I understand why top students - the A+ types - learn physics and calculus. I get why they study classic literature and the details of history. The kids in this brainy group are the future professors, scientists, and engineers who will propel civilization forward.
But why do we make the B students sit through these same classes? That's like trying to teach a walrus to tap dance. It's a complete waste of time and money. And most students fall into that middle category. I assume this ridiculous educational system is a legacy from a day when generic mental training was good enough for just about any job.
In our modern world, would it make more sense to teach B students something useful, such as entrepreneurship?
Unfortunately, our culture continues to place highly on a college degree. Parents and teachers can seldom imagine other possibilities, especially for the intelligent. Employers lazily use college degrees as a cheap way of screening job candidates. Socially, people who don’t go to college are often regarded as weirdos.
I think it's a bad idea to evaluate our school system based on international test score comparisons. While it's important that our top students are as good as top students everywhere, our biggest untapped resource is our B students. Maybe we should start teaching them useful skills.