Thanks for the long thoughtful response. You took this to a lot of places. The problems of the nation are big complex and connected. Its only with work from many directions at once that there will be progress. Many of these issues are not new, but the sort of things which must be addressed again and again as the times change.
I thought I had a rather bad history education in high school because it was the one subject where everyone was in the same class, regardless of academic level. There was no honors or AP history, etc. But from talking to people who went to other schools, especially more recently, I now realize I got a pretty good history education. Not only did we cover a lot of topics, there was a much wider range of opinions, questions, and points of view than in my other classes, and it made for much better debate. That bit about public education being to create informed citizens was something I heard in that class. It was something I heard from many teachers, and even some administrators.
Maybe being part of the "baby lull" (in 76 when I was born, there was a zero birth rate), there were more resources, and smaller classes, for fewer students. We do seem to be coming up on an other "baby lull", and I know some local high schools now have fancy new additions but not the students to fill them.
Education will always be "broken" because someone will always have something to sell to "fix it". Getting back to some basic principles and building from there will do us more good than chasing after the whims of industry. It seemed like from 2000 on we had this period of reinvention, where anything could be innovated, anything tossed out and tried a different way. it has produced plenty of failures, along with a few things that have worked, but when it comes to education, we are experimenting with people's futures. We are now remembering why things were done as they were, and suffering for it, but I also think we are slowly coming out of our "venture daze".
So, one little piece of that whole big knot of mess is that kids need to be literate. That includes textual literacy, media literacy, and computer literacy, at a deep enough level, knowing how each is constructed and some practice in building it. If you do not understand how a medium works or is constructed, you can more easily be fooled and controlled by it.
An yeah, I miss USENET, and I miss FidoNet.