I note in my local paper that one of Utah's legislators has suggested doing away with the 12th grade in school. His reasoning is suspect, but certainly we ought to look at ways of improving our school system.
Our schools, I feel, should have two responsibilities (besides keeping the kids out of sight and circulation). The first is to teach them about the world -- its history, construction, their place in it, all that jazz. The second is to teach to operate in that world. That's where we fall down.
Before I discuss my system, though, two thoughts: 1) We no longer live in a society where kids are necessary to the family during the summers. They don't need to slop the hogs and pull the plows, to pull that barge and tote that bale. Therefore, school should be year-round. 2) There is more information outside the school than inside. Therefore, schools should concentrate on things that a student needs a classroom setting to get.
My system, the Shook Universal Education Theorem (Or SUET), consists of two parts, each part taking one-half the school day (which should be eight hours long, not including lunch breaks). Part one is theory: history, writing, reading, geography, math, geology, all those things that impart information. Anything but the knowledge basics would be extra-curricular (and here I include band, choir, art, drama, literary studies, sports).
The second half of each day would be spent learning to work, either by studying a craft, practicing a trade, or being an apprentice, all done in a work setting (with pay) when possible.
It'll never happen, though, will it.