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Glee’s McKinley High – The Worst High School in America

When I was a kid, I would watch shows like Welcome Back Kotter and Head of the Class and imagine how great it would be to attend a school where the teacher told hilarious jokes and let you do the same. I figured that in twelve years of public study, I would eventually get a teacher who would at least do an impressive Groucho impression.

As I matured, I, of course, realized that the difference between TV school and real school wasn’t just that most teachers were boring but there was also a strict set of rules that prevented most teachers from having the kind of relationship that Pete Dixon shared with Bernie.

The biggest revelation about the public school system hit me when I worked as a substitute teacher for a short time. The more time I spent teaching, the more I realized that today’s litigious society had no tolerance for violence or sexual situations in today’s schools.

As a parent, I was comforted to know that my children could go to public school without fear of unwanted advances of any kind from another student or an adult, but as a TV fan, my life was forever changed.

I could no longer watch any TV show set in a high school.

For some reason, a majority of TV shows that take place in a school setting have an inordinate amount of sex and violence involving students. A teacher on Boston Public had a sexual relationship with a student. Pacey did it with his teacher on Dawson’s Creek. The rich kids on Veronica Mars often terrorized Veronica and her friends. The worst offender, however, has to be Glee.

Not a month goes by when someone on Glee is getting a face full of chemical laden ice and syrup, and it seems that this kind of assault is the best you can hope for at McKinley High. Any student who isn’t viewed as strong or popular is in danger of being thrown in a dumpster, and God help you if you’re gay. Kurt was so scared he had to transfer to another school.

There was a gay kid in my high school that had to transfer because he told the police that a teacher, who also happened to be the wrestling coach, molested him. While the administration tried to keep the scandal under wraps, the entire school knew and you can probably guess that this kid didn’t get a scholarship to a private school where he found another gay student that he could sing auto-tuned duets with. Incidentally, that teacher was found guilty of molesting multiple students and was sent to prison, something that you would never see on the CW.

In one particular episode in the first season, Puck and the other jocks are in the process of shoving Artie into a port-a-potty with the intention of tipping it over with him inside. It seems to me that even a person with two working legs could seriously hurt by that kind of prank, but a kid in a wheelchair faces a real possibility of drowning in the feces and chemicals that only an Ohio construction site can supply. It was at that moment that I realized something that changed the way I watch Glee. William McKinley High is the worst school in America.

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. The school has an emasculated, ineffective principal. The cheerleading coach encourages girls to harm themselves in a variety of ways. There is little to no money for arts programs or extracurricular activities, and the only guidance counselor is unable to sort out any of her many personal problems – let alone those of the kids.

Once I accepted the conceit that McKinley High was a crappy school run by incompetent adults and attended by borderline criminals, I enjoyed Glee on a whole new level. Now when I watch the show with my kids, I can enjoy the mash-ups and laugh at the jokes and tell my kids how lucky they are to go to a decent public school.

Hear more from the King of TV on The Paul Goebel Show podcast and at his website, www.TheKingofTV.com. You can also follow Paul on Twitter @PaulGoebelShow.

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One Response to “Glee’s McKinley High – The Worst High School in America”


  1. Dave
    on Mar 3rd, 2011
    @ 2:43 pm

    Excellent article and right on point.

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