Revolution at school

Today’s Bizarro, for Bastille Day (today):

Bring the revolution to school! As it happens, Doug Wyman wrote me a little while ago about a piece of revolutionary childlore, the rhyme:

No more pencils,
No more books,
No more teachers’/teacher’s/teachers dirty looks.

(This is a rhyming couplet, in trochaic tetrameter, written here with the first line split in two.) Doug wondered about variations in the rhyme. It looks like the couplet above is invariant (in pronunciation; there are orthographic variants given above), but there are numerous extensions to it around, and some of them are aggressive taunts against teachers and schools.)

The “no more pencils” couplet in (1) was incorporated into Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out (For Summer)”, a 1972 title track single released on Alice Cooper’s fifth album. In Cooper’s song, not only is school over for the summer, it’s over forever: the school has been blown up. (Explosives certainly trump occupying the school.)

Some aggressive continuations of (1):


…Throw the pencils in the well,
Tell the teachers go to hell.

…When the teacher rings the bell,
Drop your books and run like hell.

… When you hear the final bell,
Burn your books and run like hell.

…When the principal rings the bell,
Kick him down and run like hell.

…Kick the table(s), kick the chairs,
Kick the teachers down the stairs!

A suffering, but not aggressive, variant:

…Reading science and arithmetic
Nine months of that can make you sick.

Then there’s a set of continuations of the “no more” form:

… No more Latin, no more French,
No more sitting on a hard school bench!

… No more English, no more French,
No more sitting on the old school bench.

… No more school, no more stick
No more rotten arithmetic.

… No more math tests, no more school
No more class cause I’m no fool.
No more homework, no more lunch
No more class, I’d rather be a dunce
School is over, let the party begin
School is over, it’s the kids who now win

Finally, a variant in which the extra material precedes (1) rather than following it:

N more days and we’ll be free
From this place of misery
No more pencils, no more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks!

(where N is the number of days remaining in the school year).

As Iona and Peter Opie have observed, kidlore is capable of spreading fast, even in the absence of media attention, but it typically is varied in transmission. I’m not a folklorist and have no idea about the history of (1) before Alice Cooper recorded that version; there were probably variations from before 1970. (Unfortunately, people’s memories of what they said and did in childhood can be unreliable, since later experience often interferes with those memories.)

3 Responses to “Revolution at school”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    I remember learning “No more pencils” around 1945, with no other lines, and no variations. I also learned in 1945:

    School’s out, school’s out,
    Kick the silly fools out!

  2. Robert Guido Says:

    Is it off topic to bring up “The Burning of the School”? Sung by us kids to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” (uninformed as we were about John Brown in our baby days).

    I never knew it had an actual title until Googling it just now. The version I recall is pretty close to this — but for the “loaded” .44. In our rendering it was the far more dangerous “German” variant.

    In those days, no one ever got shot at high school, let alone grade school, not unless your high school was in West Side Story — and even then trouble had to escalate first from knives to modern dance. You were more likely to get detention for smoking behind the cinder pile than for singing what was only a fantasy, even to the most delinquent of us.

  3. John Wells Says:

    No more spiders in the bath
    Trying hard to make you laugh

    …an interesting case of th-fronting.

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