Manga

  • Pokémon anime: One year passed between Ash's first visit to Viridian City and the Viridian Gym episode, and two years pass from the day Ash and Pikachu meet in the animated short that comes with Pokémon 3: Spell of the Unown. And yet Ash is still ten.
    • Are there any (no Pokémon training involved) schools?
    • There is apparently school for children under ten (though we hear this from Max who is still allowed to follow his sister across two continents, so the trope is still played straight for him), and when you reach your tenth birthday in the Pokémon World, you can become a Pokémon Trainer. People who don't want to be Trainers just continue with normal schooling. There's various fan explanations for this, but however you twist it, that's just how their world works.
    • Probably justified considering the average Pokémon's abilities.
  • In Chocotto Sister, Choko's school attendance, or lack thereof, is never mentioned. It possibly is justified by her Undead Tax Exemption, but never onscreen or in the manga.

Literature

  • Played straight in most Nancy Drew book series. Nancy's boyfriend Ned and his friends Burt and Dave are in college, but eighteen-year-old Nancy and her best friends Bess and George are high school graduates who never really even discuss the idea of going to college, or any sort of career plans... except in the short-lived Nancy Drew on Campus series, in which the college setting was the whole point. This made perfect sense in the earlier books, as in 1930 it would be more unusual for affluent young women to go to university or enter the workforce, but in the current Nancy Drew, Girl Detective series, which was launched in 2004, it's still never explained why Nancy, George, and Bess aren't enrolled in post-secondary education or planning for some sort of career. Nancy very occasionally takes courses, and she frequently works, whether it's a paid job, an internship, or a volunteer position, but these are always temporary things that last for the plot of one book and are never expected to lead to a degree or a career path.
    • And yet her lawyer father hopes to someday rename his firm to "Drew and Daughter".
  • Oddly, sometimes appears in Harry Potter, despite the series taking place at a school. Mentions of what Harry's actual classes entailed got fewer and fewer as the series went on. Then the Power Trio simply drop out of school to go on the quest to render Voldemort vulnerable.
    • Although, Hermione stays responsible by eventually going back to school to finish her 7th year, per Word of God. Even though it was probably the two boys that could've used it the most.
  • The middle-school-aged Mullet Fingers (neé Napoleon Bridger Leep), from Carl Hiaasen's Hoot, was sent to military school by his overbearing mother for being somewhat of a Wild Child. He runs away from military school, travels back to his Florida hometown and lives in the woods with only occasional contact with his sister.
  • As this summary of The Wheel of Time points out: For all that Elayne, Nynaeve and Egwene are supposedly students at a Wizarding School, they certainly don't have a lot of lessons to attend. This is hand-waved with the explanation that they already know the basics of Channeling and are way ahead of the curve, despite being completely untrained beforehand. In practice, the girls learn or even invent necessary knowledge at uncanny speed, freeing up their schedule to serve the plot and edging them uncomfortably close to Mary Sue territory.

Live-Action TV

  • The eponymous heroine of Hannah Montana goes on tour for weeks at a time, and engages in activities and publicity stunts during school hours, such as reading to a group of preschoolers. Yet, as regular old Miley Stewart, she attends a public school and her absences are never referenced, nor do they arouse the suspicion of anyone at school.
    • In the fourth and final season, however, Miley gets to see her best friend Lilly attend a California University she had been planning to attend all of her life, while Miley is rejected as she hadn't participated in enough school activities because she had to work as Hannah. She only seems to be accepted in after she reveals her secret identity to the whole world.
    • In Real Life, celebrity children often have their lessons filled in by "studio teachers" while they're in the middle of large projects that can't conform to regular school schedules.
  • Apparently in the show Relic Hunter Sydney Fox was a university professor who supposedly taught classes. How she managed to avoid being fired for her tendency to drop everything and go off to a remote part of the world to search for an ancient relic is still a mystery.
  • For alleged high school students (and later college students), the main characters of Smallville spend remarkably little time in class.

Western Animation

  • Done quite blatantly in Kim Possible, where Kim is explicitly shown to skip school to complete a mission, but is rarely called on it since she gets all A's and can still head the Cheerleading Squad (and a thousand other activities.)
    • Though she also drags Ron along with her, who's shown to be far less successful.
    • Seeing as how her "saving the world" thing isn't exactly a secret to anyone, she probably can get away with it.
    • Her parents once said they don't like her saving the world on a school night.
    • Expressly justified for Wade -- he's a genius who's already finished school up through college.
  • Lampshaded in The Simpsons episode "Maximum Homerdrive", where Bart joins Homer on a cross country road trip.

