According to Glenn Reynolds:
When our public education system was created in the 19th century, its goal, quite explicitly, was to produce obedient and orderly factory workers to fill the new jobs being created by the industrial revolution. Those jobs are mostly gone, now, and the needs of the 21st century are not the needs of the 19th.Not true.
My mother, born in 1901, came to this country in 1906. Her family settled in a mean hovel located in a slum in Columbus, OH. This non-English speaker got a good basic education in the fundamentals: she learned the names and capitol cities of all the states, memorized the times tables, learned what the parts of speech were and how to diagram a sentence, was told about American history and how the government worked on every level. This was in a grammar school which served mainly poor black and Jewish children. In high school, she learned geometry, trigonometry, Latin, and German, and was taught a great deal of English and American literature. She graduated from high school at the age of 14, by the way.
Who needs all this education: a docile, obedient factory hand, or the free citizen of a republic?
Of course, standards were lowered considerably by the time I went to school, but that's not relevant here except to note that she had learned more as a high school graduate than I did as a college graduate. And her self-esteem seemed not to be adversely affected. She went on to college and law school and practiced law for 50 years, having graduated from law school too young to be allowed to take the bar exam.