Once again we’re asking,
Of course we’ve known the answer to that, to what we should do, ever since we imposed on our people, without asking them, now nearly 200 years ago, a single system of free and compulsory public school education. At the time we made a big mistake, what has turned out to be a huge error of judgement, and we’re still suffering the consequences, the mistake being to treat students all alike, alike in regard to their interests and abilities. Why? Well probably because we were still, and rightly so, under the influence of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration that says still today — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
We never really asked ourselves the meaning of “equal” in the Declaration, wishing rather to think that somehow kids were all equal (and they are in important respects, but not in the classroom). And 200 years of classroom experience have not undone the hold of equality on our schools and classrooms. And 200 years of trying has not brought about any thing resembling equality of achievement among the graduates, let alone the leavers of our schools. In respect to learning, whatever it may be, kids are just not equal and any system of public education ought to begin with inequality as a given and go on from there. Instead of, as at present, with equality as a given and going nowhere from there.
There have been other national systems of public school education that have not made this mistake, and the schools are still benefiting from their realism. Systems that we might have learned from as long ago as 500 BC. From Confucius, for example:
(I take this passage from: Leibovitz, Liel. Fortunate Sons: The 120 Chinese Boys Who Came to America, Went to School, and Revolutionized an Ancient Civilization (p. 21). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.)