 Homer: Shouldn't you be in school right now?

Bart: Shouldn't you be at work right now?

Homer: Ah, touché.

  • In the Legion Of Super-Heroes cartoon, nobody there goes to school. Alright, they could all have graduated as most are in their late teenage years, but in a flashback where they are shown in their uniforms, they all look about twelve or so. Are there no schools in the future?
    • We are told in the original comics that 14 year olds are considered adult by at least some planets in that future with the implication that this is common.
  • Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated: The gang is still in high school, but cuts class frequently.

 Freddie: It looks like a mystery to me, and I think that's just a little more important than school.

Mixed examples (to be sorted if anyone shows a blanket example that validates those without excuses):

Anime and Manga

  • Beyblade: Some teams have valid reasons for not going to school, but others... Apparently playing with tops is a good enough excuse to stay out of school.
  • Digimon loves this trope, being that it consistently stars characters who are still public school age:
    • Averted in Adventure, as it takes place during summer vacation and Year Inside, Hour Outside is in full effect.
    • Handwaved in Adventure 02. During the first half of the Kaiser arc, the kids do their adventuring after school, since the computer they use to get into the Digital World is in the school's computer lab. Once summer vacation starts, they decide that this is their chance to stop the Kaiser once and for all, and have the older kids stage a camping trip so that they can stay in the Digital World for several days without their parents noticing. Once school starts up, they go back to Monster of the Week after school adventures until winter break, when the plot starts moving again. This is also around the time that they start to let their parents in on what's going on. The series' final battle takes place on or shortly before New Years'.
    • Invoked in Tamers, as the characters literally walk out of school to go to the digital world, and their teacher is understandably deeply concerned about it all.
    • Ninety-nine percent of Frontier takes place in the Digital World, so school doesn't appear. To be fair, they couldn't go to school even if they tried. The commute from parallel world to parallel world isn't particularly easy. Also explained away via a time paradox. Supposedly, the entire series takes place in the span of only ten minutes in the real world.
    • In Savers, while it's implied that Touma has graduated from college and Yoshino is a legal adult and thus both would be working with DATS full time, Masaru and Chika seem never to go to school toward the end; whereas Ikuto at least had an excuse, what with having been raised in the digital world.
    • Xros Wars is similar to Frontier - Year Inside, Hour Outside is in effect, so while the story begins during the school semester, school is a non-issue because practically no time has passed. The sequel plays similarly to Adventure 02 and Savers, in that they generally learn of the problems during the school day and do something about them during breaks or after hours; it also exaggerates it slightly, in that some incidents have happened while they are in class.
  • Nabari no Ou: Played completely straight in Miharu and Raimei's cases - Miharu in particular misses at least two months of school after using the Shinrabanshou...and when he comes back home, his grandmother is just happy he's making friends. It's averted by Yoite, who never attended school to begin with, and later by Gau when it's mentioned that he ended up dropping out. It's justified in Kouichi and Shijima's cases because they're not actually kids.

Film

  • On the other side, Archaeology class with Dr. Jones. Easy class, or easiest class? Is there a 15-minute rule or do the students just not bother showing up at all?
  • Most characters in Brick don't even bother with a handwave being that they are criminals/drug dealers though, this is Truth in Television. The protagonist Brenden though gets an aversion sense he has specifically asked the Vice Principal to try to keep the heat off of him while he unravels a crime.

