I agree completely, IE8 should have been offered as "Optional" However when it comes to installing todays updates it does give you the opportunity to decline the install.
I have again decided to give it another try after 2 other attempts after which I decided I didn't want it.
But!! always the "Tinkerer" I am trying it again. I find it has some very good features, but I did keep getting a " IE Has stopped working" message which sent me up the wall and I couldn't find a cure.