School principals have tough jobs, there's no question about it. Dealing with angry parents, providing discipline to cellphone-wielding juvenile delinquents, helping America's teachers to better themselves all the while maintaining a pleasant, professional demeanor. They are truly dedicated public servants and deserve our respect.
So tell me then, why does Hollywood insist on depicting them as either marginally-psychotic drill sergeants or bumbling boobs? It's not realistic, in any way, shape, or form. So I'm taking it upon myself to set the record straight by analyzing the fictional behavior of three high school principals. Going in order from closest to reality to most absurd, we have . . .
EXHIBIT A: PRINCIPAL STRICKLAND, Hill Valley High School
First of all, you have to give Strickland credit for longevity. He was on the job in 1955, and still going strong in 1985. His discipline style remained unchanged for decades. Strict, clear in focus, and completely intolerant of students he perceived to be "slackers".
Which, in his view, was everyone.
Strickland had a great memory. He remembered specific details about George McFly thirty years after he'd graduated, and also drew comparisons between George and his son Marty. You'd have to think that in his time at HVHS, Strickland dealt with over 25,000 students, so to remember the specifics about any one individual, well, that's truly remarkable.
While his issues with Marty McFly were relatively minor, Strickland also capably dealt with the problems caused by miscreant Biff Tannen. At the 1955 HVHS "Enchantment Under the Sea" dance, Tannen was caught with a dirty magazine, specifically the June edition of Ooh La La. Strickland confiscated it, and threw it away without even taking a quick peek.
That being said, Strickland was far from perfect. His slacker-obsessed behavior could border on the psychotic. Take, for example, his reaction when he caught Marty taking a newspaper from his porch. Now, granted, this took place in an alternate reality where Hill Valley was basically Hell (or even worse, Los Angeles), but still. “Shoot first, ask questions later” is not the right approach to take with a confused teenager.
Over-reactions aside, though, Strickland was an absolute peach when compared to . . .
EXHIBIT B: RICHARD VERNON, Shermer High School