Live-Action TV

  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: Sure they're in school, and sure, they go to class when the plot calls for it, but there are many examples where they are some how able to spend the entire day out of school and doing whatever they need to be doing for the topic of the class- and the teachers involved in the plot never mark them as skipping? (One example this troper remembers specifically was the episode where Ned and Moze were dealing with a pair of sneakers in the Lost and Found, Ned wanting them, Moze wanting to return them, and they had the whole day to themselves to deal with the problem, never showing to class once.)
    • Amusingly semi-lampshaded when there's a dramatic moment in the hall, (hostage exchange, etc. - hey, it's that kind of show) a teacher or hall monitor will walk past, ask "Do you have hall passes?" and the action pauses while all the students hold up passes, then go right back to the drama.
  • Glee takes place almost entirely in school and characters do go to classes... but apparently they meet for Glee Club in the beginning of school, after school, during school, once a week, on Thursdays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, in the middle of the day, right before lunch, right after lunch, and during lunch. That's not even counting all of the times that various pairs of students have the choir room all to themselves in order to rehearse for Glee.
  • Veronica Mars is uneven in its treatment of this trope. Veronica handles cases during school hours, and manages to spend a lot of time at school digging up dirt on people rather than attending class. However, she frequently gripes about cases and consultations making her late for class, and on occasion the guidance counselor brought her spotty attendance record to light.
    • And yet she still had the second highest GPA in her class.
    • Her vice principal once gave her three days off so she go undercover at a rival school.
  • The Disney Channel miniseries As The Bell Rings subverted this, as it took place between passing periods. The main characters would meet in the hallways during said periods, and have to leave quickly at the warning bell.
  • Power Rangers, when the kids are teens and not young adults, has a fifty-fifty chance of either averting this trope or playing it straight.
    • For some reason Rita Repulsa would spy on the Power Rangers during school hours, but wouldn't send down a monster during school hours. This actually covered all bases, once they had to sneak out during detention, a few times they disappeared (and no one noticed). However, school became less important as time went on, and by Power Rangers in Space barely any time was shown there even though they even went to the trouble of enrolling the guy from another planet (and how they fit it in with traipsing all over the galaxy, we don't know).
    • In Power Rangers Wild Force, the Rangers were either able to fit part-time school or jobs in around their superheroics (like Alyssa's college studies or Danny working as a florist) or they weren't (Taylor went AWOL from the Air Force and Max abandoned pro bowling training; it's not clear if the latter was attending school as well but certainly dropped out if he did).
    • Power Rangers Ninja Storm is a toss-up, depending on whether you think they fit ninja training and extreme sports hobbies in after normal school, or just attended a Ninja School in the first place. It's never made clear which is the case.
    • Power Rangers Dino Thunder was a total aversion; having The Mentor be their teacher and The Dragon masquerade as the principal does a lot to keep the action on campus.
    • Power Rangers Mystic Force played this entirely straight; the Rangers are certainly young enough that they should be attending but school is never mentioned.
    • Justified in Power Rangers Samurai, where the Rangers cut ties with their normal lives (with their families' blessing and cooperation) to deal with the threat; it's even mentioned that Mike missed his graduation because of it. The Sixth Ranger, who has no such family support, must have dropped out or graduated himself because he makes a living as a fisherman.

Web Comics

  • Homestuck plays this very straight. The four 13-year-old kid heroes clearly have a wide array of abilities like programming and high-level writing, but there is no mention of any social circles besides the four. School is never mentioned, and Jade and Rose are the only ones with excuses, living on a deserted island and a fairly remote area respectively. On the other hand, school becomes irrelevant very quickly when the extermination of mankind happens. Their parents, as well, seem to have Friends Rent Control but actually worked with the Ancient Conspiracy
    • Could be justified, and possibly even an aversion, as most of the events that take place on Earth span only a few hours, save for a few scattered conversations.
    • The events of the comic itself, however, begin at 4:13 to 7:13 for the other three depending on the time zones, so John could've just gotten home.
    • Averted with the Alpha Kids. Jane, Dirk, and Roxy apparently don't go to school out of any real need, Jane being an heiress to a global business empire (though she has obliquely referred to some education in business sense) and Dirk and Roxy living in a post-apocalyptic future in which they are the only remaining humans. The story also takes place on a holiday. And Jake, like Jade, lives on a remote island all on his own, and has done so his entire life.

Western Animation

  • In the Teen Titans cartoon, quite a few heroes such as Robin, Mas y Menos and Raven should really be in school. A pass could be made for Raven and most of the others, as they have odd powers and would likely not be welcome in schools (Cyborg mentions at one point that he couldn't finish high school because of this). But what about Robin? The kid should really be in school right now.
    • May be a case of Screw the Rules, I Have Money considering who his mentor is.
      • Robin is also preternaturally devoted to eradicating crime, so it's unlikely he could stomach an ordinary high school life when there's bad guys to beat down.
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