How "adult" should a middle school quiz be?

Some middle school students in Virginia were given a pop quiz by their teacher recently, resulting in a group of upset parents and a media inquiry which stretched to the streets of New York City. The headlines made it sound a bit racier than it actually was, with suggestions of forbidden topics and Fifty Shades of Gray, but the parents probably had a point in questioning whether some subjects are best approached at home rather than in a public school. (CBS New York)

A controversial quiz for middle school students is raising eyebrows, with adult topics that might make some a bit uncomfortable.

As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported, some parents are using the answers to start a family discussion.

One of the questions is, “What do you call the much younger and beautiful wife of an older wealthy man?” The answer is a “trophy wife.”

Another question is, “What do you call it when a married person has a relationship with someone else?” The answer is “affair.”

Billed as a “family quiz” by the teacher, the test was given at Carter G. Woodson School in Hopewell, Virginia. CBS began asking parents in other cities what they thought of the questions and it seems to have been generally deemed inappropriate. But it’s important to point out that this wasn’t part of the school’s standard curriculum. It was a quiz which the teacher found in a magazine and decided to administer to the kids.

How much of this material is age appropriate and is some of it simply not applicable to a school program at all? The two questions highlighted in the excerpted section above are clearly not at the level of being pornographic. The idea of a “trophy wife” is fairly tame compared to what middle school aged children will see on television in the middle of the afternoon. Describing a married person who is “in a relationship” with someone other than their spouse begins to tread on some more sensitive ground, but again… pretty tame stuff, don’t you think?

Here’s another entry from the test: “What do you call the much younger boyfriend of an older woman,” with the answer, “boy toy.”

I’m not going to dwell on this all day, but I do find two questions standing out here. The more obvious one is to ask if there’s really any value to this quiz in the education of young minds. It doesn’t really fit into an English class or, for that matter, any discipline other than the study of reality TV or soap operas. But even beyond that, I find myself wondering if the real problem here isn’t the teacher, the students or the quiz, but rather… me. Should I have been shocked by those questions? If I were a parent living in the 90s, the 70s, the 50s… would I have been bothered then?

Cultural standards change over the generations as we all know. Perhaps in the 50s this would have been a scandal. But today I find myself wholly unable to register any amount of shock at the idea of 7th or 8th grade pupils hearing boy toy or trophy wife. And that fact that I’m not at all shocked is probably what’s bothering me the most about this.