Two weeks ago my oldest daughter started middle school. She felt ready to leave behind the juvenile trappings of elementary school, which looking back seemed like a prison for children. All day in a single classroom with one teacher? Please. She was ready for the free-range eduction offered in the more mature halls of middle school.
I didn't realize how mature those halls were until I attended "curriculum night"–a two hour tour of your child's classes where teachers give parents the scoop on what will be taught and expected for the year. I sat through social studies and science without a problem, but then I walked into my daughter's third period English classroom. There on the teacher's desk was an ashtray. Not the kind of asymmetrical painted piece of junk your kid makes at camp you feel obligated to publicly display. This was a real, working ashtray containing numerous cigarette butts. It must be a prop, I thought, something the teacher is using to ...1