As befits my inclination to lambaste both sides of any debate, today I take up going to school.
How can I say this? The American school system may be the best in the world, in at least one aspect.
First, all those folks who say that Americans are waaaaay behind other school systems in our ability to educate people. Not!
Let me tell you why. As far as I know, all education systems in the world beside ours use the schools to filter out people. In many cases, there's an exam given about when the kids are 15. If you pass, you go on to higher ed; if not you go to work in the lumberyard (Caddyshack?). So, the system tends to emphasize studying for the test. It really messes kids up, for one thing. In Japan, it's not unknown for a kid who fails the test to kill him/her self in expiation.
America is the only country I know of whose avowed goal is to educate everyone. Everyone. Do the words "No child left behind" ring a bell? Not only can you go to school, you gotta.
So, let me paint a scenario for you. Here's a kid who can't see any worth in school, drops out in his/her sophomore year. A couple of years out, the kid discovers a passion for chemistry. In any other country, this kid would be already in life's rut. In America, the kid gets a GED, takes classes at the local community college, gets an AA, finishes the BS in a state college, gets a MS at a state university, a PhD at MIT, and voila! A chemist.
Not only that, but you can wander in and out of the educational system, wait till you're a grandmother (like my mom did), change majors frequently (like my sister did), and finish when you've found what you're looking for.
A lot of people drop by the wayside. A lot of people don't give a damn and coast. But the remarkable thing is that the most unexpected things happen. You can go from the projects to the supreme court.
It's the opportunities that make it work. Check out the Nobel Prize roster, realizing that the Swedes give an American the prize only under severe duress (They've publicly stated that the U.S. is out of the running for any lit prize.