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The Eighth grade just ain’t what it used to be.

I remember taking ILA (integrated language arts), science, math, social studies – mostly a basket of stuff like geography and economics – and of course PhyEd (gym class).

The political and ideological indoctrination didn’t really begin until around our senior year. Mostly, at my public middle school, we were just a bunch of kids learning stuff and hanging out like 13 year old kids do. Ok, some snuck off and smoked or whatever – but the school didn’t offer lessons in cigology or evading the cops.

That quaint old paradigm seems to be eroding, at least in Abigail Swetz’s alternative-universe eighth grade class at O’Keeffe Middle School in Madison. Not only does she permit the exploration of some very adult topics that many parents would prefer to keep within the realm of their home and family, but she actively encourages these kids – the ultimate captive audience – to literally talk trash. The classroom and the extracurricular off-campus events she brings the kids to seem to be bubbles of a parallel universe in which all social norms have been completely eviscerated and anything goes.

While these kids are using adult works to talk about adult topics, I wonder how many are at grade level on Algebra, or can identify a photo of John Adams or a real social justice warrior like oh, I don’t know, Harriet Tubman or Frederick Douglass.