A good idea from a blog commenter:
Here’s my response when the kids bring home a crazy crayola project: I put a post-it note on the assignment with a note that kindly says “I’m so sorry, but (child’s name) won’t be completing this project. Instead, he/she will (insert age-appropriate assignment here, like writing a short paragraph on fire prevention, for example). If you would like to discuss this issue, don’t hesitate to call me. Thanks!” Then I call other parents in the class and ask them to do the same thing. Usually at least a few are emboldened knowing that they won’t be “the only ones.” (Imagine how great it would be if more parents stood up!)
Proposing an alternative assignment is key; teachers need to know that you’re not just trying to punt for your kid. The other key is keeping it polite and friendly.
At first my kids were mortified (and afraid of the ramifications). But it’s led to some good discussions (at home and at school) over what is important about education. And so far (knock on wood), no teacher has retaliated against the kids or downgraded them for their alternative project. (Of course, they think I’m an absolute pain in the ___, but that’s a small price to pay.)
Now my kids actually nip those ridiculous projects in the bud themselves the moment they get the handout. As 9th and 6th graders, they’re “actively taking charge of their own learning” — although I’m sure that’s not how the school imagined it would happen!