Michael Barone has posted an interesting piece on US News & World Reports website about the state of American education. In his view, even though most American students dont learn anything in grade school or high school, college and on-the-job training more than make up for it. So, even though American 18-year-olds are pretty deficient, American 30-year-olds are as productive as you can find anywhere in the world.
I have a few doubts about Barones thesis, but Im posting the piece to provoke some discussion on one question. Barone makes a dubious assumption that a lot of other commentators make: Since when is the overriding purpose of grade and high school educations to train students to be good workers in our economy? Why shouldnt the main goal be to produce thoughtful, loyal, and spirited citizens? Even assuming colleges and large companies can turn pampered 20-year-olds into useful workers, hasnt the educational system still squandered a precious opportunity?