For so long, the game of schooling has been a process to weed out the uncommitted--and the unsupported. A diploma said you could do what you're told, that you could play nice and follow through on assignments, and maybe that you had some habits of mind that could potentially transfer to real-life applications. You served your time.
This is not what education is or should be.
Why are we required to teach to objectives and tests that we know most of the kids in front of us will never even have the opportunity to apply in context? Why do students need a certain number of math and English classes to get their stamp of approval?
I remember learning about lycee and gymnasium in my French and German classes in high school and being horrified at the idea of being pigeonholed before I knew what I wanted. The thing is, I did know what I wanted, and that was the options afforded by an academic honors track--much the same way some of my students know they want to fight fires or work on cars.
We are so entrenched in systems of grade points and college entrance and competition that we forget what education is really supposed to be about learning and growing. If everyone came out of high school with two or three real-world projects under their belts, completed authentic goals that really made them proud, what the heck could any number show anyone that the write-ups of those accomplishments couldn't, maybe a few photos or some video?
I mean, if you really want to study calculus, that should be your project--but do something with it and show that to college boards and future employers. If you want to study cars, master it and produce something you can show for it that's not on paper. If you want to study medicine, well, yes, you'll have some prerequisites, but even those you should be using...though maybe not on live patients right away.
After high school, I could conjugate and punctuate and calculate with the best of 'em. I had done some little slideshows, made some little books that I was pretty proud of too. But what did I do with all that?
I got into college so I could jump through some more hoops and slowly start doing things that were worth doing in a world beyond percentage points.
Education is for everyone. We need everybody prepared to do something to make the world better, not just get by or get over. We shouldn't prepare them to prepare.
We must prepare them to do.