Dear 7th Grade Teachers: Keep Miley Cyrus Out of My Kid's Classroom

Miley cyrusAbout a month ago my seventh grader came to me with a scowl, handed me a photocopied sheet of paper, and said, "I don't really have to complete this assignment, do I?" Because we're not, "Sure, blow off your homework parents," I was immediately intrigued. What task could be so ridiculous that he'd think I'd just give him a free pass?  


I took the crumpled ditto from him and was startled to see troubled pop star Miley Cyrus, all vacant eyes and 12 miles of tongue, staring back at me. In the assignment, two "writers" faced off in poorly-written essays debating whether the former child star's antics prove she's "out of control" or "a total genius."

One of the authors, Matt Murphy, argues: 

... Miley’s outrageousness is the exact opposite of being out of control. It’s a brilliantly orchestrated plan that she’s carrying out to perfection.

Really, is constantly baring your nipples and twerking with a man nearly twice your age a great "plan" I'd love my pre-teen to ponder and potentially emulate?

Where the heck did he get this? I wondered seconds before I realized it was provided by Scholastic Scope -- the educational materials provider's Language Arts Magazine. A quick Google search told me my son's seventh grade class was one of hundreds given this assignment this year. 

Wow. Who decided that Cyrus, who not only brags about marijuana use but also routinely sings about party drug molly, was appropriate subject matter for 12- and 13-year-olds? (I think someone ought to take a wrecking ball to their office, that's for sure!)

Believe it or not, there may still be some kids out there who are busy with school work, sports, or other activities and didn't know that their beloved Hannah Montana had fallen so far, and maybe their parents would've preferred to keep it that way. Why does the seedy underbelly of pop culture have any place in the classroom? And if we allow this, who's next? 

I just don't understand how Scholastic, in business since 1920, could possibly argue that this is an appropriate assignment for students of any age? Have they completely run out of real "role models" or controversial historical figures?

If students are supposed to discuss which author has written a more persuasive essay, why not base it on something innocuous -- and age-appropriate -- like school dress codes? If educators want kids to actually learn something, why not study essays written about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden? That's topical and could certainly spark an interesting debate. I understand they're trying to appeal to youth by discussing things that interest in them but it's not OK for one essay to praise and justify Cyrus' downward spiral, not for 12-year-olds.

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The piece ends with a scavenger hunt -- as if it were a fun or whimsical assignment rather than an examination of the sad and misguided behavior of a young woman who had potential to be known for more than her topless selfies -- making the entire thing all the more ridiculous. 

Ultimately, he completed the assignment because at that point he'd already read the essays, so suggesting he take an incomplete would've been like the old locking-the-barn-door-after-the-horse-has-escaped scenario. I did tell him that if he receives anything like this again, I'll be paying the school a visit to request alternate assignments and to suggest they give Scholastic the pink slip.

While I'm not typically a helicopter mom, thanks to this assignment I find myself asking my son daily, "What are you talking about in Language Arts?" in case Scholastic decides it's OK to educate my child on the pros and cons of Bruce Jenner's impending sex change.

Do you think pop culture stars should be discussed in the classroom?


Image © Splash News/Splash News/Corbis

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