Well we’re going to close out this week with one of the most horrifying prospects the Simpsons have ever thought up. What would happen if the PTA disbands!? Not much it turns out.
The episode start right off by showing just how gross the Elementary School is. Kind of like when we have a Marge episode and the family are extra horrible, this episode really makes the school seem in worse shape than it ever has been portrayed before. Our first hint is just how terrible the school bus is, as it’s literally falling apart and Bart and Milhouse have to switch seats since their previous one fell through the bottom of the chassis. The school is heading off for a field trip, and up front in the bus Principal Skinner and Mrs. Krabappel are chatting about how the school board is slashing the budget, leaving the school to suffer. Turns out they’re going to a Civil War battlefield, and man do I love the stupid joke about how dangerous the old canon is, and how it could destroy the guard tower if the canon was even slightly tapped, only to find out it wasn’t loaded when the school bus taps it. The kids pile out of the bus only to learn that the battlefield now charges money for admission, and Skinner doesn’t have the cash to let them in. So they end up having to peak over the fence and watch the reenactment of when Springfieldian Union soldiers killed Confederates who were surrendering. But the actors spot the kids peaking, and they end up chasing them out of the park. Everyone jump on the bus, which Otto was siphoning gas for, and they speed off, leaving Uter to be beaten to death.
And things get even worse back at school. Principal Skinner and Mrs. Krabappel are eating in the cafeteria with the kids for some reason, and loudly arguing about the budget so everyone can overhear. And when Bart sees how frustrated Krabappel is, he decides he’s going to try and fan the flames of discontent and see if he can get them to go on strike. There’s also the great gag that the school is making them drink Malk, now with Vitamin R! So Bart starts egging the two on, getting them into a screaming fight in the hallway that escalates when he peaks out of a locker and makes a chicken noise. That’s the last straw, and Krabappel gets to the PA system to announce to the other teachers that they’re going on strike. And man I love how the teachers react to this. Ms. Hoover peaces out without another second of thought, the gym teacher leaves some little girl stuck to the gymnastic rings without a way down, and Mr. Largo also head out until the kids play the “forbidden music” of “Pop Goes the Weasel.”
So now that there are no more teachers Bart, Lisa, and the rest of the kids head back to their homes. Marge is surprised that they’re back, Bart is completely psyched, and Lisa is already panicking. Although I really love that Milhouse’s folks immediately get him a tutor, who ends up being more strenuous than actual school. We then get to see how Bart and Lisa survive in a world without school, and it isn’t pretty. Bart sneaks into construction sites and causes chaos, loses chess games in the park, and further eggs on the teachers strike. While Lisa is already wigging out and is incapable to relaxing. We also see that Milhouse is getting super smart with the tutor, and Jimbo apparently is just sitting around with his mom in their fancy house watching soap operas. But things really escalate when Bart causes a run on Jimmy Stewarts bank, and Marge and Homer finally start to get worried. They don’t like Lisa’s perpetual motion machine, or the fact that Bart is flying kites at night, so they decide to try and get the PTA involved.
There’s a PTA meeting where all the parents get to hear from both Mrs. Krabappel as spokesperson for the teacher, and Principal Skinner. Krabappel basically explains that the kids’ education need more money, and Skinner explains that it will cause more taxes, which splits the city’s opinion. So nothing got accomplished, and I love the guy who jumps out the window in panic when he thinks that means the PTA is being disbanded. So with the strike not being solved the head of the PTA, Ned Flanders, looks through some secret plans, and finds that in case of teacher strike, people from the town are supposed to become the teachers.
So now we get to see which weirdos in the town are hired to teach children! Jasper gets the second grade and mainly talks about corporal punishment, Professor Frink teaches kindergarten and tries to explain the physics involved in a Fisher Price toy, and Moe gets the fourth grade and is belittled by a whole role-sheet of prank names. Moe gets really sad because he thinks the kids are laughing at his ears, and quits, causing a new fourth grade teacher to be brought in, Marge. Both kids are mad about their teachers, since Jasper got his beard caught in the pencil sharpener and Bart doesn’t want Marge invading his school life. I love the weird little detail of Bart getting in the crawl space to piss Marge off. It’s such a weird little thing that I could totally see as a little family quirk.
And things really start to get bad for Bart when the bullies begin beating him up for being the teachers son, while Kearney creates a dancing distraction. So with the last straw gone, Bart starts plotting with Milhouse, and the two come up with a genius plan to get Principal Skinner and Mrs. Krabappel to end the strike, which basically revolves around tricking them into Skinner’s office and locking them in there until they make peace. And it shockingly works, after hours of violent protest by the two. They finally decide to come to terms, and realize that there’s only one way to make enough revenue to fix the school. Turn it into a prison! So the episode ends with the school in good shape, and violent criminals locked up in cells made from the closets in classrooms. Problem solved!
This is such a goofy episode. Seeing how terrible the school is was actually kind of sad, because there are probably actual schools out there that are in pretty similar conditions. But then the episode gets super goofy with the strike. I love how crazy Lisa goes, desperate for attention and affirmations that she’s smart, and man is all the stuff Bart does hilarious. The night-kite thing is one of my favorite visuals from the whole series, and I really adore just how chaotic Bart becomes with no supervision. Plus we get the handful of goofy scenes featuring all the odd-balls in the town trying to teach, and I’m always a fan on some weird Jasper jokes.
Take Away: “You don’t like your job, you don’t strike! You just go in everyday and do it really half assed. That’s the American way!”
“The PTA Disbands” was written by Jennifer Crittendon and directed by Swinton O Scott III, 1995.